An outstanding feature of a Thomas Jefferson (TJ) education is the study of classical languages: Latin in the seventh and eighth grades, Greek in the ninth and tenth. These confer many benefits, including (1) a precise understanding of grammar and sentence structure that allows you to learn other languages more rapidly and helps you write better English; (2) knowledge of Greek and Latin word roots, which form many of our own words, both in everyday usage and in scientific and medical terminology; (3) a firsthand look at two important ancient cultures that lie at the heart of our civilization, involving history, geography, and archaeology; and (4) exposure to great works of literature, in the original, that have inspired people around the world and across the centuries.
The Classical Languages stand alongside math, science, English, social studies, and modern languages as a unique form of academic enrichment, no matter what your background. The study of Ancient Greek and Latin are particularly useful as a springboard to the modern languages (either French or Italian) that students take in tenth and eleventh grades. Some eventually go on to continue the study of Classics for pleasure, in college or on their own. Sometimes, a student with high motivation and ability has done advanced work in either Ancient Greek or Latin or both by taking Advanced Classics as an upper-level elective, or by studying for the Advanced Placement Latin Exam.
Students of the Classical Languages also participate in the National Latin Exam and the National Greek Exam in the spring. The National Mythology Exam is also offered to those who are interested.
The two-year Latin sequence in grades 7 and 8 gives you a great head start on the benefits listed above. The Learn To Read Latin textbook and workbook series offers solid grammatical and morphological study and also substantial written activities and assessments. By the middle of the second year of study, students translate genuine Latin from works like Caesar’s Gallic War, Cicero’s About Friendship, and Vergil’s Aeneid. A few have gone on to prepare for the Advanced Placement Latin Exam in their junior or senior year.
Ancient Greek is introduced in the ninth grade via Homer, who is responsible for the two fundamental pieces of Western literature, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Using Pharr’s Homeric Greek students actually begin reading the Iliad by the middle of their first year and then read much larger portions of the Iliad in their second. The Homeric poems appeal to people of all ages and constitute an ideal window into ancient times; the students' work in English parallels their Greek as they read and discuss the Odyssey and other epics in translation. Also during their second year of study, students begin reading Herodotus, the famous historian of the conflict between Greece and Persia. Homer and Herodotus balance each other nicely, as students experience both poetry and prose, mythology and history. Some international students are comfortable enough in English that they can take Greek, giving their English vocabulary and grammar skills an extra boost.