As a classical educator, though somewhat relaxed, we have made Latin a consistent subject in our homeschool. While many people do not see the value of teaching Latin, especially in the elementary years, I have found the study of Latin enhances English vocabulary and provides tremendous reinforcement of grammar concepts. Not only that, but I think studying Latin helps to teach systematic thinking and even problem solving, as students have to attack unfamiliar words and determine not only their meanings, but how they’re being used in the sentence. I am very familiar with two elementary Latin programs that are widely used in homeschools. (My oldest son has used one program and my oldest daughter another. This was not because of my dissatisfaction with the first program, but the second was more suited to my daughter’s learning style and personality.) I had not heard of The Great Latin Adventure until about 1 year ago, after both of my older children were well into their respective programs.
The Great Latin Adventure, a two-year introductory Latin course that can be taught to students beginning as early as the 3rd or 4th grade, is published by Classical Legacy Press. It has been successfully used in homeschools, homeschool co-ops, and Christian schools alike. The series uses the classical pronunciation, but can be modified for ecclesiastical. It requires no prior exposure to Latin, but the student should know some basic English grammar such as nouns, verbs, prepositions, and adjectives, and be able to identify sentence subjects and predicates before starting the curriculum. The teacher also does not need to have prior knowledge of Latin to teach this program, but will learn along with the student.
It is so helpful when a curriculum clearly states not only the strengths of the program, but also states from the beginning what the program is not. I am going to quote the summary from the very first page of the teacher’s manual.
The Great Latin Adventure is for Latin beginners in grades 3 or 4 and up. It’s suited to new as well as experienced teachers. Challenging yet incremental, it’s rich in imaginative translation – from and into Latin. Well-written derivative exercises are built into each chapter. Classical pronunciation is taught, and macrons are provided. The Great Latin Adventure is for every educational setting: for homeschools, homeschool co-ops and schools. Thoughtful features make it a pleasure to use. And The Great Latin Adventure supports the goals of Christian parenting.
The Great Latin Adventure is not a self-teaching program or a video program. It’s not a primarily oral or conversational program, nor is it an immersion program. It isn’t a vocabulary-forms-and-chants program. It’s neither an inductive program, nor a program steeped in any king of educational novelty. And it makes no attempt to be a Roman culture or history program.
The Great Latin Adventure is unlike any other Latin program I have seen. The first difference to mention is the thorough Teacher’s Manual. The Level 1 manual is 454 pages long! It is not an answer key, though it does contain the answers to all the worksheets and quizzes, but really is a manual instructing you how to teach the material. It has a suggested schedule for how to present the material in each chapter. There are even helpful hints on how to use the manual and an explanation of the page numbering system. The notes are much more detailed than any other program I have used. However, I don’t want to imply that there is too much information in the manual. I randomly chose chapter 7 and counted the pages. It contains 7-1/2 pages of teacher notes. Since there are only 12 chapters in Year 1, that is not an overwhelming amount of reading for the teacher to prepare to teach.
The other huge difference between The Great Latin Adventure and other programs is that it only teaches the first declension noun endings and first conjugation verbs (plus an irregular verb). I realize that if you’re not familiar with Latin you have no idea what that means. To put it as simply as possible, Latin is a language where the ending of a word changes depending on its function in the sentence. That’s not like English at all. In English the function is determined by word order. For example,
The boy loves the girl.
The girl loves the boy.
In the first sentence, boy is the subject and girl is the direct object, while in the second sentence, girl is the subject, and boy is the direct object. In Latin, the word order is not what determines the function of the word; the ending determines the function of the word.
Here are the same sentences in Latin.
Puer amat puellam.
Puella amat puerum.
In the first sentence, puer is the word for boy as a subject and puellam is the word for girl as the direct object. In the second sentence puella is the word to use for girl and puerum for boy. In addition to using different endings for the different cases, there are 5 different declensions in Latin. While puella is a first declension noun, puer is a second declension noun, so the endings are different.
Why did I teach this mini Latin lesson? Other elementary Latin programs have the student memorizing endings for at least several of the 5 declensions. (There are 10 endings for each declension.) There is a lot of emphasis placed on memorizing all these different endings. There is not as much emphasis placed on how all the different cases function in a sentence. (Some programs have more than others. One of the programs we’re using has more translation exercises than the other.) The Great Latin Adventure teaches only first declension endings (It does introduce some vocabulary from other declensions, but makes sure to use it only in the case that is used in the vocabulary list.) I find this a very intriguing difference. Is it better to go into more advanced Latin having all your endings memorized, or is it better to have a thorough understanding of the uses of the different cases? I can certainly see the arguments for both sides, but understanding material is, on the whole, much more useful than memorizing. And things that are memorized can be forgotten.
The only possible disadvantage that I find with this program is that it requires teacher input. This is not self-teaching, nor is there a video. So it does require the teacher to be prepared to teach and actually put Latin high enough on the priority list to ensure that time is made to teach it to the student. That is not necessarily a disadvantage, but it could be difficult to implement in a large family if you are unable to combine students.
The Great Latin Adventure can be purchased on the Classical Legacy Press website. The Level 1 Teacher’s Manual is $30 and the Student Book is $15. Both are loose leaf pages and are sold without binders. (You can order them with binders for an extra cost.) Also included is a pronunciation CD. The Level 2 materials are priced that same.
Linked to: The Homeschool Curriculum Review Roundup.