Even as Latin and Greek are getting tossed out the windows of public schools, home educators are doubling their efforts to invite them in the front door. The benefits are obvious: mastery of a Classical language promotes excellent English grammar, vocabulary, and analytical skills. Classics students tend to be self-directed learners who shine at anything requiring language, logic, or analysis. Advanced students go on to read texts foundational to Western religion, philosophy, and society and become the next generation of well-rounded scholars in law, history, medicine, science, and literature.

Studies conducted by the Educational Testing Service found that “Greek and Latin students consistently outperform all other students on the verbal portion of the SAT based on data from the past decade.” These same studies show that Classics majors tend to have a higher GPA at the college level and have accelerated performance in nearly all other subjects such as math, music, and history. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, students who major in Classics have a better success rate getting into medical school than do students who concentrate solely on science. Classics majors also have the highest success rates of any majors in law school. While learning any new language is good, Classical languages pay the highest dividends.  

Armed with this information, many rush to buy curricula and start as early as possible without setting reasonable goals. The results can be disappointing and expensive. They can also make your neighbors doubt your sanity.

Many language curricula are designed for parents who have little experience and no time to gain any. These programs push parents to start students as young as possible. After hours of drills and piles of worksheets, many find their learners are not much closer to reading Latin or Greek than when they started. Things get worse if very young students grow bored or resistant. What went wrong? Isn’t starting language at a young age supposed to be a good thing?

To get the full benefit of Latin or Greek, your learner must internalize vocabulary and complex grammar to allow him to scrutinize words carefully and translate accurately. A more mature student will have the organization and self-motivation needed to pull all these things together without a parent pulling out all her hair. You can expect this blessed event to happen only after he or she has entered the “logic” or “formal operational” stage. Simply put: Save your sanity and wait until your child is at least 12 to 14 years old before you pay serious attention to the mastery of Latin or Greek (though especially gifted students may be ready earlier).

For younger students, have the time of your life building a first-rate foundation for later learning. Done well, this groundwork offers as many rewards as formal language studies. Better still, everyone in the family will enjoy this phase. These early years are ideal for fostering the enthusiasm necessary to fuel accelerated Classical language learning once your child is ready. Explore museums (The Metropolitan Museum of Art or the J. Paul Getty Museum, for example). Tour the monuments of Washington, D.C. or The Parthenon in Nashville. Read Classical literature in translation and find some good historical fiction. Attend a performance of a Greek Tragedy, cook some Classical dishes, or dress in an authentically made toga for your next costume party. Make mosaics for your garden. Learn the Greek alphabet and practice writing it carefully. Find a Greek New Testament and then pronounce the words aloud. Study word roots and then pause to decipher their use in everyday English. Visit Italy, Greece, or Turkey on a family adventure of a lifetime.