Third Grade: Week Three Wrap-Up

This week, I’d like to share a little bit about our experiences with Latin.

Last year, we started with Memoria Press’s Prima Latina. It’s meant to be a gentle introduction to Latin, (both for students and teacher), geared toward about second grade, although it can be used with younger children if you’re really ambitious. I really liked the layout of the weekly lessons, and I especially liked that it was written with the assumption that the teacher doesn’t know the language, (which I don’t!). The main focus of Prima Latina was building vocabulary and some longer pieces in Latin, including the Sanctus and the Lord’s Prayer, and strengthening the student’s foundation in grammar.

So, our first year of Latin was successful, (even Moose and Ladybug learned the Sanctus, just from listening to us practice), but I was a little concerned going into the next level of Memoria Press Latin–Latina Christiana I. You see, the last few lessons of Prima Latina started to go into declensions and conjugations, obviously as a preparation for what we’d be learning this year, and that scared me a little. OK, a lot.

I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find that Latin this year is going just as well as it did last year. There are now approximately ten vocabulary words to memorize each week, but so far, only two have been new–the rest have been review from last year, (which would also be helpful if we hadn’t done Prima Latina at all, and had just jumped right in with this program, which is totally doable). There is also a new Latin phrase to learn each week, just as there was last year.

We have been working on conjugations since week one, but the first two weeks focused primarily on making sure the verb endings were properly memorized, and then using them to conjugate amo, the Latin verb for love. This week, we delved deeper, working with other verbs we already knew, and conjugating them, as well as translating the already conjugated verbs back to English with the correct pronouns. Turkey and Bunny have really taken to it–in fact, they memorized the conjugations before I did! (I do think I’ve got it down now, too…finally!)

There is more history tied into this year’s lessons, which I like. The teacher’s guide has a full section dedicated to Roman history. This would be even more beneficial if we were currently studying world history, but even though we’re not, it’s good to refresh some things we learned about last year, and that we’ll be studying again in the future.

Now, I haven’t ever used anything other than Memoria Press, so I can’t compare it to other programs. I do know, however, that I have been so pleased with Memoria Press that I have no intention of switching to a different Latin curriculum. I’m looking forward to starting First Form Latin in fourth grade, (which, if we complete it successfully, will be the equivalent of a full year of high school foreign language), and after completing that series, eventually moving on to Henle Latin. There are many other resources from Memoria Press that are tempting to use in the future, including a study of Greek Myths, which we will be using in fifth grade. I also recently discovered that Memoria Press is beta testing a Greek curriculum, which is also exciting, as Turkey wants to learn Greek eventually–that may have to be added to the homeschool to-do list!

So Many Books, So Little Time

In revising my long-terms goals for homeschooling, I’ve come to a terrible conclusion: there’s just not enough time to teach all of the things I want the children to learn!

Take science, for example. For the last few years, we’ve done Sonlight science, and I’ve been pretty happy with it. It’s time for a change, though, so for our upcoming third grade year, we’ll be doing Beautiful Feet’s History of Science program. But I also want to use some of My Father’s World’s science in the future (not third grade, thankfully–it’s a repeat of what we did this year, so we’re able to fit in the BF program), and I want to use at least some of the Apologia science that isn’t already scheduled in MFW. But, there are more years worth of science programs that I want to use than I have years left of elementary school to get through. Scary.

Foreign language is another example. Will we have time to study all of the languages I’d like to fit in? Besides Memoria Press’s Latin, I’d like us to get at least a basic grasp of French and German (probably with Rosetta Stone). And then I think maybe we should study Spanish, too. And the children have some ideas of languages they might like to add, including Greek and Italian (I have no idea why). Obviously, we can’t do it all. But how do I maximize our time so that we can learn as much as possible?

Thankfully, the history cycle is pretty straightforward. Every four years, we study the same thing, so I don’t have to worry about us missing any major points in history. I can’t guarantee that we’ll get through all of the extra books I’m hoping to read, however!

Math and language arts are really the only two subjects I don’t have to worry about, because it’s not like you can even try to do two programs at once, and once you find something that works, it doesn’t make any sense to jump around. So that’s a relief right there.

The rest of it, though…well, I’m starting to feel more like a “real” teacher struggling with this dilemma, anyway!

Beginning Latin

We have wrapped up our first five weeks of Latin using Prima Latina.

I think this is one of the most fun and interesting things we’ve done in school yet, and the children, especially Turkey, seem to agree with that assessment. From a teacher’s standpoint, I can say that they’ve learned more grammar and vocabulary in these five weeks than they have all school year…and maybe in school, period. Given that grammar is one of the things I feel our current curriculum is weak in, I’m grateful to have some instruction and reinforcement, even if I was surprised that came via (look–one of first vocabulary words!) a foreign language, and a dead one at that.

I have now witnessed first hand how true it is that young minds are more receptive to learning a foreign language than adult minds. Turkey and Bunny barely need to see a word and its translation more than once, and they have it memorized–not so much true for me. And over the course of five weeks, they have memorized the whole Sanctus in Latin. I’m still peeking at the words in the teacher’s manual, and they’re saying it rather confidently. They also don’t have the hang-ups about pronunciation that I do. After dealing with English for such a long time, it’s very difficult for me to train myself that vowels are always pronounced one way in Latin, but I guess since they’ve had less time to get used to the oddities of our language, they don’t struggle as much with that as I do.

I think learning other languages is very important (and the lack of that instruction is part of what makes American schools inferior to those in Europe and elsewhere), and Latin is a great place to start. So much of our grammar and vocabulary comes from Latin that even when we’re learning a foreign language, we’re reinforcing our own Language Arts as well. And a foundation in Latin should also make learning some languages much easier for them in the future.

I know there are other Latin curriculum out there, and I’ve heard good things about them, but I really like Prima Latina, and am planning on continuing with Latina Christiana I next year. I’ve never actually studied Latin as a language, and I’ve found that the teacher’s guide is very helpful, and doesn’t require that the instructor be familiar with the language. There are CDs available with the pronunciations that might help me with my mental block regarding them, but I’ve also heard that the Southern accent on the speaker is almost unbearable, so I’m no hurry to go out and buy them. There are also flashcards available, which I may look into getting in the future, but for now, I’m making my own (and hoping my children can read my handwriting!).

The only problem I’ve really had with the program is that when I scheduled it, I included the review “lesson” at the end of the week it immediately follows–I should have provided a full week for each review lesson, as they’re quite in-depth and lengthy. It’s too late to change that now, though, as I’ve scheduled it through the end of the year. That’s my fault, and I know for next year (as long the program is set up in a similar fashion) to reserve those extra weeks–even with the review lessons added, there are fewer weeks of Latin then there are of our school year.

I also really like that the program approaches Latin from a liturgical perspective. Turkey and Bunny have both whispered to me in church that they’ve noticed Latin words in the hymnal/service, (and they’ve also greeted their Sunday school teacher in Latin). It’s exciting to see them making connections from what they’re learning in school to an important part of their everyday life. It may be a “dead language,” but it still has a wealth of practical application for us today!