Cheryl Lowe, author of the Memoria Press Form Latin series, believes it's usually parents and teachers rather than students who find Latin study boring and difficult. It's certainly no walk in the park: learning any language, including Latin, requires lots of study and memorization. But kids are capable of a lot more than we typically give them credit for, and we shouldn't assume they won't want to do something just because there's a challenge involved.
The Form Latin books are a beginning Latin course best suited for upper elementary, middle school, and high school students, though even college students and adults can benefit from the program as a bridge to more thorough study. Lowe has designed the program for use by teachers and parents who don't know Latin as well as by those who do, though if you don't know Latin you'll need to keep ahead of your students in coursework so you can present the necessary material to them.
How Do These Work?
There are four years in the Form Latin series, each with its own group of materials: a student text, student workbook, teacher manual and workbook/test key, quizzes and tests book, pronunciation CD, lesson DVDs, and flashcards; desk charts and grammar wall charts round out each of the first two years. This is a lot of products, but they are manageable, and together they form a comprehensive introduction that students and teachers alike will find helpful and thorough.
Each student book lesson is two facing pages, and centers mostly around memorization. 5-6 workbook pages per lesson include lots of exercises to get kids to fluency quickly. Students learn verb conjugations, noun declensions, tenses, pronouns, gender, number, case, etc., along with around 200 vocabulary words per year. Since this is a grammar-stage course (Fourth Form Latin is the bridge to the logic stage), students are to learn the grammar basics and limited vocabulary, saving translation and syntax for later. Fourth Form students will also need a copy of Henle I for limited translation work.
Accompanying DVD lessons reinforce information and offer more thorough explanations of important content. Instruction is conducted by Glen Moore (Cheryl Lowe teaches the fourth year), a former teacher at the Memoria Press school and now a missionary, whose engaging style and clear enunciation will be appreciated by all users. Though Mr. Moore simply stands in a room to teach, production values are refreshingly high, and professional-grade graphics appear on screen as needed.
Between 26 and 34 lessons per year are divided into five units, each with a unit review and quizzes and tests. Lessons appear in reduced form in the teacher manuals, along with teaching suggestions, ideas for games and activities, chalkboard presentations, and important information. Exercises in the workbook range from vocabulary work, to sentence diagramming, to short answer questions. Charts, flashcards, and pronunciation CDs are designed to aid memorization and retention.
Teachers who don't know Latin will want to stay a few lessons ahead; teachers who do know Latin will hopefully find the coursework a more manageable presentation than other courses like it. In either case, however, this is not a student-directed course: teachers will need to take an active hand both in guiding student work and in presenting the material. Fortunately, everything you need is here, well laid out and accessible.
Form Latin is a beginning course, though it doesn't have to be your students' first experience with Latin. Latina Christiana I (also from Memoria Press) is a Latin introduction for early elementary students, and can easily lead into this series. After the Form Latin series is completed, the publishers recommend moving to the Henle Latin books, which focus on translation and syntax and are intended for older students.
Each student text includes some black and white illustrations (often photographs of Roman art and artifacts); the other books are not illustrated. This is a benefit, however, as students won't be distracted from the hard work of learning a new language. Not a dead language, Lowe assures us: Latin is immortalized through the many languages which grew out of it. The skills learned in these books aren't limited to Latin, either: kids will learn to focus, to memorize, and to concentrate.
Our Honest Opinion
Memoria Press has long been dedicated to producing Classical education materials with the intent of helping teachers and parents offer their students a more balanced and thorough education. Some of their best efforts have been in the realm of Latin study, and the Form Latin series is excellent. While it's for beginners, it's also advanced enough to offer the kind of intensive content that will keep older students interested and motivated.
For students who've completed Latina Christiana Book I, the publishers suggest moving straight to First Form Latin. This makes sense, since it will more than prepare them for further study, and completing both (the now out of print) Latina Christiana Book II and First Form Latin would be fairly redundant. Henle Latin is the best choice after Form Latin.
Language study is easy for a select few. For the rest of us, it requires lots and lots of hard work: fortunately, the Form Latin books offer a strong and well-rounded introduction that will go a long way to preparing students of all ages for more difficult and deeper study. By focusing on the building blocks of language instead of jumping right ahead to the higher level stuff, this series gives learners confidence and knowledge to move forward.
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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