Reading with New Year’s resolve

Soldotna woman resolves to read the books on her husband’s class syllabi

Turning the page. Beginning a new chapter. There are a lot of bookish euphemisms for the start of something new. With 2024 just around the corner, one Soldotna resident is leaning into a literary lifestyle in more ways than one.

In 2024, Soldotna resident Kylie Wilcox has resolved to read all the books taught by her husband, Milton, who is the humanities and logic teacher at Kenai Classical School. Speaking from the school on Wednesday, Kylie said her resolution is an attempt to rekindle a love for reading that was nurtured in high school in college, but that has dropped off since she became a mom.

“I just would like to take more time to be intentional about sitting down and reading and taking in more quality stuff in my life and less phone garbage,” she said.

There’s also the fact that Kylie and Milton’s kids attend Kenai Classical School and will eventually take Milton’s humanities class.

“My kids are in this school,” Kylie said. “I would like to be at least as educated as them.”

Kylie’s mission will be no small feat. Across both Milton’s upper and lower classes, students read between 15 and 20 books each school year, with authors ranging from Voltaire, to Charlotte Brontë, to George Orwell. Milton, who is also the school principal, said the lineup is composed of work he thinks is “fundamentally worthwhile” and that he draws inspiration from works taught in colleges and other classical schools.

Milton holds a Ph.D. in Ancient Philosophy and Religious Studies from the University of South Florida and summed up the concept of classical education as “giving people their human heritage.”

“Classical education is just saying … we want to hold on to things that have been shown to work over generations, like Kylie said, to train up competent and wise human beings,” Milton said.

Last semester Milton’s ninth and 10th graders read from America’s founding documents and Jean Jacques-Rousseau’s “Discourse on the Origin of Inequality,” with an emphasis on political theory and individuals as being politically significant.

Kylie said she first had the idea to follow along with Kenai Classical’s high school humanities class after hearing that the students were reading Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel “Jane Eyre” — one of her favorite books.

“Every day he would come home on a ‘Jane Eyre’ day and I’d be like ‘What’d you talk about?’ ‘Have they gotten to this part yet?’” Kylie said. “I was just really excited about it.”

Some of the books — Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea,” George Orwell’s “1984” and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” for example — she’s already read. She’s going to try and keep up with Milton’s class, but said she isn’t going to beat herself up if she falls behind. She’s a little apprehensive about diving into Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species,” noting: “I’ve never read Darwin.”

Kylie said she’s most excited to read W.E.B. Du Bois’ 1903 “The Souls of Black Folk,” a collection of essays about Black Americans that Milton says seems to really resonate with his students.

“It is masterfully written,” he said. “Du Bois is an astounding author and the way he can communicate to you what it was like to have to grow up, in his own words, as a problem, really has caused students to take stock of their own psychological feelings of loneliness and realize the layers that can be added on to that because of the troubling history of chattel slavery in United States.”

Generally, Kylie said she’s excited to read more books about the Civil Rights Movement — a topic she said was neglected in her own education.

“I grew up in Minnesota and there wasn’t a huge Black population when I was growing up,” she said. “(When I) went to college in Mississippi, that was a culture shock of just the changing of the ratios, of a much higher ratio of Black people and I just did not consider it. You grow up in your own bubble and you don’t think about it.”

Kylie said she won’t be taking any of Milton’s tests or completing any assignments as she works her way through the syllabus, but that she wants to keep a journal to jot down her thoughts after finishing each one. She hopes that, at the end of 2024 or once she’s finished the list, to have broken a bit of her self-described phone addiction and to be more in tune with what people are talking about when they make references to one or some of the texts.

“I felt some of that brain drain,” Kylie said. “ … I have five kids — I don’t get a whole lot of sleep and I am just kind of always running around taking care of their needs. I was more of a reader and more intellectual in college and high school and I want to get some of that back. This is me trying to take some of that back.”

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at