Tag Archives: Latin

Why I do what I do….

I received this note from the parent of an online student:

Thank you so much!  As someone who is part of my “educational team” for my kids, you should know my daughter received a Gold Summa Cum Laude award this evening for her NLE this year. She missed 3 on the Latin 1 test, and her younger sister by 2 years missed 5 on the Intro. What a surprise to mom!  Thanks for making a difference!

This is our first online class, and I have to say that I am beyond impressed that our teacher who is somewhere out in the Internet world actually knows who we are!  I have always figured that you had so so many students….never would I have dreamed that you would know us the way you do.  Thanks for being personal, even if we never meet face to face!

You made her year of Latin so much better than if we had attempted it alone!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!  

– Julie

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Life is slowly returning to a normal state for my family. Back to work.   

Last week, Classical Conversations asked for an article from me.

Here it is:


A few weeks ago life for me turned upside down. My family and I were in Athens, Greece at the time. I had moved to Athens to study Greek, and then we received the call no parent wants to receive.

My son had nearly died when the vehicle he was driving flipped six times on interstate 70 just east of Denver, Colorado.

My wife was on a plane to Denver within hours. My girls and I stayed behind to quickly settle our affairs in Athens. We left a day later.

These days, we are living in Aurora, Colorado. We are waiting for my son to heal. He is recovering. It is a slow recovery. But, he is recovering.

By the way, the Classical Conversations community in the Denver area has been amazing. Thanks to all of you.

A funny thing kept happening to me while we were in Greece. As we met people, they would naturally ask what I did for a living. My response was always the same. “I teach Latin online.”

The European response was fascinating. “Ah. That is a very important language. It is also very difficult. But, it is a good language to study. Without Latin, it is difficult to understand the history and the people of Europe. It is also difficult to understand the history of your own language as English is heavily influenced by Latin.”

This response stunned me. Not one person ridiculed my dedication to studying the Latin language.

I am not used to this kind of response. In fact, I am used to the exact opposite.

The American response goes something like this: “What? Who in the world speaks Latin? Why do students need to learn Latin? Does anyone learn Latin anymore?” Usually, there is a fair amount of ridicule tossed in.

Before I can respond (I don’t even bother anymore), the conversation moves on to politics or the latest football game.

Because we were planning to stay in Athens for so long, we had to apply for residency for my wife. (My kids and I have British passports and did not need to apply for residency.)

The process took my wife and I deep into Greek bureaucracy. When that proved fruitless, we ended up in the office of an Athenian lawyer.

Naturally, he wanted to know why I wanted to stay so long in Athens. “I have mastered Latin,” I responded. “Now, I want to master Greek.”

He raised his eyebrows. “I’m afraid that will take you a long time, my friend.”

“That’s okay,” I explained. “I dedicated ten years of my life to mastering Latin. I’m ready to dedicate ten years of my life to mastering Greek.”

He leaned back in his chair. “Yes. I think it will take you ten years. But, it will be a journey well worth it. As you know from learning Latin, you are not just learning a language. You are learning a way of thinking. You are learning a culture. You are learning a history.”

The stark contrast brought something home to me. Americans’ connections to our roots are shattered. We really have forgotten where we have come from.

If we could go back two hundred years in the United States, I believe we could have the same conversations that I was having in Europe. After all, Latin and Greek were part of a good education back then. Patrick Henry knew Latin. Thomas Jefferson knew Latin and Greek. I could go on. Latin and Greek played a significant role in early American education.

If you are anything like me, you feel like you are pushing water uphill.

Homeschooling is not easy.

Then, someone comes along and tells you that you must add Latin.

Making bricks is tough. Now, make bricks without straw.

Mastering Latin is tough. Mastering Latin under ridicule is tougher.

It takes nerves to push on when everyone is making fun of you. Just remember this. You’re doing a good thing. You’re not alone. America may have forgotten what a good education looks like. But, that doesn’t mean that everyone has forgotten.

Perhaps Europe has walked away from much of its Christian heritage. Perhaps not. I grew up over there. I see things a bit differently. That’s a debate for another time. One thing is for sure. The Europeans see the value of what you are doing.

The Founding Fathers would see the value of what you are doing.

So do I. Ignore the ridicule. Push on. You are not alone.

Dwane Thomas
May 2017

Original article here: https://www.classicalconversations.com/…/dont-walk-away-past

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Cops in Athens, Cops in Franklin, Cops in the classroom.

This is going to get weird.  Hang in there with me.  Hopefully, it will all make sense.

I have been studying Latin for 20 years.  I still get the endings wrong.  It’s ridiculous.

Here is part of the problem… and, I think it’s a big part of the problem.

Latin has shifted from the language of the people.  It was once the language of an empire.  Because those native speakers couldn’t keep the endings perfectly organized, we now have French, Italian, Spanish, Romanian, and a dozen more beautiful languages.  Not a bad development.  I am currently studying Italian and I am loving it.

Over time, Latin became the language of perfectionistic, meticulous academics.  Latin students, under their watchful eyes, are under constant pressure to get everything perfectly correct.  This is a standard most native speakers couldn’t maintain.  Which, again, is why we have half the languages of Europe.

I drive an old, beat up pick-up truck.  For some reason, I can’t get the left tail light to work.  It’s a good truck.  I am a decent driver.  I obey all of the traffic laws, even the speed limit laws.  I am quite sure I annoy most of the drivers around me.  Most of them seem to ignore the speed limit laws.

Some time ago, I lived in downtown Athens, Greece.  I saw the police once or twice.  They were only in a hurry when they were going into a bakery.  (I am not making this up.)  During our month in downtown Athens, my family and I heard emergency sirens once.

I live in one of America’s most boring towns.  Seriously.  Franklin, Tennessee is a boring, safe place to raise kids.  But, you wouldn’t think so if you listened to the emergency sirens.  It seems that every six hours there is a major catastrophe in my town.  Based on the sirens, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Avengers down there.

For some reason, there is a rather heavy police presence in my town. I get pulled over for things like not having a tail-light.  Often.  For a long time, tired of being pulled over for tiny infractions, I left my truck parked.  Instead, I rode my bike to work.

What is the point of all of this?  I think many teachers in America are like bored traffic cops.  We are constantly “pulling kids over” for not producing perfect work.

In Athens, the attitude seemed to be, “Can you drive?  Great.  Be careful out there.  Other than that… no rules.”  The Greeks are the most manic drivers I have ever encountered.  And, I saw no accidents during my three months in Greece.  Not one.

In Franklin, the attitude seems to be, “Can you drive?  Who cares?  Have you perfectly checked off every tiny requirement that we have arbitrarily imposed?  If not, you will be punished.”  I see cars pulled over at least once a day.  Usually, more than once a day.

When it comes to languages, my attitude is far more Athenian.  Can you read in Latin?  No?  Doesn’t matter.  Let’s start.  Let’s read.  We will learn the endings, the grammar, and the nuances of the language as we go.

When it comes to languages, the academic world is far more like my over policed town.  “Can you read Latin?  No.  You may not.  You may not read Latin until you have learned every single tiny grammar rule.  You may not read in Latin until you have learned every single ending.  You may not read in Latin until you have mastered all of the complicated spelling rules associated with each and every verb conjugation  Once you have learned all of the rules, then you may begin reading Latin.”

There is a problem with this approach.  By the time the students are ready to read Latin, they hate it.

So, how does this apply to you?  I would relax.  Read Familia Romana.  Read it again and again.  Watch the old classes I have on my site.  Pay close attention to the grammar instruction.  The endings will come.  We put too much pressure on students.  It took me a long time to learn all of the endings, and (as I mentioned above), I still get them wrong.

Remember why you are studying Latin.  Ultimately, it is so you can read interesting stuff in Latin.  I recommend starting with the Bible.  It is full of interesting stories, and the content is familiar.  The academics would disagree with me here, too.  They want students to start with Caesar.  That is why First Year Latin by Robert Henle has students translating sentences like, “There were dead bodies floating in the river.”  Sigh.

There is nothing wrong with the grammar, and there is nothing wrong with learning the endings.  By all means, do it.  Use anything necessary to do it.  Flash cards, quizlet.com, old classes I have on my site, review, whatever.  Use it all.

But, in the end, it is a calm daily approach that is going to yield the greatest results.  My strongest recommendation?  Read a chapter of Lingua Latina by Hans Ørberg, every day.  If you don’t understand, look up the words that confuse you.  Read the chapter again the next day.  Do this every day for a couple of years.  Don’t stress.  Enjoy the process.  The results will blow you away.

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.

Unmotivated in Latin?

I received this email:

I am wondering if you can think of some options I may have with my son.  He just won’t do the work.  I was hoping the live class would be motivating for him but he refuses to participate and I have found him looking at the answers to do the work etc.  I am considering just dropping the class but if he later decides to do the work I would like the resources available for him.  it is s wonderful site. I don’t want to keep paying the graded option when he refuses to do any work etc…..what other options do you have?  Thanks for this service.  I am sure many are thrilled with it!

Here is my reply:

Continue reading Unmotivated in Latin?

Stick it out. Get it over with.

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…

Continue reading Stick it out. Get it over with.