What do you do when a book is hard? Plutarch’s Lives is hard. The temptation of the parent is to ask questions, to prompt, to remind. To basically do the mind work so that they ‘get it.’ This little nugget below is in my commonplace book and, at least once a year, I find myself returning to it.
T.H. White wrote his version of the Arthurian legend in the years before and after World War II. The young Arthur, known as Wart, receives his education at the hands of a wizard, Merlyn.
The Wart did not know what Merlyn was talking about, but he liked him to talk. He did not like the grown-ups who talked down to him, but the ones who went on talking in their usual way, leaving him to leap along in their wake, jumping at meanings, guessings, clutching at known words, and chuckling at complicated jokes as they suddenly dawned. He had the glee of the porpoise then, pouring and leaping through strange seas. The Once and Future King, chapter V
I have come to appreciate this about Plutarch; he doesn’t talk down to children. He doesn’t over-explain. He trusts they will pour and leap through the strange seas that are his biographies, until, one day, they are strange no longer and his voice and phrasing is that of a comfortable friend.
If you’d like to hear more about how to do Plutarch in your home with an atmosphere of the “glee of the porpoise”, join me at the 5th annual Charlotte Mason Educational Retreat in February. I’m convinced that teachers confident in the purpose of these studies and equipped with helpful tools will find Plutarch’s Lives a rich and rewarding delight.