Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Teaching and Learning Latin the Fun Way

I've recently heard from some parents who are teaching their children Latin, as well as from some adults who are interested in learning it.  There are, of course, a lot of great approaches and books out there, but I highly (highly!) recommend a book and approach by Danish scholar Hans Oerberg called Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata.  I used this text for middle school kids for several years, and it was a rip-roaring success!  My students were not all gifted (Latin was a requirement of all students).  And I only had them in class twice a week.  Nevertheless, my students blew me away with how quickly they progressed, and I am still hearing a lot of success stories from former students.  Some of them are now studying Latin in high school and college and are excelling.  Others are breezing through Spanish.  The most common feedback I get involves an explosion of English vocabulary and very high SAT scores in the verbal section.

Oerberg is solid pedagogy, but it is also fun because it is interesting.  It is not rote memorization of paradigms, but is rather a story.  It is basically an innovative novel all in Latin.  The only English in the entire book is on the copyright page.  You learn Latin by reading Latin, figuring it out by the context, pictures, and clues in the margins, and then the new information becomes old information as you grow in your reading.  Over time, Oerberg introduces vocabulary and concepts that prepare the student for reading Caesar (military terms), the Bible (the Vulgate), ancient myths (such as the Minotaur and Icarus), the Roman Calendar, as well as learning the cultural aspects of 1st century Roman life (Roman roads, geography, homes, money, navigation, clothing, medicine, etc.).  And the story is wrapped up in the day to day life of a family.  You learn the grammar by seeing the language used followed up by very brief reviews at the end of the chapters.

It really works!

In using Oerberg, you are trained to read (and actually think!) in Latin (not translate into English).  Thus you can enjoy the story, as well as other Latin texts you may read (actually read!) later, rather than clumsily parsing and translating (which is terribly boring).  Thus Latin becomes a living language, and you begin to see it in everyday English everywhere you look.

The basic first year text is Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata - Pars I Familia Romana.  You can get by with just the text - but I found that some of the other supporting texts are a great help.  Lingua Latina: A College Companion by Jeanne Marie Neumann is WONDERFUL!  It combines several other books in one volume (such as the Latine Disco student guide, the vocabulary lists, and the Grammatica Latina grammar text).  The Companion is a sort-of one-stop-shopping resource.  It is really well laid-out.  Both of these are also available as PDF e-books (see the links).  I got my PDF of Familia Romana at Books a Million's website.

There is a short companion text of readings called Colloquia Personarum that I really like - just for variety and to reinforce the material.  The readings use the same characters as the book, and are very short and amusing.  I also highly recommend the CD-ROM version ( Familia Romana CD-ROM) of the book - which includes the entire text, audio of the book read by the author, and interactive versions of all the exercises in the book.  

There is a teacher's guide ( Lingua Latina Instructors Materials) that has an answer key.  I also bought Latine Doceo: A Companion for Instructors, but don't find these particularly helpful.  I would not recommend buying them.  Get the College Companion instead.

I found that Amazon, for the most part, has better prices than the publisher (Pullins).  However, they don't sell everything.  If you end up buying all the books I recommend, you may want to order some through Amazon, and others through

One last thing that is a must: there is an e-mail list for Oerberg instructors/enthusiasts from around the world.  The lady that wrote the College Companion is one of the participants, as well as some really heavy-hitting scholars.  They are all so friendly and encouraging, and the teachers share a lot of things like quizzes and teaching methodologies. You can toss out any question, and someone will be able to help.  The publisher also monitors the list and is always looking for ideas for helpful resources.  Here is the info about the list:

To subscribe or unsubscribe via the World Wide Web, visit
or, via email, send a message with subject or body 'help' to
You can reach the person managing the list at

So in summary, if you want to study Latin on your own, or teach your children (or if your children want to do self study), this is my recommendation:

Also valuable, but not necessary:

And of course, have fun!

I would not get anything else to start with (except some of the other texts after completing Lingua Latina, such as the sequel volume and its materials: Roma Aeterna.

This approach is good for adults, college students, high school students, and with patience, for middle school students and even younger.  I am moving slowly through the first chapter with my 8-year old son, and he is doing extremely well.  For younger kids, there are also some great resources from Classical Academic Press.  So far, I'm using those materials to lay the groundwork for Oerberg.  

Bona fortuna!

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Thank You, Hamilton Jewelry!

Hamilton Jewelry is located at 113 Lapalco Blvd, Suite 105, Gretna, LA 70056
It is easy to be cynical when dealing with businesses.  It seems like they are all dishonest and eager to get over on their customers.  And while that is certainly true in some instances, there are also some really outstanding businesses and owners, managers, and workers out there who are honest and upright, who still see their work as craftsmanship.

A couple years ago, I had meant to blog about Hamilton Jewelry at the intersection of Lapalco and Belle Chasse Highway.  I'm sorry that I didn't at the time - better late than never!  This began because I have a pocket watch that is a gift from my dad (of more than 20 years ago), a quartz-driven Jules Jurgensen  that had developed a problem with the date display.  I braced myself for a very bad prognosis.  I figured it would cost me a hundred bucks (maybe more!) to get it fixed (parts from Europe, labor, etc.).  And given the sentimental value of the watch, I would have paid it.  What choice did I have?  I'm not going to throw it in the garbage.

So I brought it to Mr. Hamilton.

It turns out that the watch just needed a minor lubrication.  In fact, I think he did it for free and only charged me for a new battery that it needed.  I was absolutely blown away.  This says to me that this business is reputable and honest.  And when it comes to things like watches and jewelry, that's pretty important.  He could have easily ripped me off and I would not have known the difference.  Instead, he took the high road, and that has won my loyalty.  I ended up buying a watch chain from him.

So, fast forward to about three weeks ago.  I looked down at my hand, and was horrified to see that my wedding band had cracked completely through.  I have no idea how or why.  I had not banged it against anything.  I leave it on my finger all the time.  How do such things happen?  So, once again I was thinking I was in for a really expensive repair job - even if it were possible.  I mean, how do you fix a broken wedding ring, especially one that has intricate scrollwork on it?

Well, given my last experience, I knew exactly where to go.

And once again, it was Mr. Hamilton and his wonderful staff to the rescue!  It was also time for a new battery in the pocket watch.  Both repair jobs were done in a week for $50 out the door.  Even upon close examination of the ring, I can't even find evidence of the former break.  Mr. Hamilton is a true craftsman.  He soldered the ring with gold.  He even gave it a good cleaning.  How he made the repair "invisible" I don't know.  That's why he is a master at fixing jewelry and I can only look upon his work with wonder.

After Mr. Hamilton's expertise
As a funny side note, I just had to wear something on my left hand during the interim.  After 19 years, my wedding-ring finger felt downright indecent being publicly unclad.  So I brought out my old class ring from Walsh Jesuit High School and placed it on my wedding finger.  This turned into a display of the divine sense of humor.  While I was saying Mass at the altar with my hands held up in the "orans" (praying) position, I saw, out of the corner of my eye to the left, the coat of arms of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) on my left hand.  In my right periphery, I espied the statue of Bl. Martin Luther, the leader of the Evangelical Catholic reform movement (the Lutherans) on my Concordia Theological Seminary class ring on the other hand.

This called to mind the old joke:
A Roman Catholic boy asked his pastor the difference between the Dominicans and the Jesuits.  The priest replied: "The Dominicans were founded to get rid of the Albigensians.  The Jesuits were founded to get rid of the Lutherans."  The boy asked: "Which order is better?"  "Well," retorted the priest with a sly grin, "how many Albigensians have you met?"

Ignatius of Loyola
Martin Luther

At any rate, "Thank you" to Hamilton Jewelry!  If any FH readers are looking to buy jewelry or have something repaired (or even designed from scratch!), I think their honesty and integrity speaks volumes!  There are indeed more quality jewelers with integrity and top-notch customer service in the Gretna area than there are Albigensians.

19 years and still going strong!  

Friday, April 05, 2013

Two Perspectives on Life

(use the cc button at the bottom to turn on English subtitles)

John 13:35


HT: Lew Rockwell blog.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Shoe Repair Shop Fixes Bible!

There is a local shoe repair business in Gretna that Mrs. H. and I have been frequenting for many years: Moran's, located at 301 Westbank Expressway.

It is a husband and wife business run by C.J. and Mary Moran.  They always give prompt, courteous and professional service.  They have facilitated the near-miraculous reincarnation of my loafers many times beyond their normal lifespan with sole and heel replacements - as well as repairs to the stitching.  They have also provided Mrs. H. with countless heel tips for her boots and shoes. 

I want to give C.J. and Mary a public pat on the back for going "above and beyond."  I have a pocket-sized leather-bound ESV Bible that I bought while I was still a seminarian.  It has given me years of excellent service.  There is, however, a weak link: the leather strap that holds the bible closed.  It had frayed to the point of wearing out.

The bible really needs a way to hold it closed.  I could not find a good solution.  I certainly did not want to discard the Bible.  I'm always loathe to do so as this is God's Word.  Moreover, I like it.  It is "comfortable."  It is also well-made.  Aside from the Achilles Heel of the strap, it could last for decades more.  It has already been with me my entire ministry, from my vicarage in South Carolina, to teaching and pastoral work in New Orleans, and on planes, trains, and automobiles across North America for private meditation and public lecture.  It even went with me to Russia two years ago - from Moscow to the mountainous Republic of Khakassia in Siberia just north of Mongolia.  In fact, my colleague, the Rev. Dan Johnson, made use of it in the pulpit of St. James Lutheran Church in Novokuznetsk where he preached a sermon.  This proclamation of the Word of God and the open carrying of an English Bible by an American clergyman would have been unthinkable only twenty years ago.  My little globetrotting ESV has quite a story, and it is clearly not finished yet!

Looking for a solution, I took the Bible to Moran's.  Mary looked it over, and said that she could replace the leather strap and have it for me within a week.  It would cost me the princely ransom of $8.95 plus tax.  I was thrilled!

She actually called me back about an hour later to let me know the job was done.  I picked it up right away, and it looks great!  She has breathed new life into this little Bible.  I wonder how many other shoe repair businesses would have just automatically said "no."  Mary Moran didn't!  She thought outside the box and found a way to meet her customer's needs.  That, to me, is the greatest argument for a free market: everybody wins and the standard of living improves for all involved.  And it also gives us the opportunity to serve our neighbor and glorify God by our life and work.

So way to go C.J. and Mary!  You will certainly see us the next time our loafers and heels need to be born again.  If you live in the area and are looking for prompt and quality shoe repair service, I heartily recommend Moran's!