Latin, until very recently, was an integral element of every good education. A return to classical education methods has seen a revival of Latin instruction, and many are finding the texts of past generations are still the best. Henle Latin was first published in 1945 by a Jesuit priest, and its academic quality is retained still. A largely student-directed course, many have suggested it can also be used as a good course for parents before they try to teach their kids.
How Do These Work?
There are four books plus a grammar for middle to high school students. Each book covers one year, and the grammar is used for all four years—though you could modulate the pace to accommodate your own needs. Middle schoolers may need more time to get through the material. The texts aren’t particularly attractive, but there are intriguing black-and-white drawings and photographs interspersed, generally depicting important Roman events or landmarks.
In First Year the pace is set high—after a brief introduction students read the first chapter on the first declension. Each lesson includes text, vocabulary and exercises. Lessons vary in length and quantity from level to level, though two lessons per week will generally be enough to get through each text in a year. If your student is younger or having a hard time, one lesson a week should suffice, though he should still study 3-4 days per week.
Students study mostly Roman source material from works by Caesar and Cicero to The Aeneid. At one point the Latin elements of the Roman Catholic mass are included and students asked to translate. (There is a strong Roman Catholic emphasis throughout.) Alongside language instruction is a wealth of information about ancient Rome, famous battles and military leaders, etc., livening the study of a dead language and making it interesting and relatable.
For each level there is an accompanying answer key for all in-text exercises. These are invaluable and absolutely necessary, especially if you don’t have a background in Latin yourself. A pair of guides are available from Memoria Press to help get you through the first half of First Year, including lesson plans and tests/answers, but the pace is pretty slow-moving, especially if you’re only teaching one student. The Grammar used with all years is a reference and cannot be used on its own as a guide to studying Latin.
Our Honest Opinion:
This is a time-tested course that genuinely stands up. While it isn’t as flashy as some others, your student—if they study hard and apply themselves—will learn much more than in many comparable programs. The information about Rome and the Catholic Church are especially useful as it is necessary, to properly understand a language, that the context in which it developed and was used be equally well understood. If you’re looking for a course that will get the job done well and won’t take too much of your time, this would be an excellent place to start.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.
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