Courses in Classical Latin Language and Literature offered through Scholars Online
Latin is one of the linch-pins of classical education, and it remains of particular interest among classical homeschoolers.
For good or ill, Latin is almost everywhere thought to be difficult — the rocket science of the humanities. It is difficult; more to the point, perhaps, it is exacting. But like rocket engineering, its reputation is somewhat exaggerated. It is in fact not as difficult for the English-speaker as many other languages, including Greek or any of the eastern Asian languages, and it is far easier than English is for a non-native speaker to acquire. Its spelling is phonetically regular, its vocabulary is exceedingly small, its use of metaphor is sparing and almost apologetic, and its sentence structures are economical. It is a model of analytical order, both in its forms and in its syntax, with the result that learning classical Latin provides not only a grasp of a great world language, but also a path to more disciplined thinking about what we say and how we say it, about meaning, and about the logical analysis of propositions of all sorts. In that sense, it imparts to the student a kind of mental toughness that will aid not only in learning other languages, but in approaching the rational structure of any other discipline.
Later, of course, come the more immediately accessible delights of reading Latin literature in its original forms, from the music of Vergil to the nuances of Augustine, and from the dark psychology of Tacitus to the diamond-cutter formulations of Aquinas. These, too, feed back into larger fields of endeavor, but they are worthy and enjoyable in and of themselves. Latin remains the official language of the Roman Catholic Church, and the corpus of the Western Church Fathers contains a vast amount of theological and philosophical writing in Latin — far more than the whole corpus of Roman literature put together. Some of it is exceedingly good.
In the narrower arena, Latin has many secondary benefits. From there one can branch out to a variety of Romance Languages, all of which take their more fanciful root in Latin's rocky soil. Latin was the learned language of the whole of the Western culture through at least the first World War; in consequence Latin names and terms are retained in law, in medicine, and in virtually all forms of biological classification; the writings of authors prior to about 1950 are liberally peppered with learned phrases in Latin. To master Latin is to be able to reach back confidently into the literature of many other fields beyond the most immediate past.
In general, we do not recommend beginning Greek and Latin simultaneously, but it should be possible to begin one one year and a second the next, if the first is going well enough. Those students barely hanging on to Greek, though, should probably not commit themselves to Latin as well until they have the Greek well under control. On the other hand, there are exceptions to almost every generalization of this sort: a student who is truly zealous for the classical languages may well find the challenge interesting and exciting.
Latin instruction and pedagogy remain very diverse, and there are many programs that promise to teach Latin to the younger student. Some are deductive and some are inductive; they tend to take anywhere from four weeks to two or three years to cover the same basic material. Unsurprisingly, their rates of success vary too.
At Scholars Online we are proceeding with a systematic deductive approach to Latin using Frederick Wheelock's venerable text, taking either one year or two, depending on the program path selected. Either way, the course is rigorous and demanding, and should leave the student ready to move on to the reading of Latin prose and poetic authors in the second or third year. The coverage provided in the elementary course is roughly equivalent to two or three years of high school Latin, or a year at the college level. Subsequent author studies proceed from there. Our program is focused on achieving mastery of the elements of Latin — something we take quite seriously. The final exam is atypical in that it’s an exhaustive but unpressured proof of virtually all the material of the course. For more about how that works and the thinking behind it, please see this blog entry.
The basic curriculum in Latin runs five years (though with the accelerated elementary program, a student can complete it in four). We will present courses at the higher levels as they are required, depending on enrollment. The Latin curriculum includes a class explicitly modeled on the College Board’s AP Curriculum (Vergil and Caesar), and one modeled on the now-extinct but still valuable Latin Literature curriculum, covering Catullus and Horace. Neither of these is an AP course officially recognized by the College Board, because the strictures imposed by that body have become increasingly arbitrary and, to our thinking, do not really support the pedagogical concerns for this course. Nevertheless, the student is free to take the AP Exam, and most of our students who have done so have done quite well. Our students at all levels have also made impressive showings on the National Latin Exam.
One can enter the Scholars Online Latin program at almost any level, though some are better than others. A student wanting to take a second year of elementary Latin (Latin II) might have trouble if he or she is coming from a program using a different textbook; different programs teach the canonical topics in different orders, and so changing horses in the middle of that particular stream means repeating some things already known, while missing others that have already passed by in Wheelock's Latin Grammar. If you really want to make that jump at this particular juncture, the Accelerated Latin I-II sequence might be just the ticket; it would allow regular review of the material already learned and an exposure to the new material in a way that will not be too threatening or intimidating.
A student who has successfully mastered an elementary Latin sequence of any sort, however, should not find it too difficult to dive into Latin III. We recommend that students coming from other backgrounds take a placement exam, to ensure both you and us that we agree on the level of mastery achieved. Latin is a delight, but it can quickly become rather depressing when a student gets in over his or her head. In order to get that exam, write to Bruce McMenomy at the address given on the teacher’s page. It is unpressured, and there is no passing or failing — it’s all about finding the right level for the student. Dr. McMenomy’s Syntactical Mechanics (University of Oklahoma, 2014) may help bring the student up to speed on the grammatical constructions that might not have been clear up to this point.
Advanced courses are available beyond these, and have been offered through the eighth year. They are virtually never economically feasible to teach, however, since we seldom have many students remaining at that level: most have already left for college. Accordingly we offer these courses to continuing students who have already worked with us: it is unlikely that we will open a session of Latin VI or VII, or Mediaeval Latin, for anyone who has not been with us for several years already. If you are hoping for something like this, however, feel free to write: we’re willing to consider the options, and sometimes there are others behind the scenes lobbying for the same things.
We are also willing to work with students in college; a number of colleges with robust history programs, for example, still don’t offer Latin. We may be able to help you fill in the gap. Our accreditation is solid and we have the expertise to accommodate your needs. If you’re interested in working out something with your college or university for credit, it will almost certainly take a bit more paperwork, but it has been done in the past. Contact us about those options.
In order to prevent disruption of the teacher's curriculum and to secure the student learning environment, Scholars Online does not allow non-members to visit live class sessions. We have, however, included a log from an actual chat session, changing only student names to protect their privacy. The flow of the course discussion has been preserved, so that you can get a sense of how the chat environment works. Note that while this is a non-audio class, students and teachers may enter HTML tags and unicode characters (unlike simple IRC sessions), and the log is preserved for student review.
Latin Tutorial • Academic Year 2020-2021 • Grade 7
Latin I • Academic Year 2020-2021 • Grade 7
Latin II • Academic Year 2020-2021 • Grade 8
Latin III • Academic Year 2020-2021 • Grade 9
Latin IV (Caesar and Vergil) • Academic Year 2020-2021 • Grade 9
Latin V (Latin Literature) • Academic Year 2020-2021 • Grade 10
To enroll in any of the courses listed above, log into your Scholars Online Account Management Center using the login link at the bottom of any page and select the member you wish to enroll. If you do not have an account, you may create one using the Becoming a Member link under Enrollment in the Navigation bar at the top of this page.
If you would like to see a course not yet listed, please use the EMAIL US link below to contact Scholars Online Administration with your course request.
Students who were enrolled in courses from previous years will find the teacher, text, and course description information available from the student's unofficial transcript, which can be reached from the parent's Account Management Center, or from an alumni's own Account Management Center.