Wednesday, November 2, 2011

TOS Crew: Memoria Press and First Form Latin

Members of this year's Crew were given the opportunity to review one of three products from Memoria Press: Classical Phonics, First Start Reading, and First Form Latin.
We're well past learning to read (pause to sigh over the days of snuggling together on the couch, reading aloud together...), and Youngest is interested in learning Latin, so First Form Latin sounded like just the thing.

I was impressed when the box arrived, but not surprised, as we've always found Memoria Press to be incredibly generous and helpful when we've done past reviews. This wasn't just a teacher's guide and student workbook; no, we'd received a box full of supplies. It seemed almost like a magic box as we unpacked it, one thing after another, never seeming to end.

This is what we got:

It looks like a lot (and it is) but think of some of this as helps and the rest as tools for someone who aims to study Latin, not just dabble in it.

Indeed, finishing First Form Latin is equivalent to one year of high school foreign language. (See the Table of Contents for an idea of what's covered in the course.) You can continue with Second Form Latin, and a Third Form Latin course is in the works.


First Form Latin is recommended for students in Grade 5 and up. Older students can start with First Form Latin, but younger students would do better if they'd already finished Latina Christiana or some other early Latin course. Youngest is going through Latina Christiana this year with a group of friends, as a matter of fact. Though she falls in the mid-range for First Form Latin (according to the state she's at an 8th grade level), we decided that this program moves just a little faster than she's comfortable with. Keep in mind that this is our hands-on kid. She struggles with reading and writing, but give her a math problem to solve or a craft to put together and she soars.

Teacher stuff: involvement, preparation, ease of use

This is not a self-teaching package. Even with the DVD set, you're not just going to hand this off to your student and go your merry way (except, perhaps, at high school level). The teacher's guide urges you to do the worksheets together with your student for the most part, and when your student does independent work (one of the later worksheets in a lesson set, perhaps, or a quiz or test) to correct immediately to give timely feedback. I agree completely. This means that you're committed (if you're serious about learning Latin) to about 30 minutes a day, four or five days a week, or 45 minutes a day if you do Latin three days a week.

The lessons are laid out in a formal, systematic format. They include drill (repetition is vital in learning a language, as I'm sure you know, whether it's a jingle, a song, or a paradigm -- see this link for a sample recitation), grammar learning, oral and written work including worksheets, and games, culminating in a quiz. The quiz at the end of the lesson is optional if the student has already exhibited a grasp of the material.

If you use the DVDs, the lesson material is presented for you by a Latin teacher, and all you have to worry about is the written and oral work that makes up the bulk of the lesson. (See a sample lesson at the link above.)

The lectures follow the book. The instructor, Glen Moore, does a good job of keeping the material moving along. He uses vocal variety to hold the listener's interest, inserts pauses for student responses, and gives you the feeling that you're sitting in a classroom.

As a matter of fact, this curriculum is well suited for classroom use, especially the game suggestions. If you're teaching one or two students at home, you'll need to participate right along with your student(s) to get the full benefit of the exercises. (It might be a good idea to get together with some friends and form a class, working together at least once or twice a week, just to keep the momentum going. Accountability is a great tool! More about that in a bit.)

As mentioned above, the lessons are laid out in a logical, step-by-step order, with all the information the  teacher needs. There's not a whole lot of teacher preparation outside of looking over the lesson material before teaching it. I'm told you can use First Form Latin even if you haven't studied Latin yourself. (Just don't watch the first two introductory videos on the DVD set... a lot of terms got thrown around, quickly, and if I hadn't known some of what was being mentioned as "coming up" I think I would have been overwhelmed. I had this problem only with the introduction to the course, and the introduction to Unit 1. The lessons themselves have been clear sailing.)

Each lesson includes a two-page spread in the Student Text (click on the link to see sample pages) and four or five worksheets in the Student Workbook (more sample pages). The accompanying Teacher Manual takes you step-by-step through the lesson presented in the Student Text, complete with scripted instruction, background information, and answers not provided in the Student Text. Another help for the teacher is the answer key for workbook pages, quizzes and tests, with a layout that makes corrections easy and quick. The included pronunciation CD is a big help if you've never taken Latin yourself!

The author recommends enriching this program with Latina Angelica (a reading and translation supplement, giving practice in actually using Latin), which is why you see it mentioned in the sample pages.

That "more about that in a bit" I mentioned earlier...

As I said above, accountability is a great thing, especially when you're a home educator. Life is so busy, and complications arise (take our family, this past month, and the nasty bugs we've been fighting. Just when I think we're clear, someone else comes down with a fever). It's so easy to let something like Latin fall by the wayside. History, for example, we've got to get done, because we're in a co-op, which means regular quizzes and having to be prepared for class. Same thing with Biblical Greek, a tough subject that demands a couple hours a day of regular study to keep up.

Some of the families in our Greek class have younger children who were basically just cooling their heels (playing, etc.) while the high school students were in class every week. One of the moms offered to teach Latin using Latina Christiana (also from Memoria Press), and Youngest was excited to join the class, even though she already knew some of the material from our earlier Latin studies. She's been working in that class while we've been exploring First Form Latin, and I was able to see how she breezed through the Latina Christiana material with enthusiasm and confidence, while First Form Latin moved a lot more quickly and is more of a stretch. Frankly, she's more motivated by studying with her peers than with just me. So I've decided to lay First Form Latin aside for now.

That little class made up of younger siblings is planning to continue next year (while our first-year Greek students move into a second year of study), and guess what they're going to use?

First Form Latin.

We're all set! Youngest will be another year older, another year more practiced in reading and doing written work, firmly grounded after finishing Latina Christiana (need I mention, with her friends?). I think she'll be ready to succeed with First Form Latin next year, and will have more fun doing it together with her friends, especially when it comes to playing Latin games to add fun to the learning.

Pricing and availability

First Form Latin is available at the Memoria Press website. You can buy individual pieces, but there are also a couple of package deals. I really recommend adding the DVDs, especially if you're not a Latin teacher yourself.

$55.00: First Form Latin basic set (Teacher Manual, Student Text, Student Workbook, Quizzes and Tests, Pronunciation CD)

$115.00: First Form Latin plus DVDs & Flashcards (Teacher Manual, Student Text, Student Workbook, Quizzes and Tests, Pronunciation CD, plus Flashcards and DVDs)

Read more TOS Crew reviews of First Form Latin, as well as reviews of Classical Phonics and First Start Reading, at this link.

Disclaimer: Our family received a complete First Form Latin package for review purposes. No additional compensation was involved.

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