The Latin language has always interested me, but my schooling didn’t include it as an option. Though I’m familiar with both Spanish and French, through school and community, my primary experience with Latin is on that basis – very lightly, through its connection with other languages, and not for itself.
One of the most difficult aspects of learning a language isn’t the obvious, like memorization or grammar – it’s whether or not you have a way to practice, and by doing so, keeping it fresh in your mind. Though I’ve spent much more time in the classroom studying French, my comfort level with Spanish is much greater, because I’m surrounded by native speakers and hear Spanish on a regular basis.
We recently had the opportunity to try out a Latin curriculum from Memoria Press which has a unique approach to language instruction. First Form Latin differs from other language programs, in that it teach grammar first, rather than vocabulary. The goal is to increase and retain understanding over the long term, rather than focus on short-term ability to translate.
Six weeks isn’t a sufficient length of time to make a determination about retention rates over the long term, but compared to other language-learning methods, I do appreciate the emphasis on grammar first.
Though topical vocabulary memorization in typical instruction is useful in rudimentary communication with others, that approach becomes overwhelming later in the curriculum, when verb conjugation is added in almost as an afterthought. With the basics of sentence construction taught first, without the vocabulary clutter, it seems much easier to understand.
First Form Latin is created for classical instruction, the goal of which is to teach people to learn to teach themselves. I have to admit, I don’t have a comprehensive understanding of the classical method, so I cannot relate portions of First Form Latin directly to it.
First Form Latin is specifically designed for a teacher that has no familiarity with Latin themselves. All lessons are completely scripted in the teacher’s manual. The material is remarkably easy to use, and preparation consists primarily of reviewing the lessons ahead of time. If you chose to purchase the DVDs, the video lessons would provide most of the actual instruction, freeing the parent to learn alongside the student, and ensuring proper pronunciation.
All print materials are black & white or monochrome, though there are some illustrations, this is not a curriculum for those that need pretty pictures or bells and whistles to entice them into learning. It’s simple and to the point, nothing extra here. The DVDs, too, follow this line of thinking – no distractions, just the material to cover. Students that learn best through hands-on activities would require some creative adjustments to provide a effective experience for them.
Two different packages are available: the basic First Form Latin package, which, for $55, includes: a student text, a student workbook, a book with quizzes and tests, a teacher’s manual, and a teacher’s answer key. It also includes a pronunciation CD. The more comprehensive First Form Latin Plus package includes 3 DVDs with lessons, plus a complete set of flashcards.
First Form Latin is intended for grades 5 and up, though it would be appropriate for younger students who have complete Latina Christiana I. It’s the equivalent of one year of high school foreign language.
My primary concern with First Form Latin is that, while the no-frills approach is fantastic for reducing distractions and keeping the focus on the material, some students will just plain struggle with the lack of visual appeal. Though I personally like the simplicity, and my 10th grade student was fine with it, it was difficult to keep my two younger students, 8th and 6th, focused. They need more interactive stimulation, and it was a challenge to keep them interested and participating.
It’s a great curriculum and easy for any parent to use as-is or adapt, thanks to the extensive details, but a parent would need to carefully consider whether or not it would be the right approach for their individual student.
Memoria Press has plenty of samples of First Form Latin for your perusal on their website, including a table of contents, the student textbook, the student workbook, the teacher manual, and an example of a recitation.
First Form Latin may be purchased directly from Memoria Press. Second Form Latin is also available, and a third year, Third Form Latin can be pre-ordered. Other products available from Memoria Press that were reviewed by Homeschool Crew members are Classical Phonics and First Start Reading, for K-2 students learning to read.
To see what other crew members had to say about these products, check out the TOS Homeschool Crew blog post, Memoria Press.
**I received this product for free as a member of the 2011-12 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew so that I could provide you with an honest review of it by our family.**