Before building a tower or engaging in battle, one must count the cost. If one lacks the resources or motivation to complete a project, it would be better not to begin. The same is true of arts. Every art has an end which governs its practice. While there is certainly value in amateur attempts, the art exists to achieve the end. The art of poetry aims to create poems; the art of rhetoric, orations; music, harmony. The art which fails to reach its goal has not been mastered.
What is Latin? This probably seems like a useless question as most people of a certain language have heard of “Latin.” That said, when you tell people that you teach Latin you get all kinds of perplexed looks and then an assortment of odd questions which follow: “do you speak it?”; “are you fluent?”; “are you Catholic?”; and in some cases, “isn’t that a dead language?” Sometimes people might have a little more familiarity with the language and then they assume that you teach the language so that students can get a higher SAT score or be prepared for law school or medical school.
Classical education seeks to return to the old paths of wisdom and finds nourishment from those excellencies and virtues which our predecessors judged worthy of preserving. It is not concerned with the transient or ephemeral, but sends its roots into deeper soil. Thus, classical schools devote much time to the reading of old books as they cultivate a posture of respect and admiration towards the best of what has been thought or said.
“Do you ask me what you should regard as especially to be avoided? I say, crowds.”
Being the introvert I am, this answer from Seneca (letter 7) received from me a warm welcome and strong affirmation. However, I quickly learned that his reasoning was not formed from a fear of crowds or a feeling of discomfort one might experience in a room full of people. Instead, Seneca issued his warning against the crowd for the harm it imposes upon one’s soul.
The classical renewal places great emphasis on the trivium and on language. In contrast to modern progressive education which only “has a mind of metal and wheels,” classical education restores the primacy of the word over the gadget. Rather than the know-how of mechanical manipulation, a language-based education ascends to the transcendentals of truth, goodness, and beauty. And the crowning achievement of language is poetry for it moves us from the mundane to the spiritual through the symbolic layers of its words.
Nautae caelum et terram vident is a humble Latin sentence. It means, “The sailors see the sky and the land.”
It’s simple, yet it involves interconnecting thoughts and the ability to organize them in a systematic, coherent manner.
This sentence is relatively complex in the knowledge and skills it requires. To translate it, you must identify the syntactical attributes of each word, define each accordingly, and assemble them in English.
If you want to learn a foreign language, the first thing you should do is start when you are under four years old, when everything is new and you just take it for granted that this is so.
Author of Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child, Cheryl Swope is an advocate of classical Christian education for special-needs and struggling students. The love of history, music, literature, and Latin instilled in her own children has created in Cheryl the desire to share the message that classical education offers benefits to any child.