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Review: Greek Alphabetarion and Hupogrammon by Harvey Bluedorn

Our family has studied Greek in the past, but there’s something about learning a different alphabet that makes it very difficult for younger students.  What we really needed was a Greek phonics book—rather than a curriculum that covers the entire alphabet in two weeks—and a copybook to practice writing the letters.

Well, Harvey Bluedorn, long-time proponent of classical education, writer of Greek texts, and homeschooling father, saw the same need and produced two marvellous books:  A Greek Alphabetarion (phonics book) and A Greek Hupogrammon:  A Beginner’s Copybook for the Greek Alphabet with Pronunciations.

alphabetarionThe Alphabetarion:  A Primer for Teaching How to Read, Write & Pronounce Ancient & Biblical Greek is a 150 page book that goes through the entire Greek alphabet and numbering system.  Each letter’s sound and form are carefully introduced and often historical information is included as well.  After every few letters, there is a review with a phonics practice table which is meant to be read through over and over in all directions (!) until the pronunciation becomes fluent.

Later on, vowel combinations are studied, transliteration is introduced, and finally the students are ready to begin the ‘Chrestomathy’ or ‘useful learning’ section where they practice reading through simple Bible passages phonetically.  Do they know the meanings of the words? No, but the English translation is provided and a lot of guessing is possible because many Greek and English words are similar.  For students who plan to continue studying Greek, the end of the book includes a technical phonics section presenting finer points of pronunciation.


The Hupogrammon (copybook) complements the Alphabetarion (phonics book).  Besides the copybook exercises, each letter also features a Bible passage in Greek in which the students are asked to find all occurances of the letter, and a few sentences in English in which they need to find the letters that sound like the Greek letter being learned.  The vowel combinations and ‘Chrestomathy’ sections of the Alphabetarion also have corresponding sections in the Hupogrammon.  And, fortunately, there’s an answer key at the back of this consumable workbook.

While it is possible to learn the Greek alphabet, number system, and phonics using only the Alphabetarion, learning is quicker and more thorough using the Hupogrammon as well.

For what ages is this program?  The Bluedorns say much of it is for anyone who can read English well, approximately ages 8 and up, but I’d say even adults can profit from the intense phonics.  The historical discussion of Greek and other languages is definitely written at an adult level, although children can understand parts of it.

Here’s how we are using this curriculum:  Miss 13 and Miss 11 cuddle up beside me on the couch in front of the fire and we review the past lessons, read a letter in the Alphabetarion, and do the Hupogrammon exercises.  We do them together orally, taking turns for each line.  And then, of course, we practice writing the letters.  Occasionally we enjoy puzzling out the letters of the Bible texts and we are thrilled when we can decipher a few words here and there.  It’s lots of fun, quick, and very empowering.  We also use the Alphabet Flash Cards for naming the letters, making the sounds, and remembering the numbers.  And occasionally we leave our comfy couch and go upstairs for a review using the Alphabet Banner pages we’ve taped to the door of our linen closet.

What I like about this curriculum:  The basics of the Greek alphabet and phonics are learned thoroughly in these books.  Although it is work, Bluedorn’s curriculum involves enough practice and review to make it relatively painless, even for an old mama like me and a global learner like Miss 11.

My concerns:  The recommended pronunciation of the letters is different than I was taught in physics.  This could be a Canada/US difference or a science/humanities difference.  In any case, we go with the way I’ve always heard the letters pronounced, but obviously we follow Harvey Bluedorn’s phonics—i.e. we say the letters the way Canadian physicists do, and we pronounce the sounds they make the way Bluedorn suggests.  If you’re not surrounded by Canadian physicists and mathematicians, this may not be a problem for you!

The other concern I have is that the letters are shaped differently in the Hupogrammon than in the Alphabetarion.  Of course, just as in English, there are different fonts in Greek.  However, the way I was always taught to make the letters, and the way I’ve always seen them in print, is the way they are written in the Alphabetarion.  I told my girls to learn the traditional way, but we are also diligently going through the Hupogrammon and doing its exercises just to be familiar with its different font.

But those are minor issues, and we are very pleased with this curriculum. In fact, if you are looking for a beginning Greek curriculum, this is the best one I’ve come across.  It’s repetitive enough for young children and older moms, but not boring for teens.  The Bible passages, included right from the beginning of the alphabet, are a challenge to try to decipher.  The course is fun and can be either fast-paced or slow-paced.

Of course, you can learn Greek without it.  My oldest daughter learned Greek successfully using a different program, but she was highly motivated, already trilingual, and in her mid-teens at the time.  However, for most students A Greek Alphabetarion and A Greek Hupogrammon are the best way to begin. 

For more information or to purchase, visit the Trivium Pursuit website.

This review is linked to Trivium Tuesdays.

Disclosure:  I received this curriculum from Trivium Pursuit in order to review it for you.  No compensation was received and I have expressed my honest opinions.

One Comment

  1. Amy says:

    This looks great! I would definitely like to go Greek at some point. We are doing Latin right now with Song School Latin. Thanks for this recommendation!

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