Why Classical Education? Latin as a Foundational Subject in Our Homeschool
How I Found the Classical Method
The decision to homeschool seemed easy compared to the decision about how to homeschool. What curriculum? Boxed/all-in-one? Separate programs? If I pick separate programs, what subjects? What company do I buy from? What level? I needed some help.
For kindergarten we worked through the What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know text from the Core Knowledge Series. It provided a list of topics to cover. We found books at the library for each topic and read, and read, and read. We did a few science experiments, and we worked through a first grade math book I picked up at the grocery store.
As I fell in love with homeschooling, I started looking at what I needed to do long-term. I checked out out every book our library had on homeschooling. It seemed that every time I returned one, they had two new choices! Most of the books laid out the different philosophies/methods of homeschooling: School at Home, Charlotte Mason method, classical method, unschooling, and eclectic were the most common. I knew I did not want “school at home” and I could not unschool as I need more structure. Classical seemed too difficult for me to do on my own. I needed more information, so I started digging into books on the specific philosophies.
The first book that I really connected with was A Charlotte Mason Education: A Homeschooling How To Manual by Catherine Levison. She presents Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy in a concise format. I fell in love with her methods and started to read Mason’s full homeschooling series. I loved the idea of short lessons and the subjects she laid out; also, I wanted the kids to learn multiple languages. And I could not wait to get outside with them.
It became clear to me very quickly that I needed a little more guidance and structure than Levinson’s book gave; and with two kids and a new business, I was not going to make it through all of Mason’s original works. I went back to the library and came home with two books: The Core by Leigh A. Bortins and The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, both of them takes on the classical method. As I read The Core, I started to see that a classical education was what I had wanted for my kids (the Charlotte Mason method is very similar to classical). I moved on to The Well-Trained Mind, and I fell more in love with the philosophy. Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise laid out full plans to get the kids through high school. The Well-Trained Mind made classical seem doable.
I used suggestions from both books as I selected curriculum for first grade. We started with The Story of the World vol 1, Singapore Math, Rod and Staff English 2, Real Science for Kids, and Classical Conversations Foundations for memory work and an intro to Latin (we did this at home, not in a community). These programs worked so well that we have stuck with them all for three years. We have added a separate Latin program, Prima Latina and Latina Christiana, as well as a separate writing program, Institute for Excellence in Writing.
Why I Follow the Classical Method
Several ideas of the classical philosophy appealed to me: The focus on history and literature, the following of a four-year cycle for history and science, and the study of Latin. I am a horrible speller, and although I speak and write well, I don’t fully understand grammar. I also struggle when learning foreign languages. As I read about why we should study Latin, I realized that this could help my kids overcome the obstacles that held me back.
Why do we study a language that no one speaks anymore? Why study a “dead language?”
We do it because of the influence Latin has had on our language and so many others! Our study of Latin reinforces many grammar topics we study for English. The conjugation of verbs is very similar to that of French and Spanish, and the knowledge of Latin vocabulary is helping my son to understand words in the English language. Many English words have Latin roots, so understanding where the word comes from helps with spelling, meaning, and pronunciation.
When my son asks why he has to learn Latin, I use my limited memory of French (3 years in school) and Spanish (7 years in school) to show him the similarities between the three languages. I also pick a few big words that can be broken down into their Latin roots to find the meaning of the word. Because he is interested in science, we discuss how science uses Latin, among other things, to name animals and plants.
We study Latin now, in the hopes that it will aid in learning other subjects down the road. We are already seeing the benefits of our hard work and as we learn more, we will make more connections through our other studies.
Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.