Studying Greek Mythology

For the last two weeks in school, to accompany our history readings about ancient Greece, we have also been reading Greek myths. This has been our favorite thing in school so far this year–even when reading a children’s version of the stories, they’re so fascinating and engaging, and just really well-written. We have all enjoyed reading them–me for the first time in many years, and Turkey and Bunny for the first time ever. They’ve been asking for me to find more Greek myths for them to read, and I think I’ve managed to find another suitable-for-children printing with more, as well as longer, stories for them.

In our studies, however, I have come across something that is a bit of a surprise to me. Many Christian homeschoolers refuse to teach mythology to their children, or at least wait until junior high to do so. Their reasons are varied, and include:

  • Not wanting to teach idol worship–I think that Greek mythology offers opportunities for just the opposite, actually. What a great chance to talk about powerless gods crafted by men, in comparison to our living God, who is lovingly involved in our lives. And if the mention of idol worship is enough to throw the baby out with the bath water, then I guess they better censor the Bible, as well, because there is a lot of mention of other cultures that did worship idols.
  • Not wanting to waste time on things that aren’t true–why study literature at all, then? Or read fairy tales, or watch movies…
  • Not seeing the relevance–Sure, Greek (and Roman) myths are thousands of years old. But that doesn’t mean they’ve lost their relevance. One only has to look at the sky and begin naming constellations to realize that there is still modern-day relevance in old mythology.
  • Not liking the content of the stories–fair enough. If you think the stories are too scary, or too unsavory, that’s your decision. But there is such a thing as over-sheltering children, and a lot of homeschoolers have to carry the burden of being lumped in with those who do shelter their children too much, and it’s annoying.
  • They don’t have anything to do with salvation, ours or anyone else’s–this reason completely mystifies me. If you’re only interested in studying thing that pertain directly to salvation and sharing the Gospel, what’s the point of school. Math, literature…why bother?
  • Greek myths are boring--have they actually read them? Because I think Greek myths are some of the most fascinating stories out there. Interesting characters, good conflicts, descriptive settings…what more can you ask for in a story?
  • Confusion between the Greek gods and the one true God–this is the excuse that I understand the most. But I’m not suggesting that mythology should be taught to three-year olds. Most curriculum introduces mythology at about the age Turkey and Bunny are at–six, seven, eight years old. And that’s a great age to talk about and understand the differences between fact and fiction.
  • Mythology not being age-appropriate–again, I wouldn’t waste my time reading stories about false gods to Ladybug. She wouldn’t understand the conflict. But people who think that mythology should wait until junior high, when their children can “handle it” make me scratch my head. How timid are their children? They can read true stories about children hiding from the Nazis (such as in Twenty and Ten), and that’s not scary, but reading fictitious tales is?
  • Not viewing them as necessary for a rounded education–Do you *have* to understand Greek mythology to get into college? Probably not. But will you be a more educated person, in ways that range from vocabulary to science to understanding common idioms if you do learn? Definitely.

I have loved seeing Turkey and Bunny making connections between the myths we’ve read, and other things we’ve learned. Turkey caught on to the names in Homer Price right away as soon as we started learning about Odysseus.  And he and Bunny both caught on to the connection between constellation names and mythology. What did surprise me was Turkey’s knowledge of the traits of specific gods–I would explain who a Greek god was, and what he was known for, and he immediately knew the correlating Roman god by name. I guess that comes from his reading so many books about space. Greek mythology can even be discussed in terms of the Bible–Paul certainly ran into people who actually did worship these gods, and it helps us understand his approach to them, if we know first what they actually believed (not entirely unlike modern-day evangelism!).

Of course, one of the great things about homeschooling is the ability to choose what you teach your children, and when. But I find that I cannot understand most logic behind not teaching Greek myths, and the complete casual attitude which stands behind this decision. These stories may be thousands of years old, but they are an important part of a good deal of our culture today, and a huge part of understanding history. Sheltering should never be a reason to homeschool, and for the most part, that’s all I see these arguments as–sheltering to the extreme.

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