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Introduction to Classical Studies

By Cheryl Lowe

Review by Martha Robinson

Introduction to Classical Studies, by Cheryl Lowe, published by Memoria Press. Comb-bound, 78 pages, $14.95. Please support by ordering through our link to Christian Book Distributors.

Do you find yourself intimidated at the thought of Classical Christian Education? Cheryl Lowe has put together an extremely thorough and yet easy-to-implement program to introduce your children and even YOU to Classical Studies. While the program is targeted for third to fifth graders, it could easily be adapted for children slightly older or younger.

Introduction to Classical Studies is considered a secondary item in Mrs. Lowe's "Latin-based curriculum" model. The highest priority is the study of Latin and math. "Students studying Latin and the ancient world learn grammar, vocabulary, history, geography, composition, spelling and science. The curriculum, then, is so interconnected that it appears to the student as one subject rather than many." With "Latin-based curriculum," all subjects are integrated with Latin.

Three books are used with Introduction to Classical Studies: The Golden Children's Bible, D'Aulaires' Greek Myths, and Famous Men of Rome. These books were selected "to provide the beginning student with the basic set of stories that are foundational" to a classical Christian education. Mrs. Lowe clearly explains the importance of each of these books. She chose this particular Bible storybook because of its illustrations and the many simplified quotations from the King James version. Greek myths are important to study because they describe human characteristics in an entertaining way and their influence in our language and literature is pervasive. Rome should be studied because its long history illustrates the basic types of government and Rome served as the model that our Founding Fathers used when setting up our own government. Mrs. Lowe explains in detail why these areas of study are important from a Christian point of view.

The author recommends repeating Introduction to Classical Studies for three consecutive years to gain full mastery of the material. The first year the student should become acquainted with and enjoy the stories. The second year the student should begin to become familiar with names, dates, and details of the stories and locations. After the third year, the student should have full mastery of characters, timelines, and maps.

Introduction to Classical Studies contains thirty weeks of lessons with one week's lesson per page. The pages are laid out in the following sections:

  • A day-by-day reading schedule for a four-day week
  • A suggested art (drawing) project related to the reading
  • Expressions to know -- idioms with Biblical, Roman, and mythological origins
  • Bible or other facts to know -- such as the 12 tribes of Israel and the 7 hills of Rome
  • Bible verse(s) to memorize
  • Roman history questions --from 4 to 17 Roman history questions from the reading
  • Honors work -- questions to encourage deeper thinking
  • Timeline work -- Roman history and Old Testament timelines

The author proposes composition activities (copybook, narration, etc.), geography for both ancient and modern Europe, and astronomy studies. Mrs. Lowe suggests using the pictures in the Bible storybook and Greek myths to review material covered. Italicized and underlined words in the weekly plan are "words to know" and may be used for spelling. Italicized words having to do with geography should be mapped. The derivation of underlined words should be studied. Students should be able to label the planets on a chart and know the names of the moons by the end of the year.

The "Teacher Resources" section includes 28 pages of helpful information to support the recommended activities. Answers to the study and honors questions are included along with worksheets for "Who said that?" (famous quotations), Greek Myths, moons of the planets, and the timelines. Several maps of ancient Europe and one blank map of modern Europe are also here. D'Aulaires' pronunciation guide is available to help with those Greek names.

Recommendation: From time to time I find products that break through accepted thought and forge off in a new direction. In today's world of Classical Education, influenced by the rigorous, yet unrealistic, schedule outlined in a best-selling book, Mrs. Lowe's "Latin-based curriculum" is certainly an exciting discovery. Mrs. Lowe goes against the current opinion of loading a grammar-staged child up with subjects and spending five or more hours a day teaching by suggesting that Latin and math are the only truly important subjects at this age and that all other topics are nice supplements. This idea should be a welcome relief to busy homeschooling parents who have declared Classical Christian Education to be impossible to balance with the rest of their lives. This idea is also much less expensive to implement than the slick curricula recommended by others in the Classical Education field.

I can easily see "Latin-based curriculum" being combined with aspects of the Charlotte Mason method by allowing the child to do Latin and math in the morning and then crafts, nature study, and self-directed exploration in the afternoon. Even if the family does not find time for these afternoon activities every day, the child will be far ahead of his/her peers with a focus on the basics of Latin and math.

Introduction to Classical Studies may be used in families with older children with some modification. Perhaps the program could be moved through a little more quickly. In larger families, the older children could be assigned the task of reading all of the selections aloud.

It would be possible to use Introduction to Classical Studies apart from a Latin program but I believe it would lose some of its impact. Mrs. Lowe is the author of Latina Christiana, but with the exception of a couple of map references, there is nothing specific to her Latin program in Introduction to Classical Studies.

This program is guaranteed to be one that parents will learn from. Yet, it is kept simple by the use of just the three books, and it gives many opportunities to discuss Christianity's triumph over paganism. It WILL require some planning on the parent's part. While the reading assignments, memory work, and study questions are laid out, the learning activities (copybook, spelling, map work, etc.) will require some thought in advance. This should only be a slight adjustment for most parents.

Mrs. Lowe's dream is to have a new generation of Latin scholars and she is developing a complete classical curriculum to accomplish this. Indeed, if we wish to have the sort of leadership our nation was founded upon, we must attempt to have the same level, or even better, education than our Founding Fathers. Mrs. Lowe is taking a bold step in this direction.

Other HomeschoolChristian resources related to this review:'s Classical Homeschooling Section
with resources, links, and ideas for implementing the Christian Trivium
Interview with Cheryl Lowe
Review of Guided Course for Famous Men of Rome
Review of Horatius at the Bridge Study Guide
Review of Christian Studies
Review of Memoria Press Copy Books
Review of A Thomas Jefferson Education, Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-First Century by Oliver Van DeMille
Review of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Supplemental Materials
Review of Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum by Laura Berquist
Review of Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning and Classical Education and the Home School
Review of Teaching the Trivium by the Bluedorns
Review of The Latin Centered Curriculum
Review of The Trivium, The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric by Sister Miriam Joseph, C.S.C., Ph.D.

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