While monsters and swashbuckling adventures keep the reader happy, Homer’s Odyssey is teaching the big life lesson that we are each defined by our generosity to strangers. From prince to farmhand the rule is the same: if you treat strangers with kindness, you’ll be remembered well. Hero Odysseus also teaches us to handle trouble with long-suffering patience so that we’ll eventually make it home safely.  

Ancient epics are an important addition to your reading list. They are a gold mine for further thought and discussion if we don’t insist our kids start on them too young. I recommend waiting until your reader is in the critical thinking stage (13+) because of the weighty issues presented in these stories. Parents will enjoy reading the epics with your junior or senior high student. My favorite translations are by Robert Fagles and Stanley Lombardo.

Originally performed from memory and accompanied by a stringed instrument, these tales were the blockbusters of the ancient world and the backbone of ancient Classical education. I leave you with the important words of Penelope, wife of Odysseus, spurring us on to generosity, “For how would you ever find out, stranger, whether or not I surpass all other women in presence of mind, if you sit down to dinner squalid and disheveled here in my hall?  Our lives are short. A hard-hearted man is cursed while he lives and reviled in death. But a good-hearted man has his fame spread far and wide by the guests he has honored, and men speak well of him all over the earth.”2

Endnotes:

1. C. M. Bowra, The Greek Experience, New York: 1957, pp. 20–21.
2. Stanley Lombardo, trans., Odyssey, Hackett Publishing Co., 2000. 19.359–367.

Amy Barr is a homeschool mother of three and a full-time instructor of other home- educated students as co-founder of The Lukeion Project. As an archaeologist, she spent more than a decade excavating sites throughout the Mediter- ranean and teaching Classics at the college level. Now she and her husband, Regan Barr, offer their expertise through live on- line workshops and college preparatory high school courses about the Classical world, Latin, and Greek. The two of them lead an- nual family tours to the Mediterranean and invite you to join them for a tour of the best sites in Greece, May 2012.

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

Publication date: February 20, 2013