A Few of My Favorite Things: Latin
Latin is one of my favorite subjects we study. It has also provided the biggest headache for me when picking curricula. Each year I have a panic attack over which Latin material to move on to. I think I have finally discovered a material I will be happy to stick with for a while...but I'll tell you more about that later. In this post, rather than tell you my favorite materials for Latin study, I am just going to share with you about our journey in this favorite subject. I'm going to share some things that worked for us, some things that did not, and things I plan to do the second time through. I'll also share why I love this subject so much and why I've chosen for my family to study it.
First, why Latin? I could give you a paraphrase of some scholarly answers to that question, but instead I'll just share my personal reasons. I love classical languages. When I was in college, I chose to study Ancient Greek to fulfill my language requirement. A motivating factor was that I desired to be able to read the New Testament in its original language. I found the language fascinating--extremely challenging, but fascinating. I have always enjoyed logic puzzles, and Greek is like one big logic puzzle. Though at times it was a frustrating subject, for the most part I greatly enjoyed the study. I was excited to see that there were Greek materials available for children, and my original plan was to teach both Greek and Latin, which is a more popular choice with a larger amount of materials available. Despite having completely different alphabets, the two languages are quite similar.
Although I do believe it is possible to study both of these languages simultaneously, for us it became necessary to choose one to focus on. The time commitment to do them both was just too much for our school day. I decided to go with Latin because of the myriad of choices in materials partly because I wanted to start with an older form of Greek than is common in elementary resources, so it seemed better to shelve that subject for a later date.
Though Greek was my first love, I quickly became enamored with Latin. I found it to be just as stimulating a study. I think the study of the language is its own reward and provides great exercise for the brain. Latin is also valuable because so many of our words, especially stems of multiple syllable words, are derived from Latin. Ninety percent of three-syllable words come from Latin. Much of the vocabulary or science and law is filled with Latin. Consequently, increased understanding of vocabulary is another powerful reason to pursue this language. In addition to aiding the understanding of English vocabulary, Latin greatly helps in the future study of any of the Romance languages as they have Latin as their origin. The study of Latin has also reinforced our grammar studies tremendously. It helps me to understand English grammar in ways I never did before. There are many other reasons I have chosen to add this subject to our schedule, but most importantly we enjoy it. Difficult subjects can also be fun.
With my first child, I began our study of Latin with Classical Academic Press' Song School Latin. At the time, there was only one level available. It provided a very gentle introduction to Latin and focused on practical vocabulary like most modern language programs. That encourages children to begin using the vocabulary in conversation. After she completed Song School, I began using some grammar-based materials from Memoria Press. We used Prima Latina and moved into Latina Christiana. Just when Riley's eyes were starting to glaze over, I discovered Visual Latin. This program was a breath of fresh air. Rather than a parts-to-whole approach, it provided a whole-to parts-one. It helped Riley see the big picture of the language and she began to understand how the parts fit together. She also took part in an online class by the same teacher which focused on the text Lingua Latina. After finishing Visual Latin 1, we floated around a bit trying to figure out what to do next. Visual Latin made me see the value and importance of an immersion-style study of the language, but I still could see the value of the drill and memorization required of a grammar-based study. I tried to use Galore Park's Latin Prep, which I think is a wonderful program, but I found it difficult to stay on track and implement it. At the beginning of this year I had finally decided to go back to Memoria Press and use their First Form program since it had been highly recommended. Shortly into the school year, though, I found a used set of another program I had been interested in at a price too great to pass up. We've only been through six weeks, but I am greatly enjoying Latin Alive by Classical Academic Press...so much so, in fact, that I feel confident planning to continue through the series at least for another year.
My next journey through Latin will be different. Rather than spending time trying to find the perfect program, I hope to spend more time trying to instill a love for the language. Several years ago I found this blog post through a forum, and it resonated with me. Unfortunately many of the links are no longer active, but the sentiment expressed in the post is valuable. Also, similar Latin resources can be found simply by googling. We are going through Song School Latin this year and will continue next year with their recently released second level. Instead of moving right into a grammar-based program after finishing, I plan to continue with some more introductory materials, like Minimus, while adding in some memory work and recitations as the post suggests. We will begin a more intense grammar-based program when I feel he is ready.