Do you know who the King of Rocky Ithaca is? My 7 year old does (as does my 4 year old, though he gets fuzzy on some of the details). We (and by “we” I mean my hubby, who holds an MA in Classics and teaches Latin and History) have been reading children’s versions of The Iliad (Black Ships Before Troy) and The Odyssey, Greek Myths, a Wonderbook for Girls and Boys, a general Mythology book as well as a graphic novel called O My Gods! (for middle schoolers) for the last year or so. It’s extremely dorky I know, and it does not endear the grandparents when they read to the kids at night (pronouncing the names of some of those gods is a Herculean (he he) effort, and it is humbling to be corrected on pronunciation by a sweet 7 year old, over and over and over…)
However. The weird thing is, the stories are starting to stick. I know this is true for me; I have very little exposure to some of the classic myths, and have no working basic knowledge of the stories. So this foray into the Greek world is new to me. I am starting to remember names and basic plot lines. So are my kids. Sometimes these gods and the stories become dinner conversation topics. Here are a few items that have come up in casual conversation.
At the beach: Talking with a young couple next to us in the sand, it came up that we were homeschooling. Later in the conversation, I commented that their baby was so cute and asked her name. Penelope, was the proud reply. “Penelope!” cried my daughter. “Just like Odysseus! He’s the King of Rocky Ithaca, and Penelope is his wife.” The somewhat stunned couple looked at her, and said to me, “Homeschooling is really working for you, I see.”
At the park: We have a really awesome playground near us, with huge climbing things. (We call the tall one the Eiffel Tower). There is a rope bridge that the kids like to climb on; they made a game up with my hubby. It’s called “Scylla and Charybdis.” They are Odysseus on the boat sailing between a rock (Scylla, the six headed monster) and a whirlpool (Charybdis, who sucks down the entire ocean twice a day). He rocks and pulls them on this bridge, alternately being the whirlpool storm, trying to suck them down, or being a six headed monster trying to attack them. It all ends with peals of laughter, and lots of other parents staring at us, wondering what the heck we are talking about.
In the driveway: Both my son and daughter love sticks. So they play sticks all the time…and lately the sticks are their thunderbolts. Daddy has to guess which god they are. He is a pretty good guesser, given that there is only one god with a thunderbolt.
In the car: My daughter goes through phases, and a recent one included her asking the question: “What would you do if you were a centaur?” Answers in our family ranged: “I’d get up and eat my centaur vitamins,” “I’d get dressed with pink flowers in my tail for the centaur party” and “I’d go find my daddy centaur to take a walk with.” (Note, this phase was inspired by the original Fantasia, which if you have never seen it, is excellent.)
I have a new one to add to this list, from today. At the RMV: Singing the Greek alphabet, which for the 4 year old goes: “Aplha, beta, gamma, delta ep-si-lon…zeta, eta, theta, keta, eta….(trails off, then with a big smile, begins again)”. For the 7 year old: “Alpha, beta, gamma, delta, ep-si-lon, zeta, eta, theta, yoda, kappa, lambda, mooooo!” That’s as far as they’ve gotten, but it cheered me right up in the waiting room of the soul-sucking RMV to hear their little voices.