We've had the privilege of trying out Visual Latin recently. Yeah, I never would have thought we would be doing Latin in our homeschool, but being on the TOS Crew is expanding us in ways I hadn't expected! Latin is one of those subjects that it seems "good" homeschoolers study, but it also has a reputation for being intimidating. After all, it's a "dead language" and very few of the homeschool moms I know studied Latin, so it's not surprising that we shy away from teaching a subject we don't have much experience with.
That's where the folks at Visual Latin want to change our thinking. This series is a self-paced DVD (or download) that combines natural and traditional methods of learning a foreign language, and takes students through the fundamentals of Latin grammar, sentences, and reading. Instructor Dwane Thomas entertains as he teaches the material in short video lessons that are accompanied by straightforward worksheets that guide students through grammar and reading practice.
I previewed the Introductory video segments that I first assumed would be more for the parent than the student, but then realized that students would benefit from seeing them, and they probably were intended for students! I told Landon and Kennady we would be trying out a language course, and warned them that it would be way more fun than they were expecting. ;-) They actually watched all four of the introductory videos at once, and I haven't heard a word of complaint from either of them about doing the lessons. Not a single word. They have, in fact, hinted that they want to do the lessons. That speaks volumes to me, because Landon especially tends to be stubborn about studying anything that is not his own idea. So maybe he's not quite as enthusiastic as the "Mom, may I please do my Latin lesson now?" kid that we homeschool moms might fantasize about, but for him, this is huge.
The video lessons are short - about 10 minutes each - and each lesson has three parts. There is a grammar lesson that introduces one or two new Latin grammar concepts, followed by a worksheet to solidify comprehension. Then a lesson in sentences puts the grammar concept to work in easy-to-understand examples. Another worksheet gives the student a chance to translate and to use the grammar concept in sentences as well. Finally, there is a reading lesson. A short story read by Dwane in Latin, which the student also reads and then translates on their own. Throughout the lessons, Dwane is a relaxed and confident teacher who cracks jokes and includes some unusual subject matter in his practice sentences (like Transformers and ninjas), and it's clear that he really enjoys teaching and his subject. Despite it being a recorded lesson, it really does feel very interactive!
All three of us - a ten-year-old, a thirteen-year-old, and a mom of an undisclosed number of years - were learning Latin together almost effortlessly, and we laughed and enjoyed ourselves doing it! I knew we were onto something valuable when without being prompted, Kennady and Landon began identifying English words that come from Latin roots, and not just during Latin lessons either. Another bonus (Latin word! Ha!) for us is that our review period for Visual Latin overlapped with our History study of Ancient Rome, so everything tied together very neatly!
I plan on purchasing the complete course for our family for next year! (maybe sooner, since we're enjoying it so much!)
What We Liked Best:
- entertaining, humourous video lessons - Dwane put us at ease and made us laugh!
- short lessons and worksheets break the material up into very manageable chunks
- even after doing just a sample of lessons, our thinking in terms of our English grammar and vocabulary was enhanced as well!
- appealing to all ages, and because the worksheets are .pdf printables, this can be considered a non-consumable curriculum
- personally, I like the Facebook tidbits as well!
What We Weren't Crazy About:
- seriously, I can't think of anything we disliked!
Landon wasn't initially convinced that there was any benefit to him in learning Latin, and I mention this only because I suspect there are other students (and maybe moms) who question the value of learning the language. Dwane gives some pretty good reasons for learning Latin in the introductory lessons, and I'm inclined to agree with him. He mentions that it helps in learning any of the Romance languages; it helps in understanding our own English language; and it expands thinking (you really need to hear him explain that last one!). For someone who doesn't have any real interest in learning French or Spanish, or in deeper study of English, studying Latin might not seem worthwhile - that's for each homeschool to determine. But although Landon wouldn't have chosen to do this on his own, it turns out he had no objections and agreed that he would be "fine" with me purchasing the remainder of the course so we can complete it. (Translation - he actually liked it!)
Can you visualize your family learning Latin this way? Here's what you need to know:
Visual Latin is intended for students age 9 and up (must be able to read). Latin 1 (30 lessons) is available as a download or on DVD, and Lessons 31-40 of Latin 2 are currently available as well, with Lessons 41-60 due during the 2011-2012 school year. The Latin 1 DVD set costs $80. There are a few options available at the website for purchasing bundles, downloads, or for use with a co-op or class instead of single family. Visit The Compass Store page for all the details. You may also try a sample lesson or download the four intro lessons plus two regular lessons. If you will be using Visual Latin for high school credit, be aware that some supplements will be needed.
Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog for more info and to read reviews from other Crew members.
Note: As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, we were provided with 10 lessons in exchange for our honest opinions.