In the CLAA, we don't believe in "grade level" studies. In fact, we believe they undermine education and prevent children from growing intellectually as quickly as they could if challenged and given time to become accustomed to the highest level of language and comprehension. It's difficult work, for sure, but what we understand when exercising our bodies works just the same when we exercise our minds.
How should one deal with difficult reading assignments?
1. Read the assigned passages.
It's not reasonable to understand the meaning of every word, or phrase, or sentence when reading the works of the masters--especially good translations of them. The first thing a student should do is complete the assigned reading, from beginning to end. This will allow the student to see what the reading contains, have an idea of what needs to be studied, and helps him see what's going to be difficult about the study. This should be done, up front, as soon as possible.
2. Use the comprehension questions as a guide.
My comprehension questions begin a discussion between students and I, allowing students to articulate what they are reading, and me to discern what the students understand and, more importantly, don't understand. Once I receive a student's answers to a comprehension question assignment, I can begin helping him to understand the reading point-by-point, which is how I teach. I am aware that students will not be able, the first time around, to answer EVERY question--and that's perfectly alright.
3. Use a dictionary.
What often limits our reading ability is our vocabulary. Good students will make use of the Oxford English Dictionary to improve their vocabulary as they read. The Oxford English Dictionary is especially useful because it contains a record of the historical use of words, which helps students when reading works from different periods of history. Keep a journal of vocabulary words and notes.
4. Ask for help.
The idea that school is a place for students to be tested is one of the great faults of modern education. Only the most extraordinary students can make progress without the assistance of teachers. Asking questions is a normal part of education and I invite students to ask me questions at any time--about any topic in their studies. I will always answer and help them.
5. Be patient.
True learning is difficult because we're always entering into unfamiliar ideas. That feeling of difficulty is called learning! That's where our minds are challenged, stretched and exercised and we can't allow ourselves to remain in intellectual places where we feel comfortable and find everything to be "easy". Let us enter always into difficult studies and work patiently until we make progress in them. This is education.