Sunday, June 16, 2013

Review: Latin for Children, Primer A

Now that Amber has just about finished Latin for Children, Primer A from Classical Academic Press, I am updating my original review of this curriculum.  Firstly, I need to say that I selected this curriculum for Amber after a great deal of research when she initially asked to learn Latin.  The purpose of the review is to provide other parents researching a Latin curriculum with an honest and unsolicited opinion.

We originally started working on Latin for Children, Primer A when Amber was a second semester 4th grader, age 10.  We moved slowly at the beginning and were not always, toward the middle of the book, diligent in ensuring Latin lessons were completed each week.  Therefore, it took us 3 semester to complete this level.  It is not necessary to move so slowly, but I do admit that Amber did better in 5th grade than in 4th grade with the Latin grammar.  We might have been better off to wait until 5th grade to have begun.

Thrilled to be starting Latin for Children

The curriculum comes with many pieces that are optional, but I purchased the whole kit and caboodle since I did not know anything about Latin at the time.  That definitely was a smart move.  While a parent who has some understanding of Latin could definitely make it through with just the Lesson book, it has been extremely helpful to have the DVD lessons.

The main pieces of the curriculum include a student Lesson / Workbook book, a teacher's Answer Key, the lesson DVDs and Chant CDs, an Activity book, and a Latin reader.  There is also a free website,, that lets children practice their Latin in fun games.

The curriculum is setup where each chapter is it's own lesson should take 5 days or one week to complete.   Our schedule would only allow for Latin 3 days a week, thus it took us a bit longer to go through the chapters.  On the positive side, Amber had extra time to learn the vocabulary compared to if we did a chapter in 5 consecutive days, as suggested. I found that a chapter per week would have been a little fast for Amber initially, not giving her enough time to process the new information. Now she is quite capable of completing a chapter in 5 days.

The lesson DVDs have been invaluable to us, especially at the beginning of the course.  The instructor is Dr. Christopher Perrin, and he brings his own quirky personality to the lessons.  I can't imagine Amber would like any other Latin instructor at this point.  He definitely takes what could be a dry topic and makes it enjoyable.  The lessons also include little skits, and an on going story "How the West was Unus" that is hilarious.  Besides the entertainment, Dr. Perrin is clear in his instructions, and uses a whiteboard to demonstrate the grammar lessons.  I do have to say that our copy of DVD two doesn't have a working menu system, so we are forced to search through the items on the DVD looking for the start of each lesson.  Unfortunately, they are not always in order on the DVD.

Watching another new Latin Lesson. It's great to be able to follow along in the student book too.

The curriculum also came with a CD of chants to help the kids remember their verb conjugation, noun declension, adjectives, and vocabulary for each chapter. I put the whole thing on Amber's iPod and she originally listened diligently to it each week. That fell by the wayside, but it is a nice feature. Amber is more visually oriented, so it worked better for her to just read the information in order to retain it.  

The curriculum also lets you select between the Classical or Ecclesiastical pronunciation for Latin.  Who knew there are two pronunciations?  Probably most people, but this was news to me originally.  We have chosen the Classical pronunciation, so those are the DVD and CD tracks that we use.

The separate Activity book has entertaining mazes, word searches, crossword puzzles and other activities for each chapter.  These are fun ways to enforce the vocabulary without the dullness of regurgitation style worksheets (which they also have in the lesson book, if that's your thing).  Honestly, the Activity book became a bit tedious after a while and we skipped many of the activities.  The HUGE crossword puzzles were more effort than they were worth.  It might have been easier if they fit on a single two page spread instead of requiring Amber to turn pages constantly.  Having said this, I purchased the Activity book for Primer B as well.  Some of the activities truly did help reinforce the vocabulary.

Lesson book, with using a handy declension reminder chart we made

The Latin history reader for level A is recommended for use AFTER half of the lessons have been completed. Until that time the student will not have enough vocabulary to translate the reader.  I forgot to add the reader into the curriculum when it came time, so for a few weeks Amber played catch up.  The reader allows the student to begin to translate and read a selection of simple Latin stories at their own level.  The level A reader has stories of Ancient Greece and Rome.  The stories are extremely short though, maybe 5-6 sentences.  Honestly, Amber found the translation work very difficult for the first few stories. It was a definite switch from the type of assignments she normally had in the curriculum.  However, now Amber loves doing her reader translations and would rather work on multiple stories than complete a page in the Activity book.

The reader does have it's own glossary to help with words that may not have been learned in the Lesson book.  It explains the conjugation of the word and how it is used in Latin.  I'd say the DVD lessons and the reader are Amber's favorite part of the curriculum.

Originally, Amber struggled with some of the Latin grammar since she had not yet been exposed to the English equivalent.  After homeschooling for a semester and catching her grammar up to where it should be, we found that learning Latin actually strengthened her English grammar.  I will say that if your child is weak on grammar, the Latin lessons are going to go slowly and translation will be difficult. This, however, can be said of many foreign languages.

I find, as the teacher, it helps that I've studied foreign languages before and was at one point considered fluent in German.  This gives me a good understanding of the Latin grammar and I'm basically just learning Latin vocabulary along with Amber.  There were points where Amber required more explanation than the curriculum gave before she truly understood the grammar, but again I chalked a large portion of that up to her poor grammar basis.  I am thankful that I was able to use some of the free resources provided and go over the grammar with her myself.  

Amber does like to work on Latin in the car.  Usually, on our longer drives to therapy.

In our experience, this is not the type of curriculum where you can sit your child in front of the computer or hand them a workbook and expect them to learn the language.  While not every day, Latin for Children does seem to need occasional parent interaction or assistance.  We were not necessarily looking for independent learning curriculum, so this suits us just fine.  We enjoy spending time together working on our Latin lessons.   We've also had many discussions about the origins and ages of the various languages, and why Latin words can be found in many languages.

As the end of Primer A was approaching, I began to research other Latin curricula to verify that Latin for Children was still the best fit for Amber.  I did seriously consider switching to Second Form Latin from Memoria Press.  I let Amber see the sample video and we looked at the written samples together.  It wasn't hard for Amber to decide that she preferred Latin for Children. 

Overall, this is a very thorough Latin curriculum for late elementary and middle school aged children.  Amber enjoys her Latin lessons and has made steady progress with just this first level.  I am extremely satisfied with curriculum options available, including the supplemental free resources on the Classical Academic Press website.  I would definitely recommended this curriculum series as a great introduction to Latin.

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