Happily, literature and history were not my primary interests when I was younger and in college. If I had been a liberal arts student instead of a math and physics geek, I surely would not have begun the long path of self-education so that I might be prepared to teach my children in the mysterious ways of literature and western culture once they reach their high school years. And I would probably not run across Wes Callihan and his western culture courses.
Roman Roads Media produces a western culture series, featuring Wes Callihan, aimed at the high school-aged, classically educated child that is well worth a look. I recently finished working through their course on The Aeneid and decided to share my experience in hopes that you will try it in your homeschool also.
Thanks to pure serendipity, I chanced upon a segment Roman Roads Media taped of Mr. Callihan sharing his thoughts on how to arrange and organize your personal library. The love he conveyed for his books struck a chord with my children and with me and we found ourselves reorganizing the massive collection we pack into our home, as well as hunting for the classics that Mr. Callihan spoke of in his video.
So when Roman Roads Media announced their parent “work your way through the Callihan Aeneid video course” challenge, I was excited to try it even though I frankly still had a hard time reading The Aeneid and understanding anything at all. I had tried reading it a number of times over the years and I always found my mind drifting away from the words until I achieved a comprehension-free state of reading: my eyes passing along through the words and yet understanding nothing.
Five minutes into the first lecture of the course, however, I was riveted. This was exciting! In fact, it was a better story that any modern adventure tale I had read. The way in which Mr. Callihan sets up each reading assignment is compelling. He lays out a general path for you to follow as you read each section and then adds details and explains the literary references that made the work so difficult for me to understand in the past. As a result, I loved “taking” the course. I looked forward each morning to the afternoon break we take in our homeschool day so that I could sit down with my copy of The Aeneid and the Roman Roads Media video and explore the world of Vergil’s mind. (By the way, the most important tidbit I picked up from Susan Wise Bauer was her daily homeschool schedule that includes a 2 hour break every day so kids can spend time by themselves and without electronics exploring and thinking and reading… and so moms can spend a couple of daylight hours learning and reading and writing their blog posts. We love this daily time and in our house we call it “1-3 break” since “Go to your rooms for two hours and let me have time to myself” did not go over very well with my kids.)
As everyone who has children that watched Phineas and Ferb cartoons knows, the “back story” is all important to making characters interesting. The video lectures by Mr. Callihan provide the historical, literary, and Christian “back story” of The Aeneid and the messages Vergil was sending both to his contemporaries as well as down through history to us today.
Yes, you can go through this course material once your children are ready and old enough to learn it, but I found almost right away that the depth of the “back story” provided by Mr. Callihan’s lectures as well as the expansion of my thinking and reading abilities and vocabulary have made my children’s current education better. I can easily now refer to the historical events and ideas that I learned in the process of the Aeneid lectures, in the course of our daily lesson time. This lays a thread that my children can use to connect what they are learning now to their future high school western culture education with Mr. Callihan and the Roman Roads Media courses.
Let me explain. No, there is no time. Let me sum up. (mildly obscure Princess Bride reference)
- It was absolutely challenging.
- It was just as much fun as it was challenging.
- There are lots of additional components (including historical timelines and art history) that make it a well-rounded course for the classically-educated high schooler.
- I now understand so much more about western culture and the history of Christianity
- The Aeneid went from being a book with a hard-to-spell title that was somehow related to the Odyssey to a wonderful epic full of exciting and vivid adventures.
- Yes, I cried when Aeneas loses his wife as he flees the city near the beginning of the story and again when he sees her on an island on the way home (more detail might ruin that part of the storyline).
- The course material is flexible and challenging so that you can adapt it to a wide range of learning styles and abilities.
- We will absolutely find a way to purchase all the rest of the videos in the series. The cost at first may stop you from trying, but the material is absolutely worth the price!
So, from our little homeschool, Roman Roads Media’s Western Culture video courses by Westley Callihan get 8 thumbs up!!! (that is all the thumbs we have in the house)