Weekend Reading: Home Latining

How can it be Friday again? Honestly, I don’t know where the weeks go…

This week has been pretty intense, with extensions coming in from all of my modules, and dissertation ideas flying around like confetti. It’s been a whole week since I had time to switch the TV on…! (Again, apologies for the email lag – I’m doing my best against impossible odds!)

And then there’s homeschooling, which is a whole extra layer of impossible.

I started out with all the right intentions. There were going to be science experiments, and practical demonstrations of fractions, possibly with fruit. We would stroll around the park and learn about plants. We would read great literature and possibly write our own.

Fat chance.

Working full-time from home on my own means that I can only spend a couple of hours a day on homeschooling. The great literature is too depressing. The park has lots of dandelions and not much else. And it turns out that I still don’t understand fractions.

So I’ve fallen back on the thing I know best. Yes, I’m teaching my 8-year-old Latin.

It’s an interesting experience. I’ve taught Latin to 8-year-olds before, of course, in primary schools. But when I’ve done that, it’s always been about making Latin fun. Lots of Minimus and worksheets and colouring in and stories, with games and plays and animal noises and general silliness. Latin lessons for little ones are happy things.

That doesn’t work for my 8-year-old. My son is 8 going on 45. He’s cynical and unimpressed by frivolity. The worst thing I could possibly do to him is give him a worksheet to colour in – and the word ‘Craft’ has been banned from our house for years. So no cartoon mice. Even the Cambridge Latin Course, with its story-based niceness for older kids, has had to be ruled out – my son is unenthused.

So we’re launching right in with ‘Latin for GCSE’ – which is a course I generally tend to avoid because it’s much more grammar-focused and steep than some others. I certainly would never suggest it for a class of 8-year-olds! But of course, my son is taking to it like a duck to water. He’s stomping round the dandelion-covered park reciting verb endings under his breath. Noun cases seem completely logical to him. We haven’t read a single story yet – we’ve just talked grammar and done exercises.

I’m not quite sure what kind of a monster I’m creating. But on the plus side, I’ll come out of this situation with a much improved grasp of basic Latin grammar.


Apparently writing Latin is easy. Don’t know why I’ve been making such a fuss about it all these years…


This week, continuing with Comfort Classics, I’ve met some great people! Katie Low is a fellow Tacitus fan (yes, there are a lot of us around – we’re just mostly busy being quietly angry with the world), and Penny Whitworth teaches at RGS in Newcastle, the scene of much of my mis-spent youth. Flora Kirk is the designer of some of my favourite dresses, so I was thrilled that she did a special drawing for my website! I also had the chance to talk to Professor James Robson from the OU, about Aristophanes (and about food, which made me feel even more grumpy than usual about my standard frozen pizza diet). And today I talked to the wonderful Lucia Nixon – whom I know from Friday Zoom get-togethers but haven’t met in real life! – about her archaeological research. I’ve got some brilliant interviews lined up for next week too – but as always, do contact me if you’d like to join in!

Speaking of interviews, I was interviewed myself (about my interviews, which is satisfyingly meta) this week for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences staff newsletter. Fame at last! I’m happy to sign autographs – for a modest fee… Anyway, here’s the text of the interview, in case you’re interested. The video version will apparently be out soon, although I may try to bury that…!


Spotlight On… Dr. Cora Beth Knowles





This week we speak to Dr. Cora Beth Knowles, Classicist and Associate Lecturer. Recently, Cora Beth was recognised for her excellence in student engagement and received a Recognition of Excellence in Teaching (RET) award.

Fun fact about Cora Beth: she was honoured to be made a member of the Lego Classicists Family in December, alongside Mary Beard and other eminent classicists… who knew such a thing existed?!

Follow her on Twitter: @drcorabeth

Can you describe your current role as an Associate Lecturer?

I’ve worked for the OU as an AL and occasional consultant for the last 15 years, on pretty much every Classical Studies module and a few others too! This year I’ve been tutoring A276 (Latin), A330 (Myth), A340 (The Roman Empire) and both of the Classical Studies MA modules, as well as having three groups on the new Arts module A111. It’s been a bit hectic! Next year I’m looking forward to slowing down slightly, to make more time for personal projects and research.

Tell us about your ‘Comfort Classics’ initiative? Where did the idea stem from?

At the start of lockdown I had a phone call from a student who told me that her studies were the only thing keeping her going. She didn’t know how she was going to cope when the module came to an end. That’s when I had the idea for ‘Comfort Classics’. I thought that, if I could use my personal website to interview OU classicists (ALs, central academics and students) every day about ancient sources that bring them comfort, it might give my students something cheerful to focus on. Two weeks, I thought. I could manage two weeks of daily interviews – and then I’d run out of classicists!

Two months later, I’m still going. The series has taken on a life of its own, and expanded far beyond the OU. I’ve interviewed academics, teachers, authors, artists and musicians from around the world – all with a passion for Classics, and all keen to share their favourite things.

Any particular highlights?

Hearing from one of my Classics heroes, Professor Mary Beard, was a particular highlight; she took time out of her busy lockdown filming schedule to talk about how Homer’s Odyssey ‘undermines our certainty about the very definition of “civilisation”’. Her interview – along with many of the others – offers a different and personal perspective on very familiar material.

Other well-known classicists have made me laugh with their choice of sources! Documentary-maker, Professor Michael Scott, chose an ancient joke book, Professor Armand D’Angour from Oxford picked a funny poem about the loser of a race, and ancient law scholar, Professor Mirko Canevaro, talked about slapstick comedy.

Other contributors have picked more touching things; Susan Raikes, formerly of the British Museum, chose an incredibly rare Roman child’s sock, while Professor Edith Hall picked a lovely Greek poem written by a woman, about a girl and her puppy. They all seem to bring the ancient world just a little bit closer to our own.

Do you plan to keep the interviews going after lockdown?

After lockdown I’ll probably need a rest! But I would like to turn all the interviews (there are 37 up on my website now, and more still to come!) into an eBook for future students to read when they’re in need of comfort or inspiration from the ancient world.

Finally, can you name three things that are getting you through lockdown?

When I find the time, I like to paint walls! It’s an odd hobby, but I used to work as a mural painter and I still find it soothing. My house is, as you can imagine, rather peculiar. I’ve also been doing the Joe Wicks P.E. workout every day with my little boy, and while I can’t say I’m enjoying it, my Spiderman lunges are much improved! And science fiction and fantasy are always my comfort blanket; if there’s a spaceship in it, I’m happy.




This week from around the Classical Internet…




Roman mouse: joke or toy? – The Guardian 

Ancient hillfort discovery – BBC 

Hadrian’s Wall from home – The Northern Echo 

Pompeii, disaster and us – The Guardian 

Hobby Lobby sues Christies – The Art Newspaper

Classics and coronavirus hardship – CUCD 





Comment and opinion

Tree of the Week: Romulus’ Spear – Andrew C. Fox 

One classicist’s lockdown – The Edithorial 

Archers as cowards – Tales of Times Forgotten 

Killing Eve and Roman emperors – Topica

Ovid in Detroit – In Medias Res

Ovid in Renaissance Rome – BSR Blog

Western imperialism in the classroom – Eidolon

When is a mouse not a mouse? – A Don’s Life

Ancient Greek colours – Kiwi Hellenist

Tom Holland’s Suetonius – Bellaria 






Podcasts, video and other media

Interview: Ovid and the Art of Love – The History of Ancient Greece 

Anatomical votives – Runshaw Classics 

Natalie Haynes and Edith Hall on Helen of Troy – BBC Radio 4 

Reading Trojan Women online – Center for Hellenic Studies 

Receptions of Herodotus – Herodotus Helpline 




From Classical Studies Memes for Hellenistic Teens



Other stuff

Announcing Sportula Europe – Patreon

15 thoughts on “Weekend Reading: Home Latining

  1. 3. dominus laborat; 4. dominum necamus ‘Bout sums it up! And the subject of necamus? The kids? Their parents? The school’s senior leadership team? Educational policy makers? Better just to generalise: labor dominum necat! 😉😁


  2. I briefly thought that lockdown would be a great time to teach my two Latin – but I’ve not even attempted it! I can’t even get the 7 year old to do literacy anymore, and we only managed PE with Joe for for a fortnight! I am in awe of your efforts 😆


    1. Well, mine is entirely scathing about the pointlessness of Latin – but he can’t resist a challenge, so as long as I keep telling him that it’s far too difficult for him, he’ll do it! PE with Joe may be the death of me, though…!


      1. When Vesuvius erupted and Caecilius died we all cheered – our teacher included! We used the CLC as a reader and The Approach To Latin for a more rigorous linguistic founding.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s