Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Why We Study Latin

If you have reached this post via an internet search, looking for a scholarly article on the virtues and advantages of incorporating Latin into your homeschool, there are WAY better sites for you to read. (Such as here and here.) I have read and heartily agree with them! I don't completely follow what they suggest, but they are compelling nonetheless.

What I'm writing about today is not why you should study Latin, buy why we do.

I suppose I might as well start at the beginning... My first year of homeschooling, I happened upon a newly-published book called The Well-Trained Mind. I read this wonderful resource through the eyes of an enthusiastic, new homeschooler-- the years stretched before me as a blank canvas ready to be painted. From the first chapter I was drawn in. I was captivated. I was completely excited about this form of education referred to as "classical" and all that it entailed. What depth! What quality! I was pumped.

Beginning with my daughter's first grade year I did it just as the book outlined- every binder, every section of every binder, every book suggestion. It really worked well for us, I must say. It was really an approach to education that I agreed with (and still do!) and really "clicked" for us. Dutifully following the recommendations of the first edition of The Well-Trained Mind, we began Latin in grade 3. I didn't go along with her suggested curriculum, though, I chose to use Barbara Bell's Minimus series. I loved Minimus, the cartoon stories (which really drew in my son, only in first grade at the time) and the classical pronunciation. We s-l-o-w-l-y worked our way through Minimus. We switched two years ago to the Latina Christiana series. I purchased the dvd course, as I have no background in Latin and it helps for Leigh Lowe to direct the recitations and teach the lessons. We have worked through LC just as slowly. Partly because I really want them to "get" it, not just skim through it. Partly because it's not the main focus of our curriculum and we don't do it every day.

One of the things I loved about Ms. Lowe's Latina Christiana course was something she said at the very beginning. "There is no reason to rush through Latin." There! That's great! That, I can do. Work slowly! We have taken two years (yes, two. years.) to go through Latina Christiana I. I own LC II. It's in my filing cabinet ready to go, but we are not there yet. And I am not rushing it.
So... the original point of my post today. Why do we study Latin? My reasons for continuing it are different from my reasons for starting it. I started it because, well, the book said to. It's what you do in "classical education." But, as the past seven years have gone by, I have drifted further and further from TWTM's suggestions and incorporated what works for our specific (nutty, sometimes jet-lagged, not-always-consistent, striving-for-structure) family learning style. Lots of recommended books have gone by the wayside, but Latin remains. Why?

It's not because my kids enjoy it, because they don't. In fact, I've asked them before if they could choose one subject to drop and never see again what would it be? They both responded with a resounding, "LATIN!" Why would I continue to inflict it on teach it to them?

  • It's something we are truly learning together. In a way, it's fun to be on "equal footing" in a subject. They each have their strengths and their "grade-specific" materials in which one of them might excel where the other one struggles, but Latin is equally challenging for all of us.

  • They are truly seeing the connection between Latin and English. When we first started out, I had a marble jar and each time they saw a Latin derivative while we were out and about, or found one in their reading, they would name it and the Latin word and we'd put a marble in the jar. We treated ourselves to ice cream out or other rewards for recognizing Latin all around us.

  • As we've continued in our other language studies (Spanish early on and now French) they are understanding new vocabulary as a result of the Latin meaning as well.

  • The aforementioned other languages are comparatively easier for them as a result of studying Latin. After wrestling with Latin declensions, French isn't quite so hard!

  • It has made me feel like we are truly doing something of a higher caliber. I'm not sure if that is superficial or not, but there. I've said it. As their teacher I like hearing my kids recite Latin.

  • It's reinforced the fact that things don't have to be fun to be beneficial.

  • I believe it is pursuing excellence.

Again, this is far from an exhaustive list of reasons why anyone should study Latin with their children, and now that I read back over what I've written I'm not sure it really reflects all of my own reasons. We've been on a break from Latin since Christmas, actually, as some of our other subjects needed more focus, but we're getting back to it next week. For those of you who are going great guns through difficult Latin curriculum with your logic stage kids, my hat's off to you! I think it truly trains the mind. For those of you thinking, "Latin? Are you kidding me? I'm just trying to get through the day and hopefully teach my kids a language someone actually speaks!" maybe my family could inspire you in this area. We may not be Latin sholars here, but the study of Latin has enriched our curriculum. My kids don't love it, and aren't necessarily retaining every vocabulary word or declension, but I'm seeing tangible benefits for all of us.

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