Friday, June 8, 2012

Homeschool Review: Prima Latina

Prima Latina is published by Memoria Press. You can read a great deal about it on their website, where you can also purchase the materials. They recommend it for students beginning Latin in grades 1 through 4. In first grade, I opted for a more relaxed introduction to Latin with Song School Latin. (See my review here.) We started Prima Latina in second grade.

Each lesson in the Student Book includes two pages of text and two pages of exercises. The text of the lessons includes Practical Latin (a common phrase), the Lesson itself (verbs, invisible verbs, constellations, etc.), Vocabulary (five words or phrases), a Latin prayer for memorization (one new line each week) and Derivatives (English words based on the Latin vocabulary from the lesson with definitions).

The exercises generally included Review Questions, Lesson Questions, Translations of the lesson's vocabulary words, Speaking Latin practice prompts, Write and Learn (writing each vocabulary word and its meaning twice and answering a question or two) and Fun Practice (find invisible verbs in a favorite storybook, etc.). First Son wrote his answers directly in the book and usually had ample room. I was concerned at the amount of writing, as we had struggled with handwriting in first grade, but he started the year filling everything out without complaint. (Later, he started to groan when he had to write, but that had more to do with him than with the lesson.)

There is a Review lesson after each five new lessons, for a total of 25 lessons and 5 review lessons. We made it through Review Lesson 4. I had originally planned to finish the book in second grade, but I decided later to decrease our Latin lessons each week to take advantage of a basketball camp in the spring.

I also purchased the Teacher Manual. It has an overview of Latin grammar and a brief explanation of the lessons followed by tests for each of the review lessons, answer keys for the tests and a vocabulary drill form. I copied the tests for First Son. He would complete it at the beginning of a review week using his book, then again at the end of the week without his book. I used the vocabulary drill forms every week because I firmly believe (based on my own experience with Spanish) that writing a word is helpful in remembering it. The Teacher Manual then includes the entire text of the student book with answers. I think you could teach this course without the Teacher Manual. I found the answers fairly easy to discern even though I have no Latin knowledge outside of what we've done in our lessons. I liked having the tests and drill form to copy, but you could also devise your own. I do wish the binding of the Teacher Manual didn't look so similar to the student book. I often pulled it off the shelf instead of the student book and First Son would laugh at me.

We listened to the Pronunciation CD as part of every Latin lesson. At the beginning of the year, I played it off my laptop, but I loaded all the tracks on First Son's Kindle Fire after Christmas so he could access them all himself (which he liked). He practiced his Roman numerals every time he scrolled through the tracks. I found the pronunciation CD well done. It's very easy to understand and gives enough time to repeat the words or phrases before moving on.

The Latina Christiana I Flashcards are recommended as supplements for Prima Latina, but I decided to wait on flashcards. They're not usually very fun and I was more interested in enjoying Latin this year than concerned he memorize every vocabulary word.

I thought the lessons were reasonable for the target ages. First Son generally understood them without too much additional discussion. The explanations of parts of speech (like noun and verb) worked well for him and were even sometimes entertaining.

Overall, I think Prima Latina is a good course. First Son started out very well with it. I noticed him struggling as the year went on, but I think this is mostly because I stopped listening to the CD and working through the exercises with him. Being more involved would have been better for both of us (as I would like to learn Latin), but I often used that time to change a diaper or attend to another child. When I slowed down the lessons in the spring, I tried to take more time with him and plan to do so next year.

The next time we use Prima Latina, I think I'm going to plan on spreading it out over two years, especially if I start it with First Daughter in first or second grade.

We're going to start third grade with a review of the first twenty lessons, probably using the four review lessons we've already done. I'll ask First Son to write the answers and vocabulary on another sheet of paper. I'll be introducing the flashcards along with the pronunciation CD. I'm going to continue the remaining five lessons slowly, two weeks for each lesson. Once we finish, we'll move on to Latina Christiana I.

I did not receive anything for this review. I purchased all the materials myself.

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