It’s my turn on the Schoolhouse Birthday Blog Hop again. Hopefully you visited last week when I hosted Malia Russell.
Today I’m pleased to have Amy Barr of Lukeion.org with me. Amy will be writing monthly in The Old Schoolhouse® magazine on Classical Homeschooling topics. Being a somewhat classical homeschooler, I was pleased to be selected to interview Amy. I was not familiar with the Lukeion Project, but have now visited the website and it looks like a fantastic program. They offer live, on-line, high school level classes in Latin, Greek , Classical Literature, and more! I’m going to be checking into these for my son for next year.
Kristen: How did you become interested in Classical Education?
Amy: When I was 10 I saw a magazine article about a city that was wiped out during the worst mega-disaster in human history: It was about Pompeii, a Roman city of 20,000 annihilated by a volcano in AD 79. I was hooked! I started an archaeological excavation in our back yard. When Pompeii was re-discovered in 1749 it caught the imagination of the world, prompting the neo-Classical movement just when our founders were deciding how to build a new nation. Most people don’t know Thomas Jefferson picked columns instead of cathedrals because of Pompeii. I can relate.
Once I started college I began to work abroad as a Classical Archaeologist. I spent a decade of summers living in Jordan, Greece and Turkey doing what I loved best. While studying ancient history, archaeology, art, architecture, Greek and Latin, I gained valuable college teaching experience. My husband, Regan, followed a similar path but started his journey with a couple of degrees in New Testament.
I knew I would teach my children at home well before I had a family. I worked at my college library in a special collection for education majors where I organized the tools of the teaching trade. I wasn’t impressed with the racks of diagnostic tests aimed to calculate intellect rather than nurture it. Future teachers were learning how to give tests, not how to teach children. Once I started teaching at the college level it was clear that most of the students could not read carefully, write effectively, reason clearly, or think independently. My husband and I agreed: we could do a better job with our own children.
Classical education divides the way a child learns into three stages (the trivium or “three roads”) based on how the child’s brain works during development: grammar, logic, rhetoric. These stages roughly correspond to elementary, middle, and high school. Educators who keep these stages in mind appreciate why the same logic-based task will aggravate an 8 year-old but amuse a 14 year-old. Language skills are essential to Classical education as learners are given the tools and time to read great literature while they incorporate math, science, philosophy, art, history, travel along with Greek and Latin. What’s not to like? Regardless of our children’s path, their world is well-rounded.
Kristen: Do you think that the classical education model is good for every student? Why or why not?
Amy: No one model of education when strictly applied will work for everyone. We home educators must evaluate, adapt, and refine what and how we teach the unique learners that God gave us. Classical education, however, is a broad and forgiving approach that will fill the needs of most families.
The tools that I’ve found most useful in this approach came naturally as a result of my own interests. I’ve modeled a love of learning and as a result my kids are voracious readers and their vocabulary and language skills are excellent. My husband and I are professional Latin and Greek teachers so a systematic study of Latin and Greek are a natural part of their education. My husband and I worked at the site of Troy as archaeologists and I also teach mythology professionally so my children have a remarkable understanding of the Iliad, Odyssey, and other foundational Classical literature. Just by being around us, our kids have a first-rate view of the whole cultural setting of ancient Greece and Rome. They even take yearly family trips with The Lukeion Project to the Mediterranean. For us, Classical education is a life-style more than an educational methodology. I know there aren’t many people that have all of that available. A Classical focus can be adapted for your family using your talents and skills.
Kristen: Is it easier to begin studying Greek or Latin first? Should students study both languages at the same time? At what age do you recommend beginning Greek and/or Latin studies?
Amy: Since I am a full-time advanced Latin teacher while my husband teaches Greek at the same level, we get this question a lot. Each language affords its own advantages, and they help each other out when learned together. Some are a bit intimidated by the Greek alphabet, while others delight in being able to write (and type!) in a 3000 year-old language. Latin is a more conventional and may seem less threatening. Start with the language that interests your learner more. If you want your child to take both, wait until he has had at least a year or two of one before starting the next.
In the elementary ages, children can learn a lot of Greek and Latin vocabulary, play with short translations, and master the Greek alphabet. Keep these early years fun! Mix a little language learning with plenty of hands-on history craft projects, games, travel and museum visits. Once a learner starts to think more logically (roughly 12 to 15) he is ready to begin a systematic study of Latin or Greek. Wait for your learner to be intellectually ready and these languages will be a pleasure instead of a pain.
Thank you so much for your insight Amy. I’m looking forward to reading your contributions to The Old Schoolhouse®.