Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Roman Road Media - Old Western Culture - The Greeks {TOS Review}

Jam loves anything to do with the Greek Mythology, it has been one of his favorite subjects since we started to home school. To be honest it wasn't our home school journey that sparked his interest but a well known children's book series. However the fact that we home school allows us the time to explore this topic a lot more. We lean towards a mix of Classical Education and Charlotte Mason methods. So when we were given the opportunity to review a product from Roman Roads Media I was seriously excited (and so was Jam). We were given access to the online streaming version of the full year course Old Western Culture - The Greeks

What is it?

Roman Roads Media is a leader in home school Classical Education products. The course I received is the first in a four year program DVD/Online history course called Old Western Culture: A Christian Approach to the Great Books;

Year 1 The Greeks
Year 2 The Romans
Year 3, Christendom (planned for 2015)
Year 4, The Moderns (coming 2016).

I was given online access to all four units listed below and the DVD set of The Histories.

Greeks - The Epics - Iliad and Odyssey
Greeks - Drama and Lyrics -
Greeks - The Histories - Herodotus, Thucydides and Xenophon
Greeks - The Philosophers - Sophocles, Aristotle and Plato

This four unit course is a complete literature and social studies course however it also includes philosophy and art and is designed specifically for homeschoolers grade 8 and up.

The full course includes video instruction, reading assignments, exercises after each video lecture, essays and end of term exams. Each of the four units has 12 video lectures that are about 30 minutes each. The videos include hundreds of classical paintings, maps, and time lines.

A unit is designed to last 9 weeks and therefore you could complete all four units in 36 weeks. We found following this schedule really helpful as sometimes we tend to overstretch ourselves and get burnt out. For example one day Jam had it in his head he had to read four books of the Iliad in one day and got completely stressed. After that episode I printed him a copy of the schedule and now he just marks it off each day.

Below is the schedule for 'The Epics'. What I like about this schedule is that although it is laid out on a Mon-Fri calender it is easy just to transfer it to a Day 1, Day 2 type schedule. There have been a couple of days when we have gone out so we just tick of a days work when it's done and move on to the next thing.

I did email the company to see if they had a schedule for the whole year which they don't at the moment but it is something that they are going to look at adding. However it's not that hard to create your own year plan for the year.

You can look at getting started guide and schedule here.

Wesley Callihan is the teacher presenting the information on each video. Theses are not boring lectures but engaging lessons that draw you in and help you understand the material. During the video you are shown works of art, maps, and photos of actual places mentioned, which really helps visual learners link to the material. Wesley Callihan is very engaging and although I have tried to read some of these classics before, he has really helped me understand them better.

Each video starts with a quick recap/review of the previous lesson before jumping into the new material, Jam really likes this, as it helps him refocus. (I also found this extremely helpful to my old brain.)
Hundreds of classical paintings, maps, timelines

How we used the online streaming course:

When you log into the online streaming course it is very easy to follow and laid out very simply. It is basically click, complete and move on. Honestly it is a home school Mom's dream.

From the very first day I signed Jam in, it has been easy sailing. Basically Jam logs in and completes the next step. It even keeps a record of his points earned and how many points he needs to finish the unit. As you work through the course it is separated into readings, lectures and quizzes. When you complete a quiz online and press complete the quizzes are graded. However there is a small button to the side that says 'mark un-complete and retry' Jam has used this button once when he wasn't happen with a quiz result and wanted to try it again.

Although each of these units can be used individually and therefore not necessarily used in the order above, Jam and I decided to follow the course as laid out in the online plan.

Jam started with The Epics.

This program covers 'The Iliad' and students learn about the quarrels between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles and the consequences from these disputes it is set during the Trojan War. The Odyssey is also studied and is considered a sequel as sorts to The Iliad it talks about the Greek hero Odysseus and his journey home after the fall of Troy. It is a lot easier to follow the stories and understand the assigned readings with the help of the video lectures. 

Jam's favorite parts of an early lecture is when Wesley Callihan refers to the old saying about Helen of Troy 'That she is the face that launched a 1000 ships', but then goes on to say that she actually launched 1186 ships! I think he will remember that figure now.

The only thing Jam is dreading is the final essay that is due at the end of each unit. I am excited about this though and seeing how he grows.
The Iliad and the Odyssey
The Iliad and the Odyssey

You may be wondering where you can find copies of all these great books that are studied during this program. You have a few choices. Roman Roads have PDF copies available for download, you can buy them or do what we did and download them on our kindle app. Jam liked having them on Kindle because they were portable, he has done his assigned reading in the car on more than one occasion this summer. Since these books are SO old you can find them in the public domain.

This is not a fifteen minute a day program. If you think about it each video lecture is 30 minutes long and then you have to complete a video quiz. Other days you are reading 2-3 books/chapters of hard text. Jam and I agree that you will be spending about 1-2 hours a day on this, sometimes 3 if you want to stay on schedule.

You can watch sample lectures etc on the website here to decide whether this is a good fit for you or not.

Since I have mainly been using the first unit in my examples I wanted to tell you a little more about the other units Jam will be covering this year. I went ahead and watched some of the lectures and introductions from the three other units so I could get a feel for the whole program.

Unit 2 Drama and Lyric

This unit teaches about the background of Greek Drama. It is explained that this can be broken down into three topics; tragedies, comedies, and minor poems. It teaches about the background development and historical context of theater. The three main writers of tragedies Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides are discussed as well as Aristophanes who is known for writing comedies and others like Saphho and Pinder who are less known but wrote lyrical poetry. I was intrigued with the early Greek idea that you should not see violence in their plays (the violence always happened behind the scenes) they felt that people would become accustomed to it and that this would make them less 'human' or caring. This mentality changes as time progresses and as more and more violence is accepted into society. For example by the time of the Romans they had 'Gladiators' and people would watch others die, for pleasure or fun.

Unit 3 The Histories

This unit focuses on the 5th Century BC. It talks about Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon who were the main historians of the time. The main things covered are;

1. The Persian Wars (490 -480 BC)
2. Golden Age of Athens (479-431 BC)
3. Peloponnesion Wars (431-404 BC)

Most of the history of this time period is centered around Athens. It was interesting to learn how democratic the society was during this time. Every citizen could vote and juries were often quite large - sometimes up to 400 people.

Unit 4 Unit 4 The Philosophers

It seems to me that it would be best to complete this unit last. It discusses Plato and Aristotle. The unit talks about what philosophy is and what it includes namely; Ontology, Epistemology, Anthropology, and Teleology. Various of books written by Plato and Aristotle are covered and discussed from a Christian prospective.

What we thought;

I love how art, literature, philosophy, and history are combined in this series. However the biggest HUGE bonus for me is that I don't have to explain and teach these great books. We have someone (albeit on video) to teach and explain it too us! We have had some great discussions and I look forward to many more this year. Although we don't necessarily watch the videos at the same time we do both watch and discuss them. However I must admit I can see myself falling behind on the reading schedule.

Although these courses are said to be from a Christian background I haven't found them overly so. The writers of the program are 

This is definitely a program that we will use all year. I have not even had to ask my 13 year old to do this once - he loves it. However I do expect some moaning when it is time to turn in that first essay :)

So DVD versus online streaming...this is a hard one I loved being able to pop in a DVD while watching the DVD on The Histories, however after using the online program I must admit I LOVE it. I love the ease of the program. I love that Jam can just log in and get on with it. I love that I don't have to print anything. I love that the quizzes are built in to the program and I don't have to have the correct pages ready.
If I used the DVD program I would probably want to buy the student book so I didn't have to print anything. You do however get a hard copy of the Guide to art pamphlet with the DVD, with the online program you get a PDF copy. So although when applying for the review I thought I would prefer the DVD I really LOVE the online program.

The program is available for purchase here.

Online Streaming $199.00 plus PDF downloads

DVD Program $224.00 plus PDF downloads

Student Workbooks (hard copies) $48.00

OR individual DVD units $56.00 each and individual workbooks $12.00

DVD All four units of The Greeks. Full curriculum, 4 DVD sets. Each unit includes a Guide to the Art, PDF workbooks, Answer Keys, and Exams. - See more at:

Roman Roads Media has quite a few other really great products being reviewed - to check out the other reviews~ click the banner!

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