Why Latin?

Way back when Rudolf Steiner was discussing Waldorf education with the first group of teachers he was asked about bringing Latin into the curriculum. He was supportive of the idea and thought that it should be taught a bit later in the elementary school years. Steiner saw value in the old Latin and Greek stories. And more importantly, he also stated that by teaching Latin that they could “relieve” the students from some of their German lessons. In other words they could learn some of their grammar in the course of learning their Latin. It was a way to sneak those enjoyable extra grammar lessons in.

The sixth grade is in the midst of finishing their grammar lessons for the year. They have been learning about the different endings for Latin nouns. Memorizing the endings is something that any former Latin students might recall with less than fond memories. For the sixth graders now, they must know their objects, indirect objects, subjects, and possessives, so that they can translate their stories. Lately, the class has been working on a story with Minerva. She is Athena in the Greek version. The Romans changed the names of the gods, so the students have to get familiar with Jupiter, Juno, Venus, and the rest of the gang.  Let’s just say that although the names have been changed, the lesson is still the same…don’t mess with the gods. Minerva changes Arachne, a Lydian girl who thought she was better at making tapestries than Minerva, into a spider. Hence, we have arachnids in English.

In the seventh grade class they finished their weekly vocabulary, with word lists from A to Z. Each week the students learned ten new Latin words. Funny thing though, some of the words turned out to be English words too. Gratis, dictator, and retro, along with many other words, came into English as is. For the word lists I make an effort to choose Latin words that have provided us with derivative English words. In this way the students are building their English vocabularies too. For example negotium, orno, and habito are related to the English words negotiable, ornate, and inhabit. The kids are also learning some of the key prefixes such as in, pro, per, and de which help them to figure out meanings of unfamiliar words. Hopefully it will all pay dividends at SAT time in high school.

As for the eighth grade, they have been learning their comparative and superlative Latin adjectives. From these we received English words such as superior, maximum, and minimum. Learning about the adjective forms also affords the opportunity to remind some members of the class that “bellissima” is translated as most beautiful and not beautifullest. Even the eighth graders need those kinds of reminders now and then.