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Latina Christiana I and II Review by Diane Wheeler

Cheryl Lowe
Memoria Press
4105 Bishop Lane
Louisville, KY 40218

"Latina Christiana is designed for parents, teachers, and students who have no background in Latin or foreign languages. It can be used as a self-instruction course for older students or as a teacher directed course for elementary students in both home and Christian schools."

So begins the preface to Latina Christiana I, the Latin program for elementary students from Memoria Press. Most parents I know do not have a background in Latin, so having a course that assumes no Latin training is reassuring. Memoria Press provides a variety of support products in addition to their student and teacher guides. As simple as flash cards and as sophisticated as a DVD teaching set, you will have as much support as you need to succeed at teaching Latin.

Latina Christiana is designed for children as young as fourth grade (for parents with some Latin background and children who are strong students) and as old as high school or adult.

Each lesson is designed to last a week, but your pace will be determined by the age and readiness of your student.

The course teaches Christian Latin pronunciation rather than Classical Latin. Cheryl Lowe says, "Christian Latin is closer to modern languages and it is used in prayers and in all of the great religious music of our classical composers. It is still taught in music schools and has the beautiful sonorous sound associated with Gregorian chant. Since the most effective and practical way for beginning students to speak Latin is in music and prayers, I think Christian Latin is the best choice."

One feature that I appreciate about Latina Christiana materials is how user-friendly the teaching materials are. If you aren't familiar with Latin, it helps to be provided with clear structure so you can be learning and teaching simultaneously.

The beginning pages of the Level I teacher's manual offer a brief overview of Latin grammar (reminding you that you will learn it as you go--just read quickly and move on). It provides a summary of the student goals for the year and two pages of reproducible drill sheets. The lesson plans are clearly laid out, including a scripted plan for presenting the material.

You can also choose to purchase Latina Christiana videos on DVD or VHS. Mrs. Leigh Lowe is the instructor, complete with a Southern accent to pronounce Latin for you. There are 25 lessons, each lasting approximately 30 minutes.

I don't recommend using the video as a substitute for your participation as teacher; you can use them for the instruction portion, but you will still be involved with supervising drills, working through written exercises, playing games, and quizzing your students. Besides the quizzes for each lesson, there is a test after every five lessons.

In addition to Latin, there is a recommended study of Famous Men of Rome; studying the historical time period can increase the motivation for learning Latin. The Famous Men material is covered on the unit tests.

To give you a clear idea of the organization of the material, I will detail out the first lesson for you:

Lesson I
The opening includes a greeting between teacher and student(s) and the table blessing. It also lists a musical piece, Christus Vincit, which can be sung (music is included in the back) or listened to (should you own Lingua Angelica, also from Memoria Press.)

The Latin saying introduced is ora et labora (translation: pray and work). The history of the saying is included; it is a summary of the Rule of St. Benedict.

Five vocabulary words are introduced: amo, porto, laudo, oro, laboro. All of these words end in the letter o, and they are verbs. Verb endings are introduced, particularly the ending o representing the English pronoun I. Derivatives of the vocabulary words are discussed.

The final component of the lesson is the grammar lesson. The first conjugation is introduced. (Recitation is done this week; the meanings of the words are introduced next week.)

The week's lessons are recommended to follow this pattern:

  • Day 1 - Complete lesson taught; drill.
  • Days 2, 3 - Drill and answer history questions.
  • Day 4 - Complete written exercises.
  • Day 5 - Quiz, games, review.

In addition to the student book, teacher's guide, and videos, Memoria Press also sells a complete set of Latina Christiana flash cards, a pronunciation CD, and wall charts with declension endings, model nouns, conjugation endings, and model verbs. All of these materials provide excellent support for drilling.

This material was originally developed for a cottage school, and it works very well for a small group of homeschoolers. Having others to work with is nice when drilling and chanting. If you have a co-op group, or just another friend who wants to teach Latin, Latina Christiana is a perfect choice.

I have been very happy with Latina Christiana. From a teacher's perspective, I like the way the materials are organized, I like the gentle instruction of the videos (excellent for the teacher who is learning as well), and I appreciate having pronunciation help and the flash cards for drilling.

The charts are nicely laid out, but we are always at a loss for wall space and have not found them to be necessary. I also have not used the history component in the books, as we have provided history studies separately from Latin. It is very easy to skip over those parts; they are not an integral part of the program. The videos are helpful and easy to use, but they are not flashy and exciting. Ms. Lowe's Southern drawl is gentle, and the presentation is simple. If you want dancing vegetables or loud music to accompany your instruction, Latina Christiana would not be the fit for you.

I do not have a strong preference for Latin pronunciation. My oldest daughter moved on to Wheelock's Latin after Latina Christiana; the Wheelock's text teaches classical pronunciation, but she did not find the switch to be difficult.

The Memoria Press website provides more information on the wide variety of classical curriculum they sell as well as a forum for asking questions.

Memoria Press provides thorough, well-organized Latin materials for families like mine that have little or no Latin background. The teacher and student manuals make Latin class easy to administer; with the addition of the videos, your teaching is provided for you, and you are free to learn along with your students and then provide the drill and review and assessment necessary for learning. I highly recommend Latina Christiana for homeschool Latin studies.

--Product review by Diane Wheeler, Contributing Writer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June 2006