Whitefield Academy Blog
Whitefield Academy’s New Latin Curriculum
Caecilius est pater. Metella est mater. Quintus est filius. Thus begins the first textbook in Whitefield’s new Latin curriculum. This Latin is so simple that you probably don’t even need me to translate it for you, so I won’t. In this blog post we’re finally going to get to what I’m sure you all have been dying to find out: what is the new Latin curriculum going to be? Well, before we get into the specifics, let me start by recapping the program’s goals. Our first and main goal is to train students to read authentic, unadapted classical Latin texts with skill and joy. Cicero, here we come! And second, the program aims to train students in a comprehensive knowledge of the Roman world by which (so that) we can more properly understand the Latin texts we’ll read as well as the classical inheritance we’ve received as modern Westerners.
Now as you may expect, our new curriculum has been chosen to best facilitate meeting these goals. And so, without further ado, let me introduce you to the Cambridge Latin Course. This Latin curriculum was developed fifty years ago at Cambridge University under the conviction that students needed more practice in reading Latin than traditional grammar-translation textbooks afforded. And so the Cambridge Latin Course was born. The course’s objectives are simple – to teach students to read Latin and to teach them Rome’s social and political history – and over the course of four Units the Cambridge Latin Course (CLC henceforth) takes students from reading Caecilius est pater to authentic passages from Vergil, Ovid, Cicero, Pliny, and many others. The four Units of the CLC (representing roughly a year’s study each) are comprised of individual stages, and each stage contains your typical fare for a Latin textbook – model practice sentences, grammar explanations, a vocabulary list, and a section on culture or history. The heart of each stage, however, is its multiple reading passages. Forming a running narrative throughout the CLC, these passages follow the life of one Lucius Caecilius Iucundus and his family, and through the events that transpire, the narrative takes the student from Pompeii in Unit 1 to Roman Egypt, Britain, and finally the city of Rome itself as students dive into the world of classical Roman literature.
So now that we’ve met the CLC briefly, let me explain in a little more detail why we’re using this curriculum. First and foremost, the CLC is a natural fit because it excels at preparing students to read classical Latin. It has students reading Latin (in increasingly longer chunks) from day one, and moreover the Latin itself gets increasingly more idiomatic and stylistically authentic. The thing that makes reading authentic texts so hard is that Roman authors didn’t write “textbook Latin”, and so getting students used to variations in style and idiom is vitally important. Second, the general narrative that runs throughout all four Units of the CLC is based on real people and events – seamlessly incorporating various elements of Roman history, literature, and culture – and in and of itself is very engaging. In reading back through the course this summer decades after learning on it myself, I had a hard time putting it down! Third and finally, the CLC does a great job covering culture, with many maps, sketches, and excellent photographs included that help the topic come to life.
Let me illustrate the nature of the CLC with a quick example. Unit 1 ends with the eruption of Vesuvius (spoiler alert – don’t tell your kids!). Unsurprisingly, the history and archaeology of the eruption are covered in the stage’s culture section, but this historical event is more than just a culture topic here – it is the storyline for the whole stage, wreaking havoc on Caecilius (who really lived in Pompeii in the 1st cen. AD, by the way) and his family. And even better, the narrative’s text itself here is taken from the letters of Pliny the Elder, which are in fact our primary literary source on the eruption. Thus the course really functions as an integrated whole, with reading, grammar, culture, and even literature all quite intentionally woven together. In class we will turn to other sources to study mythology and perhaps history, but otherwise the CLC – along with its introductory companion text, Minimus – will serve as our mainstay.
And there you have it. I can’t tell you how excited I am to embark on this journey with you all! I love Latin, I love teaching Latin, and I love Whitefield, so really, what could be better? Thank you in advance for trusting me in this new direction. We’re going to have a lot of fun and learn a lot of Latin! Eamus (“let’s go”).
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I’m so excited for this new chapter for Latin at Whitefield!