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Book/CD/DVD Homeschooling Review: Prima Latina: Introduction to Christian Latin by Leigh Lowe

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Even with a single year of high-school Latin under my belt, the thought of teaching my children Latin was intimidating. Well aware of the value of Latin instruction — half of all English words draw roots from this ancient tongue — I duly jotted it down on my homeschooling "to-do" list despite my lack of confidence in my own teaching abilities. With vague memories of Cambridge Latin instruction drifting through my mind, I’d decided upon a course of classical Latin instruction with a Christian bent if possible.

Despite my intellectual commitment to a course devoted to classical pronunciation I found myself drawn again and again to the Ecclesiastical or Christian Latin materials produced by Memoria Press. Prima Latina is an introductory level Christian Latin course designed for use by children from first through fourth grade who have proficient English language literacy.

Written by Leigh Lowe as a preparatory course for Latina Christiania by Cheryl Lowe, Prima Latina teaches half of the vocabulary words found in Latina Christiana I while introducing students to basic English grammar, Latin pronunciation, practical sayings, English derivatives, Latin prayers, and hymns. To be precise, the course covers 125 vocabulary words (many God-honouring), seven parts of speech, two tenses, Latin numbers, constellations, five prayers, four hymns, and introduces a simplified Latin grammar through the first conjugation and declension.

Young Latin scholars (and their parents) are eased into learning the language at an easy pace with an emphasis upon review and memorization. Each of the twenty-five weekly lessons presents a practical Latin phrase that students can use in their daily lives such as “Salve/Salvete”: hello singular, hello plural. Although my six-year-old isn’t confident enough in her English reading and writing skills to embark upon a formal Latin course, she loves integrating the new words she’s learned into our daily conversations. A lesson on some aspect of the language — whether pronunciation, derivatives, English grammar, or Latin structure is then presented, followed by five new vocabulary words and their derivatives. One line of a prayer is learned each week and a hymn is introduced every fifth review lesson.

This slow and steady approach yields enormous results by the courses end. A second grader equipped with an understanding of the long list of vocabulary words and sayings found in the appendix will be well on the way. A knowledge of the English derivatives will surely stand him or her in good stead for the remainder of their lifetime; my own limited understanding of Latin is still benefiting me over a decade later.

Formatted in a large-print workbook the consumable Student Manual includes prepared review questions, written exercises, and practice is provided for each lesson. During each fifth review lesson a written review of the previous five lessons is conducted. A test is also included for administration following each review lesson in the Teacher Manual should you desire a formal evaluation. The Teacher Manual also includes a simple explanation of Latin grammar which will make more sense as the course progresses, teaching suggestions, a full copy of the student text complete with answers, and reproducible worksheets for audio exercises. The consistent format of the manuals flows across the various levels of Memoria Presses elementary Latin courses ensuring an easy transition between them all.

While the manuals along with the pronunciation CD which includes all vocabulary words with pauses for student recitation, Latin prayers, and hymns form the core of the course, the optional DVDs really bring the instruction to life. Nine hours of instruction on three DVDs by Highlands Latin School instructor Leigh Lowe, guide the entire family through simple, cheerful lessons and review. Each lesson presentation is approximately 20–25 minutes in length. After watching the excellent DVDs I no longer cared if my children learned Latin with a Classical or Ecclesiastical pronunciation; I knew I couldn’t pass a course offering such ease of instruction over. Be sure to watch the weekly lesson along with your child, so you’ll be able to learn with them and encourage them in their daily Latin recitations and review.

I’ve often seen Prima Latina highly recommended for parents with no previous Latin instruction, but I’ll go further and recommend it for all parents wishing to give their children an early, gentle start in Latin.

Sample pages and online Latin games for Prima Latina can be found at the Memoria Press website.

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