Latin: Finding Joy in the Challenge

Jun 25, 2018 | Posted by Terra


“Who learns Latin? Why on earth are they learning Latin? Latin is a dead language!” I boldly stated in ignorance a few years ago.

As I was contemplating the next steps on our homeschooling journey and talking with some friends, I discovered our local Classical Conversations community was in need of a Challenge A director. This individual would tutor a group of seventh graders. My oldest daughter would fit in this age group well, and we had some friends already enrolled. It sounded like a great role for me until I found out I would have to teach Latin. Wait. Stop. Latin? Many pep talks later by the leaders and parents, I hesitantly agreed to undergo the treacherous feat. Math, writing, science, cartography, and reasoning at a seventh grade level were manageable, but Latin? Oh my! What had I gotten myself into? And I only had a few short months to learn and prepare before the school year started!

Reluctantly, the Latin books were laid out, and my studies began. Henle Latin, Year One was underway. Text in hand along with my grammar book and answer key, I diligently worked. The more I read, the more intrigued I became. The more I struggled, the more excited I grew. Learning Latin became a game for me. I often say, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” I found satisfaction in the challenge! Have you also found this true about yourself? When you don’t know the answer, you can’t rest until you find it? That’s me, too. I Google searched, emailed anyone I thought might explain Latin more clearly, reread the books, and did whatever it took until I had a grasp on what I was doing.

Predictably, the school year was approaching. Unpredictably (at least to me), I was excitedly telling everyone, “Latin is going to be so much fun! You will love it!” I proudly proclaimed to the parents that they must learn it with us! I began eagerly sharing my experience that had occurred over the summer. The joy I gained from tackling this hard thing overtook me. My passion became contagious! I was determined to breed enthusiasm for Latin.

Without hesitation, I offered to lead a weekly study group to help the students with their Latin, and another mom kindly offered us her home. Here was my chance. I knew I could hook them! First semester I led the students for about half of our ninety-minute study session. Then, the students spent the rest of the time drilling each other and hanging out. As second semester rolled around, I backed off of leading the study sessions. Instead, the students worked together on assignments, only asking for help when needed.

Our Latin group started three years ago and, surprisingly, is still meeting every week! It has transformed a little over the years as sometimes the students study debate or logic in its place. Approaching another level of Latin this school year, I am confident they will succeed because each student has recognized how relevant Latin truly is.

Recently this experience was recalled by my oldest daughter during our summer writing class. We were discussing parts of speech, specifically adjectives, and she said, “Oh, I know what an adjective is. Bonus, like in Latin!” The blank faces in the room received her explanation gladly, while I stood in awe realizing how much more she understands the English language through her Latin studies. Recognizing the meaning of Spanish and French words because of the corresponding Latin word happens regularly with her. She is always spot on!

Contemplating this phenomenon, I realized the reason my daughter and my students enjoy learning Latin is because they discovered its relevance, and it inspired them. Mr. Pudewa gives a priceless talk, “Teaching Boys and Other Children Who Would Rather Be Building Forts All Day,” where he addresses the four forms of relevancy. He states that “The number one factor that seems to make learning easy is relevancy.” In other words, relevancy means something that is meaningful, significant, and interesting to you is easy to learn. While I did not initially find the relevancy in Latin, I chose to create it. Since I gave Latin a fighting chance, it quickly became intrinsically relevant to me, which allowed me to inspire those I worked with. Inspired relevancy as defined by Andrew Pudewa means, “You may not be interested in something, but someone inspires you to be!” There is a contagious effect.

While you are making your plans this summer, I encourage you to take the subject you are least excited to teach and discover its relevance! Who knows, it might become your favorite subject. When people ask me what my favorite subject to teach is, I confidently tell them, “Latin!” Be forewarned, I am no expert. I simply find joy in the challenge of learning and inspiring others to learn Latin.


Terra Tyler and her husband, Jon, have been married for sixteen years. They currently homeschool their two daughters and are involved with Classical Conversations. Terra comes from a family of small business owners in Tulsa, OK. She has worked in the field of early childhood and actively been involved with the children's ministry at their home church for the past fifteen years. Terra enjoys being the lead learner in Math, Latin, and Writing, but can often be found knitting, crocheting, or drawing with her girls. Describing her experience at IEW, Terra shares that "Working at IEW has proved to enhance our homeschool experience as I am surrounded by rich writing and language resources as well as brilliant minds!"

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