As classical education becomes more and more popular, Latin curricula proliferate. The problem is that many parents weren't taught the Roman tongue when they were students and have no way to teach it to their kids. Enter Artes Latinae, a Latin course that's been offering self-teaching courses for quite awhile and has recently been updated and digitized for the Technological Age.
Two units cover two years of high school level Latin, though middle school students can also complete the coursework. There is no time frame provided, so kids (or parents) can move at their own pace. Materials for each unit are the same: the full course on CD-ROM (formerly in book format), a graded reader with separate teacher manual, a test booklet and reference notebook (both consumable), and test guide. All items can be purchased individually so you can use the course with multiple kids.
The CD-ROMs work on Mac and Windows and install directly to your computer's hardrive so you can use the program disc-free. Since the program is self-taught, students move through lessons at their own pace, learning information and completing exercises in a "frame-by-frame" format—frames include one or two sentences of text with a fill-in-the-blank exercise that lets students know immediately if they got it wrong or right. Most frames are just text, though some include black line drawings.
Mechanics, grammar and pronunciation are the focus of the CD-ROM portion of the course. American Scholastic is the default pronunciation method, though it can be reset for Continental Ecclesiastical or Restored Classical depending on your preference. Installation, setup and use are extremely easy and intuitive, and the publishers are more than willing to answer any questions you may have. If you're buying the course used, be sure the serial number is included so you can access content.
Both graded readers include vocabulary, readings in Latin, and exercises including translation and grammar practice. They are lightly illustrated in black and white, and increase gradually in difficulty. The graded reader teacher manuals simply offer translations of all Latin sentences and passages. Tests are comprehensive and there's one for each of the 30 units in Level 1 and all 24 units of Level 2; unit test guides include all answers. The reference notebook includes grammar reference and supplemental exercises.
The pace is fairly slow-paced initially, and there is lots of review throughout, but this isn't meant to be a comprehensive Latin course, and students move at their own pace. Grammar is presented on a need-to-know basis, so if you want a course that teaches exhaustively in a wholly logical progression, you'll probably want to look elsewhere. Artes Latinae does provide a good foundation for further study, however, and would give students enough of a head start to make it through Wheelock's Latin Reader.
The most attractive aspect of this program is that it's self-directed. Parents who know nothing of Latin but want to give their offspring a classical education can do so, since the course itself does all the work of instruction. Artes Latinae was previously a print-only curriculum, and the teacher's guides were reportedly difficult to use; in this edition, teacher manuals are not only easy to use, in many cases they've been rendered superfluous by the CD-ROMs. There are better Latin programs out there (notably Wheelock's and Henle), but none that are as easy to use while remaining genuinely student directed.