After Visual Latin?

I received this comment:
My 12 yr old has finished visual latin. What class should he go to next school year? Why do you suggest on classs over the other. Why do you teach Henle latin if you don’t suggest it?
Here is my reply:
Honestly, I suggest French, Spanish, Italian, or some other modern language.  You can learn all of them for free using DuoLingo.  You can even follow me over there if you want too.  My username is Enawd.
If you want to continue with Latin, and if you want my help, I suggest reading Lingua Latina, and I suggest joining one of my online classes.  The schedule is here:
I teach Henle Latin to help those who have to study Latin using Henle Latin.  Simple as that.  I am just trying to help the students who are stuck reading it.

Latin Lite

I received this letter:

I am a 17-year-old high schooler (homeschooled) taking your Visual Latin course (I just finished VL1 and will soon be starting VL2). To start, I would like to say that your course is a lot of fun, and I am thoroughly enjoying learning Latin. Before your course, I didn’t think much of learning a new language beyond what I have to for high school, but given how much fun this course has been you have inspired me to try to continue learning languages beyond my required high school course and see how far I can get.

My first question is one of reading Latin. I have been trying to read one of the Latin primers designed for this task, Carolus et Maria, however, I am having trouble with a specific part. Verbs going at the end of sentences often makes it difficult for me to read a sentence well because I won’t be able to tell what’s going on until the very last word. I was wondering if you had any advice, tips, or tricks when it comes to being able to read more comprehensively and hopefully be able to read faster. Is there a shift in mindset? Is it because the endings aren’t memorized yet? Is this something you delve more into in Visual Latin 2 or in any of your other courses? Does it just require more practice? Any help here would make my Latin reading experience much easier.

My second question to you is a bit broader. Like I have said I hope to continue practicing Latin and learning other languages, my current plan is to start Spanish after I have finished the bulk of Latin and work my way through many of the Romantic and other European languages before I take on a language with a completely new alphabet such as Greek. I was wondering what you thought of this plan and was wondering if you had any other advice as I move ahead in my adventure.
Here is my reply:

Continue reading Latin Lite

An amazing email…

While we were in Colorado, a subscribing family sent this phenomenal offer to me in an email.  They offered to send any books we liked.   Can you believe that?  Anyway, the reading list alone was so useful, I thought I would share it with all of you.


Hi Dwane and Gretchen,

First off, know that we pray for you all every day and are so glad to see how God is taking care of you all.

Second, we know you are swamped with life, so this will be brief.  Samuel asked you today if you’d like some books.  Here is a list of ones that we really like that we’d be glad to lend you.   We tried to pick a variety.

Do any of these titles appeal to you?

Geography and stories of people in other places
How the Heather Looks, A Joyous Journey to the British Sources of Children’s Books, Bodger
The Wheel on the School, DeJong (story takes place in the Netherlands)
The Lost World of the Kalahari, van der Post (We haven’t actually read it, but it looks good)
Three Men and a Boat, Not To Mention The Dog, Jerome K, Jerome (whose parents lacked imagination)  (Very funny. These three guys and their dog travel along the Thames and argue a lot)
The Endless Steppe, Hautzig (WW2 story about a girl and her family sent to the gypsum mines in Russia)
With Pipe Paddle and Song: A Story of the French-Canadian Voyageurs, Yates
Coming Home Crazy, Holm (about living in China and coming home crazy)
On the Shores of the Great Sea (About the life around the Mediterranean)
The Complete Book of Marvels, Richard Halliburton (Halliburton traveled the world in the twenties)
The Brendan Voyage, Tim Severin (also one of our favorites since it’s about sea seafaring
Years Before the Mast (another sea faring book)
The Clay Marble, about a young Vietnamese girl
Red Sails to Capri, Weil (about Italy)

History, Historical Figures and Historical Fiction
I, Juan de Pareja, Elizabeth Borton de Trevino (a slave who worked for Valesquez becomes a painter himself)
Otto of the Silver Hand, Pyle
Eagle of the Ninth (Roman history)
The King’s Fifth
Beyond the Desert Gate and the Ides of April, Ray (more Roman history)
Carry on, Captain Bowditch (great story of about mentoring)
The Trumpeter of Krakow, Kelly
The Story of Roland
The Story of Siegfried
John Adams, McCollough
How the Irish Saved Civilization, Cahill
Johnny Remain

The Natural World
Madam How and Lady Why, Charles Kingsley (a bit tedious, but it is interesting)
The Sea Around Us, Young People’s Edition, Rachel Carson (lots of references to evolution, and fascinating look at life in the ocean. An old book)
School of the Woods, William Long
Napoleon’s Buttons: 17 Molecules That Changes History, Le Couteur and Burreson
The Disappearing Spoon (another science wonder book.  Either this one or Napoleon’s Buttons has some language you have to skip over.)
The Life of the Spider, Fabre (French naturalist)
Mystery of the Periodic Table, Wiker

The Fairy Doll, Rumor Godden (includes The Story of Holly and Ivy)
The Scarlet Pimpernel, Orczy
The Prince and Curdie, Macdonald
Sea Wolf, London
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Twain
Persuasion, Austen
Emma, Austen
North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell
Wives and Daughters, Elizabeth Gaskell
Midshipman Hornblower, Forester
The Country of the Pointed Firs, Jewett
The Hobbit

Mr. Poppin’s Penguins, Atwater
The Peterkin Papers, Hale
Penrod, Booth Tarkington (We all love it.  The characters show typical racial attitudes of the early 1900’s, though the author’s commentary on them doesn’t approve of their racism.  Penrod gets in trouble a lot.  We’ll just leave it at that.)
Thurber Carnival, James Thurber
Burma Surgeon, Seagrave
The Cross and The Prodigal, Bailey (Writes about Biblical texts from the Middle Eastern perspective)
Eric Liddell:  Pure Gold

Just tell us if you’d like any of these.  We would be happy to send them to you.  Do you all have Quiddler?  it’s a card game like Scrabble.

With all our love

The world is getting better.

I am a hardcore futurist.

You may hear me complain about Islam from time to time.  This is because I know history.

But, I am not a pessimist about the future.  I am optimistic about the future.

Here is part of the reason why:

I agree with Dr. Gary North.  Here are more reasons the future looks good.
1. The Pareto curve is not going away.
2. The federal government will go bankrupt.
3. The federal government will lose respect.
4. Power will decentralize.
5. Taxes will decline because voters will demand it.
6. Liberty will increase.
7. Liberals will scream bloody murder.
8. They will not have enough votes to get their agenda legislated.

And here is the main reason I am optimistic about the future:

Christianity wins.  Get used to it.


Student Patterns

It’s popular to attend college in America.  Either we all go, or think about going.

I went to three colleges.  I attended Pensacola Christian College for a year.  I majored in pre-law.  Decided that wasn’t for me.  Transferred to the University of Alabama at Birmingham.  Paramedic school for a year.  After becoming an EMT, I then transferred to the University of Montevallo and finished with a degree in history and business.

After graduation, I began teaching Latin.

In other words, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.

You know what I wish?  I wish someone had sat me down and said, “Let’s look at your strengths.  Let’s look at your passions.  Let’s look at your gifts.  Let’s find out what you are good at… and then let’s head in that direction.”

I love Europe.  Absolutely love it.  I love the history, the languages, the people and the food.  To me, it’s home.  Given a choice, I would have formally studied European languages in school.  Or, I would have started some sort of travel company.  And, then there’s cycling.  Oh, man.  I love being on a bike.  Lately, I have been thinking… I wonder if I could lead bike tours of Caesar’s battlefields in France.  I would be combining French, Latin, Europe and bikes.

I would be as happy as the spaceship building character in the Lego Movie.

But, no.  That is not what I did.  Instead, I was like the man who hopped on a horse and rode off in every direction.

I can tell you from experience, that is a powerful way to waste a lot of money.

Before you go to college, Before you pick a degree, take some time to figure out what you want to do with your life.  Take some time to figure out what you’re good at.

Here’s the problem.  If you’re not sure what you want to do, and if you’re not sure what you’re good at, there’s a very good chance you are not exactly sure how to find the answers you need.

That’s where this week’s tip comes in.

Go check out this site:

Seriously, the site is worth your time.  I spent some time on it and discovered some truths about myself that I had not been able to articulate.  Turns out, I probably do not belong in the classroom.  I really do belong in a bike shop, or outside exploring.

I had some of my kids test the site out.

Sure enough, it helped them identify things about themselves that they were unable to articulate on their own.

My son should probably skip college and get right to work.  My middle daughter, on the other hand, would likely do very well in college.  Like me, she would do well studying languages.

I should only send my son to college to study languages if I hate money and need to find a way to get rid of it.

I don’t like wasting money… and neither do you.  Before you spend thousands of dollars sending your kids off, take some time to help steer them in the right direction.

Student patterns will help you do that.  Go check it out.

Have a happy Saturday!
Dwane Thomas

P.S.  Student patterns will help you answer the college/major question.  But, as my wife has pointed out multiple times, it also helps you learn more about your kids.  She looked at the results and found herself saying, “Oh. That’s why the kids act that way!”

If you, like my wife and I, need help figuring your kids out… then: Student patterns.

Every Saturday, I send out a tip of the week.  I also include announcements, upcoming classes, and so on.  If you would like to hear from me every weekend, sign up for my weekly updates here:

I have some Latin? Where do I go next?

I received this question:

Hello, I am looking for a continued Latin program for my son. He has completed Latin for Children A and B for Classical Academic Press. Can you guide me as to what class would be appropriate for him?

Here is my reply:


I’m not entirely familiar with Latin for Children, so I’m going out on a limb here.  I hear great things about it.  People seem to like it.

That said, I would still recommend Visual Latin.  Here’s why:

Most Latin programs take six or seven years to complete.  At that point, students begin reading the classics.  Unfortunately, also at that point, students find out they can’t really read the classics.  They need lots of help.  

I think this is because most Latin programs spread the process out over too many years.  

Visual Latin takes students from zero to reading the New Testament in Latin by the end of the second year.  This is not easy.  In fact, this is quite tough.  Most people say that Visual Latin has become rather challenging by lesson 15.  There are 60 lessons.  It is, for this reason, I suggest people start at the beginning.  

It’s annoying, I know, to start over.  Just don’t think of it as starting over.  Think of the first 15 lessons as a high-speed review.

If that doesn’t sound like a course you want to take, there is and even more aggressive route you can take.  You could start reading Lingua Latina by Hans Ørberg.  This is my all-time favorite Latin book.  It is also one of the toughest books available for students learning Latin.  It is a novel, written completely in Latin, which teaches students to the grammar and vocabulary of the language as they go.  There is nothing else out there like it.  Anyone who says differently is selling something.

You do not need my help to read this book.  It was designed for self-study.  However, if it’s just too much, I do take students through Lingua Latina every year over on my site:

I hope I have answered your question.  Feel free to contact me again if I have only confused you.

Have a happy Thursday!                                                                                    Dwane Thomas

By the way, every Saturday, I send out a tip of the week.  I also include announcements, upcoming classes, and so on.  This is the main way I keep up with students and parents.  If you would like to hear from me every weekend, and if you haven’t already signed up… sign up for my weekly updates here:



Next year, I plan to teach Henle 3.  This book is composed mainly of the writings of Marcus Tullius Cicero.  It’s going to be some seriously tough Latin.  That part I am not really looking forward to.

Getting inside the mind of this amazing Roman?  That part I am seriously looking forward to.

I found this excellent summary of Cicero on the following site:

The following is taken from Lawrence Reed’s excellent book Real Heroes.

Question: If you could go back in time and spend an hour in conversation with ten people—each one separately and privately—whom would you choose?

My list isn’t exactly the same from one day to the next, but at least a couple of the same names are always on it, without fail. One of them is Marcus Tullius Cicero. He was the greatest citizen of the greatest ancient civilization, Rome. He was its most eloquent orator and its most distinguished man of letters. He was elected to its highest office. More than anyone else, Cicero introduced to Rome the best ideas of the Greeks. More of his written and spoken work survives to this day—including hundreds of speeches and letters—than that of any other historical figure before AD 1000. Most important, he gave his life for peace and liberty as the greatest defender of the Roman Republic before it plunged into the darkness of a “welfare-warfare” state.

Cato Institute scholar Jim Powell opened his remarkable book The Triumph of Liberty: A 2,000-Year History, Told Through the Lives of Freedom’s Greatest Champions with a chapter on this Roman hero—a chapter he closed with this fitting tribute: “Cicero urged people to reason together. He championed decency and peace, and he gave the modern world some of the most fundamental ideas of liberty. At a time when speaking freely was dangerous, he courageously denounced tyranny. He helped keep the torch of liberty burning bright for more than two thousand years.”

Who wouldn’t want to have an hour with this man?

Father of the Country

Cicero was born in 106 BC in the small town of Arpinum, about sixty miles southeast of Rome. He began practicing law in his early twenties. His most celebrated case required him to defend a man accused of murdering his father. He secured an acquittal by convincing the jury that the real murderers were closely aligned to the highest public officials in Rome. It was the first but not the last time that he put himself in grave danger for what he believed to be right.

In 70 BC, ten years after his victory in that murder trial, Cicero assumed a role uncommon for him—that of prosecutor. It was a corruption case involving Gaius Verres, the politically powerful former governor of Sicily. Aggrieved Sicilians accused Verres of abuse of power, extortion, and embezzlement. The evidence Cicero gathered appeared overwhelming, but Verres was confident he could escape conviction. His brilliant defense lawyer, Hortensius, was regarded as Cicero’s equal. Both Verres and Hortensius believed they could delay the trial a few months until a close ally became the new judge of the extortion court. But Cicero outmaneuvered them at every turn. Verres, all but admitting his guilt, fled into exile.

Cicero’s speeches against him, In Verrem, are still read in some law schools today.

Roman voters rewarded Cicero with victory in one office after another as he worked his way up the ladder of government. Along the way, the patrician nobility of Rome never quite embraced him because he hailed from a slightly more humble class, the so-called equestrian order. He reached the pinnacle of office in 63 BC, when, at age forty-three, Romans elected him coconsul.

The consulship was the republic’s highest office, though authority under the Roman Constitution was shared between two coequal consuls. One could veto the decisions of the other, and both were limited to a single one-year term. Cicero’s coconsul, Gaius Antonius Hybrida, was so overshadowed by his colleague’s eloquence and magnetism that he’s but a footnote today. In contrast, Cicero emerged as the savior of the republic amid a spectacular plot to snuff it out.

The ringleader of the vast conspiracy was a senator named Lucius Sergius Catiline. This disgruntled, power-hungry Roman assembled an extensive network of fellow travelers, including some fellow senators. The plan was to ignite a general insurrection across Italy, march on Rome with the aid of mercenaries, assassinate Cicero and his coconsul, seize power, and crush all opposition. Cicero learned of the plot and quietly conducted his own investigations. Then, in a series of four powerful orations before the Senate, with Catiline himself present for the first, he cut loose. The great orator mesmerized the Senate with these opening lines and the blistering indictment that followed: “How long, O Catiline, will you abuse our patience? And for how long will that madness of yours mock us? To what end will your unbridled audacity hurl itself?”

Before Cicero was finished, Catiline fled the Senate. He rallied his dwindling army but was ultimately killed in battle. Other top conspirators were exposed and executed. Cicero, on whom the Senate had conferred emergency power, walked away from that power and restored the republic. He was given the honorary title of Pater Patriae (Father of the Country).

“I Shall Not Tremble”

But Rome at the time of the Catilinarian conspiracy was not the Rome of two or three centuries earlier, when honor, virtue, and character were the watchwords of life. By Cicero’s time, the place was rife with corruption and power lust. The outward appearances of a republic were undermined daily by civil strife and a growing  welfare-warfare state. Many who publicly praised republican values were privately conniving to secure power or wealth through political connections.  Others were corrupted or bribed into silence by government handouts. Cicero’s voice was soon to be drowned out amid political intrigue, violence, and popular apathy.

In 60 BC, Julius Caesar, then a senator and military general with boundless ambition, tried to get Cicero to join a powerful partnership that became known as the First Triumvirate, but Cicero’s republican sentiments prompted him to reject the offer. Two years later and barely five years after crushing Catiline’s conspiracy, Cicero found himself on the wrong side of senatorial intrigue. Political opponents connived to thwart his influence, resulting in a brief exile to northern Greece.

He returned to a hero’s welcome but retired to his writing. Over the next decade he gifted the world with impressive literary and philosophical work, one of my favorites being De Officiis(“On Duties”). In it he wrote: “The chief purpose in the establishment of states and constitutional orders was that individual property rights might be secured. . . . It is the peculiar function of state and city to guarantee to every man the free and undisturbed control of his own property.”

Politics, however, wouldn’t leave Cicero alone. Rivalry between Caesar and another leading political figure and general, Pompey, exploded into civil war. Cicero reluctantly sided with the latter, whom he regarded as less dangerous to the republic. But Caesar triumphed over Pompey, who was killed in Egypt, and then cowed the Senate into naming him dictator for life. A month later, Caesar was assassinated in the Senate by pro-republican forces. When Mark Antony attempted to succeed Caesar as dictator, Cicero spearheaded the republican cause once again, delivering a series of fourteen powerful speeches known as the Philippics.

Cicero’s oratory never soared higher. Antony, Cicero declared, was nothing but a bloodthirsty tyrant-in-waiting. “I fought for the republic when I was young,” he said. “I shall not abandon her in my old age. I scorned the daggers of Catiline; I shall not tremble before yours. Rather, I would willingly expose my body to them, if by my death the liberty of the nation could be recovered and the agony of the Roman people could at last bring to birth that with which it has been so long in labor.”

Antony and his fellow conspirators named Cicero an enemy of the state and sent the assassin Herennius to take him out. On December 7, 43 BC, the killer found his target. The great statesman bared his neck and faced his assailant with these last words: “There is nothing proper about what you are doing, soldier, but do try to kill me properly.”

With one sword stroke to the neck, the life of the last major obstacle to dictatorship was extinguished. At that moment, the fivehundred-year-old republic expired, too, to be replaced by an imperial autocracy. Roman liberty was gone. On the orders of Antony, Cicero’s hands and head were severed and nailed to the speaker’s platform in the Roman Forum. Antony’s wife personally pulled out Cicero’s tongue and, in a rage against his oratory, stabbed it repeatedly with her hairpin.

Powell reports in The Triumph of Liberty that a century after the ghastly deed, the Roman writer Quintilian declared that Cicero was “the name not of a man but of eloquence itself.” Thirteen centuries later, when the printing press was invented, the first book it produced was the Gutenberg Bible; the second was Cicero’s De Officiis. Three more centuries after that, Thomas Jefferson called Cicero “the first master of the world.” And John Adams proclaimed, “All the ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher” than Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Giving His Life

For nearly five centuries, the Roman Republic bestowed upon the world a previously unseen degree of respect for individual rights and the rule of law. The unwritten Roman constitution boasted features we would recognize today: checks and balances, the separation of powers, guarantee of due process, vetoes, term limits, habeas corpus, quorum requirements, impeachments, regular elections. They were buttressed by the traits of strong character (virtus) that were widely taught in Roman homes. When the republic expired, the world would not see such wondrous achievements on a comparable scale for a thousand years.

To the moment of his assassination, Cicero defended the republic against the assaults that he knew would send Rome into tyranny. Some might say Cicero’s labors to save the Roman Republic were a waste of time. He gave his life for an ideal that he was able to extend tenuously for maybe a couple of decades.

But if I had an hour with Cicero, I would thank him. I would want him to know of the inspiration he remains to lovers of liberty everywhere, more than two millennia after he lived. I would share with him one of my favorite remarks about heroism, from the screenwriter and film producer Joss Whedon: “The thing about a hero is, even when it doesn’t look like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, he’s going to keep digging, he’s going to keep trying to do right and make up for what’s gone before, just because that’s who he is.” And that is exactly who Cicero was.


This is me once again.  (Dwane)  We had our own Cicero once.   Like the Romans, we didn’t listen to our Cicero either.

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