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Classical Home School Lesson: Latin and the American Founding Fathers

Titvs Classics delivers the Latin word of the week along with questions to engage with your kids on how the word is used, what it means, and how it influences our English Language today. Sign up for our Newsletter today!

Pater – Father

Picture of Roman Aqueducts

This week’s word of the week is Pater. Pater is singular, masculine and third declension. It means “Father”. This is where we get the English word Paternal.

Founding Fathers

We just celebrated the 4th of July, or Independence Day in the United States.

When I was studying Latin and Roman history, I was inspired at how American History was connected. Latin and Roman influence can be found all over our history and culture.

From our National motto “E Pluribus Unum” to the Architecture of our national buildings, The Roman influence is hard to miss.

America was a bit of a political renaissance. For centuries countries had been ruled with a feudal system or monarchy. Thomas Jefferson said about the founding of America, “we have seen no instance of this since the days of the Roman Republic.”

It was the engagement of Roman classics that helped shape our founder’s arguments for what America needed to be and served as a model for the greatest, freest country in the world.

Madison and Hamilton both cite Aristotle’s Politics and Plato’s Republic in the Federalist papers. In these documents, they, like the classics before them, speak of the importance of a system of checks and balances, the dangers of being led by a popular majority, and advocate for unity.

In fact, The founding fathers took lessons learned from the Roman Republic, and built America to avoid the same pitfalls. For example, the Roman Republic had two co-consuls who were in charge of Rome the way the President is in charge of the U.S.. Often, these two consuls disagreed and prompted the people to appoint dictators to take over.

Source: “This Rich Source of Delight”: The Classics and the Founding Fathers”

Classical Education

The Founding Fathers lived in the age of Classicism. This was a time when the Classics were highly regarded in art, literature, and education. Children began learning Latin and Greek at the age of 8.

During this time, students at Harvard had to speak Latin and Greek to be admitted, and many classes looked only at original Latin texts.

This meant that Latin and ancient texts greatly shaped the worldview and manner of thinking of many of our founding fathers.

This is why it is so important to give your kids a classical education.

This past year we have seen our history as a country rewritten, we have seen statues pulled down, and we have seen the slow disassembling of the freedoms we have fought so hard over the last two centuries to keep.

We are a country that does not know it’s own history. We are a country that has lost the ancient wisdom and lessons learned of governments before us, and we will continue to lose the freedoms our founders so masterfully handed to us.

Without studying the classics and understanding why we have the Electoral College, why we have checks and balances, and why we have the Bill of Rights, we can not vote for leaders that will uphold the constitution.

This is not a question of whether the next generation can name the three branches of government (although that is a good start). It is about teaching higher levels of thinking. Teaching our kids to ask – Why do we have government? What is the purpose of government? Is government good or evil? and taking lessons of history to find the answer.

I will never forget sitting in my Ethics in Public Administration class in Graduate School and our professor asking “Is government good?”. I was in a class of 30 students – many straight out of undergrad and I was the only person to say no. This is not too surprising for a class of aspiring public servants and bureaucrats. But when the future leaders of our government do not understand the potential of evil governments inherently hold (as our founders knew well) it becomes increasingly difficult to defend against it.

Latin is the gateway to this knowledge. It is through the learning of Latin that we see how Romans thought, How they were influenced, and how they helped build the greatest country in the world. Our Coloring Books are a great introduction to Latin or a great supplemental activity for any student learning Latin. Through simple vocabulary and engaging facts, our books will help your kids increase their Latin skills.

“I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided,” said Patrick Henry, “and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past.”

Source: The Classical Education of the Founding Fathers

English Derivatives

  • Paternal- Adjective. Meaning: Characteristic of a father, fatherly. Relating to a father.
  • Paternity – Noun. Meaning: The state of being a father, fatherhood.
  • Patrician – Noun. Meaning: A person of noble or high rank, a person of a very good background.
  • Patrilineal- Adjective. Meaning: inheriting or determining descent through the male line.
  • Patrimony  Noun. Meaning: An estate inherited from one’s father.
  • Patron – Noun. Meaning: A person who is a customer, client, or paying guest. A person who supports with money, gifts, or endorsement an artist, writer, museum, charity.
  • Patronage – Noun. Meaning: The financial support or business provide to a store by a customer.
  • Repatriation – Noun. Meaning: The act or process of returning a person or thing to the country of origin.
  • Patriarchy- Noun. Meaning: a form of social organization in which the father is the authority in a family.

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Check out our coloring books for more Latin fun!

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