In this blog post, Sara Azud shares her family’s journey through Challenge and the ways in which her family grew closer together through learning Latin.
Latin Was Hard!
Non scholae sed vitae discimus.
(We do not learn for school but for life.) —Seneca
Our path to homeschooling started with our three little boys in a little preschool in our little home in a little neighborhood. We found so much joy in learning together, and seventeen years later, we are still loving it.
We found our Classical Conversations family a few years later and romped our way through two years of Foundations and Essentials, learning new memory work while walking to the park, singing all the songs in the car, writing essays with too many (GROSS!) descriptive words, and reading all kinds of books on quiet afternoons. It was my dream come true for our homeschool years.
And then our Big Kid turned twelve, and the words “middle school” were looming up in front of us with high school just around the corner.
We knew we didn’t want to give up learning together, and so our Challenge adventure began . . .
Mom and Big Kid ordered books to start Classical Conversations Challenge A with just as much enthusiasm as we had had when we entered Foundations and Essentials and a LOT more trepidation.
The first few weeks were full and rich and everything we thought it would be—until Latin got hard.
I was learning Latin while cooking spaghetti and folding laundry and teaching younger brothers.
It was hard.
My Big Kid was learning geography terms and anatomy terms and science terms and Latin terms.
It was hard.
So, I asked myself—were we doing the right things?
Learning a Common Language
We were memorizing vocabulary and reciting rules. We were parsing out simple sentences in Latin. We were reading the lessons over and over. We were setting time limits to avoid burnout. We were doing all the things, and we were doing them right, and Latin was still hard.
So, I asked myself: was all this hard work and sacrifice really worth it—to be able to read some sentences about Roman soldiers in an ancient language? If that had been our only gain from this study—I’m not sure that I would find it worth the effort.
But that was never our goal. The real rewards were so much more! We learned to love each other so much more through learning Latin.
My Big Kid and I learned a common language.
We learned a common language but not just Latin, not just an ancient language that opened up a world of Roman history for us, but also a common language of humor—laughing over mispronunciations and laughing over all the “mors, mortis” and “corpus, corporis” (thank you, Henle!) and laughing in sheer exhaustion. Recognizing Latin words in the Chronicles of Narnia and on the Maine state flag and on a few old maps we found at the library brought so much surprise and delight.
Using the Latin words for mother and son became a private joke between us—such a valuable lesson for a mother and her teen son.
Read: “Top 3 Reasons to Study Latin”
Learning a Language of Relationship
My Big Kid and I learned to choose our relationship over our “rightness.”
Because we are humans and we work so hard just to prove that we are right, Big Kid and I had moments of opposite opinions. But sitting across the kitchen table and seeing my boy’s beautiful face full of confusion taught me to care more about his heart than my hubris. It taught me to give him time to learn and to trust the Holy Spirit to lead him to the truth. It taught me to gently lead him through questions to see his misunderstandings (and mine!)—such a valuable lesson for an aspiring classical teacher.
Learning a Language of Grace
My Big Kid and I learned to communicate with grace.
So many times, our frustrations reached boiling point because we weren’t communicating clearly. What I was asking of him was not clear to him and what he needed from me was not clear to me. I would ask for “the verb,” and he would give me the dictionary definition from the flashcards but what I was really asking for was the tense of the verb. By the time we realized our problem, things had been said that we now wish we could take back. Forgiveness had to be asked for and given before we could move on with our hearts in sync.
We needed to learn to love each other enough to give GRACE in our communication, to ask for clarity, and to assume the words were offered with the best of intentions—such a valuable lesson for a twelve-year-old.
Learning a Language of Appreciation
My Big Kid and I learned the value of struggling together.
We wrestled this dragon together. We spent evenings at the kitchen table working through exercises. We took the Latin books to the lake and practiced vocabulary on the way home while little brothers slept off a day of sunshine, swimming, and snacks. Together, we prepared for those blue book assessments at the end of each semester.
That year, on Valentine’s Day, my son gave me the sweetest gift—a homemade Valentine with the words “Thank you for being my Challenge A tutor and for sticking with me . . . even in Latin.” He had learned the value of real fellowship, striving together for a common goal. Learning Latin together taught me to appreciate the time I had with this boy—such a valuable lesson for a mom.
Learning a Language of Love
My Big Kid and I learned to prioritize the needs of each other.
I absolutely love the freedom of homeschooling. I loved learning math with acorns and putting chocolate chip mountains on our map of Europe. I loved walking to the coffee shop and making change for donuts and going to story time at the library. I loved hiking nature trails and painting clay nativity sets. I loved taking my hobbits on adventures all over Maine.
And our Big Kid loved all of that as well—until he needed quiet time at home to let his mind work through Latin lessons. He also needed time off from activities to be a kid and play with his brothers after lessons and work with his dad on the weekends.
It took his mama a little longer to learn to listen to his needs and to start choosing our outside activities more carefully and prioritizing our time at home. And Big Kid needed to learn to love his little brothers and their needs and their thirst for adventure. He learned to pack his flashcards for the drives and to work through a little Latin on Saturday so we could attend the Common Ground Fair for free on Friday.
We learned to adjust our schedules and our expectations to benefit each other—such a valuable lesson for a family.
The Lessons We Learned from Learning Latin
These five lessons were so much more important to our family than just checking a box on a transcript. All three of our boys have now moved into learning Latin in Challenge, and two have moved on. And while our youngest son and I are still learning some of these same lessons, we have also seen the fruit of a relationship built on struggling and learning together, even in their adult years.
We don’t speak Latin (yet!) and we can’t read all of Scripture in Latin (yet!), but we use the lessons we learned from studying Latin every day.
Latin is worth learning!