Please donate now to pay our monthly server fees:
While this web site is designed to work in all major browsers, we recommend Firefox.
|Hellenic Home Life:
A Miscellany of Tips and Ideas for Hellenic Families
by Drew Campbell
Tips for Homeschoolers
- Don't overlook classic children's literature as a source of religious insight. The Wind in the Willows, for example, features a very reverent depiction of Pan. Even books written by Christian authors like George Macdonald or C. S. Lewis can often reinforce common moral values like honesty and fairness.
- Look for connections to Greek history or culture across the curriculum. Math invites some exploration of Pythagoras and number games; geometry can be approached directly through Euclid's Elements. Music can include a discussion of acoustics and the Greek modes. Track and field events, martial arts, and folk-dancing are particularly appropriate for physical education. A civics course can delve into America's classical patrimony.
- Classical language instruction can be problematic in the homeschool, particularly if the parent-teachers do not themselves know Greek. To my knowledge, there are currently no classical Greek curricula for children available, leaving one of these options: learn modern Greek; learn Koine (a solid children's course is available, although it focuses on the New Testament); start with a secular elementary-school Latin program such as Matin Latin as a basis for later Homeric or classical Greek studies.
- When evaluating history or mythology books, especially those aimed at homeschoolers, be alert for anti-pagan bias. Many classic books treat our gods as fanciful, "fairy-tale" beings; some assume an entirely Christian readership (Hillyer's Child's History of the World, Bulfinch's mythology books). You may want to skip any offending chapters or references if reading aloud to young children, or discuss the bias with older children. Be especially alert for books that refer to the gods exclusively in the past tense: "Zeus was the king of the gods...." This can easily give the impression that the gods no longer exist!
Tips for All Families
- For very young children, try teaching basic religious skills through music: "This is the way we...wash our hands/light the flame/greet the gods/give our gifts/pour the wine/ask for help/thank the gods/say goodbye...so early in the morning."
- Use the myths as bedtime stories, or make up stories in which your child meets a god or other divinity and has an adventure.
- Encourage children to draw, write, sing, and act out mythological and historical themes. Small children can be given toys with which to "play temple" or can create their own altar. Older students can write compositions (speeches, poems, etc.) based on historical scenes or create short dramatic presentations.
- Model religious thought and practice for your children. Young children learn primarily through imitation; if they don't see you pray, they're unlikely to do it themselves. Comment on divine manifestations in nature ("What an intense storm Zeus sent!") or in daily life ("Look! A penny! Thank you, Hermes!") Older children benefit from some gentle direction: "Which god or goddess might be able to help you with that problem?" Current events, situations from books or films, and personal dilemmas can spark discussions about religious perspectives on life's joys and trials. Let your children see you studying Hellenic religious texts and discussing religious ideas with other adults.
- Decorate your home for the festivals. Bake bread as an offering and make special feast dishes appropriate to the holiday (e.g., dishes with grapes for the Rural Dionysia, or with honey for the Diasia).
- Although pride in one's religious heritage is a virtue, the fact is that we live in a predominantly Christian culture, and most of our relatives, if they are religious at all, probably don't share our faith. Teach your child at least one simple prayer for use in multifaith situations. Generic terms like "the Divine" work well in these.
- Take older children to see live productions of Greek drama, or, if your family watches TV, look for productions on public television or video. Books on tape can also be used for some of the longer texts (e.g., Homer) as an aid to readers who are not yet ready for an unabridged English translation, or to help convey the feel of the oral epic. Younger children may also enjoy recordings by storytellers like Jim Weiss or Odds Bodkin.
- If possible, affiliate with a religious community that supports your family's practices. Be willing to travel to attend worship services, if only once or twice a year. It's worth it!
- Observe the Noumenia (new month) with a special meal. Get out the good tablecloth, put flowers on the table, light candles with a prayer to Hestia.
- Use myths and fables to help reinforce positive behavior. Don't draw out the moral; just read the story and let it work its way into the child's mind and heart.
- Create a Hellenic home atmosphere with Greek art and music.
- Take field trips to museums with Greek collections.
- Visit the Nashville Parthenonor Greece itself!
- Make a Hellenic festival calendar, decorated with ancient art or your child's drawings, and display it in your home. (This is a great project when teaching children about our religion's calendars and festivals.)
- Identify your family's key religious values and put them into practice. Value hospitality? Invite someone over to share a Noumenia meal with you. Value generosity? Collect your spare change in a special box and donate it to a charity that your family chooses together. Find myths that teach these values and study them with your family.
This article originally appeared on Andrew Campbell's Nomos Arkhaios site which is currently on hiatus.
This article is copyright © 2000-2003 by Andrew Campbell and is reprinted here with permission.