Saturday, August 25, 2007

Are We Hungry for the Classics? posted an interesting column this past week titled "Harry Potter and the Great Relearning" by Jerry Bowyer. Mr. Bowyer writes about the educational impact the Harry Potter books have had on his family, and offers up some of his own ideas about the symbolism in the books, as well as some comments about J. K. Rowling's intent. Here's a sample paragraph:

What I make of that is that Jo Rowling has a wonderful talent for tapping into Biblical and literary symbolism. From the very beginning, I've believed that Hogwarts is the literary representation of the Christian Church. Towered over by stone spires, filled with living icons of great men and women from the past, Hogwarts is a place where ancient books are studied to relearn great wisdom from the past. Hogwarts was founded by four great wizards over a thousand years ago who were united in the belief that their knowledge should be passed on. Like the four evangelists in early church literature, each has its own seals and symbol and its own special focus of virtue. Many of those wonderful names, such as Godric Gryffindor, Rowling revealed in a recent interview were, taken from medieval Christian saints.
And he closes with:
Rowling made a bet which, if it had been stated explicitly, would have been rejected by every large publisher in the Western world: She wagered her labor and reputation on the proposition that children were hungry for the good stuff. That they had eaten their fill of literary junk food, and wanted the stories, the words and phrases, the atmosphere and the 'feel' of the greatest stories every told. Happily for us, Rowling kept her mouth shut and walked her manuscript past the sleeping dragons of political correctness and 'realistic' (meaning sexual) teen lit. It worked. It's just like they say at Hogwarts, "Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus," that is, "Never tickle a sleeping dragon."
It's an interesting column. Mr. Bowyer talks about the curiosity about many things that the Harry Potter books have stirred in his children. Do you think he's on to something? I do. Whether or not you agree with some or all of his interpretations and ideas, the books can awaken a desire to know more about classic studies, such as Latin, and about literature, Christian history, and world history.

I hadn't really thought about the Harry Potter books in this light, but I know that when I read them, besides enjoying a good story, I wanted to study all kinds of subjects--they awakened a curiosity in me. allows comments from readers on each column and, as of this morning, there were 43 comments on this piece. You might enjoy reading those, too.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Come, Little Leaves

Once upon a time, when I was a little girl, my brother started school. I wanted to go, too, but they said I was too young. Each day when my brother got home, I had to hear all about it. Once he had to memorize a poem. Nothing would do but what I memorized a poem, too. So I picked out this one from a children's book of stories and poems that we had at home. It's been a few years and I only remember the first couple of lines, but I found the whole poem on the internet and here it is:

O Come Little Leaves
George Cooper

"Come, little leaves", said the wind one day,

"Come o'er the meadows with me and play;

Put on your dresses of red and gold,

For summer's gone and the days grow cold."

Soon as the leaves heard the wind's loud call,

Down they came fluttering one and all;

Over the brown fields they danced and flew,

Singing the glad little songs they knew.

"Cricket, good-bye, we've been friends so long,

Little brook, sing us your farewell song;

Say you are sorry to see us go;

Ah, you will miss us, right well we know.

Dear little lambs in your fleecy fold,

Mother will keep you from harm and cold;

Fondly we watched you in vale and glade,

Ay, will you dream of your loving shade?"

Dancing and whirling, the little leaves went,

Winter had called them and they were content;

Soon, fast asleep in their earthy beds,

The snow laid a coverlet over their heads.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Nature Links

Here are some links for those of you who are interested in learning more about nature. If you are interested in nature writing, these can help you learn more about what you are observing so that you can do a better job of writing about it.


The Natural World

The Nature Conservancy

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Scott's Botanical Links

U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works

eNature: America's Wildlife Resource

Bird Watchers Digest

National Audubon Society

There are, of course, many more sites to be found. You can search such terms as wildflowers, trees, birds, lakes, or similar terms. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Languages and Writing

In my previous post, I mentioned ways that studying a second language can help with your writing. As I have studied other languages, I become more knowledgeable about English--the parts of speech, the verb tenses, and so forth. I also become more aware of the meanings of words, which can help with choosing just the right word to say what you mean.

At the education page, you will find links (in the left sidebar) to pages for English as a Second Language (ESL), French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish. They have beginning lessons, more advanced lessons, and information about the culture. These would be a great place to start, and they provide links to other websites and recommendations for books and CDs if you are interested in those. I do think it helps immensely to have some tapes or CDs recorded by native speakers because it helps your pronunciation and ability to understand others speaking the language. You can also locate radio stations and newspapers in the language you're interested in over the internet and get in some good reading and listening practice there. The sites also have audio files, so you can get some listening done there. Oh, and they are free, which is often an important consideration for those of us trying to educate ourselves!

I am also interested in learning Latin, since many of our English words have a Latin base. I'd like to tackle Hebrew and Greek for Bible reading/interpretation purposes as well. There are also websites that can help you get started with these languages.

Latin: Wheelock's Latin page (has a page of links), E.L.Easton's Latin page, a college library Latin page

Greek: Learning Greek, Biblical Greek, Greek Grammar on the Web

Hebrew: Judaism 101: Hebrew Alphabet, The Online Hebrew Tutorial, Learn to Read Biblical Hebrew

Those will get you started and you can always search for more on the internet. Even if you don't want to study the languages, it's interesting to learn something about them

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Research and Writing

It amazes me how much research you can do at home on the internet. There are dictionaries and encyclopedias galore. In addition, you can do a search on any topic that interests you. You can find websites on favorite authors and websites of book reviews on your favorite type of reading. There are websites about writing and about literary criticism and all sorts of things. I try to put links to some of my favorites in my sidebar, but I have far more sites bookmarked on my browser page.

I think it helps solidify your learning about any subject if you write notes or essays or articles about what you are learning. There's something about writing it down that helps you to remember and also to understand what you've read.

I enjoy learning about all the different types of writing there are and how to write in those categories. I think learning about languages helps, too. Even if you aren't interested in learning a foreign language or a classic language like Latin, you can learn a bit about English grammar and about the sources and meanings of the words we use. It'll help you write better if you have a greater understanding of the building blocks of writing.

Anything you learn about any subject can be fodder for your writing. There is no reason you can't write an essay or a poem about some aspect of science or history or art or music. If you are studying another language, try writing in that language. See what you come up with.

So much to do, so little time.