When in Rome - or in our homeschool teaching room - do as the Romans do.

With that in mind, my three kids and their mother set out this month to study the ancient civilization of Rome (with ancient Greece thrown in for good measure).

It definitely has been a worthy effort, if for no other reason than by studying the Romans we get a better picture of what kind of culture existed in books of the New Testament, which was written under the rule of Rome.

Studying history also has given us a better understanding of how God's hand has worked throughout time to shape events according to His will. Things that happened in ancient Rome have an impact even on us.

And, as I keep discovering in this first year of home schooling, education does not end when the official curriculum closes for the day.

Driving around town has become a lesson in Roman architecture. The bank no longer is the bank. It's the "place with the Ionic columns." The post office, meanwhile, is the "Doric building."

Italy - or "the boot country" as it's known in my house - probably wouldn't like that my kids consider its people still to be rather, how shall I put it? Uncivilized. But it can be hard for children to separate the past from the present (especially when "Ben Hur" takes over our television on Easter afternoon), so my 5-year-old son thinks the Romans still "fight mean aminals and other mean guys" in the Coliseum.

I had to explain to him that the only Lions and Tigers that still roam stadiums do so in Detroit (apparently without teeth or claws, given the teams' recent records.)

Otherwise, my three students have a pretty good grasp of the significance that Rome played in history.

Every construction zone we drive through turns the back of our van into a homeschool class.

For example, did you know that the Romans were big-time road builders? They wanted their armies to be able to get anywhere in the empire, and the soldiers themselves did all the construction.

Hmmm ... government employees building roads ... and we thought we came up with that idea. Seems to me a brightly-colored Ionic column would look better than an orange barrel, though.

My kids think that eating Roman-style would be cool, since you get to lie down, use your fingers, and drop your food on the floor when you're done with it.

On second thought ... we DO eat Roman-style! All the kids have to do is swap their chairs for floor pillows and they'll have it down.

But above all the interesting tidbits about life in ancient Rome, we've tried to tie in the fact that this was society as Jesus would have known it. Getting a look at what the world was like in Jesus' time has made Him more real to all of us.

Learning about the empire has taught us more about the Kingdom. There's still plenty more to learn, of course, but we're not obsessing over our pace. That's the beauty of homeschooling. We'll get there. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day.

Rob Oller is a homeschool dad and a sportswriter and columnist for The Columbus Dispatch, the second-largest circulation paper in Ohio.