Classical homeschool, Homeschool
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No Latin? A Response

a conversation on homeschooling without latin, via lagarfias.com

Last week, I dared challenge the necessity of teaching Latin to classical homeschoolers. It was a brief post, since I did not see the need to list a magnum opus of my anti-Latin reasons ad nauseum.  But that wasn’t really my point. I just wanted to carpe diem and throw out the interesting quote I had just found exempli gratia.

Well, I did get more feedback than I expected, thought most of it was private. Not many wish to declare anti-Latin sentiments coram populo, even if we did not come to our conclusions in vacuo.

Jerry Bailey, of Dynamic Literacy, was kind enough to contact me personally on the subject:

I read your blog entry “No Latin – No Problem.” (I follow you on twitter) When my wife was a kid, she and her friends used to say “Latin is a dead langauge [sic], it’s very plain to see. It killed all the Romans, and now it’s killing me!” While I agree that students don’t necessairly [sic] need to study Latin, English is full of Latin and Greek, and the study of morphology assumes the role of teaching the parts of those dead languages that still exist in English today. By learning Latin and Greek roots in the context of English, students learn how to “mean out” unfamiliar words, just like phonics teaches them to “sound out” words. Learning just 10 morphemes, or units of meaning, can be the key to understanding hundreds of words, something you can’t do with memorization. If you’re interested, I’ve published an article about the history of English which explains, among other things, why there are at least two words for almost everything in English.

I agree with you, Mr. Bailey, that “students don’t necessarily need to study Latin.” Sic, my title. Especially do I agree with your wife. In fact, the more times I read over your comments, quod erat demonstrandum we are more in agreement than disagreement.

Let’s list those agreements:

  1. “By learning Latin and Greek roots in the context of English, students learn how to ‘mean out’ unfamiliar words.” I was blessed with an English spelling and vocab instruction from my mother (I was homeschooled, you probably know) that included memorizing such roots. I am constantly spouting them off to my children when we learn new words. At the dinner table, my fourteen-year-old son mused that thigh must be Germanic, because the German words end in the [now] silent gh. I had forgotten that, but a quick check of a dictionary’s entomology of the word proved him correct.
  2. “Learning just 10 morphemes, or units of meaning, can be the key to understanding hundreds of words, something you can’t do with memorization.” Again, couldn’t agree more. Today’s math lesson with my five-year-old included finding the angles in a triangle. And that leads to the prefix tri- which gave away the answer to the next question: How many angles are in a triangle? Which led to bursts of tricycle, trinity, triad, etc.
  3. “If you’re interested, I’ve published an article about the history of English which explains, among other things, why there are at least two words for almost everything in English.” I’m sorry I did not find the article, or I would have linked it here. Did you read Laurie White’s King Alfred’s English? Going through it with my children gave us all a renewed appreciation for the bounty of vocabulary and history we have at our disposal. And that was what led to my son’s observation about the roasted chicken thighs we ate last night. They were more delicious than Germanic, though.

There is, however, a reason I threw that post out there last week. Too many classically homeschooling mommies think “sin Latin ”  equals “failure.” That just ain’t so.  Ars longa, vita brevis, but I will attempt to write soon a little more on why not Latin, Dei gratia.

Thanks for writing, Mr. Bailey! And please, friends, let me know what you think. You can email me, facebook me, or tweet me any time. In English, please.

Ave et vale.

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