Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Greeks: The Epics - A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

This summer I was pleased to be selected to review GREEKS: The Epics, Unit 1 of a product of Roman Roads Media.  

The Epics is a four disk CD/DVD set that covers the poems of Homer: The Iliad and The Odyssey.  The other Units in GREEKS: The Epics are: Unit 2: Drama and Lyrics; Unit 3: The Histories; and Unit 4: The Philosophers. I really wish I had all four of these! And at a later time I will probably invest in them -- they're that good!
The Old Western Culture Series of DVDs is currently in production for their Year 2 material: The Romans, which will contain Unit 1: The Aenied; Unit 2: The Historians; Unit 3: Early Christianity, and Unit 4: Nicene Christianity. Also currently under development are Year 3: Christendom and Year 4: The Moderns.

Those who would teach the "Great Books" to their home schooled students would normally say they are pursuing a "Classical Education" for their children. "The Old Western Culture" series seeks to teach "Great Books" from a Christian perspective, and has appropriately adjusted which books they include on their own "Great Books" list.

My oldest two students studied books from the Great Books list, The Odyssey and The Iliad included, but they did not study the Greek literature for an entire year! So this is clearly a more comprehensive curriculum (as in it studies more titles from the era, slower, more in depth). 

Using the full curriculum of Old Western Culture: The Greeks (and the whole "The Old Western Culture" series) through high school would give your student a huge advantage over other students entering their freshman year of college (when that time comes). My 2nd student studied The Odyssey and The Iliad in high school, but had to take them again in college. She told me that she really didn't remember the material from when we covered it in high school. It was assigned in high school, she skimmed it, sat through the co-op lectures, answered comprehension questions, but didn't remember it for college. ::sigh:: Well, in her defense, she was in 8th grade when we covered it. 

The Epics is Unit 1 of "Old Western Culture - A Christian Approach to the Great Books", a course by Roman Roads Media designed for students in 8th Grade and up, but the Teacher's Workbook says they are designed to be used in grades 9-12. Since "The Old Western Culture" is a four year series, you might start Year 1 in 9th grade and do each additional year with the next grade, finishing Year 4 in 12th Grade. Each year of "The Old Western Culture" series counts as 1 Literature credit and 1 Social Studies credit on your student's high school transcript. The course is designed to be covered one unit per quarter of the school year, and it is expected that the student will work on coursework material approximately one to three hours per day.

Personally, since these works ("The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" and the other Greek works) are so challenging, I might consider doing "Year 2: The Romans" in 9th Grade, Year 3 in 10th, Year 4 in 11th, and finish with Year 1 in 12th. I say that based on knowing my own student.

For this review I myself got to be the student. I consider myself a life-long learner, and I was delighted to be given the opportunity to review The Epics. When it arrived, I dived right into Lesson 1. There I learned that the instructor preferred we use the version of The Iliad that is translated by Richmond Lattimore. The Teacher's Workbook says that if you don't own Lattimore, it is okay to use whatever version you have (or the free one on line), but the instructor refers to the text, line and verse, in Lattimore so having Lattimore would be a plus.  I already owned the Lattimore version of The Odyssey, but my copy of The Iliad was translated by someone else, so I scrambled and found a copy I could borrow. I continued on to Lesson 2, because there was no reading assignment yet. The reading assignments began in Lesson 3.

While I was working with the DVD, I left it in my computer. One of the times I went to open to the next lesson, I discovered there is also material on DVD 1 that is saved in PDF format: OWC Epics Student Workbook and OWC Epics Teacher Edition. Wow! That was like finding buried treasure! (Just for fun I checked the other DVDs to search for more buried treasure, but there was no more -- just on disk 1.) One more treasure I did find, though not buried, was in the DVD case: "Guide to Art" (by Wesley Callihan) to accompany the course.

The Workbooks are by Wesley Callihan (who is also the individual teaching the course on the DVD lessons). 
The workbook on The Epics DVD is just the one for The Epics, and both workbooks (Teacher and Student) are 51 pages long. Each lesson in the unit has a chapter in the workbook, and by reading the workbook I learned that the workbook is also available for free on line (PDF) at You can also purchase a printed and bound version of the workbook at their site for $12. The DVD contains comprehension/discussion questions, and as I had hoped, these questions are included in the workbook.

The first lesson of The Epics introduces you to the setting of The Iliad, and explains that histories and stories of the time were handed down by oral tradition. Homer himself may even have been illiterate, but he came up with his own version of the story that one day was written down.  The Iliad is divided not into "chapters", but into "books". At a recitation, it is probable that four books at a time might have been recited, but sometimes the entire story (all books) might have been recited. Can you imagine having The Iliad and The Odyssey memorized (which, theoretically, Homer did)? I can't! I had Good Night, Moon! memorized at one time, but nothing of particular length. Seriously!

Working my way through The Epics reminded me that I love classical literature. It also helped me to better understand the material in The Iliad and The Odyssey. I don't know if my son will ever love literature the way I and my first two students (who are both graduated) do, but with The Epics in my library, I now feel confident that I can adequately teach this material to my son. I never felt I could do this before, and was thankful to participate in co-ops with my oldest two when they covered these classics. However my son does not wish to participate in a co-op and wants me to be his only teacher, which had caused me to wonder if I would be able to adequately cover everything I wished to cover for high school. "Old Western Culture" series gives me confidence that I can not only cover these titles adequately, but that my son will complete these titles understanding the well!

During my time reviewing The Epics, reading and watching DVDs, I regularly felt guilty, I really did, using this time to go through this course on my own, "stealing" time for myself when there are so many other things calling out for my time. How silly is that? If it were possible, I wish I could take the "luxury" of pre-reading every book and curricula and pre-watching every DVD course, pre-listening to every audio, but I just can't. I'm thankful that I had this opportunity to do this one course on my own. I feel better prepared to later cover the material with my son.

So, why study the classics? There once was a day this question would not be asked. Every educated adult had a certain base of material that their education included. Usually this base would include Latin and French, but just about always it would include The Iliad and The Odyssey, as well as other classics such as the Bible and the writings of Shakespeare. If someone said, "You're the apple of my eye!", the listener understood this phrase came from the Bible. If someone said, "To live, or not to live..." everyone knew these words were a quote from "Hamlet". And if someone said, "You've got a face that could launch a thousand ships!", everyone knew this was a reference to Helen of Troy, who was the cause of the Trojan War.
Dear reader, did you know where these quotes were from before I told you? Do you think your children know these quotes or understand them fully? My son is at an age where he regularly thinks he knows more than his parents, or that he can learn everything or anything that is important by doing a Google search. The fact is, though, that there are many things that each of us does not know, and none of us will ever know everything. I am of the opinion that studying the classics is important. I yearn to dedicate the next four years to studying the classics and history using this curriculum.

Maybe  you wish you could have a taste of The Epics to help you decide. The The Epics can be purchased by itself for $56.00, or it can be purchased as part of the Year 1 set which sells for $224 on DVD or for $199 streaming.

But wait! I found this video I can share with you about The Epics:
The Epics | The Poems of Homer (Old Western Culture) from Roman Roads Media on Vimeo.
So what did I think? If I haven't gotten that message across yet, I'm shocked, but here it is again: I loved this course.

Concerns? Do not approach teaching classical material unaware that it will contain language, mature content, and nudity in the art. Some people shelter their children throughout their K-12 years. I am here to tell you that in the 8-12 years the students are maturing toward adulthood. Yes, it is your job to decide what is introduced when, but please, please don't delay the introduction of mature themes until they have left the nest. You have them with you during high school; this is the ideal time to introduce worldly themes, gods and goddesses, and help shape your student's thinking towards a Biblical world view on these topics. Do I currently want to cover this material with my 9th grader? No. Is he ready for this level of reading (quantity and content)? I'm not sure. Is he mature enough to handle the language, themes and nudity? Yes, he is. By the way, he is 14.

If you want to read other reviews of this product, or several other products offered by Roman Roads Media, click on the link below to go to the TOS Review Crew Blog entry for Roman Roads Media.

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