Sunday, March 14, 2010

Learning Latin is Fun!

"Learning Latin is fun!" are words I hear multiple times a week from my 8 year old twins. This is in such marked contrast from what I heard from my peers in high school. They all hated it. I never got the chance to hate it as my father insisted that since I was offered a choice between typing and Latin that I had to do typing. He felt that typing would stand me in greater stead as an adult than Latin would. Knowing how to touch type is a huge boon to me, however, I have always felt shortchanged that I spent 2 years learning to type when I could have been learning Latin. I started teaching my children to type last August and my daughter is already typing 50 w.p.m. with 98% accuracy. If an 8 year old can do that in half a year, why was I, as a teen, subjected to typing lessons for 2 full years?

As luck would have it, I have been given a second chance because I homeschool my children. Prior to starting homeschooling I read copiously about different educational philosophies. I realized that a rigorous, hierarchical, neo-classical education fit our philosophy and needs. Learning Latin became a must. I faced a barrage of naysayers though as many people I know feel that Latin is a dead language and that I will just be wasting my time teaching my children Latin. I'll let Classical Academic Press respond to that objection.
Well Latin isn’t dead after all, it lives on in the mouths of all of us who speak English, as half of our English words are derived from Latin. For those who speak French, Italian, Spanish, Romanian or Portuguese (the “Romance” languages), 90% of the vocabulary comes from Latin. These Romance languages are actually forms of Latin that have evolved over the centuries in various regions with some interaction from other local tongues. As you might guess, studying Latin is fantastic preparation for the Romance languages! Studying Latin is one of the easiest ways to become fluent not just in one but in several Romance languages. There are other good reasons to study Latin, cited below:

1. Studying Latin prepares a student to master English and the Romance languages. Students of Latin, for example, typically score the highest on tests on English vocabulary!

2. Latin prepares a student for several important professions that are steeped in Latin or English words derived from Latin. Examples: law, medicine, science, music, theology, philosophy, literature.

3. Latin enables a student to have improved access to English literature prior to 1950 which is replete with references and citations in Latin. As well, the history of art and architecture is replete with Latin. Monuments and art all over the world are frequently graced with Latin.

4. Latin enables a student to more fully understand and appreciate the Roman empire which has had profound and continuing effect on western civilization.

5. Latin enables a student to enjoy some of the most influential literature the world has known in the original language. Learning Latin well enough to read original Latin works is attainable and imparts great satisfaction and enjoyment.

6.The study of Latin is an ongoing study in linguistic puzzle-solving that generally helps students to become close and careful readers and writers. Many believe it also hones the mental faculties generally. One well-known cancer researcher asked what best prepared him for a life of medical research. His response: “Studying Latin and Greek as a child.”

I think you can see why studying Latin is a way of doing advance study in several subjects simultaneously. This is why we regard it as a master subject—it is a subject that like a tool enables one to master other things, other subjects. It is no wonder that it has been a required subject in schools for centuries.

I found that choosing a Latin program was especially tough. I looked at "Latin is not so Tough" and found it too lack lustre. In the beginning book I looked at no grammar was taught, only vocabulary.

Minimus was cute, the kids loved the story, but I struggled with the pronunciations as a neophyte. I also found that it was too lightweight.

I discovered Latin for Children at a HEAV conference.

I was hooked, even before starting to use it with my kids. I really like how it works from parts to whole, how it is very systematic. Learning the pronunciation is a cinch with Latin for Children. The program comes with a CD that contains chants for all the vocabulary learned. Each week my children learn 10 new vocabulary words and have them well memorized within one lesson thanks to the chants. Declinations and conjugations are all set to chants which makes it so much easier for the children to keep them in their memories.

In addition to the lessons being in the primers, you can purchase a DVD with the author teaching the lessons. We watch the DVD lesson on day one and then I teach the lesson again on day two. This works well for us.

I have lost all my fear over teaching Latin thanks to this program. A Latin neophyte, like me, can easily teach using this program. I learn alongside my children without them realizing that my Latin knowledge is on a par with theirs.

My children's vocabulary has increased dramatically despite the fact that we have only completed 21 lessons in Primer A. After we've learned each lesson's vocabulary, we work on derivatives. Whenever my children ask me for a word's meaning, I have them first think if it might be a derivative of a Latin word they know, and then I send them off to the dictionary. It's heartening to see how their faces light up when they realize they can work out an unfamiliar words' meanings on their own.

Latin practice is also fun at Headventure Land. Headventure Land is Classical Academic Press' practice website. Here the children can play games that quiz vocabulary, read short books in Latin and watch movies in Latin. The movies are my children's favorite.

We supplement our Latin studies with Latin Clash Cards and a weekly Latin Club.

The Latin Club, run by my good friend, Lydia, is one of the highlights of my children's week. Here they spend an hour laughing, learning and competing. It's fun to watch how a little competition inspires the children to greater diligence in memorizing their declinations and conjugations.

Latin for Children covers three years of Latin with Primers A, B and C. Once your children have completed these three primers they move into Latin Alive!. Classical Academic Press has currently only published the first in the series but I hear that the second is due out at any time. By the time my children read this level all the books in the series will have been published.

Once the children have finished Latin Alive! they will be ready for Wheelock's Latin, a college text.

An added advantage of Latin for Children is that it dovetails perfectly with Shurley English, the English program I am using in our homeschool.

As a homeschooler who is firmly committed to ensuring that my children are good writers, i'd like to thank Classical Academic Press for sponsoring the Book Arts Bash.


Amy said...

Thanks for the review. I hadn't heard of this one before. It's going in my files to consider when the time comes. And, you go girl, for teaching them Latin! I'm looking forward to learning it with my daughter, too.

School for Us said...

I enjoyed your review. I trie this program with my daughter 2 years ago, and like many other things, I just didn't stick with it! I'm finding I have a hard time sticking to things without a group! (And, I see you are part of a group.) Anyway, we both did enjoy the program.

I'm wondering what you used for typing. We have used Dance Mat Typing, but my daughter is getting tired of that and wanting something else.

Thanks! Dana (drleeds at sbcglobal dot net)

M. said...

You might be interested in supplementing your learning with some of the audio materials on Latinum - the course is not specifically designed for kids, but I think the comenius Vestibulum and the Orbis Pictus audio files will work well, as well as the Adler part B and C sections ( part A of the Adler lessons are college level)