Education

MATER IN CUBICULUM SCRIBIT

These last couple of weeks have been full and busy ones.

TK, who has been somewhat reluctantly transferring from Cubs to Scouts, went on her first ‘night hike’. It was a little alarming to drop her in a quickly-darkening car-park with fifteen adolescent boys (all of whom were at least a foot taller than she was). There is one other girl in the troupe but she has taken some time off to take part in a choir performance. The result is that TK has been going to Scout meetings where she is the only girl, the smallest, and the only one who thinks that wrestling in bushes and hitting one another with sticks, is not necessarily the most fun ever.

PrintDespite her nerves and a last minute attempt at backing out, she set off on her ‘night hike’ fairly happy: One of the adults in charge was a Cub leader she knew well and she was placed in his group with some of the younger Scouts. Almost two hours later, my mum and I drove to the woodland camp they had all been aiming for (equipped with compasses, maps, and torches), only to find that they had failed to arrive on time.

I was not particularly worried: TK is a resourceful soul and besides, I trusted the adults she was with. On top of that, there is a definite limit on how far a group of ten to twelve year olds can travel off-road in the dark. This is Hampshire after all; not the Pyrenees.

I hung out by the campfire with some of the other mums while we waited and even managed to be of some use, by working out how to remove a rather ancient looking tea kettle hanging from a chain over the fire (answer: a very big stick). Eventually, the rather bedraggled Scouts arrived, covered in mud. It transpired that they had taken a wrong turn in a field and TK, in pointing out the hazard of a ditch to the others, had managed to fall into it. She was a little bruised and very dirty but overall, rather full of herself. It had, to my relief, all been a rather exciting adventure and she is far more enthusiastic about joining the Scouts properly in a few weeks. There’s no accounting for taste!

We have continued to attend several HE meet-ups including a fortnightly ice skating group which we both have been enjoying very much. It is an opportunity for TK to meet up with other local children who are home educated and make some new friends. It is also a chance to get some exercise in an interesting way and she has been very keen for me to look in to lessons. With money tight, I will have to look closely at my finances but if I can manage it, it is certainly something I will consider. TK has definitely improved over the few sessions we have attended but some classes would surely help with technique and the like. She is currently rating her success by how many times she falls over; a number that has been consistently dropping!

For me, the meets offer an opportunity for a bit of skating (an activity I love but at which I am more than slightly rusty!) and more importantly, a chance to have a chat with other HE parents. There are a couple of families who know one another well but the group has a lot of new faces, many of whom are as new to home education as I am. The ages of the children range from six all the way up to mid teens, so it is nice to discuss reasons for home education, problems we might be having, share resources, and generally have a little chatter about the gripes of parenting.

I have never been one of those mothers who attended ‘groups’. When TK was little I didn’t go to any of these ‘bumps and babies’ meetings or toddler classes. The idea of sitting in a room with a group of women (the only thing I had in common with was that I, too, had a baby) and learning baby sign language, was hell. I didn’t, and still don’t, understand the appeal of comparing milestones and competing for ‘who’s baby grabbed a block first’. Now, however, I am older and more social than I used to be. I find the HE groups a pleasant way to spend the odd hour and enjoy the opportunity to engage in ‘shop talk’. The average parent doesn’t spend much time discussing educational approaches and reviewing curricula: schools do that for you. I should imagine it is somewhat comparable to being at a philately convention and being able to discuss the pros and cons of various stamp related publications: terribly nerdy but of infinite interest to those holding the big folder full of little gummed pieces of paper.

In other geek news, I am very excited to have begun learning Latin with TK. After much surfing of the web and reading every review I could find, I decided to invest in the first stage of the Cambridge Latin Course. Latin is always something I have wanted to study but, like many modern Cambridge Latin Coursecomprehensives, it was not a subject my school offered. There are many who feel that the study of Latin is a pointless endeavour, it being a ‘dead language’. I would say that the study of any language is always going to be beneficial: It is an exercise in memory and building neural pathways; pattern recognition and problem solving. I consider Latin useful in the insights it can provide into our own language, as well as an aid in learning and understanding the Romance languages such as French and Italian. In addition to this, it opens up whole libraries full of information, history and literature in their original language. I think it is always preferable to read something in it’s original format rather than relying completely on the translation by someone else. I have also always wanted to be able to just look at an inscription in a museum or old church and know what it says!

The Cambridge Latin Course treats Latin as a Classics subject (it is part of the Cambridge School’s Classics Project). The first stage is built around the lives of a real family in Pompeii, before the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. It begins with the basic terminology for family members and parts of the house but the interest is in the extra material. The Stage 1 course book includes the study of Roman life, using information and objects found by archaeologists, in the home of Caecilius and his family. There are little stories about daily life that the student has to translate and these are told with little touches of humour that appeal to both myself and my ten-year-old linguist. TK and I have only just ventured into the third chapter of Book I, but from what I can gather, the stages build up, exploring the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, until the student is able to read passages from the classical writings of Caesar and others.

As a point of interest, I was researching Latin pronunciation: The coursebook gives a basic guide to long vowels and some consonant groupings, but because TK and I are both beginners, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t making any major mistakes. The book said that all occurrences of the letter ‘c’ are to be pronounced with a hard ‘k’ sound (as in ‘cat’ and ‘coat’). “That can’t be right” I thought, “what about Julius Caesar? We say his name SEE-ZER”. We had been pronouncing the name of the book’s main character, Caecilius, as SAY-SEE-LEE-US”.

Having done some digging I discovered that the hard ‘c’ was, in fact, correct for the pronunciation of Classical Latin. On top of that, the ‘ae’ vowels are not said as SEE or SAY, but rather as a long ‘ai’, as in ‘pie’ or ‘fly’. The ‘u’ is said as a longer OO sound: SAY-SEE-LEE-US is actually supposed to be said KAI-KEE-LEE-OOS and Caesar is pronounced…. KAI-SAR. So there you go: the origins of the word Kaiser. Who knew?!

Note: If you fancy giving the Cambridge Latin Course a try but don’t want to invest in the Coursebook, Student Workbook and Student Answer Book, the company are currently trialing their Coursebooks online. They plan to introduce an online service that is paid via subscription but for the moment, the trial versions are free. You can have a look HERE. (I am in no way affiliated with CSCP and this information was only correct at time of publication)

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