A New Feature at StS: Ask A Veteran Homeschooler!


Caitilin Fiona is an experienced homeschooling mother of six. In the coming year she will take time out of her busy schedule to answer your questions about classical home education. All topics are welcome! If Caitilin Fiona doesn’t know the answer, she’ll find it. Please submit your  “Ask Caitilin Fiona” questions on our Facebook page, Sandbox to Socrates.

Question: Do we NEED to do Latin? I can’t even get spelling done!

Answer: Well, yes and no. Of course your child can get along in the world just fine, as you yourself have likely done, with nary a word of Latin. But should he have to do so? That is a different question. There are many reasons given for studying Latin; I’m not going to re-enumerate them all here, but I will give you some things to think over.

To begin with, that spelling you’re not getting done? It will almost certainly improve with your child’s study of Latin. As he becomes more familiar with Latin vocabulary and its English derivatives, he will begin remembering that certain English words share patterns with simpler but related Latin words, and improve his spelling fluency and accuracy. He should have the opportunity to study Latin while he’s still forming his grasp on English spelling in order to give him the tool for breaking down words into their base components.

A different but related benefit will be that his spoken vocabulary will be enriched by increasing familiarity with Latin words. As we are constantly reminded, English draws a large proportion of its vocabulary, especially its higher-powered, more academic words, from Latin. By developing greater vocabulary, or as German has it, “Wortschatz” or “word treasure,” his capacity for nuanced expression will grow in proportion to the treasure he’s accumulated. Having the capacity for both nuanced understanding and competent use of words will give the student a significant advantage when he is required to write substantial academic essays–a deeper vocabulary will permit him to formulate more thoughtful ideas as he moves into the high school years and beyond.

The last thing I’d say about the value of studying Latin is this: it prepares the mind and lays groundwork for logical thought. In learning Latin, the student learns how to perceive and sort patterns into intelligible chunks, then to create from those patterns a new one of his own making. This is a skill that will become more and more useful as the student progresses though his education: algebra, geometry, formal logic, academic writing, computer programming, higher mathematics–all of these use the same kind of thought processes that a good Latin program teaches. Preparing your student’s mind for advanced academics is no small feat, but it is one which Latin makes easier.

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