Every so often I receive emails from parents who are rather concerned. Usually, their sons (it’s almost always their sons) have no interest in Latin. For that matter, their sons usually have no interest in school at all. They email me. They ask me what they should do.
I received several this week. Here is my response to one of the letters. Due to the sensitive nature of the note, I have not included it. But, in short someone’s child does not want to do the work, and would rather spend time fooling around online. Kind of like most of us…
I’ve been thinking about your email since I received it yesterday.
I am not the one to provide any guidance counseling since I am in the boat with you and your husband. My wife and I are also “inexperienced home schoolers of high schoolers.” As my wife likes to say, “We were really good parents before we had kids.”
I am happy to help you in any way I can. I can certainly share my thoughts with you, but they are just thoughts. I am still learning, too.
The older I get, the more convinced I am that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. For example, I failed English grammar multiple times in middle school. In fact, I failed so miserably my parents had to hold me back several years. As a result, I graduated from high school one month before my 20th birthday. I was a terrible student. I remember watching my poor homeschooling mother cry at the table. I am sure she felt like quite a failure.
Then, I became a language teacher. I have taught thousands of students to diagram English sentences, identify gerunds, classify nouns, and spot predicate nominatives. When I talk about work with my mom today, she just rolls her eyes. I am not even sure she is proud of what I have done. I think she is still bitter. 🙂
I hated school. I did my best to avoid it. Most of all, I hated English grammar, writing, and public speaking. As a kid, I’d rather have faced torture. Now I make a living by teaching English grammar, by writing, and by public speaking. It’s ridiculous, really.
You mentioned something that I cannot stop thinking about. You mentioned that your original goal was to raise good children who could think for themselves and who would follow Christ. I would hold on to this goal with all of my might.
I don’t know if you are familiar with Moore’s law. It’s complicated. Google will do a better job explaining it than I will. It is estimated that, because of Moore’s law, the personal computer of 2050 will have the computing ability of everyone on the planet… combined. Computers will do, essentially, everything.
I teach online Latin and Greek classes. When I was a kid, online education didn’t exist. I didn’t study Latin or Greek in school. I was failing English and was terrified of public speaking. In other words, nothing I was doing in school prepared me for what I am doing now.
Here is what I received from my parents, and my education. I received a love of reading, a love of travel and adventure, and a robust faith in Jesus Christ.
If, in 33 years, computers are going to be doing nearly everything, then how do we educate our children? I believe we should teach them the value of frugality, hard work, love of God and family, and loyalty. I believe we should also teach them to learn. Once they learn to learn for themselves, they can learn anything. It sounds like you are doing that.
On a practical level, students in America are required to study two years of a foreign language. Remind your son of that. He’s got to get through the language class anyway. I am no believer in the magical power of Latin. I think that is nonsense. I am a believer in getting through the subject as rapidly and as pleasurably as possible.
This is why I take students from no knowledge of Latin to reading the New Testament in Latin within two years. If they want to continue studying Latin after that, fine. There is plenty more to read. If, having satisfied the government requirements (because our government knows best, after all), then fine. They can move on from Latin. I don’t blame them. At least they will walk away knowing how to read the New Testament in Latin. That is something few adults can do.
I am going to try to get Nash (and everyone else) through Latin as quickly as possible, and as enjoyably as possible. Most Latin courses spread the process out. I have seen some programs spread Latin out over 9 years. After 9 years, some of the students still cannot read the New Testament in Latin. I know this because many of them email me and ask for help. It’s pitiful.
As for technology, we fight the same fight in my house. I have no easy solution. Still looking for one. I am on my computer a lot. In all likelihood, my own children are simply following my example.
My parents homeschooled myself and my sister in Germany, illegally, in the 1980’s. It wasn’t easy. I know that now. I am homeschooling my own children these days. It isn’t easy. I know that we are making many mistakes. But, I have also spent 20 years inside classrooms. I know from experience that much of traditional classroom education is code for “babysitting”. “We will watch your kids all day so that you can both go get jobs.” I would homeschool my kids again, if only for the freedom that comes with homeschooling.
I look back at my own deplorable education and realize that it wasn’t so deplorable. Maybe I didn’t learn English grammar… but, I did fall in love with reading. I did fall in love with freedom. I did learn to write my own schedule. And those lessons were more valuable in the end. Eventually, when I needed to learn it, I also learned English grammar.
I am not telling you what to do. Homeschooling is just an option among many options. What you and your husband are doing is not easy. But, it might be worth it to hang in there.
I hope this letter helps just a little. And, if I have only frustrated you… then ignore the frustrating parts. I am still trying to figure this stuff out as well.