Latin was a staple of sound education for centuries, and many parents want their kids to rediscover its value. The Latin for Children series was designed to give kids a solid elementary introduction to the language, and the result is a classical language program that is educational and entertaining. They were originally created by Dr. Aaron Larsen and Dr. Christopher Perrin (they have PHd's, so you know they're smart), but others have been recruited to expand and develop the course further.
How Do These Work?
There are three one-year levels (A-C), each with several books and other materials. Each includes a primer (the core text), an activity book, an answer key, a history reader, and a 3-DVD set with chant CD (level A comes with two chant CDs). A and B also have a pronunciation CD, though this is unnecessary if you have the DVDs. Each of these course elements is fairly important if you want to get the most out of the course, though the history readers and pronunciation CDs could easily adapted for use with other Latin courses. All materials throughout the course include both classical and ecclesiastical pronunciation.
The primer for each level is the most important element. Students read text, study charts and memorize conjugations and declensions from this book. All texts are black and white with minimal illustration, but the text is lively and clear and even young students can easily read and understand for themselves. Each primer is divided into 32 chapters comprising 7 units, and is good for one year of study (though you could stretch it out longer if need be). The primers are consumable, with several exercises included throughout.
The answer key provides answers to all exercises in the primer. This is not a full-fledged teacher guide. There is a five day per week schedule at the beginning that can be applied to each chapter, and that's the extent of the teacher support material. The consumable activity book is a series of mazes, crossword puzzles and other fun game-oriented activities to improve proficiency and vocabulary; answers to all activities are in the back of the book.
The DVDs are recordings of author Christopher Perrin instructing his daughters at home. Each chapter of the primer is thoroughly worked through, memorization chants are repeated, and text and charts appear on-screen as Perrin discusses the material. These are very useful for parents who have no Latin experience themselves. The somewhat informal nature of these sessions may annoy some, though others will enjoy the home-like feel. Each lesson is about 15 minutes long, and you don't need to watch them every day. The material in the DVDs integrates the information from Latin for Children with that of Shurley English, so children's Latin and English grammar instruction reinforce one another.
The chant CDs contain only the chants to memorize paradigms, conjugations and declensions. These chants are kind of cheesy and will run many parents up the wall, but their rhythmic nature will certainly help drill the information in kids' repetition-loving minds. The pronunciation CDs for levels A and B feature Dr. Perrin reading vocabulary, sounds, etc. from the primer in a clear voice. The DVDs and chant CD will make no sense with another program, though the pronunciation CD for levels A and B could make a good addition to another course.
The history readers include stories for children to read and translate. Students read aloud a story in Latin, then complete both a written translation and an oral translation (both particularly good exercises for a classroom situation). The stories relate to important figures or events in history (not just Roman), and an extensive glossary in the back lists all the words so kids can work on strengthening their vocabularies.
This is a memorization-oriented course, not an immersion program. Chapters are logically ordered so there is a natural progression of material. This isn't really a student-directed course, but there isn't a lot of teacher material, so you'll need to have knowledge of the language yourself to effectively present the material. The DVDs are helpful, but your kids may still have many questions that go unanswered. Students start basic translation in Level A, and they may need help (most likely they will), so the more you know the better.
Latin for Children is elementary Latin for elementary students. Don't use this course with older kids; though the material may be new to them, the presentation will likely offend as it will feel babyish. Probably don't start with kids younger than third grade, but you know your kids and their abilities best; it would be possible to start in first or second grade, though again not recommended.
Karen Moore's Latin for Teachers DVD Course, while not technically part of the Latin for Children program, was designed for use with this course. This DVD seminar more than makes up for the lack of teacher materials, as it walks you through every step of Latin instruction using the primers as a guide. Older students may actually prefer simply watching these DVDs with you rather than completing the course; they also have another option, called Latin Alive!
Our Honest Opinion:
For younger kids (primarily grades 3-6), this is probably the best introduction to Latin available. The text is easy to understand, the exercises are challenging but possible, and the knowledge kids will gain will be enough to move on to more serious Latin study. In fact, the course is so thorough you probably only need one year of total review before moving on to an intermediate course. There aren't a bunch of gimmicks in this course, but kids still find it fun and if they study hard and are consistent they'll be rewarded with a good foundation of Latin knowledge that will help them in almost any academic study they pursue.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and 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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