Thursday, March 26, 2015

Memoria Press Prima Latina: A Review

It was a cold day in February when the Memoria Press cataloged arrived in my mailbox.   As many homeschoolers and teachers can attest, February can be a rough month for teaching!   I was suffering from a bad case of the “winter blahs”. 

So, I have to admit that I felt quite enamored when I first laid eyes on the Memoria Press catalog.  It was packed with full-color pictures of their elegantly laid out curriculum.   Their curriculum is so well designed that it makes giving your children an academically rigorous, classical education seem feasible!  Their curriculum was a ray of hope for me in this cold month of February. 

On the cover of this catalog was a headline that really caught my attention.   “Why Latin Is Not An Option.”   Hmmmm….Latin.   Memoria Press is known for their quality Latin curriculum.   So, after researching my options I decided to give their introductory Latin course, Prima Latina, a try.  

Why Latin?
If you had talked to me four year ago, I would have considered teaching Latin a waste of time.   I mean, it is a ‘dead language’, right?  Wouldn't time be better spent learning something else...anything else?   

However, I have realized that I was wrong.  VERY wrong.   There are many more qualified people who have written about the importance of learning and teaching Latin.   You can read Cheryl Lowe’s response to that question here.  Also, check out the Top 10 Ten Reasons for Studying Latin here.   And, you can also read Susan Wise Bauer’s discussion of Latin in Chapter 9 of her book “The Well Trained Mind.”   

Suffice it to say that I have changed my tune when it comes to learning Latin.   I really feel that Latin is important and worthwhile.  There is a reason why Latin has been at the cornerstone of education in western civilization for so many years.  It is REALLY a power-packed subject! 

Overview of Prima Latina
PrimaLatina is Memoria Press’s introductory Latin course.   It is designed for kids in 2nd-4th grade.   (See Memoria Press’sideal Latin sequence chart here.)    

The course is divided into 25 lessons, and each lesson takes about a week to complete.   I found that this gives the perfect amount of material to cover in a standard school year.   Parent-teachers will have time to schedule review or take things slowly if they need to.   You will not feel rushed trying to complete this course!

This course is a VERY thorough introduction of the Latin language.   In fact, much more thorough than other introductory Latin courses I researched.    The course objectives and student goals are written clearly in the beginning of the book.   Students will learn to read, pronounce, and spell 125 Latin words.  They will learn 25 practical Latin expressions and 4 prayers in full.  (I thought the prayers were ESPECIALLY cool.  I was sort of “geeking out” over these.)   Students also will expand their vocabulary by studying derivatives, learn the proper names of constellations, and expand their grammar knowledge.  
The course comes with a number of components and optional supplements.  These can be purchased individually or in a package from  

For this review, I was used:
The Prima Latina Student Book (Required)
The Prima Latina Teacher Manual (Required)
The Prima Latina Instructional DVDs (Optional, but highly recommended by me!)
The Prima Latina CD set (Optional. Nice to have, but not essential if you have the DVDs.)
The Prima Latina Copybook in New American Cursive (Optional, but highly recommended by me.) 
The Latina Christianna I Flashcards (Optional)
The Prima Latina Lesson Plans (Optional.  Personally, I didn’t use this.)

If you are new to Latin, you will soon learn that there are two main ways to pronounce Latin:  Classical and Ecclesiastial. 

Memoria Press uses only the Ecclesiastical pronunciation (sometimes referred to as “Church Latin”.) This is the style of Latin used by the  Roman Rite of the Catholic Church.   I personally prefer this pronunciation.   

As I mentioned before, the recommended age range for Prima Latina is 2nd-4th grade. 

Personally, I would suggest that parents wait to start Latin instruction after theirchildren are reading fluently and no longer struggling with the mechanics of writing.   I would focus the early years on building a strong base in reading, spelling, and penmanship before introducing Latin. 

Reading fluency will happen at different ages for different children.   For this reason, we decided to hold off on Latin instruction until my oldest son was almost 9 years old.  (He will be starting the 3rd grade.)  However, my daughter is a bit advanced with language skills and seemed ready to start much earlier in the 2nd grade.   Once your children can read a chapter book with little struggle and copy several sentences with ease, I would say they are ready to start.  Young children may have to divide the lessons into smaller segments.

Having some type of foundation in grammar was helpful, but not necessary.  By the time we started Latin, my kids had already completed First Language Lessons 1-2.   So, they were already familiar with the basic parts of speech.   Grammar is thoroughly taught in Memoria Press Latina, but I found having this knowledge base was helpful.  It allowed the kids to concentrate on learning the latin.

But I don’t speak Latin!   How can I teach it?
My answer to this is:  “Docedo discitur.”  Or “One learns by teaching.”   

 I am taking this year as an opportunity to learn Latin along with my children, and I think this is the BEST way to complete the course.   Modeling a love for learning new things is one of the biggest advantages for homeschooling.   I like to teach my children that learning something new should never end. 

Prima Latina is designed for the parent-teacher who has no previous knowledge of Latin.  The instructional DVDs were VERY helpful in giving me the confidence I needed to teach the course.   They are an optional component of the curriculum, but I wouldn’t want to use Prima Latina without them!  

Leigh Lowe, a writer and curriculum developer for Memoria Press, teaches the courses on the DVD.   She has a very slight and charming southern accent, and her teaching style is both entertaining and effective. 

But heed my WARNING:  Do not expect to plug in these DVDs and have your children complete the student workbook independently.  Prima Latina is not designed to be an independent study in Latin!  Parent involvement and instruction is still expected.   So be prepared to learn along with your children.  

I have a dear friend who made the mistake of attempting to let her students learn Latin independently. Things went well until they were about 18 weeks into the course.   Suddenly her child needed help completing a translations, but she was unable to help because she hadn't been sitting in on the Latin lessons.   She warned me not to make the same mistake, and to learn the language with my children.   I think this is good advice. 

Our Weekly Routine:
Prima Latina comes with a Lesson Plan book that guides parent-teachers with using all of the components of the program.   However, I found myself modifying their plan quite a bit.   

I think it is important when learning a new language to practice it as often as possible.   For this reason, I tried to allow about 10-30 minutes per day to study Latin.   Additionally, I tried to make sure that I gave the kids an opportunity to practice the “Four Arts of Language” everyday while learning Latin.   The “Four Arts of Language” include:  1) Listening, 2) Speaking, 3) Reading, and 4) Writing.***   

Day 1:  New Material and Copybook (25-35 minutes)
1)  We would watch the DVD lesson together and follow along in the student book.   (Reading Latin, Listening to Latin, Speaking Latin) (20 minutes)
The Attached Mama's Tips:  Parents should go through the lesson with their child so they can learn the material too.  Also, be prepared to pause the DVD as needed.  Require children to repeat the vocabulary, phrases, or prayers when prompted so they practice speaking Latin.   My children had a tendency to sort of passively watch these lessons, so I needed to remind them to interact with the instructor from time to time.
2)   Next I would have them complete the Prima Latina Copybook lesson independently.    I would check this when they were finished.   (Writing Latin)  (10-15 minutes depending on how much I could get my child to focus!)
Prima Latina Copybook in "New American Cursive"

Day 2:  Review and Workbook (20-30 minutes)
1) I would review the vocabulary, derivatives, and prayer using book, white board, and CD (Reading Latin, Listening to Latin, Speaking Latin).  (10 minutes)
The Attached Mama's Tip:  The CD pronounces words for those who don’t feel comfortable.   However, I found I could usually remember how to say the words if I had practiced the day before.  This helped me save time.   I didn't have to worry about dragging out the CD player and finding the right track.  
Prima Latina Student Book-  Students can read along with me as I review vocabulary on the board

2)  The kids would then complete the first page in their workbook. (Reading Latin, Listening to Latin, Speaking Latin, Writing Latin) (10-20 minutes)
The Attached Mama's Tip:  Some of these questions can be done orally if you are working with a child who is very young or doesn’t like to write.  I would suggest having the child write the Latin phrases and words though.  This helps them remember how to spell these words.
Prima Latina Student Book-I would typically have them do half of the exercises on the second day.

Day 3:  Review and Workbook (20-30 minutes)
1)  I review vocabulary, derivatives, and prayer using book, white board, flashcards, and CD (Reading Latin, Listening to Latin, Speaking Latin) (10 minutes)

2)   The kids would then complete the second page in their workbook. (Reading Latin, Listening to Latin, Speaking Latin, Writing Latin) (10-20 minutes)
Day 4:  Quick Review  (10 minutes)
1)  I would review vocabulary, derivatives, and prayer using book, white board, and CD (Reading Latin, Listening to Latin, Speaking Latin) (10 minutes)

Day 5:  
1)   I review  vocabulary, derivatives, and prayer using book, white board, and CD (Reading Latin, Listening to Latin, Speaking Latin) (10 minutes)

2)  I would dictate 10 English translations and the kids would attempt to spell the Latin word on a white board.  I would always do the 5 new review words and pick 5 words from previous lessons. (Writing Latin) (10-15 minutes)
I would have the kids take one of the online "" tests to review. 
The Attached Mama's Tip: You can use the optional flashcards to review vocabulary too.  But I would typically flip back to previous lessons in my teacher guide and randomly pick 5 words to review.   Any word they could spell correctly, I would put a check next to it.  This helped me keep track of how many times I had reviewed the word.  Any word they misspelled, I would put an "x" next to it.   This told me I needed to keep practicing the word.   Using the workbook was easier for me than handling the flashcards personally.  I may start using the flashcards in the higher levels of Memoria Press Latin so I can review from multiple levels. 

**The “Four Arts of Language” is a term I first heard Andrew Pudewa use in his talk “Nurturing Competent Communicators.”   Listening and Speaking are the verbal components of language.  Reading and writing are the written components of language.   Listening and reading are the two main ways we input language, and writing and speaking are how we typically output language.  We need practice in all four components when learning a language.

Final Thoughts:
I was surprised by how much I liked Prima Latina.   It is a quality, no-nonsense program that is easy to teach and learn from. 

Disclaimer:   I received a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review.   I was not required to write an honest review, and I was not compensated in any other way.   All of the opinions expressed in this blog post are my own. 


Alexandra said...

Thanks for sharing this! I have chosen to go the memoria press route. My oldest will be in K next year and it's nice to see confirmation to my choice. I also plan on adding some ambleside online readings in the future : ) Has anyone else done this?

Cathy said...

I think the book picks from Ambleside are lovely! I think you are going to have a great year!

pitterpatter said...

Thanks for the review! Your post has perfect timing. I am considering Prima Latina for DD next year. Now I have a little better idea of what to expect and what to buy.


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