Collateral Beauty

For the first time in two weeks, life is beginning to look normal again.

Just over two weeks ago, my son nearly lost his life in a car accident.  He survived, but just barely.

A local newspaper posted a picture of our van here:.

After almost two weeks in the Intensive Care Unit, he is now in a rehabilitation center here in Aurora, Colorado.  He is recovering.  He has a long way to go, but he is recovering.

At the time of the accident, my family and I were in Athens, Greece.  I had moved everyone there so that I could intensively study the Greek language.

It is every parent’s nightmare to receive the phone call we received while living on the other side of the world.  I hope I never have to go through that again.

On the flight home from Greece, one of my girls watched the movie Collateral Beauty.  When she finished, she leaned across her sisters and whispered, “Dad.  Watch Collateral Beauty.”

We still had 6, or so, hours in the air.  So, I listened to my daughter.  I watched the movie.

I don’t want to give too much away.  But, there is a pivotal scene in the movie.  One of the main characters is in the hospital waiting as a loved one dies.  A stranger asks, “Are you losing someone?”  After receiving a tearful affirmative, the stranger says, “As you go through this, don’t forget to notice the collateral beauty around you.”

My girls and I were in the air.  We were on the way to Denver to be with my wife and son.  (My wife had flown out of Athens immediately.  My girls and I had stayed behind to close down our life overseas.)   At this point, we did not know if my son would survive.   The movie hit home.

As events began to unfold, I tried to notice the collateral beauty. around me.  It didn’t take much effort.  I realized we were surrounded by it.

So, this is my way of saying thanks.  Thanks to all of you who surrounded my family with collateral beauty.

There is no way I will remember everyone, but I am going to begin anyway and update as I remember.

Thank you, Amanda, for turning around on Interstate 70 to save my son’s life.  I hope I get to meet you someday.

To all of my students, who have not complained at all, thank you.  I have canceled classes and have provided little information.  You have responded with overwhelming encouragement for my family.  Thank you.

Thank you, Χαρις for all of the help.  Thank you for the taxis to the airport.  Thank you for understanding.  I am sorry we had to leave without saying goodbye.  Σας ευχαριστώ πολύ.

To the Greek woman at the British Airways counter who realized that, because I booked our flights at the last minute, my girls and I were would not be able to sit together, thank you.  I can only guess that it was you who moved us to business class.

To the British Airways flight attendant who treated my girls as though they were his granddaughters, thank you.  I wish I had written your name down.

To British Airways, thank you.  I have flown over the Atlantic many times on many carriers.  You have figured it out.  To borrow from your own colloquialisms, “Good on you.  Very well done.”  I will fly with you as often as I can from this point forward.

To the TSA agents in Dallas, thank you.  Thank you for reminding me to be a better, kinder person.  Thank you for reminding me not to treat people the way you treat people.  You guys have a tough job, I am sure, but gee whiz, guys.  Show a little humanity.  People are not trying to personally offend you.  They are just trying to get to their destinations.

Thank you to the medical staff of The Medical Center of Aurora for keeping my son alive.  You guys are amazing.

To Emily, who started a Go Fund Me page for my family, thank you.  I wouldn’t have thought of that.  I have been rather foggy (mentally) since my Jackson wrecked.

To all of you who have donated to the Go Fund Me account, thank you.  And, good grief.  Your generosity is blowing me away.  Once again, my wife and I feel like George Bailey in the final scene of “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  This scene:


To those who were at the hospital before my family and I could arrive, thank you.   Thank you, Leticia, Sienna, Thomas, Heather, Mom and my sister, Dawn.  Because you were there, we could travel with a little less fear and a little more hope.

To all of you who let my family know on Facebook that you were praying for my son, thank you.

To the Classical Conversations communities in the Denver area that have reached out to us in many ways, thank you.  Thank you, Charlene.  Thank you, Richelle.  Thank you, Cindy.   I hope to meet you all.  Life is starting to become a little more normal these days, so perhaps that can happen.  It looks like we will be here in Colorado until the end of May at least.

Thank you, Ashley, Richelle, Charlene (and those I am forgetting) for offering your homes to us.  Offering your home to six people takes courage.  That means a lot to me.

Thank you, Tiffany and Leticia, for the delicious food.  What a relief it was not to have to think about food for a day.

Thank you, Vicky, Larry, and Noelle, for spending ridiculous amounts of money to ship things to Colorado just to keep my girls happy.

Thank you, Maresa, for flying out to spend time with Jackson in ICU so that Gretchen and I could rest for a bit.

Thank you, Franklin, and thank you McCreary’s for throwing a party for Jackson.  He was surprised (and very happy) when he found out his hometown was partying in his honor.

Thank you, Robbie, for setting that party up.  Thank you also for the untold hours you have spent getting the word out for us.  I had no time and energy for that.  As usual, you rock at that kind of stuff.  Huge help to us.

This is only the beginning.  There are so many who have helped in so many ways.  I will continue updating.  Right now, though, I am off to the rehabilitation center to spend some time with Jackson.


Don’t take life for granted.

By now, most of you know that my son was recently involved in a serious car accident.

He has now been in ICU at Aurora Medical Center in Aurora, Colorado for over a week.

My wife, my girls, and I received the news while we were in Athens, Greece.  We quickly shut down all our affairs there and flew home.

Since then, we have been living in a hotel across the street from the hospital.  My son needs 24-hour attention.   My wife is taking days, and I am taking nights.

Jackson and a friend were in the car.  His friend suffered a few minor scratches.  My son, Jackson, suffered severely.  Broken upper left arm, shattered left hand, a severe laceration to the head, broken ribs, a punctured lung, and fractured vertebrae.

My wife, my girls and I drove out to see the van he was driving at the time of the accident.  It is demolished.  By all accounts, he should not have survived.

We spoke to him by Skype the night before the accident.  We had a good conversation.

My tip this week?

Don’t take life for granted.

Life can end in an instant.  Drop the grudges.  Grant forgiveness.  Call an old friend.  Tell your kids that you love them.

Have a happy Saturday!
Dwane Thomas

P.S.  The hotel wifi is terrible.  Classes will likely be canceled this week as well.  I hate that.  I am searching for a solution.  Either way, I will make it up to you.  Either I will pre-record classes for this week, or we will just meet a few times this summer.  Somehow, I will make it up to you.

And, finally, if you are waiting for a response from me, hang in there.  Doing my best to catch up.

All yours…

For the past 5 or 6 years, and possibly more, I have been collecting student work.

Each day, as students send answers to assignments, I check their work and then copy their work into a file.

I have also collected my responses to the students, and I have collected my corrections of student mistakes.

Over the years, the files have grown into an enormous “book” of roughly 800 pages.

In the past, I have offered these files to anyone who asked.  These files have been very helpful to thousands of students and their parents.

About a week ago, I began loading these files into the “member’s” section of my site.  I am still in the process of loading these files.  It is a time-consuming process.  It is my goal to load two to three files per day.  It takes almost an hour to transfer each file into the “member’s” section.  There is no way to automate it as everything must be edited immediately.  I am doing all by hand.

If you are a member of my site, the work is yours.  Simply click on the member’s section of my site, choose your course, and look for the sections labeled “Student answers”.

I am not taking on any new student work to grade next year.  Grading has become too time-consuming.  I spend all of my time “catching up” these days, and I spend little time “contributing”.  Next year, I am going to try to flip the previous sentence.

As Wonka says, “Strike that.  Reverse it.”

I also intend to begin creating “homework help” videos.  Due to the amount of grading, I ran out of time and had to stop creating those videos.

You, the members, now have access to years and years of my work.  You can check your work easily by comparing your answers to the answers of other students.  You can also read my notes.   I point out thousands of common mistakes and then offer my corrections.

As far as I know, this is like no other answer key available.  Take advantage of it before I come to my senses, remove it all from my site, turn it into a book, and sell it for what it is worth.

Catching up, or contributing?

As many of you know, I’ve been stuck behind my computer since arriving in Athens, Greece.  This has, naturally, been a source of frustration to me.  Mostly, I’ve been stuck here grading papers and assignments.

A few weeks ago, I was at a conference in San Diego.  The speaker, Brendon Burchard, asked the attendees to think about their life in terms of “catching up”, or “contributing”.  Which defined the lives we were leading?

That’s an easy question for me to answer.  I spend most of my time “catching up”.

Here is the problem.  I teach Latin.  Most parents can’t help their kids with Latin.  I have a habit of stepping in to help.  Honestly, I like helping people.  I like tackling difficult problems, finding solutions, and then I like to show others the solutions.

Latin (and likely all languages) is a squirmy problem.  Unlike math, there is not just one solution.  There may be six, seven, or eight possible solutions to problems assigned in the book.

In college, I took the Law School Admission Test.  Did decently well, but that’s another story.  I remember being struck by something during the test.  Every answer was correct.  But, some answers were more correct than others.

Grading Latin is a bit like that.  When a student sends in her homework, she may have answered correctly.  But, there may be a more correct answer.  There is often a better way to say it.

A parent may look at the answer key, and then look at the student answer and say, “No.  Your sentence is not correct.  The answer key says something different.”  Of course, the student will protest, an argument may ensue, and another family signs up for grading on my site.

I don’t really want to stop grading.  I want to keep helping.  However, lately, I am falling further and further behind.

This is creating two problems.

Problem number 1: I am not responding quickly to families who have asked me to grade the work of their children.  I said that I would respond quickly, and now I am not responding quickly.   In my mind, that is dishonest.  It’s unsustainable.

Problem number 2:  I am not spending much time at all anymore creating new videos.  I am not spending much time anymore preparing for new courses.  I am not spending much time anymore studying Latin and Greek.  In other words, I am not contributing.

In other words, I am not contributing.  I am always “catching up”.  I knew there was a problem, but I couldn’t define it until I heard Brendon Burchard define it.  Now, I can stop thinking about it.

Several of you have sent extremely helpful emails with several helpful hints over the last few days.  This morning, those ideas merged into a bigger idea.  Thanks to you, I may have discovered a solution.

Over the last five years, or so, I have graded the assignments of thousands of students.  I have compiled the answers from those students.  When a student sends me a sentence translation, I save the translation, right or wrong.  If the translation is correct, I have another example of a good translation.  If the translation is obviously wrong, or if the translation contains flaws, I make corrections.  I then save the student’s sentence with my response and with my corrections.

I have collected all of these correct and incorrect answers in hundreds of files on my computer.  Anytime a student asks for a file, I turn it into a pdf and send it to the student.   I consider this one of the benefits of subscribing to my site.

This morning, it hit me.

I need to upload each of these files into the Member’s Only section of my site.  Why wait until a student asks for the files?  Why wait until the student asks for help?  Why not load the files into the Member’s Only section now?  Why not hand the students the tools I know they are going to need?

So, that is what I started doing.  Immediately.  Already, Henle exercises 330, 339, and 404 are up.  More will be coming every day until I have uploaded all of the 800, or so, pages I have written over the last several years.

Full disclosure.  I already see a problem with this plan.  Some students are going to receive an assignment, and they are going to go right to “exercise pick-a-number” and they are going to copy the answers.  Yes.  That is going to happen.  It’s human nature to look for the easy trail.  I can’t stop that.

Students, if you are reading this, don’t do that.  Attempt the exercises first.  Then, use the exercises in the Member’s Only section to check your work.  See how you did.  Learn from your mistakes.

As for grading next year?  Still up in the air.  I may, I may not.  I have started training my daughter, and we are both talking about it a lot.  But, it is a lot of work.  I spend between 20 to 30 hours a week grading assignments.  I am not sure I want to hand that to any kid, and in particular, my kid.

If I am currently grading your work, I will keep grading your work.  No worries.  But, I very likely will not provide the option for next year, or if I do, I will open that door for a limited number.

However, with that 800-page book of mine posted in the Member’s Only section of my site… I am feeling less bad about closing the grading option.

I am basically handing my notes to all of you.  This should free up more time.  Instead of catching up, I can contribute.


Why it takes me so long to grade…

Yesterday, I posted on Facebook and on my blog.  I commented on the fact that it takes me so very long to grade.  

At the moment, I have suspended all new grading for the coming year.  I am simply unable to keep up.

Several people wanted to know why.  “Why does it take so long to grade?  Don’t you have answer keys?”

The answer is, “Yes.   Of course, I have answer keys.  Created them myself, in fact.   So far, I have written about 800 pages.  Here is the problem.  Each student needs particular help with each particular sentence.  Some mistakes are common.  Some are quite complicated.  It took me a half hour to respond to this email.  I receive about 100 emails like this every day.”

Take a look (This is from Henle Latin 1, exercise 330, by the way):


1 When each peaceful Gaul is in the protection of Caesar’s winter quarters we will leave and travel into Italy.  Pacata esset = had been pacifiedContendit means, hastened, or hurried.   Also, Caesar is actually leaving the garrison (praesidia) behind in winter quarters.  He himself is hurrying into Italy.  When all of Gaul had been pacified, Caesar left the winter quarters and hastened into Italy.  -4

2 The centurion in the front of the battle line asks for whose plan Caesar approves of.  Ante proelium = before the battle.  He is asking about the plans (consilia).  Probata essent is passiveBefore the battle, the centurion asked which plans had been approved by Caesar.  -3

 3 Do you really know who sent the envoy?  Missi sint is passiveQuo does often a subjunctive clause in Caesar’s Gallic wars. However, the sentences already subjunctive because of the introductory question. Num scis means, “You do not know, do you?”  In this case, quo, is asking the question, “where?”  This changes the sentence to, “You do not know where the envoys were sent, do you?”  -2

4 When you lead a column through a difficult and narrow place, be sharp to suddenly see barbarians.  The column of soldiers (agmen) is the subject of the sentence.  Visa est is passive.  It means was seenDuceretur is passive.  It means was led. This changes the sentence to, “When the column was led through a difficult and narrow place, the battle line of the barbarians was suddenly seen.”  – 3

5 Is it not known if the legion that is in camp is to be left by the envoy?  Scitisne means, “Do you know?”  Relicta sit is passive.  Here it means, was left.  This changes the sentence to, “Do you know if the legion which was in the camp was left by the lieutenant?”  -2

6 When the grain was set fire to by the cavalry, the soldiers in camp always dig to fortify the wall.  There is no semper in this sentence.  Remove “always”.  The soldiers are actually fortifying (muniebant) the camp with a wall and a ditch (vallo fossaque).  -3

7 When Christ of Judea was shown by Pilate to be a Jew a large shout was raised: “We have no king but Caesar. Destroy him! Crucify him!

I think it is the passive verbs that are throwing you off.  Watch this video:

Also, you should review the videos in this Lingua Latina lesson:

And, finally, review lesson 17 in Henle Latin:


As I have said, I am looking for a solution.  I do not want to leave the work above to mothers who do not know Latin.  At the moment, I cannot afford to “hire” someone.  Besides, if I hired someone, I would likely spend as much time training them as I spend answering emails.  So, I am a bit stumped.  Still looking for a solution.

So, I am a bit stumped.  Still looking for a solution….

Grading is time-consuming

I received this comment:

Please add me to the waiting list.  I think it would be worth triple the money (although I’m not saying j could pay that. Lol). I can imagine it takes forever to grade.

Here is my reply:

Got it!  You are on the list.  Still working on a solution.  And, yes.  You are correct.  It is incredibly time-consuming to grade.  I have hundreds of students emailing me in Latin and Greek.  It’s a lot.  I am ready to be done.  But, my wife reminds me daily that there are many struggling moms out there who have no idea how to grade the work of their children.  She is strongly encouraging me to continue grading.  

I, on the other hand, am wavering.  It is noon here in Athens.   I have been grading since 4 this morning and there is no end in sight.

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