How We Study Plutarch

Although my older children are mostly self learners, we reserve Fridays for group studies. Charlotte Mason recommended reading Plutarch's Lives aloud as a study in citizenship and character around 9 or 10 years of age.

At first glance, the language of Plutarch is intimidating. The language can be difficult to understand and so you may be tempted to use an edited version for children. I have purposefully avoided resorting to those because I want my children to learn to feel comfortable with older language so that they are able to read the earlier classic works and therefore, not forced to rely on the modern middle man to give his version and slant on the issues. Even though Plutarch seems daunting, if you go about it in small bits at a time, you will find that even a nine year old can understand and enjoy it, just as Miss Mason promised. I want my children's minds to be stretched and Plutarch does that. I also desire that they enjoy the learning process, so I've learned that the way I present it is also important in capturing and holding their interest. Here's how we go about it:

I choose a life from the Ambleside website, download and print out Anne White's 12 week study guide for that particular life as well as the passage from Plutarch. Anne gives a link where I can find the passage (You don't have to buy a copy of Plutarch). I put this in a soft binder labeled Plutarch Character Studies. I write the name of the man we are studying on a divider tab and place the study pages behind it. If you are new to Plutarch, Pericles is a good life to begin with. There is no particular order you must follow. Some lives are more difficult than others, some more exemplary. Our task is to study the actions of the man, noting his personal strengths and weaknesses.

On Fridays, after our group studies are almost over, I send the younger children out to play and the older children remain with me. Each has a little lined journal labeled "Plutarch." This is where they jot down new vocabulary words that I give them and short narrations. We don't worry about understanding every detail or new word, but just try to understand what's going on in each paragraph. I continue to follow Anne's guide. I appreciate it that she doesn't share too much of her own thoughts or give any schoolish exercises but keeps it simple and easy to follow.

Afterwards, we usually pick a creative narration choice from a jar set aside just for Plutarch studies. Usually, no preparation is allowed, or at most, five minutes for these narrations. My children really enjoy this culminating activity. Here are some narration ideas we have done in the past:

Radio Show- National Public Radio, All Things Considered. We stage an interview with some of the characters we read about that day asking them to explain why they made particular decisions.

Interview- The girls act as if they are on the street interviewing live, plebeians or patricians,asking folks their opinions about the decisions being made by the man we are studying.

Debate- A judge resides over a formal debate. Each person must give a convincing case for why she thinks the man we are studying made a particular good or bad choice. My DH sometimes listens and critiques their arguments.
i.e We just did this with the life of Crassus. The debate topic: Was Crassus justified in having 50 soldiers killed for losing today's battle? My husband and I helped show the kids that logic is useful yet faulty because it can be used to justify two opposing viewpoints. We had also just read this in Charlotte Mason's character study book "Ourselves."

Quick Skit-Sometimes the children act out a conversation or scene with a few props.

Questions- Each child crafts five questions (not yes or no questions) about the readings and asks the others. They especially like quizzing Mom. I don't always know the answers either.

The total time it takes to complete a Plutarch lesson is approximately 35 to 40 minutes. We've been studying Plutarch for several years now and have learned so much while creating many happy memories together.

one step at a time...