This is the third of a three-part series. The first post is, “We were Homeschool Latin Dropouts,” and the second post is “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
I ended the last post stating, “So it was that in September as we started our third year of homeschooling we began Memoria Press First Form Latin…” As I write this post on the Ides of March, I can tell you without reservation that The Garners love learning Latin!
Because Mr. Garner is joining us for class, we have Latin first thing after our morning Bible reading. I’ve slated 45 minutes for Latin. Some days we don’t take that long, but usually we do. We strive to cover one lesson per week, but if we have a week where Mr. Garner must be out the door early, then we might take two weeks to cover a chapter.
We pretty much follow the recommendations in the Memoria Press Teacher Guide. Monday, we take the test from the previous week’s lesson, and then watch the video for the new lesson. The video teacher, Brian Lowe begins with a recitation of past learning, usually at a speed that our tongues can’t quite wrap around yet, but that’s okay. We enjoy laughing! Next Mr. Lowe introduces the grammar concept behind that week’s learning. It’s about five to ten minutes of teaching – not too long!
Tuesday through Friday, we are on our own and class includes several minutes of reciting verb conjugation tense and personal endings, to which we’ve recently added noun declension case endings. We may also work on verb translation drills provided in the Teacher’s Guide. This is followed by 20-30 minutes completing worksheet pages (there are 4-6 per lesson) that target the new vocabulary, and provide practice conjugating or declining, and some review. If things go quickly, we may take our test on Friday, but frequently we take the weekend to study. We are individually responsible for taking time to update our Latin vocabulary index cards each week.
Latin is different from English in that each word consists of a stem, with attached endings that will indicate how it is used. In the case of a verb, the endings provide the pronoun and the tense. In the case of a noun, the endings indicate the noun’s job in the sentence. The endings are determined by the stem’s word family – the conjugation for a verb, the declension for a noun. An example word for a First Conjugation verb is the verb that means love. The stem is ama. In the present tense, one adds mus to the end of ama making the word amamus in order to say “we love.” So the task of a Latin student is to memorize the stem and the various options for verb tense endings and noun job endings, and a few other odds and ends.
First Form Latin is very logical and well organized in layout. The program begins with First Conjugation Verbs (there are a total of four verb conjugation families) and the irregular verb Sum - To Be. Students learn all six tenses of a variety of first conjugation verbs in several clear lessons over the first two units, roughly the first third of the course. The sentence structure, and how English helping verbs are used in translating these verbs, is clearly explained and practiced. Only then does the program move on to first and second declension nouns. This is a departure from other Children’s Latin programs which are anxious to get the children to translate early on. Translating stories sounds fun – but in Latin, this means that you must grasp the idea of stem and endings for verb tense conjugations, the five types of sentence usage endings (singular and plural) of noun declension and adjective agreement all at once in order to have enough vocabulary to translate a story. If that sounds confusing, well, it is! Particularly for a parent who doesn’t know Latin!
I had read that learning Latin would clarify English grammar. It does. By learning the Latin tenses and how they are used, thought about (and translated) we’ve by extension improved our understanding of English grammar tenses considerably. In the course of comparing English and Latin syntax, we’ve all done some very simple sentence diagramming, and survived! My mother would be quite proud!
We have found richer beauty in the text of the Latin choral works. For years, I’ve known the correct ecclesiastical pronunciation of the words in the following phrase – Laudamus Te, Benedicimus Te, Adoramus Te, Glorificamus Te. This study has enabled me to truly understand this beautiful crescendo of praise, blessing, adoration and glory to our Living God! I can now sing the words and mean them.
Our study of classical Greece and Rome has been enriched by learning a variety of phrases from antiquity. Grace’s favorite “In umbrum, igitur, pugnabimus,” has solidly placed the Battle of Thermopylae in her mind. Spartan king Leonidas, when advised that the superior numbers of Xerxes I Persian force would cause the sky to darken when they loosed their arrows, replied, “Then we will fight in the shade!” Another favorite classic describes Julius Caesar’s triumphant mop up of the rebellious Macedonians, Veni, Vedi, Vici. I came, I saw, I conquered.
The study of Latin has also added depth and understanding to the taxonomy that we learn through Nature Study, and Apologia’s Young Explorer series. Mr. Garner, the consummate gamer, loves the rules. They tickle a place in his brain that enjoys the order and organization of Latin. We are more prone to notice the many Latin mottoes and phrases all around us and enjoy deciphering them, like Virginia’s Sic Semper Tyrannis, (thus ever to tyrants) and the United States Marine’s Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful). And who knew? Harry Potter spells make more sense too!
And what Latin student hasn’t found themselves having a little fun with conjugation? One mother in the First Form Yahoo Group laughingly shared a story about her daughters in the back seat munching on chips and chanting Dorito, Doritas, Doritat, Doritamus, Doritatis, Doritant. My favorite is Pintero, Pinteras, Pinterat, Pinteramus, Pinteratis, Pinterant… I pinterest, you pinterest, he, she or it pinterests, we pinterest, you all pinterest, they pinterest….
Do you have to learn Latin in order to homeschool Latin? In my experience – yes. Some parents will tell you “No.” Some curricula will tell you “No.” But what I hope you’ve gleaned from my transition from Homeschool Latin Dropout to Homeschool Latin Lover, is that learning Latin alongside your child is not only do-able, it’s eye-opening, it’s enjoyable, it’s horizon-expanding! It is everything that I love about homeschooling!
Teach it yourself. The good news is that you can teach your children Latin! The bad news is that you can teach your children Latin. In other words, you must learn it along with them. The materials are available for a successful elementary Latin program, but it is unrealistic to think that children will learn Latin without a teacher. They cannot be handed a Latin program and be expected to learn this rigorous subject alone. Many parents, in fact, have had a year or two of Latin. That will certainly make it easier, but it is not necessary. Latin programs like Latina Christiana are designed for exactly this purpose: to enable people who don’t know Latin to teach it. Memoria Press Website
In my next Latin Lover post, I’ll share a few tips to help Keep the Love Alive in your Latin studies!