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Latin-Based Classical Education

An Interview With Cheryl Lowe of Memoria Press


The following is an discussion between Martha Robinson with Cheryl Lowe, author of Latina Christiana and owner of Memoria Press, on the Trivium, Mrs. Lowe's theory of Latin-based education, and the products offered by Memoria Press.

How would you define Classical Education?

Cheryl Lowe: Historically classical education has been based on the study of the Latin and Greek languages, classics, and civilizations. Even after the rise of modern languages and their literatures, classical education in the 1800's and early 1900's continued to focus almost exclusively on the ancient world. Once the modern languages and literatures were introduced into the education system Latin and Greek very quickly lost ground until now they are almost extinct. I think as we restore classical education we need to reestablish the Latin based curriculum, but retain the best of the English classics as a secondary subject.

Some of the "how to" books on the Classical approach offer a full day's schedule that some parents find scary. Does Classical Education have to be difficult?

Cheryl Lowe: I agree that many of these recommendations are unrealistic and overwhelming. I advise parents to focus on Latin, math, and reading good books. Whatever else you can fit in will be icing on the cake.

We are putting together a Latin based classical curriculum that I hope is realistic. We are assembling our materials in sets of three grades, 3rd-5th and 6th-8th, to simplify the curriculum and hopefully save the parents some money. Our proposed study schedule is four mornings/week with individual student study, mostly reading and memorizing in the afternoons.

How does "Latin-based curriculum" fit in with the Classical Christian approach? (Please explain what "Latin-based curriculum" is.)

Cheryl Lowe: A Latin based curriculum is one in which the student learns most of his language arts skills through Latin rather than through the English language arts books that students go through every year. "The study of one's own language is achieved incomparably better by the indirect method of studying another language", said classicist Charles Bennett.

The old classical education was Latin based. There were no English grammars or English language arts books. Students studied Latin and Greek and, through these languages, they mastered English and learned their whole classical and Christian heritage. There is no doubt that the Latin based curriculum is superior to an English based curriculum.

The Latin based curriculum simplifies and consolidates subjects. In our curriculum we will have four subjects, Latin, classical studies, English studies (literature) and math.

In Latin and classical studies students learn about their whole heritage: grammar, spelling, vocabulary, geography, history, government, economics, religion, music, art. Latin is one grand unit study where everything integrates naturally.

You joke about the monks who advise you, but seriously, what happened with Latin being taught in parochial and public schools?

Cheryl Lowe: The whole classical curriculum of 2000 years just collapsed in the 20th century, especially after World War II. There was just a complete meltdown. Even an English based liberal arts education is rare today. The distinction between education and job training has disappeared. Catholics in particular after Vatican II, I think, were glad to get rid of Latin and be more American, less distinctive and counter cultural.

How do you go about teaching Latin to children of different ages? Is there any way to make it easier for the homeschooling mom?

Cheryl Lowe: Since Latin is usually new for everybody in the family, you can all start out with the same program. I advise that all start with Latina Christiana, even the high school students. In addition, Mom (and older high school students) should supplement their own study with a more advanced book like Henle on the side. That way Mom can stay ahead of the kids and begin to master Latin.

All ages can do Introduction to Classical Studies. All of my students, from 3rd grade to 12th are required to read Famous Men of Rome and D'Aulaires' Greek Myths. There is no better place to start. Read the books two or three times and outline them. And then do Famous Men of Greece. A good advanced book is Chester Starr's The Romans and The Greeks. I'm not sure if they are both still in print. I wouldn't try to read the Iliad and other Great Books until you are really familiar with Greek myths.

How do you know when a child changes stages from grammar to logic or logic to rhetoric?

Cheryl Lowe: If your child is progressing normally in math then the logic stage usually begins between 12-15 years old depending on their proficiency.

When is a child ready to study Latin? Logic?

Cheryl Lowe: Preschoolers can sing and recite Latin hymns and prayers, but I recommend that students start formal Latin after finishing basic phonics and reading instruction, about grade 3. For logic we recommend 8th -10th grades.

Is it possible for a family who is coming to the Classical method with older children to implement it successfully? How would they go about doing that?

Cheryl Lowe: Yes! Just start at the beginning as I described above. Latin, Greek myths, Roman history and good English classics are most important to focus on. It is important to get these fundamentals under your belt before trying to tackle more advanced studies regardless of your age.

What new materials do you have on the drawing board?

Cheryl Lowe: Our new materials this year are flashcards for Latina Christiana, Ancient Civilization Wall Maps, and Lingua Angelica, A Christian Latin Reading Course. For next year we will have Classical Rhetoric with Aristotle and Material Logic by Martin Cothran, which we are really excited about. We are very fortunate to be able to bring Martin's Logic and Rhetoric courses to the homeschooling market because he has the unique ability to dissect and discover the lost arts of teaching traditional, formal logic and rhetoric. We also have several teachers in our school working on English Studies for grades 3-5 which will include our own Poetry Collection.

Are your courses geared to a specific Christian market (i.e. Catholic, Protestant)?

Cheryl Lowe: Classical education focuses on the classical and Christian roots of our civilization. Since the ancient and medieval worlds were before the reformation, classical education materials that are accurate and objective should have equal appeal to both Catholics and Protestants.

We design our materials to be usable by Catholics and non-Catholics alike because we think that is the best way to approach classical education. In all or our courses we try to give both the classical and Christian origin of the material the student is learning.

For instance in Latina Christiana I explain that the origin of mea culpa is from the confession in Latin, that the Sanctus is from St. John's vision in Revelation, etc. In Lingua Angelica I give historical background to the Latin hymns and the Mass. I say that because of its historical and musical importance, a well-educated person should have some familiarity with the ordinary of the Latin Mass. Because of the changes since Vatican II, many Catholics today are as unaware of these things as Protestants.

I went to a Presbyterian wedding recently and took a peek in the back of the hymnal. I was surprised to see the whole ordinary of the mass in both English and Latin and I bet most Presbyterians would be surprised, too. The fact is, for most of us, Protestant and Catholic,our heritage has just gone down the memory hole. The whole point of a classical education is to recover our heritage, rediscover our roots. I think it is good that Catholics and Protestants do this together as much as possible. It is a true ecumenism that will bear much fruit.

Many thanks to Cheryl Lowe for sharing her thoughts with us here at!

Related Resources's Classical and Charlotte Mason Resource Section's Classical Language Resource Section's Latin Comparison Chart
Christian Studies
Horatius at the Bridge Study Guide
The Latin Centered Curriculum
Latina Christiana I and II
Latina Christiana DVD's
Book of Roots
Ludere Latine I
Prima Latina
Henle Latin Guides
Lingua Angelica
Copy Book I, II, and III
Famous Men series
Introduction to Classical Studies
Guided Course to Famous Men of Rome
Traditional Logic
Traditional Logic II
Material Logic