Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Tell me, O Muse
Tim tutors the 11-year-old homeschooled son of our friends/homeschool mentors. They meet more or less weekly to discuss literature and papers the boy writes on the readings (or on his passion for art history as it intersects with the readings, which are chosen precisely for these intersections). Although N. doesn't participate directly in the tutorials (he plays while Tim and his student talk), every week as Tim prepares for his tutoring session, N. asks him to read the works to him. Last year, they read major portions of the Hebrew Testament together. This year, N. has heard some of the Metamorphoses, which seemed to fit in with his predilection for fairy tales (almost daily, Tim reads to him from Calvino's collection of Italian Folk Tales, Grimm's, or African Folk Tales). Inspired by Ovid's story of Galatea, Tim and his student read Shaw's Pygmalion, which N. absolutely loved because the Broadway soundtrack of My Fair Lady has been in heavy rotation on our kitchen CD player for at least a year. Not only did N. comprehend the play as Tim read it aloud, but he was so absorbed in it that he made Tim read it to him all in one sitting. For the past month or so, they've been reading The Odyssey. Fagels' translation makes for a riveting read-aloud, as do the poem's origins in oral performance, and N. has been really enjoying it. I don't expect that N. fully "gets" everything he is hearing in these readings, though he and Tim pause frequently for questions and discussion. Though it never would have occurred to us to read The Odyssey to a 5-year-old, we aren't checking this work off some list of classics, as if we have now "done Homer." Instead, we hope this is merely the first exposure that he'll have to this great work, that since he's enjoying it, he'll have a positive memory of it that will inspire him to return to the poem, weaving his cloth over and over.