Roman Roads Media: Old Western Culture Technical Details

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In a previous post I talked about the effect that Roman Roads Media’s Old Western Culture course had on my family’s trips to see my classics-loving grandfather, and our trip to The Field Museum in Chicago to see the National Hellenic Greeks exhibit. In short, Wes’s storytelling inspired my imagination and enriched those two special visits in meaningful ways.

In this post, I want to help people understand what is included in their OWC purchase. There is more than meets the eye on Roman Roads Media’s website and it is easy to miss out on valuable nuggets.

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When I purchased my first course from RRM, I purchased The Greeks: Epics because I had been listening to CiRCE Institute’s “A Perpetual Feast” with Andrew Kern and Wes Callihan. I knew that I wanted an armchair mentor like Wes to walk me through Homer. His enthusiasm for the ancient poet was palpable and his knowledge of the subject matter is incredible.

Old Western Culture is a study of the great books of the Western world from a Christian point of view. I have not capitalized “great books” because this is not a walk through Hutchins and Adler’s University of Chicago Press “Great Books of the Western World“. In the course orientation, Wes explains that Hutchins and Adler did commendable work but that they made quite a few editorial decisions to leave out critical texts from the Church Fathers and other major stories (like Beowulf). In part, Adler and Hutchins were constrained by the need to rely on public domain texts. In part they were motivated by ideology. In part they were motivated by a specific intellectual and post-Enlightenment thread through “The Great Conversation,” and many of their omissions did not contribute to the rational point view they wanted to focus on. Whatever their reasons, Old Western Culture seeks to recast that that into a Christian mold. Without compromising “The Great Conversation” in any way, Old Western Culture merely focuses in on the cultural implications of the rise of Christendom and it’s complicated story.

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Old Western Culture is designed, primarily, to be a high school level 4 year journey through The Greeks, The Romans, The Medievals/Christendom and The Early Moderns. The essential value of these courses is the beautiful mentoring from Wes Callihan which was filmed in his personal library. The intention of this post, however, is to make sure that buyers don’t miss all of the supplemental goodness.

Note: the videos are accessible and engaging for students and adults alike. The content, however, really is for students aged 12 and above. My 8 year old is able to follow Wes’s storytelling without missing a beat, but many of these texts have adult themes in them and so these conversations should wait until he is a bit older.


Each year of the course is broken into four terms (of nine weeks each). For example, in the first year, The Greeks are divided by: Epics, Histories, Drama & Lyric, and Philosophers. When you purchase OWC, you purchase each term individually. So if you want the Epics and the Philosophers, you are not locked into buying Drama and Lyric and the Histories. It is very a la carte and each term is self contained. Obviously, some of these conversations build on each other naturally, but the course is laid out in such a way that you won’t have any real holes by not buying certain terms.

There are several purchasing option on the site… here’s what they mean:

1. The DVDs/Blurays are the course itself. Purchase of that product will result in the physical media being sent to you while simultaneously you will gain instant access to the streaming of the same content plus access to the materials page which is loaded with resources.

2. You may choose the workbook option to add a physical copy of the workbooks to your order. The pdf version of this resource is automatically included in yourDVDs/Blurays purchase. So unless you require a professionally printed spine, the books are unnecessary or redundant.
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Once you have purchased the course itself (in dvd/blu ray format), you will be able to stream the video content from any browser. Roman Roads is trying to build an app that will make this even more useful but at the time of this review, it is still only in the development phase.

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Once you have completed your order, don’t forget to check the Materials page which is a treasure trove of supports. As you purchase a course, the materials for your course are loaded into your materials page. Included in that page are the following:

-Powerful workbooks & answer keys for each course
-Exams for each course
-PDF/e-Text readers of the course readings
-Hyperlinks to Amazon with the correct translations/editions of the course readings in print

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Friends have asked if the reading load in these courses will dominate their high school student’s reading time and leave no room for other goodness. As a former high school teacher, I confess to being impressed by the layout of the course and the breakdown of the work. If you plan to use this with a student and intend to require all of the work included in the workbook and tests, this is the study plan recommended:

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Roman Roads has a “Samples” page that is absolutely loaded with a rich look inside. You can look at the entire workbook for The Greeks: Epics, there are several full length video lectures to preview, all of the Greek Epic exams are available for preview as well as their e-readers. Check out this powerful samples page here.

If you want to learn more and want to talk to others who are currently using OWC and/or wish to see behind the scenes of OWC, consider joining their curriculum chat Facebook group. Customers and RRM staff populate the friendly discussion group.

On a personal note, I am Catholic. I mention this because I wanted to speak to Catholic readers who are understandably skeptical of history curriculum produced by non-Catholics.  I have watched a few lectures in several of the Church Fathers units. My take is this: this is one of the most respectful approaches to all orthodox/traditional Christian creeds I have seen. Their intention is to be inclusive and non-offensive. In one lecture, Wes remarks that the books of the Apocrypha are not canonical. He goes on to defend their worth and the traditional view that they are excellent food for the pursuit of holiness but he does refute the Catholic claim that they are part of the biblical canon. There are many ways to hear what he has said and not all Catholics will agree with me when I say that I thought this was a non-issue. I do not look to Wes to be my biblical mentor. I believe that his respectful approach is sufficient to me being able to separate his nuanced belief from my acceptance of church teaching. In point of fact, because his personal faith falls into the traditional camp, I think that there is little to “fear” from his nuanced beliefs.

Disclaimer: I have not yet done the unit on The Reformation – I suspect that it will be a fair assessment of that period of Christian history and I look forward to growing in my faith as I wrestle with those terrible times. It is important to note that while Luther has a big place in the Reformation unit, Dante and Aquinas have even bigger emphasis in their unit.