A home educating Father
1st June 2015
In September 2012 my wife and I removed our two children (then aged eight and ten) from the local state primary school and decided to home educate them. We had become very concerned that two bright little minds had become dulled by the feeble pedagogy of the English National Curriculum.
We decided to teach them some Latin and started off with the American book ‘Getting Started with Latin: Beginning Latin for Homeschoolers and Self-Taught Students of Any Age’. This provided a very gentle introduction to Latin grammar and pronunciation and we spent a year working through the book. There is no sequel so, for the second year, we cast around for something more advanced. We decided to follow the ‘Cambridge Latin Course’ used in the majority of private schools. The children loved this entertaining course with its humorous stories and colourful history. Whilst they both progressed easily through the spoon fed lessons, I became concerned that they were learning an awful lot of vocabulary but very little grammar. Surely, to learn Latin, you need to learn grammar?
In July 2014 I stumbled on reviews of Gwynne’s Latin which had just been published. I was prompted to read the book and was very struck with Mr Gwynne’s comprehensive denunciation of modern methods of teaching Latin. With courses like Cambridge Latin children are expected to learn the language by exposure to familiar stories and they learn to guess at the correct grammar. You cannot ‘guess’ the grammar rules for a foreign language so this modern approach leads you into a cul de sac.
I was horrified that, as with the National Curriculum, the children had again been exposed to such flawed pedagogy. I arranged a telephone call with Mr Gwynne and, entirely helpfully, he gave me the confidence to start afresh with the traditional approach to Latin. We had a couple of Skype Lessons with Chloe Gwynne to gain practice at reciting Latin verbs and nouns and then proceeded to learn, verbatim, from Gwynne’s Latin.
Gwynne’s Latin is counter cultural. The book is not geared to an exam syllabus or curriculum. It does not train children, tick box fashion, to pass an exam. This is about mastering Latin for its own sake in order to properly educate the mind. You are not required to proceed at a steady pace through the chapters. The essential advice given is to ignore time and ensure everything is fully mastered before proceeding further.
In practice this has worked supremely well. I spent the first month ensuring that the children mastered all the English grammar rules, the basic rules of Latin grammar and Latin pronunciation by heart. This was far from a chore. Both children found the acquiring of knowledge by heart satisfying – something they had not previously been asked to do. We then proceeded apace through the chapters. In six months they have acquired more useful Latin than in two years of teaching by other methods. In fact, the previous two years were probably a waste of time. With Gwynne’s traditional teaching there is strong emphasis in first translating from English to Latin – something not even covered by exam boards.
What becomes very clear, when you watch children translate English into Latin, is that it comprehensively stretches their minds given the amount of information they have to recall and the rules they have to comprehend in order solve a translation. Moreover, they both enjoy the experience which is akin to solving a puzzle when all the clues are available if you know where to find them.
Gwynne’s traditional teaching is a task and the better for that. It is not difficult but it does require concentration and persistence. Moreover, it is patently obvious that this teaching of Latin underpins other subjects. English grammar, prose and literature become much easier, the roots of other European languages are acquired and, I would argue, the analytical skills acquired facilitate the learning of science too. It seems to me that children learn faster and better using traditional teaching methods and it is shocking that these were abandoned.
We originally considered Latin as part of our teaching. Now it is Latin first – all else second.
There is another benefit too. Many children, via electronic media, have to deal with some some awful cultures these days. You cannot go wrong with Latin and the powers of reasoning that the study of it develop will give any child greater confidence in understanding, and coping with, whatever culture they find themselves dealing with as young adults.
Finally, I estimate that starting at age twelve our eldest child will have mastered Gwynne’s Latin in two years with one hours study per school day. To help us along Chloe Gwynne provides an excellent skype lesson after each chapter has been studied. By age fourteen our eldest child will be very well prepared for any current Latin syllabus and any other subject she may choose to study. If you want to give your child a competitive edge then dare to be different and study Latin the traditional way.
Peggy Tynan, Homeschooling Mom, Denver, CO 80220
30 November 2014
To Whom It May Concern:
Chloe Gwynne is an excellent teacher. Her six months of tutoring have transformed our learning. For the first time, Latin not only makes sense, it is actually enjoyable! I cannot recommend Miss Gwynne enough. Calmly but firmly, she has pushed us to memorize declensions, conjugations, adjectives, adverbs and the like. My younger two sons, ages 10 and 12, are being exposed to Latin at the equivalence of a high school level, and while they do struggle, they are learning an incredible amount. Miss Gwynne keeps the boys on task, motivating them along the way, assisting them when they have problems, and giving high praise when they do well. She inspires us to excellence. My daughter, age 15, and I are moving through Latin at a pace I couldn’t imagine we could keep up with and we both love it more than we would have ever thought. This is due to the precise, clear instruction we receive from Miss Gwynne. Miss Gwynne is extremely professional, not a minute of time is wasted, and yet, she is personable, warm, friendly and fun. We consider her a friend of the family. In my opinion, Miss Gwynne is one of the best teachers we have ever encountered.Her teaching style is effective, passionate and perceptive. We strongly recommend Miss Gwynne and feel lucky call her our teacher.
Maggie Tynan, homeschool student age 15
“Miss Gwynne is an absolutely fantastic teacher. Before we started taking Latin with her, I didn’t understand much of the language even though I had taken it for two years already. Within six months of Miss Gwynne I can translate complex sentences and have no trouble with the verbs! She really helped my knowledge of Latin develop in an easy to understand way! She has us all chanting Latin by habit now! My mom wants to name the dog Rex just so she can call him by chanting 3rd declension nouns!! I would defiantly consider hiring Miss Gwynne!”
Headmaster of an Academy in Los Angeles, March 2014
Thank you for your visit and help today. Everyone agreed that you were a wonderful teacher and asked when you were coming back – it’s no surprise you are in such demand!
Katerina Keplova, December 2013
Chloe taught me Latin for about 6 months. The lessons were intense and demanding but Chloe managed to create a friendly atmosphere in which it was fun to learn. Being of the old-fashioned, traditional education background, Chloe’s methods of repetition and learning vocabulary by heart worked really well for me and every week I could see how much I progressed. Doing homework two decades after leaving school felt strange at first but soon became part of my daily routine. In the lessons, it was great to see Chloe impressed with my work. With Chloe’s experience and very personal approach, I had really good time learning the ancient language of Latin.
Good Handwriting – An art form.
On Chloe’s visit to Pimlico Primary :
A testimonial by the principal of Pimlico Primary, Lupus Street, London. 29th August, 2013.
My right arm, wrist and fingers ache if writing for any longer than about twenty minutes. This persistent ache was a feature of my GCSEs, A Levels, university degrees, and still today I approach my pen with some hesitation if required to write plenty and speedily. It was only after learning about the most effective handwriting practices from Chloe Gwynne that I could accurately put a finger on the cause of this distraction from the content of my prose.
Unfortunately for me, I am a long way off pain-free and perfect handwriting. My bad habits are firmly embedded. Pimlico Primary’s pupils, however, will not have the displeasure of rectifying years of poor handwriting habits. Beginning with our Reception class, we teach children how to sit comfortably and hold their pencil properly, and then – and only then – they learn how to form and join up the letters of the alphabet – beginning, of course, with the lower case.
These are principles that Chloe so eloquently defended with research and demonstrated with useful resources during her visit to our school. We commonly consider perfect handwriting an ‘Art’, something to admire on those rare occasions we see actually see it. In the school curriculum, however, it can be a science and should be treated as such. That is to say, there are very small and specific steps to take to ensure pupils are able to write fluently, comfortably and beautifully.
The aches that accompany my handwriting may be with me for some time, but with the right start and a persistent focus across the whole school, Chloe has opened our eyes to a new way of approaching this important part of education.
Principal of Pimlico Primary
Isaac Channon, aged 12 June 2013
Chloe, thank you so much. I have just got my Common Entrance results back and I got Distinction in Latin which is the best thing you can get and which is the top ten per cent. So thank you so much, thank you.
Imogen Edwards-Jones, April 2012
“Allegra started learning Latin aged 5. In a year she has learnt how to decline a noun, indeed what a noun actually is! She understands the difference between the accusative and the ablative. She knows her imperfect from her perfect, her present from her future simple and her first from her third declension. She understands how a sentence is put together and how it can be broken down. She is now easily translating simple English sentences into Latin. Along the way she has also trained her mind to learn by rote, to recall information without writing it down, as well as her 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10 and 11 times tables. Her love of language has also been piqued, so now she asks where words come from and will happily talk about ‘Magnum’ ice creams and what ‘Equine’ means. Oh, and she completely adores Chloe, as does my two-year who keeps asking when he can start! I have made many decisions while trying to bring up my children, not all of them have been terribly successful. Getting Chloe to teach my daughter Latin has been one of the best!”
Matthew Field, December 2012
“I took Chloe’s course for a few reasons: to improve my concentration and mental discipline; because I had noted her emphasis on the proper, old fashion way of learning the language (which includes translating English into Latin); and to inject an element of academic rigour into my routine. In all of the above, it delivered. The emphasis on having a knowledge of proper English grammar as a basis for learning Latin was a big plus: it was good to be reminded of rules which are in today’s world often forgotten. I also liked the pace of the course – we sped along and covered a huge amount of ground in 6 weeks, certainly leaving me with enough of a grounding to progress from there myself with an exercise book.”
Bella Blisset, December 2012
“Whether you want to improve your mind or just your dinner party chat, I’d seriously recommend Latin – but only if you do it with Chloe. Yes, you’ll get lost in your declensions and be driven half mad dreaming about your genitives, datives and accusatives, but you’ll also flex the old grey cells in a way that you probably haven’t done since school. After a few weeks, I noticed I was able to transfer my newfound lateral thinking powers to tasks outside the Idler classroom…”
Bella Blisset, December 2012
“Dear Chloe, Thank you so much for the fabulous Latin course – I may not have done my homework on time, but I did so enjoy it and very much hope Course 2 takes place…”
Lisa des Forges, December 2012
“Learning Latin has polished my English grammar, improved my memory and helped me look cleverer in the eyes of others. Miss Gwynne’s enthusiasm for chanting conjugations is infectious, and I feel sure that committing them to my memory has helped dislodge a great deal of unwanted trivia.”