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Visual Latin Review by Kathy Gelzer

Dwane Thomas
Compass Cinema
609 West Iris Drive
Nashville, TN 37204

Here is a very fun, convenient way to learn Latin from the beginning. Visual Latin is a DVD course taught by Dwane Thomas, who has 15 years experience teaching Latin. No previous knowledge of Latin is needed by either the student or the parent. You just pop in the DVD and go.

I received Visual Latin 1, which is available as a download or on DVD. There are three discs, each packaged separately in its own case, with ten lessons on each disc. The first disc also includes four introductory lessons: Why Study Latin, Latin Then and Now, How to Learn a Language, and Stuff You Should Know about Latin. These introductory lessons are full of good information that will motivate and assist your student in learning Latin.

Each lesson is broken down into three segments: Grammar (seven minutes), Sentences (eight minutes), and Reading (five minutes). Each of these segments is to be followed by a PDF worksheet. Answers for all the worksheets are also included in a PDF. One lesson is comprised of the three video segments and their accompanying worksheets.

Mr. Thomas teaches with the aid of screen notes and a chalkboard. He is upbeat, funny, informal, and passionate about his subject. The reading sections of the video are Biblical.

It is suggested that all worksheets and answers be printed out at the beginning. The teaching procedure is to watch the grammar video and then do the worksheet; watch the sentence video and then do that worksheet; and watch the reading video and do the translation worksheet. Then the teacher corrects the worksheets and reviews any wrong answers with the student, having the student re-watch videos as necessary. It is also recommended that you re-watch the three lesson videos the next day for review.

I am a little confused about the suggested pacing of the class. On the general instructions PDF page, it says that you would complete 20 lessons per semester, or two lessons per week for ten weeks. However, the scope and sequence PDF states, "For elementary and middle school students who want to learn Latin, or for high school students who want a half credit in foreign language, Visual Latin can be taught one lesson a week for 30 weeks."

Visual Latin 1, alone, equals ½ high school credit. If you supplement with other recommended materials, though, it will equal 1 high school credit. The suggested plan is to teach Latin 1 twice per week for 15 weeks and then follow with Lingua Latina Pars 1 and its accompanying exercise book by Hans H. Orberg, lessons 1 through 17, at the rate of one lesson per week for 17 weeks, with Latin 1 grammar lessons reviewed as needed.

One of the big questions homeschoolers have about any Latin curriculum is pronunciation. Dwane Thomas does not place a big emphasis on this, since the language is not spoken a great deal anymore. He sometimes uses classical pronunciation and sometimes ecclesiastical. This curriculum is focuses on reading: "The primary goal of Visual Latin is to be able to read Latin effectively."

Although we've illustrated how to use the program for high schoolers, Visual Latin is for anyone, ages nine and up through college. The ability to read is the only prerequisite. This is a widely appealing curriculum; while I was watching the videos, my 11-year-old daughter plopped in my lap and started taking notes. My husband, who wants to learn Italian in anticipation of an upcoming family vacation, wanted to know if Dwane Thomas had an Italian curriculum. My 12-year-old niece looked over my shoulder to comment on one of the silly sentences on the screen.

Visual Latin 2, Part One is available now, with subsequent parts becoming available in the coming school year.

After some frustration with various Latin curriculums, I'm looking forward to revisiting this language in our homeschool this fall. I heartily recommend Visual Latin!

Product review by Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August 2011