Homer has long held a central position in Western education, though he's falling more and more out of favor in our postmodern, politically correct milieu. Working to stem the tide ebbing away from Classical-style education, Memoria Press offers many products mining the rich culture of Western civilization, and among the latest are study guides forThe Iliad andThe Odyssey.
So much of world literature owes a direct debt to Homer that it's absurd not to have students read his epics. But just reading Homer is unlikely to be enough—his cultural context is so removed from our own that we need help understanding both the basic details of the story and their deeper significance. These guides are designed to provide that assistance.
How Do These Work?
There are 48 books inThe Iliad andThe Odyssey, but they don't divide evenly. Stephen Musick suggests 18 weeks to complete both books/study guides at 4.5 hours per week. Teachers are encouraged to read each epic before teaching it, while students grades 7-8 are to read the epic aloud in the classroom and talk about it.
For both epics, there's a teacher guide and a student guide. The consumable student guide contains vocabulary, comprehension questions, important quotations, and discussion questions for each book inThe Iliad andThe Odyssey. At the back is an appendix with terminology, genealogies, alternate names of characters, lists of important characters, etc.
The teacher guides are more thorough. Each student page appears in reduced form including answers to all questions, along with a background and drill section, discussion helps, teacher notes, and ideas for assignments and essays. In the back are the same appendices appearing in the student guides, as well as blank reproducible tests and answer keys for those tests.
Both guides use the Samuel Butler prose translations ofThe IliadandThe Odyssey. These are highly readable, so reading them out loud shouldn't be too hard, though it will take a long time. Musick says reading the epics aloud is a way to honor Homer, as well as an homage to the fact that they were originally written as poems.
Most of the work will actually fall on the teacher. These arenot student-directed. Rather, the teacher guides help teachers know what to study themselves, how to interpret the works, how to lead discussions, etc. During classroom discussions, the teacher is the facilitator and guide. When the class is over, the teacher is expected to grade and evaluate students's work.
Our Honest Opinion
There aren't a lot of study guides for Homer, and those that exist are often very surface level. These are age-appropriate (middle school), and while they are by no means high school or college level, they are thorough, look closely at the texts themselves, and also look at the cultural, religious, and historical background.
Memoria Press creates products intended to be used in classrooms, and these guides can be difficult to implement in single child homeschool setting. It is possible, but your study would probably be more fulfilling if you got together with other families and their kids. These are hard work, but it will pay off and your students will be ready for more in-depth study.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviewshere.
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