Over the years, I’ve worked with many different students to as they were learning (or trying to survive learning!) Latin. Before you set out on a homeschool Latin program, or even if you have one underway, consider these two most important elements for successful learning:
Be clear about your goals. Make sure they are realistic for your child (or yourself!). It helps to regularly evaluate how far along you are to reaching them. In my work as an online Latin tutor, I do this every time I meet with my students, and not always as a formal test or quiz. Asking a student how he or she feels about the material can also yield a lot of valuable information.
One important piece is to realize that most Latin courses are designed to develop reading skills. Latin courses that teach speaking are few and far between, so be explicit about it if this is your goal. On the other hand, many Latin scholars do learn to speak after learning to read instead of simultaneously. Learning to read certainly won’t close the door on speaking.
A second piece of advice: be clear on what century’s literature you want to read. I’ve seen plenty of parents of Christian homeschoolers who say they want their kids to learn Latin to strengthen their relationship with their faith turn around and have their children learn Classical Latin. There are some beautiful medieval Christian Latin texts, but the language they use differs considerably enough that if this your primary target, it is worth it to study it from the get-go.
Be consistent about studying. It’s no secret that learning Latin requires a lot of memorization. (In fact, all foreign languages do, and Latin gets a bad rap because of the numerous charts of verb and noun endings at the back of any (decent) Latin text book.) It is not true that it’s necessary to spend hours and hours at a time to commit what you need to to memory, though. The magic ingredient is consistency.
First, make sure you are consistently accurate about what you are learning! Some people learn vocabulary best through index cards (my favorite method), others prefer listing words and their definitions. Whatever method you choose, be sure you are learning all the information you need to from Latin dictionary entries. Spending time and effort just learning part of the necessary information can be frustrating.
Second, have a quiet place (where you feel comfortable saying the words or forms out loud to yourself) and a specific time each day set aside for studying. Working on memorization for ten minutes six days a week will always get better long- and medium-term results than studying the same material in the same way for an hour once a week.
Latin is a tough but rewarding academic pursuit for traditionally schooled students and homeschoolers alike. Don’t give up! The literary and cultural benefits are plentiful. I’m always available for help and advice at latintutor.net @ gmail.com!
[This is a guest post from Lily Hart, of LatinTutor.net]
Image: ltdan at Flickr