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English from the Roots Up, Volumes I and II and Word Cards Review by Heather Jackowitz

Joegil Lundquist
1510 East Spencer Lake Rd.
Shelton, WA 98584

English from the Roots Up, Volumes I and II, are non-consumable teaching guides for the Greek and Latin roots that make up the greater part of our English vocabulary. Each book offers one hundred helpful roots, the majority of which are Latin. Volume I is recommended for grades two and up, Volume II for grades four and up.

Both books offer plenty of background information to help make your study of roots interesting. Teaching tips, Roman numerals, the Greek alphabet, numerical and alphabetical indices, and a pronunciation guide are included in both books. The pronunciation guide is classical rather than ecclesiastical, but you can choose to teach it however you like. Volume II also offers a fun "Roots Rap" and a handy "Parts of Speech" chart.

The bulk of each book devotes a full page to each root. Pages are exceptionally clean and easy to read. Each root is shown with its pronunciation, meaning, and derivatives as if you were looking at the front and back of a flashcard. The author recommends that each child make his own flashcard set following the model in the book. In addition to one hundred 3x5 cards per child per volume, you will need red, green, and blue markers and some kind of storage container for the finished cards. I bought each child a plastic case that holds exactly one hundred 3x5 cards and closes with a snap, but you could also use a rubber band. My children enjoy color-coding the outline of their flashcards--red for Latin, green for Greek. As suggested by the author, I write the root in blue on the front of the card so all the cards are legible. After we discuss the definition and derivatives for each root, the children copy the information onto the back of their cards. Some young children might not be able to squeeze all the words and definitions onto the back of a 3x5 card. You might try using 4x6 cards or selecting only those vocabulary words that will be useful to your child. You can also buy sets of ready-made flashcards from Timberdoodle.

Copious teaching notes offer helpful information for making the connection between the root and its derivatives. For example, the Latin root cardo, cardinis means hinge. How does that tie into the word cardinal, meaning "one of 70 princes of the Roman Catholic Church"? The teaching notes explain, "CARDINALS of the Roman Catholic Church comprise the Pope's council of 6 cardinal bishops, 50 cardinal priests, and 14 cardinal deacons. The 70 men, on whom the government of the church hinges, elect a Pope from among themselves after a Pope's death. They wear robes of bright scarlet red." Other teaching notes give ideas for further study. For example, on the Latin root vir (man, manly, masculine) page in Volume II, a brief history of the Roman ideal of manhood concludes with a challenge to memorize Rudyard Kipling's poem "If." The publishers offer a keepsake award to any child who memorizes all thirty-two lines of the poem. (Teacher verification required.) On the following root page, femina (woman), a similar challenge is offered using a feminine version of the poem written by Elizabeth Lincoln Otis entitled "An IF for Girls." Some pages also offer notes about extra words.

I would not classify these books as explicitly Christian, but I was pleased to see Bible knowledge included along with Greek and Roman cultural notes. For example, in Volume I, for the Greek root petros (rock, stone) page, a teaching note says, "Peter is the name given by Jesus Christ to his disciple, Simon Bar Jonah, because he was so dependable and firm in his faith. Peter was 'like a rock'!"

English from the Roots Up is exactly the kind of classical roots program I was looking for. We have tried a couple of different workbooks, but nothing suited our family. I wanted something we could do as a family in just a few minutes each day, and this program is easy to use and interesting. Occasionally, I use a free online crossword puzzle maker to create puzzles for practice or review. Better yet would be to have older children make the puzzles for the younger! I agree wholeheartedly with Timberdoodle, which says, "Unless your children are getting this information through another program, we feel this is a crucial book for every home educating family."

Product review by Heather Jackowitz, Contributing Writer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2006