Sunday, October 21, 2012

Latin Father, German Mother

As you all know, 50% of the English language is Latin, in spite of the fact that its origin is German.  Only 40% of our English words are now derived from our ancestral Germanic language (the language of the Angles, the Germanic tribe from which we get the name of our language, Angle-ish.)  You also know that almost all (90%) of the ‘big’ words in our language (3+ syllables) are Latin (9% are Greek and 1% are ‘other.’)  Because the Germanic words are the ‘little’ ones, they are also the ones that we learned in school and at home before the 3rd grade.  In this way, German was our ‘native’ tongue, because we learned it first.

However, around the 3rd grade we began to learn a foreign language, Latin, often without even knowing it.  Our classes became more difficult.  Our texts became more challenging.  We started learning ‘bigger’ words.  The percentage of Latin in school continued to increase every year until we graduated.  If we went to college, the percentage of Latin and Greek words in our texts far outnumbered the Germanic ones.

It’s as if you grew up with immigrant parents, a mother from Germany who dropped out of school after the 3rd grade and a father from ancient Rome with a Ph.D.  When you came home from the hospital, your German mother noted that her plump little baby was quite ‘fat,’ while your educated Latin father noted your ‘corpulence.’  Your mother wrapped you in a blanket covered with images of ‘horses,’ but your father doted on you swaddled in your ‘equine’ print.  Your German mom bought you a mobile with little blue ‘birdies’ while your father praised her for the azure ‘avian’ acquisition. 

As English speakers, we need to recognize the roots of our language.  We learn a predominantly German language in our youth, and as we mature, our language patterns shift toward Latin.  However, many parents continue to treat English as ‘English’ (i.e. German) for all twelve years of formal schooling and never teach the Latin grammar, syntax, and vocabulary that predominate after 3rd grade. 

Every student of English should also be a student of Latin from 3rd-12th grade.  And that does NOT mean a student of Latin ‘roots,’ but a student of the language.  Memorizing a list of 100 common Latin and Greek roots is NOT the same as learning Latin.  By the 12th grade, students should know around 3500 Latin words by having actually learned to read them.  In doing this, they will have increased their college-level vocabulary by more than 35,000 words.  It is no wonder that students who have studied even one year of Latin score 50-100 points higher on the SAT than their counterparts.

There are many fantastic Latin programs for parents who know absolutely no Latin but want to give the advantage of learning Latin to their children (for one such program, Latin for Children, see one of my earlier blog entries.)  If you see the competitive advantage of learning Latin, get out of your comfort zone and give it a try.

-Joe Klomparens

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Latin Windsprints

You might enjoy the following post from Doug Wilson regarding the benefit of learning Latin (my thanks go to David Byle, a missionary in Istanbul, for sharing this with me.)
The Brain Is More Like a Muscle Than a Shoebox (or Why It’s Good for Kids to Learn Latin)
Posted: 24 Sep 2012 11:00 AM PDT

“If a football coach were making his player run wind sprints in a particularly hard practice, no one would upbraid him for making his players run from the thirty-yard line to the forty-yard line and then, mindlessly, pointlessly, back again. If he were confronted, he would point out that the issue was discipline and not the particular piece of ground the players were covering. In fact the ground covered in the subsequent game is not important in itself either but is related to a higher end.

“We tend to think of our students’ minds as finite shoeboxes, and we then think we must take special care not to put anything in there if we do not want it to remain there for life. But the brain is more like a muscle. A student who learns one language, such as Latin, is not stuck with his shoebox three-quarters full, with no room for Spanish. Rather the student has a mind that has been stretched and exercised in such a way that subsequent learning is much easier, not much harder.

“Now of course this kind of mental discipline could be acquired by requiring of the students the intellectual equivalent of running back and forth. While a football coach might be able to get away with this, because everyone understands the point, we should not attempt it in the classroom—although mental wind sprints that had no point in themselves would still be better than simple laziness. The reason this approach would not work in the classroom is that the human mind is inescapably teleological; it wants to know why it is learning something. Latin has the advantage of providing the grist for the mill of the mind, while also providing great practical advantages. To return to our metaphor of football, the study of Latin is therefore simultaneously an exercise to prepare for the game and part of the game.”

—Douglas Wilson, The Case for Classical Christian Education (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003), 140-141.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Delayed Gratification

Human beings are hard-wired to seek instant gratification, from the plaintive cries of an infant at his first hunger pangs to the toddler screaming at the grocery checkout because he wants the candy “now!” to the adult buying his lottery ticket in hopes of striking it rich.  We want what we want and we want it now.  Instant financing, no-interest/no-payments for six months, lines of credit, and pay-day loans.  The desire for instant gratification is the root of many evils.  It leads some into drugs.  Others, into alcohol abuse.  Others, into divorce.  Others, into perversions of every sort.  Therefore, as a parent who wants the best for my children (and who must battle my own desire for instant gratification), one of my primary jobs is to teach my children to delay gratification.

The ability to delay gratification, not differences in wealth, is what distinguishes the upper and lower classes.  And by class, I mean differences in culture, not money.  The hard-working poor who saves what he can and invests in books rather than beer (not that a good beer is anything to avoid, but you know what I mean) will not be poor for long.  As a parent, I want to train my children to delay gratification.  I want them to be wealthy in knowledge and culture and to avoid the many pitfalls of instant gratification.

One method I use to accomplish this is education, and particularly the disciplines of math and Latin.  I’ll let others speak to the benefits of math in helping students delay gratification, but I say that Latin is its brother in this cause.  Studying Latin is a long-term investment, not a get-rich-quick scheme.  It is popular in upper-class, wealthy, elite schools precisely because of this.  The parents who invest in those schools know that knowledge is built slowly over time, like a good investment, and that the interest from a student’s long hours of study now won’t be withdrawn until much later.

I saw one example of this in my home last week.  My children were on taking an online vocabulary test as they prepared for the SAT.  The test was timed and gave you a ‘rough’ (I’d say very rough) estimate of your personal vocabulary.  My 10-year old, after 2 years of Latin, knew about 15,000 words, while my 14-year old, after 6 years of Latin, knew about 40,000.  When I scored 50,000+ on the test (I’m sure my children will surpass me in the next few years), I noted that almost every word was based on a Latin root and that my knowledge of Latin made the meaning of even the most obscure word quite clear.  Why?  Because college-level vocabulary tests don’t check the little Germanic words everybody has learned by 3rd grade.  No, they test the ‘big’ words.  And what are the ‘big’ words?  90% are Latin.  9 out of 10 words on the big three, the SAT, ACT, and the GRE, are LATIN words.

So, the payoff for Latin, the increased understanding of English grammar and vocabulary, is built slowly over the 12 or 13 years of formal schooling.  Of course, the improvement is evident after just weeks of study, and one year of Latin is better than none, but Latin is like a good mutual fund that needs time to accrue interest.  For those who want to get rich quick (but actually live in poverty), Latin is not for them.  For those who are ready to learn delayed gratification and build for the future on a solid foundation, Latin is the lime in your concrete.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Latin for Children

As most of you know, I am a Latin teacher at a public high school and a homeschooling dad for my seven children.  Over the last 12 years I have experimented with many Latin programs for my children at home and for my high-school classes.  The short list of texts I have purchased and taught includes Rosetta Stone: Latin, Artes Latinae, Latina Christiana, Cambridge Latin Course, Ecce Romani, and Jenney’s Latin.

After all those curricula, I settled on Lingua Latina per se Illustrata by Hans Ørberg for my high school classes.  For grades 6 and up there is nothing better if you really want to learn Latin (and not just memorize some vocabulary and a few charts.)  However, for my children at home I had not found a program that would serve as adequate preparation for the rigors of LLPSI, that is, until this year.

This year we adopted a program called Latin for Children at our homeschooling co-op.  This program is the perfect complement/prequel to the LLPSI series for a number of reasons.  It offers a complete course of study for grades 3-5 (i.e. there are three levels) and after finishing Level C students have a solid foundation in grammar (all major noun/adjective/pronoun declensions and six active verb tenses) and vocabulary (720 common Latin words).  All of this is taught in the traditional American order (nom., gen., dat., etc. for nouns and amo, amare, amavi, amatum for verbs) which students are likely to encounter in college, so by studying Latin for Children and LLPSI, students will know both the American and European noun/verb systems.  Students also have a choice of ecclesiastical or classical pronunciation throughout the program.

I advocate a balanced approach to learning Latin, using the grammatical method to train the brain in ordered, logical, and systematic analysis of language, and using the natural method to develop long-term memory, vocabulary, and depth of understanding.  Children in grades 3-5 are naturally going through the “Grammar Stage” of learning, so Latin for Children is perfectly suited to them.  Around 6th grade students begin to enter the “Dialectic Stage,” and the constant inferences required by LLPSI is perfectly suited for them.  LFC and LLPSI complement each other well.

LFC helps make learning permanent with many creative games, songs, and activities.  The songs for the declensions are catchy.  I love using Lyrical Latin and Latin Verbs Rock in my classes, but the LFC songs are as good or better.  The video lessons add a lot of humor.  Dr. Perrine has a great sense of humor and it shows in the videos (particularly when he takes his children’s toys and parades them in front of the camera in a spaghetti western meant to teach verb conjugations!)  On the website there are many learning games (very professional, very entertaining) which correlate to the chapters.  There is a card game (it comes with the learning bundle) to reinforce vocabulary.  The activity book includes crosswords, puzzles, word searches, and many other fun opportunities to practice what the students have learned.

I’m so glad that I found Latin for Children.  I believe it completes my Latin program and gives my children a solid foundation for a lifetime of learning.  You can learn more about Latin for Children on the Classical Academic Press website ( The learning bundle includes all of the materials described in this review.

As a homeschooling dad, a Latin teacher, a Classics major, and a graduate student in Latin and Roman studies, I can say unequivocally that the Latin for Children series is in a class by itself.  If you are considering Latin for your children, you will find no curriculum more thorough, more professional, more rigorous, and more fun for students in grades 3-5.  –Joe Klomparens, homeschooling dad and National Board Certified Teacher

Friday, September 14, 2012

Online Course - ISC Only

This post is for students of the International School of Communications only:

To sign up for your online course follow these instructions: 
1. Go to
2. Click on "create new account."
3. Create your account (you will need a valid e-mail address.)
4. You will get a password in an e-mail (write it down.)
5. Go back to the course (step 1) and enroll (use the enrollment key you received in class.)
6. From now on you will go directly to the course (step 1) and use your user name and password to log in.  If you forget your user name or password, use the link on the page that says "forgot user name or password" and you can have the site e-mail them to you.
7. Complete the exercises for Lectio Prima ("Lesson One").  You will complete roughly one lesson each week and you should complete all of the exercises for that lesson each week (usually 3-5 exercises.)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lingua Latina: User Guide

Lingua Latina per se Illustrata (LLPSI) is a fantastic Latin program for students in grades 6 and up (including adults with a Latin background.) However, it may not always be the most user-friendly program for those who are not familiar with its resources and methods.  So, here is a step-by-step guide to get the most out of LLPSI:

1.  There are 56 chapters in the program.  It will take five years to complete the series if you spend three weeks on each chapter (any less than this and you will not be able to fully internalize the vocabulary, grammar, and syntax of each chapter.)
2.  Each chapter has 2 or more lessons (called lectiones.)  These are marked with Roman numerals in the margin.  Each lesson will take about one week to complete.  
3.  DAY 1 - Watch the Lesson 1 tutorial (labeled as 1.1, meaning Chapter 1, Lesson 1) available on Mr. K's Moodle site (click here to visit the site.)  Choose your LLPSI book/level (e.g. Familia Romana.)  Log in as a guest and use the key 'latin' to enroll.
3.  Read the first lesson (aloud!) paying particular attention to the endings (Latin is a language of few words but many endings.)  Use the Latin-Latin dictionary (available in the Resources section of this blog) to help you with your reading.
4.  After carefully reading lesson 1, you are now ready to try exercise 1. Watch the Exercise 1.1 tutorial on Mr. K's Moodle site.
5.  Complete Exercise 1 using the online course (available from  The online course contains an online version of the book, all the ancillary materials, exercitia and pensa with a grade and hint feature, among other features.  After you move into the Roma Aeterna book (after chapter 35), you will need to switch to CD-ROMs for your exercitia and pensa (also available from
6.  DAY 2 - Re-read Lesson 1 (aloud!) paying close attention to the vocabulary and margin notes.  Study/memorize margin notes.
7.  If necessary, watch the Exercise 1.1 tutorial again (the 5-minute tutorial on Moodle covers all 3+ exercises for the lesson, so it may be useful to re-watch only the relevant potion of the video before a particular exercise.)
8.  Complete Lesson 1, Exercise 2 using the online course (or CD-ROM).
9.  DAY 3 - Re-read Lesson 1 (aloud!) paying close attention to the content (who/what/when/where/why/how).  Try translating the whole passage aloud.
10. Complete Lesson 1, Exercise 3 using the online course (or CD-ROM).  You have now completed Chapter 1, Lesson 1 (i.e. Capitulum Primum, Lectio Prima).
11. DAYS 4-12: REPEAT DAYS 1-3 for lessons 2, 3+, and the Grammatica (this should take 12+ school days.)
12. DAY 13 - When finished with the Grammatica for the chapter, memorize the Latin-Latin flashcards (available on this blog under the tab labeled "Flashcards.")
13. DAY 14 - Complete Pensa A-C using the CD-ROM or online course.
14. DAY 15 - Watch the Pensum D tutorial and complete the Pensum D worksheet (available on this blog.)
15. DAY 16 -Take the LLPSI 40-question chapter test (if you have questions about the tests, e-mail
16. DAYS 17+ - If you score 90% or better, go to the next chapter and repeat the process.  Otherwise, review the flashcards, listen to the chapter translation (available on this blog), study the margin notes, and redo Pensa A-C.  After that, go on to the next chapter.

If you start in 6th grade, you'll have a very solid foundation in Latin by the end of 10th grade.  If you begin in 9th grade, you will still be reading unmodified Latin texts (including Livy, Vergil, Catullus, and Martial) before you graduate.  Bona Fortuna!  If you have any questions, please e-mail

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Three Languages


And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of GREEK, LATIN, and HEBREW:  THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS (Luke 23:38)

For parents who are trying to teach (and learn) any of the Christian languages, I have (finally) completed a scope and sequence (for each language) to make what may have seemed like an impossible task, namely, acquiring Latin, Greek, and Hebrew before college, something that is doable for nearly every student.  Follow the links below to find the recommended texts and sources for each grade level (K-12):

Friday, August 10, 2012

Learning to Think

"Having a strong background in Classics has... proved beneficial in my studies of medicine. Doctors don't have to major in Biology to learn how to think and become good physicians. I believe Classical Studies provides that ability as well as any major offered in the college curriculum." -- Thomas Turner, MD (For the full letter follow this link.)

 The benefits of Latin (and Greek) extend far beyond the walls of the classroom.  Training in a specific subject, like Biology, often involves memorizing lists of terms, the names of the parts and the whole of a variety of organisms, and the steps involved in scientific inquiry.  These are noble and worthwhile goals, but they are rather specific in their application.  The study of Latin is very broad in its application.  The study of Latin teaches basic processes of thought and problem solving that are transferable not only to nearly every traditional school subject, but also to the daily puzzles of life.  Those who can think logically and creatively about difficult problems, a basic aspect of any Latin program, have an advantage over those who have learned a subject that focuses only on a limited content area.  Therefore, a student who has majored in Latin (and/or Greek) is well prepared to face the challenges of any career, from the complexities of a physician's trade to the (even greater) complexities of mother- and fatherhood!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Great Books

My oldest children (8th and 9th grade) are wrapping up their first year of a Great Books program my wife and I wrote for them.  This is the project they put together after reading 4 dialogs of Plato: Menon, Crito, Phaedo, and The Apology.  Enjoy!

Monday, May 28, 2012

"But when am I ever going to use this?"

"Having a strong background in Classics has, in my opinion, proved beneficial in my studies of medicine. Doctors don't have to major in Biology to learn how to think and become good physicians. I believe Classical Studies provides that ability as well as any major offered in the college curriculum." -- Thomas Turner, MD 

Our modern high-school curriculum has fallen victim to a mindless form of pragmatism wherein all classes are seen as preparing students for a future "job" of some sort.  The traditional belief that schooling should train the whole person, body, mind, and spirit, to live a full and meaningful life publicly, domestically, and occupationally is constantly challenged by those who shout (ever more loudly): But what is ___ good for?  You may insert any number of things into the blank: History, Poetry, Calculus, Latin, Art, you name it.  Anything that concerns the good, the true, and the beautiful, but which does not concern a specific technical skill, is under assault from students, parents, and even teachers.

Huge sums of money are spent on "vocational" training, meaning training in classes that are directly related to specific career skills, but far worse than this, the classes that focus on developing a rounded person, a complete and "educated" person, feel pressured to become more "relevant."  "Relevant" generally means "able to help the student in a future job."  It is as if our society were willingly descending into a new "Dark Age" as we jettison the knowledge and culture of the last 6000 years and train our children to become amoral information processors or living tools doing their share to increase the GDP.

The problem with those who want more "career education" is that they do not see how quickly the career market is shifting.  It is nearly impossible to predict exactly what new career fields may be developing in the next 20 years.  However, we do know this: A student who is able to learn, to communicate clearly, and to solve problems, linguistic, cultural, and occupational, will always be employable, and most likely will be doing the "employing."

Studying Latin accomplishes all three of these "career" goals: It teaches the student how to learn, how to communicate clearly, and how to solve new problems.  It is the ultimate vocational training, without specifically teaching a student how to turn a wrench or clean someone's teeth.  The careful student of Latin can tackle any career.  As Dr. Turner said in the quotation above, studying any particular subject, like Biology, does not necessarily teach someone how to think.  However, Latin does, and so it trains our students for future careers without sacrificing our culture in the process.

Monday, May 14, 2012

But more important is the fact that traditional study of Latin starts out with a grammatical framework.... As American students begin Latin, they become acquainted with the "Latin grammar" system, which they can indirectly transfer to their work in English. What it gives them is a standardized set of terms in which to describe words in relation to other words in sentences, and it is this grammatical awareness which makes their English writing good. -- Professor William V. Harris, NYU

The grammar program built into Microsoft Word has chosen to underline the final word in the above quotation. Incorrectly, I should add. Obviously, MS Word has not studied Latin! If it had, it would certainly know the difference between facit bene and facit bonum.

 As a teacher of both English and Latin, I have seen the futility of attempting to teach English grammar to students in their native language. For some reason, we resist systematizing that which comes so naturally to us. So we must approach our own language by a different road, and the best road for that is Latin.

Careful attention to Latin grammar drastically reduces, I will not say eliminates, the need to study English grammar as a separate subject, and if English grammar is studied in conjunction with Latin grammar, say in the 1st-4th grades using a program like First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise Bauer, then there is a synergistic effect benefiting both languages. In short, learning Latin grammar improves writing skills in English.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Latin and the Global Economy

I never touched a trained mind yet which had not been disciplined by grammar and mathematics—grammar both Greek and Latin; nor have I ever discovered mental elegance except in those familiar with Greek and Latin classics.  -William Milligan Sloan

In the new global economy, English has taken the dominant role as the language of international diplomacy, international business, and international travel.  The highest level of mastery with our own language, then, is the door that opens to our socially and technologically integrated world.  Next to this is the door that opens to those who can quickly acquire a variety of new languages (through the knowledge of language structures and roots) as the situation may demand.   

Latin is the key to both of these doors.

Latin teaches a deep, thorough, grammatical understanding of language that enriches and expands a student’s understanding of English (and language in general).  Take, for example, the concept of the infinitive.  The Latin verb for “love” is amō.  The infinitive for that verb is amāre, a word which means “to love.”  Notice that the one word in Latin must be communicated by two words in English.  So, when writing a sentence in English about a deep feeling of love, should an author write “to deeply love” or “to love deeply”?  Because the concept of the infinitive is contained in both the word “to” and the word “love,” as demonstrated by the Latin verb, it is good style to keep those concepts together (just as in Latin).  This is the reason why traditionally we have been told by our grammar teachers that we should not “split an infinitive” (“to boldly go where no man has gone before” excepted!)

Now, you could try, and fail, to learn the concept of the infinitive through your native language.  However, there is a better way: Learn Latin!  If you know that amāre means “to love,” then you know conceptually and on a deeper level that you should not split up that idea (in the same way that the word amāre itself cannot be split.)  The whole of English grammar makes sense only in light of Latin grammar.  No student of English grammar, then, should expect to gain any level of mastery without a commensurate knowledge of Latin.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

21st Century Skills

Give me a student who has been taught his Latin grammar, and I will answer for his chemistry. –German chemist Bauer to Francis Kelsey

In my high school, teachers like to talk about giving our students “21st Century Skills.” What they often mean by this phrase is “our students need more ___” (fill in the blank with computer classes, science, math, technology, etc.) However, technology, computers, and science in general are changing so quickly that the material learned one year may not apply to the next. For example, my son Caleb wants to be a video-game programmer. When he started taking classes in this field only two years ago, app development was an emerging field and there were no classes for creating new app's. Now it is a multi-billion dollar market and Digipen is offering its first app development class.

Real “21st Century Skills” are not abilities pertaining to particular technological developments, but rather the ability to think, to adapt, and to solve new problems with whatever technology arises. That is what Latin equips students to do, and that is why even my son Caleb, who wants to study video-game programming, still studies Latin. Latin provides the foundation for critical thinking. That is why the chemist Bauer could say that he did not care if his university students had balanced even one chemical equation in high school: he preferred students who knew their Latin well!

Monday, March 26, 2012

“To read the Latin and Greek authors in their original is a sublime luxury… I thank on my knees him who directed my early education for having in my possession this rich course of delight.” -Thomas Jefferson

Our American founding fathers lived in a culture saturated with the Classics (i.e. Latin and Greek). Most of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution could read and write Latin. How many of our legislators could boast the same today? It is difficult to imagine the type of country our founders would have created had they not known so much about the history and government of ancient Rome, from the abuses of its first 7 kings (the last of whom they threw out in 509 B.C., declaring themselves a Republic and electing new leaders every year!), to the prosperity and growth of the Republic for nearly 500 years, to the decadence and power of the Empire for nearly 500 more years. This history permeated the books and classrooms of early America, where preparing for college meant studying Latin and Greek and the respective histories and cultures. What would America look like if the founders hadn’t learned Latin?

This weekend Caleb and Sophie helped me put together this blog to help deliver classroom content a little more efficiently.  Click on the tabs at the top of the page to access different audio and video clips.  I plan to post a new Conversational Latin, LLPSI Grammar and Syntax Video, and flashcards to the page every week for the next year (a little ambitious, perhaps, but I work best with a goal in site). Also, I will post links to our weekly homework on this blog.

Let me know what you think.