It’s almost become a running joke among the people who know me – that this is the year that I will study Plutarch in my homeschool. I know that I have said this for the last four school years, and we are yet to really dig in and study Plutarch. When I had the opportunity to read an advance copy of CiRCE Institute’s new Plutarch guide, The Lawgivers, I started to feel like this might really, truly, be the year we study Plutarch and study him well.
Why Study Plutarch?
I know that my experience is not unique. I know there are more homeschoolers out there who want to study Plutarch, but can’t quite ‘get it’. Or they start but don’t feel like they’re getting from it what they should be getting.
If you move in Charlotte Mason or Classical homeschooling circles, Plutarch is always strongly recommended. Why is that? Why do we feel we ought to read writings from ancient times, anyway? Well, if you’re classically-inspired, reading great works from the ancients is kinda how we do – but to what end? What does Plutarch offer us as modern day homeschoolers?
In the foreword to The Lawgivers, Karen Glass says: “This new translation is an invitation to modern students to take a seat at the table”. The table she speaks of is the great feast of which every person is called to be part of.
In the Charlotte Mason approach, Plutarch is studied under the subject “Citizenship”. He is studied so that we can read about the lives of Roman and Greek men and learn from them. Plutarch wrote many of his Lives as comparisons – between a famous Greek and a Roman. Plutarch does not highlight the differences or similarities, but merely discusses the lives of these individuals and leaves it on the reader to ponder each life.
We study Plutarch so that we may have an opportunity to more closely examine what makes a good citizen and what character traits we want to strive for in ourselves, and expect in our leaders.
A Look Inside The Lawgivers
In the new translation published by the CiRCE Institute, The Lawgivers tells the Lives of Lycurgus of Sparta, and Numus Pompilius, a Roman. More than just another translation, however, The Lawgivers is an elegantly written, widely accessible text that brings Plutarch to the modern reader.
Along with a clear, modern translation, the authors provide commentary and notes to assist the reader with any tricky names, places, or even to add historical context where necessary. The final section of The Lawgivers is the comparison, offering the reader the opportunity to consider why Plutarch has chosen these two particular Lives to pair together.
Aesthetically, the book is pleasing. Easy to read, cleanly laid out, accessible to all, and with nothing unnecessary added.
Some Considerations Regarding The Lawgivers Text
While I am very excited about this new translation, I think it only fair to be honest with my readers, also. Since many of you are, like me, probably homeschooling secularly, there are a couple of things worth considering.
First: this is not (what I would call) a ‘secular’ text. I have purchased a number of CiRCE-published resources lately and really do love what I’ve seen of their products. However, it’s worth noting that their materials are primarily written to a particular worldview. I do still buy, use, and enjoy their materials in my homeschool but I like to note for you whether a resource is written completely secularly.
Second, there are some themes and topics brought up that may not be suitable for younger readers. I’m planning to use this in our second term, with my 8th grade student – but I will not have my 6th grader study this book yet. Again, as with any resource, I always recommend giving things a good pre-read before you decide if it’s appropriate for your particular student.
Any review I offer here on my website, I aim to do as openly and honestly as possible. The Lawgivers is a valuable and excellent resource, but I do want to be open with you about considerations you might want to make.
Who Should Buy This (and where!)
If you’re looking for a beautifully written text to use to introduce Plutarch to your family, The Lawgivers is a wonderful resource. In my experience (read: many failed attempts) at starting the study of Plutarch in my homeschool, this is a keeper. It is one of few translations that manages to pluck our friend Plutarch out of the dusty out-of-reach, and places him firmly in to the hands of the reader. Any reader, of any background, can open this text and start their journey with Plutarch.
You can buy The Lawgivers:
- On the CiRCE Website – you can still get The Lawgivers at their lower pre-order price of $14.99!
- On Amazon.com – pre-order The Lawgivers
- For Canadian families, you can pre-order The Lawgivers at Classical Education Books
All in all, I’m quite pleased with The Lawgivers, and do plan to include it in my 8th grader’s school plans this year. I look forward to any future translations that the CiRCE Institute may release – and also look forward to FINALLY studying Plutarch in my homeschool!