Fran Rutherford's two-volume Greek Classics, Second Edition (Student Book and Teacher's Guide - sold individually) provides an ideal course for parents who homeschool high school students and for teachers of secondary education who wish to introduce their students to the great books of Western civilization, "the best that has been thought and said," in Matthew Arnold's famous phrase. The choice of great books is appropriate, balanced, and coherent-each book illuminating an important facet of Greek thought and culture and embodying the moral wisdom of the Greek mind. The course covers Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, selections from the histories of Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon, Aeschylus's trilogy The Oresteia, Sophocles' Oedipus trilogy of The Three Theban Plays, Aristophanes' The Clouds, and Plato's Republic-a rich banquet for the mind that integrates history, literature, and philosophy for a beginning humanities student.
Comprised of brief but substantive introductions to the authors and to the works, the book then poses simple but penetrating questions about each chapter or major part of the book. It also presents probing questions for further reflection and discussion. For example, the questions at the end of a chapter test simple reading comprehension: "How does Odysseus convince Penelope that he is who he says he is?" "What proof of his identity does Odysseus give his father?" The questions for further thought are contemplative and thought-provoking: "What do you learn about Greek beliefs from Odysseus's visit to Hades"? and "How is our notion of hospitality different from that of the Greeks?" The Teacher's Guide of course offers the answers to the factual questions, but it provides special insights to address the questions for further though. How does the modern practice of hospitality differ from Greek customs? "Another difference is that the Greeks thought strangers were sent from the gods, so they had a religious duty to be hospitable. That idea was also expressed in the scriptures-notably in Hebrews 13:2: 'Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares'." The questions and answers are always lucid, straightforward and penetrating.
The other features of the book that make it a valuable resource are the maps, illustrations, vocabulary, and explanation of technical terms. The maps of the Greek world and the Persian Empire, a diagram of the Greek theater in the round, the "words to know section" at the end of each chapter (e.g., "suppliant," "sycophant," "libation," "paean"), and the definition of Greek words like parados, agon, and deuterogonist all broaden the mind and provide breadth and depth to the course.
In short, these two volumes provide a bone fide traditional, classical liberal arts education that introduces students to the reality of philosophical or universal truth, to the unchanging natural moral law that explains the nature of tragedy and the events of history, and to the Greeks' passionate love of knowledge and desire for glory. It transmits to students the patrimony of Greek civilization-the culture that discerned the difference between living and living well, between being "civilized" and being "barbaric". For students to know these perennial truths about human nature and the human condition is the beginning of wisdom-the goal of all true education.
Review from the Love to Learn Blog:
This one volume, written especially for homeschooled high schoolers, provides study questions to reflect on while reading the Greek classics. The study questions are simple and aid in comprehension. If you read the questions before reading the related passage, they give you a sense of what to look for, thus helping you stay focused on challenging subject matter. They're also helpful in discussions with an adult afterwards to help make sure that the student has comprehended the book and as starting points for further discussion on important ideas contained in the book.
I was grateful to discover that the author has skillfully avoided the all-too-common problem of questions that pre-digest the story for the student or take on a condescending tone.
Study materials are included for:
Detailed study questions are included for each segment of each work, and include line numbers to relate easily back and forth between the book and the study guide. There are "Questions for Further Thought" that emphasize certain parts of each book or summarize at the end. These could be starting points for writing assignments as well as fodder for discussion. Answers are included, as are timelines and a pronunciation guide.
This resource was written by a very experienced Catholic homeschool mom who has designed the program for ease of use by parents, even those with little knowledge of the classics. The questions reflect an understanding of the concepts and values that make these works worthwhile to Catholic homeschool students of the 21st century.
Reviewed by Alicia Van Hecke (3-3-07)
Greek Classics - Questions for the Thinker Teacher's Guide
Illustrated by James Rutherford
This study guide is written for high school curriculum, grades 9 through 12. Its simple question-and-answer format breaks down the barriers to understanding the texts for both student and teacher. Vocabulary development, research topics and frequent Questions for Further Thought, the hallmark of Fran Rutherford's Questions for the Thinker (tm) Series, are included throughout. A complete answer key is found in the companion volume Teacher's Guide. It is recommended that a book be purchased for each student. Not only will it facilitate writing answers to the questions, it will serve for years as a valuable resource for other high school and college classes.
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