Opening – by Marlin Detweiler
Feature Article –Why Classical Languages Matter by Joanna Hensley
Educational Helps – by Laurie Detweiler
Our feature article author teaches Latin and Omnibus online for us. She may be the very best Latin teacher I’ve ever met. Laurie and I recently were speakers at the MassHOPE homeschool convention. We must have been asked a dozen times why Latin is so important. Below, Joanna provides a remarkable answer to this question.
Why Classical Languages Matter
A Latin teacher, like me, asked to write a newsletter article on “Why Classical Languages Matter” is tempted to peddle her wares like a fair barker with a megaphone: “Step right up! Get five languages for the price of one! Feel smarter in just fifteen minutes a day! Absolutely guaranteed to raise your SAT!” While all these promises regarding the study of Latin may be true, and while these may be the very reasons some students study Latin in the first place, there is something far more valuable and far less self-serving in the importance of studying classical languages. Classical languages are necessary for understanding ideas, and to illustrate the point, I will put down my megaphone and tell you the story of St. Isidore of Seville.
Born to a Christian family in Spain in A.D. 560, Isidore was a student at the Cathedral School of Seville, the first school of its kind to be structured around the trivium and quadrivium. In other words, he was one of the first boys in medieval Spain to receive a classical Christian education, not unlike the one offered by Veritas Press Scholars Academy. While the Spanish culture around him was disintegrating with the spread of anti-intellectualism and illiteracy thanks to the barbarian Goths who had taken over the government, the young Isidore was studying Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and the liberal arts, holding on to classical influences which were all too quickly disappearing in Europe.
When Isidore grew up, he put his classical education to work in service to his culture. After his older brother Leander died, Isidore became an archbishop and boldly fought against Arianism, that heresy popular among the barbarian Goths which rejects the biblical understanding of the Trinity by saying that Jesus was just a man and not true God. It took courage to tell those powerful barbarians they were wrong. (Remember what had happened to poor Boethius? If you don’t, take Omnibus V.) Yet, Isidore stood fast to Scripture, and through him, God converted many.
As an archbishop, Isidore presided over several church councils, including the educationally significant Fourth National Council of Toledo in 633. At that council, Isidore encouraged everyone there to open classical schools like the one he had attended as a boy, based on the trivium and quadrivium, in all the Cathedral cities. Again, this was a bold move, quite counter-cultural. Through this spread of classical Christian education, Isidore stalled the influences of barbarism and ignited an educational renaissance throughout Spain.
Wondering what this has to do with classical languages? I’m getting to it.
In addition to fighting heresy and spreading education, Isidore wrote a gigantic encyclopedia—the first to be published during the Middle Ages—called the Origines (also known as the Etymologia and some of which students translate in my Latin II class). All 448 chapters of this 20-volume set were dedicated to understanding the origins of words. That Isidore could write such an encyclopedia is a tribute to his fine education. That he cared so much about etymologies illustrates his belief that knowledge comes to us through words, and the meanings of words come to us through study of classical languages. Isidore argued that the very existence of ideas depends upon understanding the origins of words, something you learn through the study of classical languages.
Why, then, do classical languages matter? Unless we know the origins of words, we cannot understand ideas. Since 90% of English words of two or more syllables come from Latin, English relies upon classical languages to express ideas. Take for example the phrase liberal arts. These are the arts which set a man free, not the arts which are particularly generous or best align with the Democrat Party. One understands the true meaning of liberal arts when he recognizes that the word is derived from liber, the same Latin word which gives English liberty and deliverance. This is just one example of thousands, but it shows how right Isidore was to think that understanding word origins is necessary for understanding ideas. This is why the study of classical languages is so important in becoming a well-educated person.
It makes sense to reasonable folk that words are connected to ideas. We express our ideas through words, and we read words in order to understand other people’s ideas. And yet, today’s postmodernism is challenging this basic connection between words and ideas. Our culture, like Isidore’s, is becoming more and more barbaric. Our church, like Isidore’s, is battling against heresy. Our postmodern world, like Isidore’s, needs to be reminded that words have true, objective meanings. What Isidore did to revive medieval Spain—namely, the spread of classical Christian education, the defeat of heresy, and a renewed appreciation for words—can revive our culture as well.
When words hold no significance, ideas simply do not flourish. I daresay this is why postmodern America is having trouble keeping up with the Great Conversation of western civilization. Knowledge does not advance when people argue what is is. Ideas do not flourish when words have meaning only for the individual. Debates do not resolve when no one even cares to define terms, and education is pointless when universal truth is replaced by relativism.
Let us instead commit ourselves and future generations to appreciating words. Let us love words so much that we study them all the way back to antiquity. Let us know exactly what is is, to the point that we can rattle off that irregular verb chart in languages millennia old. When someone tells us, “Sure, that’s what it means for you,” let us know with confidence that words do have objective meaning, going back to the days of Cicero and before. Let us read Cicero, while we are at it, and let our goal for studying classical languages be to enjoy the great books written in their original great languages. That goal is not far off. My Latin Readings students are doing that even now.
With classical languages under their belts, our children and their children actually can keep up with—even lead—the Great Conversation of western civilization. Knowing words is knowing ideas, and we need good ideas these days. So study Latin to improve your SAT score, master romance languages, and feel like an all-around smart person, but do your culture a favor and be like Isidore. Use your understanding of the origins of words to battle heresy in the church, spread classical education, and transform the culture through a renewed appreciation for words, and in this way give all glory, laud, and honor to the Word Made Flesh.
Joanna Hensley graduated with honors from the University of Minnesota with majors in Latin and Classical Civilizations. She has been involved with classical education for a decade as a teacher, curriculum writer, and homeschool tutor. Besides teaching Latin and Omnibus, Joanna has also been the Editorial Coordinator and blog editor for WORLD Magazine. Joanna is married to Rev. Adam Hensley, a pastor of the Lutheran Church in Australia, who is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Old Testament. The Hensleys live with their two young children in Purcellville, Va.
Summer is almost upon us, and before you know it, your children will be asking you for things to do. Hopefully, you have read the article by Joanna Hensley on Latin and are convinced that you want your children to learn and explore this ancient language.
Over the years one of the things I have found is that summer can be a time when children forget much of what they have learned in a language, because they don’t practice it. Games are a great way for children to continue to practice Latin over the summer and still have fun.
I have assembled a number of resources for you so that when your children say, “I’m bored!” you can pop out the Latin games to keep them practicing over the summer. Click on any of the following items for a detailed description or to order.
Some of you may not know this, but we have just put a Veritas Press page up on Facebook. Be encouraged to post other Latin games that you know of that have been helpful to your family for others to enjoy. Let’s all pitch in and help one another out.
Free Coins and Free Self-Paced Course
We have previously announced our new self-paced courses (see the announcement below, too). For the month of May, we are holding several drawings with great prizes. The first drawing is for a free self-paced course, drawn from among all registrants for the four self-paced courses that will be available this fall. We are also giving away a coin for each of the three new courses coming online this fall. Those who register in May for any of these new courses will be in the drawings for these coins. Click here to view the coin for each course. Drawings will be held after the end of the month to determine the winners.
Free Online Conference Registration for a Married Couple
If you place an order in May of any size your name will be entered to win one conference registration to our online teacher training conference for you and your spouse. Click here to learn more about this exciting conference.
Q. What are your views on a Latin-based curriculum versus the "neo-classical" models? Where would you consider your school/materials to fit into this discussion?
A. The answer assumes that the question can be rephrased, “Do you think Latin should be the core such that an English grammar program is virtually unnecessary?” First, we definitely believe that Latin is the paradigm discipline in Grammar School, particularly for mastering the English language. However, we believe those who promote eliminating the study of English grammar in favor of Latin go too far. Students who are educated by our recommendations will have an excellent start toward mastering English by the end of first grade, and we don’t recommend starting Latin until second grade at the earliest. English grammar helps a child learn Latin, and Latin helps a child learn English grammar. In first grade children are able to start writing sentences and paragraphs. We want them to learn the correct structure for a sentence, before they actually begin to write one, so they don’t develop bad habits. Because Latin sentence structure is different, they need to understand English grammar structure before they begin. All this said, Latin makes children understand English grammar in a much better way, but it is not a replacement for it.
Q. When I look at the list of books to be read, my 7th grader doesn't seem ready to dive into Omnibus quite yet. Should I take two years to cover the first level or do you have other suggestions?
A. For some children, the 7th grade year is a transition year in several areas of their growth. Some just are not quite ready, for any variety of reasons, at the beginning of their 7th grade year. While you could spread out the reading and work over a longer period of time, we recommend you pursue an intermediate option. We have developed and offer such a transition course in our teacher-led online courses. It is intended for children, ages 11 to 14, who need this extra year or have gaps in their knowledge of world history. Click here for more information on the course or simply to view the book list we recommend if you desire to teach this yourself.
Please submit any questions you’d like answered here to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s Catalog Time Again
The 2010 – 2011 catalog will be arriving in your mailbox shortly, but you can check it out now by going to www.veritaspress.com where you’ll find an electronic version. In addition to the familiar offerings, you’ll find many new ones, and much space is dedicated to explaining our expanded services. The cover art is a commissioned work by an artist residing in the Colorado Rockies whose daughter takes online courses with us. We plan to help the artist sell the original painting through an online auction. Look for more information soon.
More Self-Paced Courses Coming This Fall
This new area of self-paced courses has hit the market and our office by storm. Words cannot easily express how good the feedback has been and how excited we are with the quality of the learning. We now believe this is the very best way for students to grasp and master the material. Click here to read what customers have said. Registration is now open as follows:
Course1 Available Cost
New Testament, Greece and Rome 9/7/10 $250
Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation 9/7/10 $250
Explorers to 1815 10/1/10 $250
1815 to the Present TBD Not Available2
1 Click on the course title to register.
2 We expect this course to be available by Sep. 2011. However, it’s possible we could have it for January, 2011 if there is enough interest. If you would like it in January let us know with a note to email@example.com.
Update on Live Online Classes
Don't wait to check out the live online class options. We continue to experience rapid growth in these courses, and classes don’t start for another five months! Many sections are already filled and have waiting lists. Click here to learn more.
Two NEW Live Classes
Have you heard the news? Memory Period and History Survey and Transition have been added to the growing list of live online class offerings.
While memory work is one of the most important aspects of the grammar school years and of classical Christian education, it appears to be one of the most difficult things to work into a homeschooling day. Students will learn the Veritas Press history and Bible timelines, Latin chants, math facts, grammar jingles, and much more.
A crash course for children who haven’t yet gotten a basic timeline of history and for those who would benefit from a transition class from the grammar school program to the rigors of Omnibus. Using the Veritas Press history cards, students will gain a historical timeline overview from Creation to the present and will use historical fiction to aid in the connections of these events to related ideas.
Open House and Warehouse Shopping at Veritas Press
We customarily have a very large presence (10 booths) at CHAP, the homeschool fair in Harrisburg, Pa., over Mother’s Day weekend. The cost of doing so has gotten so high we are trying something different. YOU CAN COME TO US! On May 7th and 8th we welcome you to browse our warehouse. (Our physical address appears at the very end of this email.) It will be great fun. Come join the party and enjoy:
● Continental breakfast, lunch, and snacks throughout both days on us
● Workshops on
● Your own personal shopper
● Scheduled lesson plan help
● Taking your books with you (no shipping charge)
Veritas Press Teacher Training and In-A-Week Courses
Don't miss our teacher training conference and “In-A-Week” courses which are planned for this summer. Last year we offered these online only. The feedback was very good, and we plan the same for this year. Our teacher training conference is scheduled for July 28–30, 2010. Look here for teacher training registration information.
We also plan to again offer intense training in what have come to be called “In-A-Week” classes. These classes are also geared to teachers—all taught online by outstanding teachers with considerable expertise in the material. What better way to prepare yourself to teach these courses or just learn the material for your own edification? Please be encouraged to join us for these great opportunities. Register for In-A-Week courses here.
Latin In-A-Week July 19-23 Joanna Hensley
Latin In-A-Week July 26-30 Joanna Hensley
Omnibus I In-A-Week June 21-25 Bruce Etter
Omnibus I In-A-Week July 12-16 Bruce Etter
Omnibus II In-A-Week June 7-11 Graham Dennis
Omnibus III In-A-Week June 21-25 Graham Dennis
Teacher Training July 28-30 Various speakers
18th Annual ACCS Conference
The Association of Classical and Christian Schools (ACCS) national conference will be held June 17-19, 2010 in Durham, North Carolina. It is designed to provide the principles of a classical and Christian education and practical instruction in a broad range of subjects. Plenary sessions will feature Os Guinness, George Grant, Matt Whitling, and Douglas Wilson. Practical workshops will teach the implementation of classical Christian education. Marlin and Laurie Detweiler are scheduled to attend and speak, as well. Click here for more information or contact the ACCS office at (208) 882-6101.
Future Job Openings with Veritas Press Scholars Academy
Online Teachers—We are hiring now for next year and into the future! Don't wait if you are interested. With the rapid growth of our online courses, we continue to seek more teachers for the future. Experienced teachers can work from home, the beach, or anywhere high-speed internet is available. Send résumé to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Huge Discount on First Edition History Manuals
We are pleased to announce the publication of revised editions for two of our Veritas Press History Teacher’s Manuals. The New Testament, Greece and Rome and Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation manuals are now in their second editions. We still have a number of Enhanced CDs for both series containing the first edition manuals. While quantities last we are making these available for $12.50 (50% off!). Visit the Discount Books section of our web site or ask for item #000203Z (for NTGR) or #000303Z (for MARR).
Interesting Facts about Veritas Press
In April we asked, “What is Marlin Detweiler's highest game score bowled in Wii bowling?” The answer was 247. The highest possible score in bowling is 300. Kim Tweten of San Antonio, Texas, won the $25 gift certificate with the closest guess of 233. Interestingly, Gloria Stoudt, a customer service representative in the office, has bowled a 259, creating some delightful competition in the office.
We thought we’d try another fun question. The first person to email the correct or closest answer by May 15th to email@example.com will again receive a $25 gift certificate. Here’s the question:
As of May 1, 2010, how many customers does Veritas Press have in Kalamazoo, Michigan?
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