Friday, March 28, 2014

Homeschool Review: Latin for Children Primer A

This Latin program is absolutely one of the best additions I made to our homeschool this year.

Really! We all love it!

Primer A, written for students in fourth grade, is comprised of seven units, each with a review chapter and a final end-of-book review chapter at the end, for a total of 32 chapters. We've done one each week and while each chapter seems focused and small in scope, the overall progress is rather amazing. We still have a couple of chapters left, but I feel confident enough to go ahead and post a review.

Each chapter has a memory page with a chapter maxim, a chant (a verb conjugation, noun declension, or prepositions, etc.), and vocabulary (usually ten words, but it varies a little). Then there's a single page called Grammar that presents the material for the chapter, like sentence patters or direct objects. The third page is a Worksheet. The fourth page shows some of the English derivatives based on the Latin vocabulary for the week. The fifth page is a quiz. The final page usually covers something interesting like military names or some Roman history.

I chose this book over Latina Christiana after using Prima Latina because I was confused myself reading through Latina Christiana. Many people had said I could use it without any Latin knowledge myself, but I was struggling with the most basic lessons! A friend of mine reminded me of this program from Classical Academic Press (from which we used Song School Latin) and I decided to give it a try.

The main disadvantage of this program is the cost. It's made up of a number of pieces that go together and is followed by Primer B and Primer C, meaning the higher cost continues for three years.

Latin for Children, Primer A (Latin Edition) is the main text and is absolutely essential to the program. It contains all the vocabulary, lessons, worksheets, and quizzes. We use this book as a non-consumable. I started the year asking First Son to write the answers in a notebook, but quickly discovered he was hampered by his slow handwriting, so we switched to oral exercises instead.

Latin for Children, Primer A Answer Key is just that, an answer key. Because I was doing the lessons alongside First Son and he answered everything orally, I rarely needed to consult it. It was nice to have, however, on the few times I wasn't sure of an answer.

Primer A DVD and CD set  (also available on Amazon, but it's difficult to tell if the set there is complete) contains DVDs with a short program for each chapter as well as CDs with chants in ecclesiastical and classical pronunciations for all the maxims, chants, and vocabulary words. Personally, I found the CDs invaluable. First Son and I listened and chanted the chapter's track, usually only 3-4 minutes long, twice each day. (He asked about half-way through the year if we could do them only once a day and we gave it a try. After a few weeks, it was obvious to him that his retention had decreased, so he agreed to go back to twice a day.) The DVDs are less important, I think. The chant on the DVD is the same as on the CD but not quite as clear. The lessons seem quite good but really just reiterate exactly what's in the book. Because First Son and I read this together, watching the DVD lesson was redundant. It would be more valuable for a student completing the primer alone. There was often a short skit at the end which all the children enjoyed, but it's a little expensive for just that bit of fun. The only place I have seen to purchase the CD without the DVDs is on Classical Academic Press's website. I really think I could have taught this program without the DVDs at all even though I have no Latin background. I would not have wanted to attempt it without the CDs, but I have a friend with some Latin background and I think she taught it without either the DVDs or the CDs.

Latin for Children, Primer A - Activity Book! is completely optional, but I think it's a wonderful addition to this program. The activity book is full of crossword puzzles, matching exercises, and other little word games, all using the Latin vocabulary for the week, including pages for the review chapters. For the most part, First Son loved these pages. They were fun and quirky. Every once in a while, he would become frustrated by an error in the puzzle. One crossword puzzle in particular seemed to be numbered incorrectly and he was very upset, so I told him to just skip that one. Problem solved! (First Son also found a few errors in the text, but nothing we couldn't figure out.) I think you could easily do the program without the activity book, but I also think the activity pages helped First Son develop an increased fluency with the vocabulary, which was a major goal for the year.

Latin for Children, Primer A History Reader (Libellus de Historia) is another optional book. This small book provides four to six sentences in each of the fifteen chapters written entirely in Latin for the student to translate. An introduction in the beginning gives some good ideas on how to use the book and there are even discussion questions (in Latin) for each chapter. We started this book about half-way through the year and read through one chapter each week. First Son would probably rather just skip it, but I think it provides a great boost to realize we're really reading Latin, even if it's akin to an early reader in English. Some of the chapters are about Jesus, just as a warning. There is an answer key for this available for download at Classical Academy Press, which I often found useful.

Classical Academic Press provides a free website of resources at that my children enjoyed a great deal at the beginning of the year. Mainly, they liked the videos, especially this one on the three little pigs. We didn't spend very much time there, but I think some students might find the online games and videos inspiring.

This is how we structured our Latin study:
  • Monday - Go through the chant together twice (8-10 minutes), read through the grammar page together (5-10 minutes), watch the DVD (15 minutes).
  • Tuesday - Chant twice (8-10 minutes), complete the worksheet orally (5-10 minutes).
  • Wednesday - Chant twice (8-10 minutes), read through the derivatives page together (5-10 minutes), First Son usually looked up a few of the derivatives or wrote some sentences independently (5 minutes), read a few sentences in the history reader (starting about half-way through the year, 5 minutes).
  • Thursday - Chant twice (8-10 minutes), complete the quiz orally (5-10 minutes), read a few more sentences in the history reader (5 minutes)
  • Friday - Chant twice (8-10 minutes), read the final page in the chapter together, or First Son would read it independently (5-10 minutes), finish the history reader (5 minutes). We could easily combine Thursday and Friday's work if we needed a shorter week.
Independently, First Son made vocabulary flash cards each week. He'd write about half of them on Monday and the other half on Tuesday. He would review them every day, using the same system I have for memory verses (daily, every other day, weekly, and monthly practice). Once a week or so, I would go through the flash cards with him and move them back as he mastered them. He was responsible for finishing the activity book pages by the end of the day on Friday and would sometimes save them all for one day or do a page or two on different days.

It seems like a lot, but most of the days I would spend only 15-20 minutes with him on Latin. I personally think daily practice is essential for learning a language and was willing to devote that time to the subject. (Latin and Math are the only two things we did five days a week.) His Latin vocabulary has grown tremendously (as has mine!) and I have caught him wandering the house conjugating verbs or declining nouns absentmindedly. The derivatives work was probably the most difficult for him, but the most beneficial for me. I often found I could remember the Latin vocabulary because I knew the English derivatives.

I think you could use this program with a range of ages, but First Daughter in first grade was not yet ready for a program with this much grammar. She went through the first book of Song School Latin this year, independently, and I will probably buy the second book for her to use next year. I will probably then start Primer A with her in third grade though we might go more slowly. When she's ready for it, I will only need to purchase the activity book.

As I said, we've been really pleased and we'll be starting Latin for Children Primer B in the fall. In addition to Amazon (all the affiliate links above) and Classical Academic Press, I've found competitive prices on these products at Sacred Heart Books and Gifts (not an affiliate link). I also purchased some of my books used on Cathswap, though there aren't many available there.

Docendo, discimus. - Seneca
By teaching, we learn.
Chapter maxum for chapters 24 and 25

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