Latin. To study, or not to study? That be the question.
Personally, I think it's a valuable thing. In school I had three consecutive years of Latin, stretching from seventh grade to ninth grade. I was pretty decent at it, and dare say, loved it. Pretty strange for something that is supposed to be old, dead and dry, no?
It had everything to do with how it was presented and the person who presented it. My Latin teacher, Mrs. W., also happened to be my English teacher. She was tough, but fair, and passionate. Passionate about language and passionate about ancient Rome! She was certainly a favorite teacher of mine, and years later, as I rolled through high school and college, she remained in my memory as one of the most gifted individuals in her field. Unfortunately, she passed away several years ago and much too soon from ovarian cancer. My Twitter profile picture is a photo of Mrs. W. that a fellow classmate snapped "way back when."
As a homeschooler, languages are a big question. Unless you speak another language fluently, you have to find the right self-directed curriculum or sign your child up for a course through a language school. Both of these options are certainly do-able, but I would often "table" any final decision on foreign language study in favor of focusing on other things. If resources and time are not endless, I still believe concentrating solely on the basics (the 3R's!) in the early years is the right approach.
Yet, in the back of my mind, I wished for a way for my kids to start studying Latin. I doubted that my fuzzy memory would hold. It's not likely any background I had in the language would be sufficient to "get us through."
And what exactly is the point of learning Latin? First of all, it's the basis for English (and over 25 European languages). I know from personal experience, that the Latin I had in my earlier days is directly responsible for my current language and writing skills (which I guess you will need to judge for yourself!) and the ability to take apart unfamiliar words and make sense of them. It's also immensely helpful in the area of (yuck) English grammar. My kids do not care for grammar. Knowing Latin also makes learning other western languages significantly easier.
So now I've sold myself that I need to provide a Latin opportunity for my kids...but I want them to love it...like I did.
Enter the advice of a close homeschooling friend. We have both been thinking the same Latin thoughts for some time, and wondering what to do about it. This week, my oldest son tried two free lessons of Visual Latin. Bells went off, chimes rang (well, not really). I was really pleasantly surprised. He begged for more (Latin, really?) Short ten minute or so videos are followed by succinct and efficient worksheets. Look, listen, apply, learn. Beautiful.
That's the best part. The other great part is that it is affordable. Very affordable. Latin 1 (basically a year's worth of study) is $75 total (or $25 for three lesson sets). We bought them as downloads, and you can even purchase the lesson sets $25 at a time. The fact that the videos are downloadable to Itunes makes my Mac-o-phile son, oh-so-happy. He immediately set about organizing the videos in his Itunes Library. There are also many great FREE resources available on the Visual Latin web-site.
The language question for me has always boiled down to how much time would we have to devote to learning a new language, and how much is it going to cost me? With Visual Latin the answer is not only palatable, it's downright attractive. After one day of Latin, "the kid" is walking around the house saying things like, "Sum in Germania, Es in Germania, Sumus in Germania" (I am in Germany, You are in Germany, We are in Germany). And also, "Caelum est bellum" (The sky is beautiful) and other things that describe rivers and togas. Even my nine year old is looking over the twelve year old's shoulder -- the curriculum is designed for nine years old and up, so I bet he will be on board before too long.
Most importantly, for this "Latin Lover," I see my son happily and eagerly learning the language I once enjoyed. Maybe I'll even pop open one of those videos myself. I'm getting a kick out of my son asking me from time to time, "Mom, what does this word mean?" and more than half the time I actually remember.
And Mrs. W., wherever you are...this is for you.