Thursday, June 4, 2015

Review of Latina Christiana

Memoria Press Review

If Memoria Press were rock stars, they would be the Rolling Stones: everyone has heard of them, they have been around since practically the beginning (of homeschooling), and while they have many imitators, everyone falls short of the mark. I have been blessed to review Memoria Press' First Form Latin in the past, but this time around, I was sent Latina Christiana I Complete Set (Grades 3+). 

Memoria Press Review

This amazing set includes a student book, a teacher's manual, a pronunciation CD, instructional DVDs, and flashcards. It costs $98.90. I intended to use Latina Christiana with my 10 year-old twins, who have had the least Latin of my four children, so before the set arrived, I purchased an additional student book. All of my kids love Latin, so Michael and Mary-Catherine were very happy to jump into Latina Christiana the day we received it!

The idea, of course, is that you watch the instructional DVDs (a full 18 hours worth of Latin teaching!) and let Cheryl Lowe teach your children Latin. Because I wanted my children to have the full Memoria Press treatment, I began this course by doing just that. It turns out, though, that my kids have had a little too much Latin for this approach to be entirely successful. Because I have been teaching my kids Latin in some form or fashion since birth (even if it is just throwing up my arms and yelling "tacite!"), they have definite ideas about how things should be pronounced, where the emphasis should be placed, etc. In the real world of Latin, of course, there is great variation in pronunciation, even when taking into account ecclesiastical vs. classical, but my kids only wanted to hear Latin the way that I have been pronouncing it for them. Because I have had Latin, I went ahead and dispensed with the DVD instruction after the first lesson. The fact that you can do so is actually great news! It means that with Memoria Press's Latina Christiana, you have options! 

If you have never taught Latin before, or if you want your kids to be able to do the subject completely independently, the DVDs are a stellar option. You don't have to know a word of Latin to be able to have your children learn the language. You can learn it right along with them. If, however, you have some Latin in your background, or if you prefer to be your children's primary teacher, the student books and teacher's manual are so well laid out that you don't absolutely need the DVDs in order to be able to do a great job teaching Latin yourself. 

This course is designed to be used with children as young as 2nd and 3rd grade, so as rising 5th graders with some Latin already, my twins are a bit old for this program. To that end, they are moving pretty quickly through it. There are a total of 25 lessons, so you can do one lesson a week if you want to. That's a pretty good schedule for younger kids. My kids have been doing one lesson per day, working on Latin three days a week. Again, though, they have had Latin before, so much of this is review for them. They have just started to slow down, though, as the grammar has started to get more intense. One of the best things about Latina Christiana is the way that the grammar is incorporated so completely into the every day lessons. It is so gentle that students don't even realize how much they are learning. If words like "case" and "declension" put you off, don't worry! The teacher's manual begins with an excellent overview of Latin grammar. It also provides general teaching guidelines so that you can teach the course yourself with no worries.

Each lesson proceeds in the same manner, although later lessons tend to focus more heavily on the grammar portion (as is appropriate): 

The lesson is introduced and a Latin saying is provided and translated. Vocabulary is introduced. Grammar forms are introduced. The written work is as follows: 

A. Translation
B. Grammar
C. Derivatives (in later lessons - more translations)
D. (in later lessons) Derivatives/Grammar
E. (in later lessons) Derivatives/Grammar

If you do one section of written work per day (and practice all of the grammar and vocabulary every day), it is easy to see how one lesson can take a week. Latin does not have to take much time on a given day, but it does have to be practiced/chanted most days in order for it to "stick."

As I indicated, Michael and Mary-Catherine (again, I purchased a second student book - copyright prohibits photocopying a student book for use with a sibling) began by doing a lesson per day at first. They really enjoy this Latin program, and I love that when they are done with it, they will be ready for First Form Latin from Memoria Press! The twins compete to see who will be able to shout out the derivatives first when we get to that part of the workbooks, and they really enjoy working on the translations together. I know it's not always possible, but it really is nice to have someone to take Latin with. Being able to chant/recite with someone (apart from a teacher) makes you less self-conscious, and being able to work with someone on translations is practically a rite of passage in classical studies. Granted, "sum puella" is not exactly Homer, but everyone has to start somewhere!
I have a passion for Latin, and I very much want all of my children to love it, too. I value Memoria Press for making Latin accessible to younger children while still maintaining its rigor. 

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