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The Latin Road to English Grammar, Volumes I-III Review by Diane Allen

Schola Publications

It is commonly acknowledged that every high school student should take a foreign language. However, knowing I should teach a foreign language didn't make it less intimidating. Give me a chemistry class and I'm good! Want to talk about literature? I'm there. Need to do a dissection or Geometry proof? Let the students come! Teach a foreign language? I'm paralyzed with dread and fear.

I have no confidence, no enthusiasm and very little will to delve into language study with my child. Frankly, my high school French has seemed like the one courses for which the question "when are we ever going to use this" actually could be answered - NEVER! Despite making A's, I remember hardly any of that French and I've not seen any application of it in 30 years of academic work.

If you share my dread of this subject - dread no more. You too CAN successfully teach a foreign language to your student -- without "really trying" by traveling the Latin Road to English Grammar!

Barbara Beers of Schola Publishing Company has developed an easy to use, thorough and in-depth foreign language program for Latin! Not only has she developed courses for high school credit, but she has two other courses for elementary school children as well. All of these provide students with a firm foundation in both Latin and in their own English grammar.

From my own experience with science vocabulary I know that the majority of words in our language are derived from Latin and understanding those word roots increased my contextual understanding of science vocabulary in college. I also did some research and learned that studying Latin:

  • improves reading comprehension
  • improves verbal SAT scores
  • provides a good foundation for further language study
  • trains the memory
  • develops reasoning power

That's a lot of benefit from one addition to the homeschool scope and sequence. The problem for me has been that the "best" material I've seen for Latin required far too much understanding on my part.

Finally, an accessible curriculum for this important subject! With The Latin Road to English Grammar, parents are not required to have ANY prior knowledge of the language. The course lays everything out in a simple and understandable way using the methodology classical homeschoolers will recognize as "from the parts to the whole." Students build their understanding step by step. However, Mrs Beers has employed a multisensory method that will ensure that every student can master this foundational language.

The Latin Road to English Grammar is the average homeschool mother's answer to that Latin foreign language credit! It was written specifically for homeschoolers so that the parent/teacher can learn along side the student! All the materials you need are included for easy learning and teaching: textbook, worksheets, tests, vocabulary cards, answer keys, lesson plans, verb charts, audio CD's for pronunciation and teacher training DVDs.

Here's how it works:

During the course of study each student develops his own Latin-English handbook. All information concerning grammar and vocabulary is presented in a balanced combination of oral and written work. Students will hear, say, see, read, and write Latin and English constantly. In this way all students can learn with their strengths and yet also practice their weaknesses. This multisensory method of learning does far more to instill the information in the student's mind than a mere workbook method. Everything is clearly defined, and, equipped with the essential components, any student is able to analyze both English and Latin.

The complete course is in three volumes that equal two entire credits of high school foreign language. However, you can start with children as young as 5th grade (and yes - - you can count it as a high school credit even if they take it before 9th grade!) If the student finishes this before high school they can then take another foreign language with greater ease.

When we started using Latin Road, the first thing I noticed was that there is a LOT of copying. Students copy everything they need to know from the text into their notebook. Not only do they copy, but they organize the information into categories and practice the information with worksheets and other exercises. The copywork and the constant oral practice are the secrets to this program. Copywork is a multisensory exercise and when you combine it with reciting with the recorded passages and using color-coded materials, all the learning modalities are covered. Students who dread handwriting will probably balk at this program; however, for the student who is not writing challenged, the copious amounts of copy work do not seem to be a problem and they work!

As astounding as it seems, my daughter really likes the method used in Latin Road and she's admitted that "all that copying really does get the information in her head!"

Students also practice analytical skills as they translate passages - which starts in lesson one. They build memory power by memorizing all those vocabulary words, declensions,endings and roots - not to mention the translation pieces!

Because Mrs Beers doesn't assume the student is fluent in English grammar, she explains every concept thoroughly and demonstrates how English grammar compares to Latin. These systematic connections reinforce both languages and I'm not ashamed to say that I'm actually understanding some parts of English better as well.

I'm delighted to say that this method is working for us! My daughter is not the most academically inclined student and she's not generally very attentive to detail. The repetitious nature of this program really helps her learn the material; and it doesn't seem "boring" (go figure!). Furthermore, I can tell that she's also applying what she is learning within the context of vocabulary she has in science and other subjects. She's thrilled to be learning to SING in Latin!

Each day's lesson takes 45 - 60 minutes. The first 20 minutes are "teaching" or "reviewing" and require teacher involvement. For us that means we watch the Teaching DVD segment together, go over flash cards and practice the recitation. Then the student works on their notebook or other assignments. The parent is supposed to make their own notebook, but I confess, my limited time as prevented me from keeping up with that. Thankfully, the Teacher's Notebook is already set up with examples that guide the student's efforts.

The cost for each volume set is around $149. Volume III is $189. However the audio components, the text book, and the cards are non-consumable. The Latin Road Teacher's Notebook is completely organized for the parent - right down to detailed, daily lesson plans, a key to tell you the track of the cd your material is on and examples of how student pages should look.

All of the materials are extremely high quality. Even the covers of the notebooks have a quality feel about them and sheet protectors have been thoughtfully included for very important papers. I believe that the quality of the materials encourages quality work from my daughter; she is taking a lot of pride in the notebook she's creating for herself.

One optional component that is not "optional" in my opinion is the Teacher Training DVD. Each volume set is $89 and worth every penny of it!!!! I watch the lesson with my student and we mark the "day assignments" directly in her text as Mrs Beers explains them. Mrs Beers presentation is clear and she shows examples of how each page should be created. Don't try this program without the DVD at first! In fact save yourself some money by buying the DVD's as part of your set with the BIG FAT LATIN SPECIAL ($249).

In summary: Two thumbs up for Latin Road to English Grammar. It works! It's easy! If not "fun" at least it isn't distasteful! Finally, it will work with students who may struggle with language because it employs all the learning styles.

Parents who want to provide a firm foundation for a foreign language or those who want their child to have a high school credit can't do better than The Latin Road to English Grammar.

Schola publishes two other curricula:

The Phonics Road to Spelling and Grammar is for beginning readers. The Bridge to the Latin Road for children in 3rd - 6th grade which introduces the English/Latin grammar relationship and teaches about 400 Latin roots and affixes. If I had known about this program I definitely would have used the Bridge in elementary school. Even if I was starting with a middle school student and had time, I believe I'd use the Bridge to establish a base of roots and affixes.

Editor Note: This review was originally written as a part of our CREW team and can be found in its original format on the author's blog:

Product review by Diane Allen, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February, 2010