I studied Latin in high school for the noblest possible reason–because my brother did. It turned out that not only did I thoroughly enjoy the two years of Latin that I took at Manitowoc Lutheran High School in Wisconsin (Thank you, Mr. Winter!), but it benefitted me immensely. My older children have two years worth of Latin from Memoria Press (First and Second Form Latin), so this time around I requested Prima Latina, the complete set.
Before I get into why we’re studying Latin, why I chose the Prima Latina level, and how it is working for our family, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of the program itself.
Prima Latina is designed for grades one through four. The complete set included the teacher’s manual, a consumable student workbook, three DVDs containing the lessons and explanations of the exercises as the program progresses, one audio CD for pronunciation practice, and flashcards containing all the words from Prima Latina and the next level, Latina Christiana.
The course goals are for the children to learn all of the following:
- The Latin alphabet and their sounds
- 125 Latin words (very doable!)
- The numbers 1-10…in Latin, obviously.
- 25 “practical Latin” saying and 4 prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer (which I still remember from high school)
- Latin-based constellation names
- Understanding how English derivatives come from Latin, and hopefully expanding the English vocabulary in the process (that’s what’s happening here anyway)
- Grammar (identifying basic parts of speech, learn about conjugations and declensions, and memorize the first declension and conjugation endings)
There are 25 lessons in total, so this is feasible in a single school year. Each lesson includes the following:
- grammar lesson
- 5 vocabulary words
- English derivatives to help remember the Latin word’s meaning (and, in my opinion, to show the usefulness of learning Latin)
- one practical Latin phrase (you’ll hear the kids using these right away and often, which is great for memory. !)
- a manageable portion of a prayer (after five lessons, they will know the whole prayer)
After every five lessons there is a review. The teacher’s manual includes tests and answers.
Missing from this picture is the teacher’s manual, because I took it with me to study and can’t find it anywhere! I mean, seriously, we live in a travel trailer! How lost can something get?! ARGH!
Let’s talk about the videos.
The video lessons are taught at a far slower pace than the Latin we were accustomed to from Memoria. Obviously, these are for younger children. (Still, I found myself engaged and learning with my girls.)
The videos feature a young instructor with a slightly southern accent. She speaks at a comfortable pace and quite clearly. There are words and graphics on the screen to enhance the learning experience, but there is nothing distracting–no dancing cartoon animals.
The amount of information she presents in each video may require a second viewing, depending on the student. Otherwise, the student book, the pronunciation disc, and the flashcards should help solidify the information in about 20 minutes a day.
Now that you’ve got the basic gist of the program, I’ll answer a few other questions on a more personal experience level.
Let’s talk about the books.
The teacher’s manual is essentially an exact replica of the student book, but with answers. It also includes pronunciation guides, all the vocabulary words, teaching guidelines, a lesson plan, recommended supplements vocabulary drill grammar drill, and tests and their answers.
The student book includes everything the child learns in the videos and gives them plenty of exercises to solidify it.
Why Do We Study Latin?
You’ve heard all this before, but you’re hearing it again right here, folks:
- Half of English words are based on Latin. Studying Latin will dramatically improve your ability to understand what words mean when you hear them spoken in everyday life, medicine, sermons, whatever. Also, decoding meaning when reading is remarkably easier.
- Many other languages are based on Latin, so this preps the student for the study of living languages. I’ve benefitted immensely from it in my Spanish and French studies. Unfortunately, I also confuse words between the languages. However, when I see words in Spanish, French, Italian, or Portuguese, I can usually get at least the general meaning if not translate the whole thing. I’m awesome at Italian restaurants. Pizza all around!
- Studying Latin helps improve English grammar. (Oh if only all Americans would study Latin!) This is true of any foreign language in my opinion, but especially Latin, because there is such an emphasis on grammar study.
- The church body we belong to is rather scholarly. To become a pastor in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) requires eight years of training–a doctorate. Candidates must master Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and one other language so they can read the Bible and early church history in the original languages. If you want to know what the Bible really says, read it how it was really written! Anyway, our firstborn son is currently considering being a WELS pastor. If he doesn’t receive Latin in high school, he will have to study it in college while learning Greek and Hebrew. That’s a load! So we’re trying to get him as prepared as he would be if he went through the entire pastor track from high school onward, even though he’s only in seventh grade. If he changes his mind, he can still recite Latin prayers to colicky babies as he walks them back and forth at night–personal experience talking.
Why Prima Latina Instead of a Different Level?
We already own First and Second Form Latin from Memoria, which I felt would be appropriate for my two current high schoolers and Elijah. As it turns out, Elijah is feeling a little too challenged by First Form right now. I would have bumped him down to Latina Christiana, which is between Prima Latina and First Form, but I don’t have that one. Therefore, I’m having him watch the Prima Videos just to cut his teeth on Latin a bit. I think it’s the intimidation factor rather than a lack of ability. He’ll do great in First Form once he gets rolling. (He read this last sentence and decided he’s going back to First Form. Insert laugh-so-I-don’t-cry face here.)
We wanted to stick within the Memoria structure because
- it is a great company that we have grown to trust,
- they don’t dumb anything down,
- they have a solid Christian worldview,
- it’s easier to stick within the same program once we get accustomed to it,
- we love their other programs, including Latin, and
- a pastor I met on the road has used it with great success teaching his children and community children.
What was our experience?
I intended to use Prima Latina with my fourth and first graders. I like when my students can work through something video-based together. My fourth grader is doing well and is enjoying it, although she does find it challenging. My first grader is absolutely not ready. She is still learning to read in English. The lessons and exercises in the student workbook require her to read and write. My personal opinion is that she will benefit far more from the program when she can focus on the Latin itself instead of struggling to read the directions and form proper letters. After the lightbulb has gone on and she can concentrate more on what she is reading and writing as opposed to how to read and write, I will order a second student book and get her started.
That said, my first grader is listening to the videos with her sister and me and is learning orally and visually. She joins in the chants and is learning the vocabulary and the prayers. I’m willing to bet that when she goes through Prima Latina a second time, she will whizz through, since she will already have learned orally and will only need to translate that to writing and visual translation. Five will get you ten, people. (Sorry. We’re singing in Vegas this week. A little gambler talk is sneaking in here. (I don’t actually gamble. But this nursing mama can take down a buffet like nobody’s business.)
They both really enjoy the class. The instructor is engaging and friendly. The pace seems challenging beginning at the second week, but is actually quite doable. We do have to rewatch lessons for mastery. The resources that are included in the complete set make reinforcement very feasible. After all, when you pick flashcards up off the floor twenty times a day, you start to really memorize the words! (Anybody else out there have a three-year-old? ‘Nuf said.)
Technically, you don’t need the flashcards, but they also can carry over into Latina Christiana, so they’re worth the money. I almost invariably plan to make my own flashcards, and almost invariably don’t do it, so, yeah, buy the flashcards. My kids do flashcards together without me, because I’m just not a flashcard parent.
A little nod to our fellow roadschoolers.
One thing I appreciate from Memoria is that their booklets are always thin and lightweight–not light on the mind, but light on the axels. While extras like the flashcards are available, they are not essential to run the program. You know as well as I do that flashcards can cover the floor of a thirty-foot travel trailer faster than…well…it’s pretty fast. The “bare essentials” of the program to me are the DVDs and the student notebook. I would also recommend the pronunciation disc and the Teacher’s guide. If you’re counting ounces and trying to stay legal, though, get the student manual, take the DVDs out of the case, and roll on down the road. This is perhaps not the absolute ideal, but it’s definitely going to work for you and save your rig in the process.
Find out more!
Follow Memoria Press on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube. They also send out a physical mag-alog…or cat-azine. It’s a magazine/catalog hybrid. Their blog shares great information as well.
The Homeschool Review Crew has been working with many different products from Memoria Press. They are all based around a Christian, classical education. I highly respect this company. While we are imperfectly Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, I do like to use material from Memoria. They fit quite well into any type of homeschool. Click here or below to read about poetry, phonics, Latin, and more products the Crew reviewed over the past couple of months.