In the past week, Atticus has developed a fascination with Latin. As best as I can tell, this newest interest bubbled up as he was studying one of the countless books we have lying around that covers the period of Rome's prominence. It's not unusual for my children--and Atticus in particular--to lounge around with a nonfiction book just as happily as they lounge around with a novel. They seem to go through phases with them--one week all of the books on Medieval history are strewn all over the coffee table, the next week, you can't walk for tripping over yet another child with his or her head in a book about the presidents.
The current topic of interest is Rome. Having recently borrowed "Warrior Challenge: Rome" from our library, and now owning copies of the terribly funny "Drive Thru History" series, there's been a bit of visual drama reinvigorating the Usborne and DK books that I am fairly certain even Logan knows by heart at this point. Atticus has seemed the most smitten with Rome; I know this because I eavesdropped on one of their little pow-wows and heard the following conversation:
Atticus: "Let's play Roman Senate."
Logan: "Not Roman Senate again! I want to play Inventors."
Jo: "Yeah, let's play Inventors. What should we build?"
Atticus: "We could invent indoor toilets, like the Romans!"
I guess somewhere along the line, my son decided that he wanted to dig deeper into the whole Roman world than even indoor toilets allowed. Language, he figured, was a pretty good next step.
For the record, my children are in various stages of learning enough foreign languages to make your head spin. A sampler: Jo spends about three hours per week on Spanish, two hours per week on French and another hour and a half on Greek. Atticus devotes two hours a week to Spanish and the same hour and a half to Greek. He also dabbles in Japanese. Poor Logan is stuck with just Spanish, though I suspect that by next fall he will be asking to start formal Greek.
There are times when even I think that we've lost our minds allowing this whole language thing and we really ought to reign it in. A prime example of one of those panic moments would be when I realized that, at 4, Logan was writing notes to his friend in phonetic Greek rather than English. I gently quit including him for a while in the coaching sessions I was offering the older two children, and within a month or two, he was right as rain.
Most of the time, though, I view their interest in languages as a hobby of sorts. They progress at their own speed through Rosetta Stone Spanish and Japanese as well as Hey, Andrew, Teach Me Some Greek! with minimal instruction on my part. My husband tutors Jo in French using Le Francais Facile! I have not been called upon to tutor as none of my children are the least bit interested in learning the German I labored so long over through high school and college.
Logic seems to insist that shoving such varied vocabulary and competing grammar rules into a child's head would result in very little retention. At best, a strange amalgam of sorts seems like it would form in their minds--a kind of Spancheekanese, if you will.
I'm happy (and a little shocked) to report that this has not happened. Jo can hold an entire (though quite elementary) conversation with her father in beautifully accented French without slipping into Spanish. And while my children get a kick out of purposefully making mommy's head hurt by referring to items by their Greek or Japanese names, that kind of back and forth thinking doesn't seem to threaten them with an aneurysm at all. No, it's just my age-addled brain that can't handle the new material.
Being brought up in this linguistic environment seems to have given my children one clear message: learning another language is fun. And while I doubt that any of them will be fluent in adulthood in more than one of their favorites, the exposure doesn't seem to be hurting them.
Which brings me back to the idea of Atticus and Latin.
What does one do when one's seven year old son insists that he wants to learn a "dead" language? Start researching curriculum, I suppose.