Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Classical Academic Press is a Classic

Recently, we were asked if we would consider reviewing a Latin language program published by Classical Academic Press. Latin is not actually at the top of my list for formal language instruction, as I am more eclectic than classical in methodology, but I have taught vocabulary using classical Latin and Greek roots before. I think understanding Latin as the root of much of our language is very important, but envisioning studying Latin in a classroom setting still terrifies me the way it did in high school (don't only really smart people take Latin?) However, the more I thought about it, the more I started thinking that maybe Latin would go well with our studies of Ancient World History next year, so I volunteered to be in the review group.

Latin Alive! Book 1 is the product we were chosen to review. It is intended for use by high school students, and perhaps upper middle school students who like a challenge. Tex is in 7th grade, but we will be using this next year for the most part, so I was comfortable with the level. And of course, there is the fact that Tex is brilliant (really, I think he is...and sweet, too!), so I knew he could handle it.

We planned to do a mini-unit on Rome at the same time as we needed to try out the Latin curriculum. We figured that by integrating materials the way we will integrate them next year, we will have a good idea if this curriculum works well in that sort of situation. I can't imagine why it wouldn't, but you never know.

We planned to complete the first unit (seven lessons) during the course of our mini-unit. I figured this would give us a good taste of the product, without spoiling it for next August, when we'd actually start using it if it worked out well for us.

Here is what arrived in our kit:

The Latin Alive! Book 1 Bundle, which includes Teacher's Manual, Student Manual, complete DVD set and audio cd, is available for $139.95. You can also purchase the components separately, though you really need all of them for the learning to be complete.

The dvds include over 18 hours of Karen Moore (one of the authors) teaching the lessons in the book. She will tell you the background of each lesson (it's mostly printed in the book, too) and go over examples of some of the work you will have to do. The bundle also includes an audio cd, the student workbook, and the answer keys.  

The first thing we did was to familiarize ourselves with the materials by thoroughly persusing them, and by watching the introductory video. By the time we started our first lesson, we were both pretty excited. Only one thing came up during the introductory lesson that confused us, and that is that the instructor mentioned that you could choose whether you wanted to pronounce "V" with the "v" sound (as in van) or with the "w" sound (as in walk). She indicated that Classical Latin is what she teaches, and it uses the "w" sound (so "victoria" is said "wiktoria"...weird), but that it is also said the other way, so we could choose.


Of course, I wanted to understand what she meant...I mean, who gets to just choose how they say something in another language? So I researched it and what I found is that there is a debate on whether Classical Latin (most often encountered in university and high school settings) or Ecclesiastical Latin (used in the Catholic Church, to read poetry in Latin, etc...said to be more pleasing to the ear) is THE correct form of Latin. Well, I read about both views and I see both points, so since Ms. Moore is teaching Classical Latin, we chose to go with her pronunciation. That is until we had to start saying, "wiktoria" instead of "victoria" and I felt like I was impersonating a Russian, so we are doing everything the way she says EXCEPT for the "w/v" shift. After all, she said we could choose what we prefered, so we did.

That said, we started working through several lessons and here is what Tex and I learned:
  • You cannot do Latin in a room full of active (and likely, noisy) children. You must make other arrangements for the littles while you are studying Latin (seatwork they won't jump up from every two minutes, a movie, computer learning, a babysitter?)
  • Latin is NOT a class I can expect Tex to learn on his own. It is too complex. I already have experience learning both French and Spanish and so I am used to conjugating verb forms, plus I am an English major, so I understand terminology like infinitive and dipthong. Yet, I still find it a challenge to deconstruct this language that is so close to our own; simpler, yet still confusing at times.
  • Latin is best learned if you consistently and persistently work on it on a daily basis. You will retain more, and learn more by practicing regularly.
  • In my opinion, it is best learned with a partner...someone you can practice with, check homework with, and give oral pop quizzes to. It's more fun, also, if you can use Latin as your "secret" language with a friend. There is more motivation to learn.
  • Also, in my opinion, Latin (and any other language) is best learned NOT in a vacuum. By this I mean that both of us were much more highly motivated to complete the lessons with excitement when we integrated other materials into the core Latin lessons that revealed to us more about the culture of Rome and the history of Latin. The Latin Alive! Book 1 lends itself to this purpose as it incorporates history readings, Latin sayings we encounter in our daily lives, and other tidbits of interesting Latin usage information to keep the student interested in the topic. I like that.

Tex is doing his practice lessons after watching the video...Ms. Moore explains the meaning of ANNUIT COEPTIS ("He has favored our undertakings") on the Great Seal of the United States (shown here on a one dollar bill).

Here's What We Thought About the Specific Product:
  • Both Tex and I like the teacher. She is easy to understand and pleasant to listen to. There were a few times when she did not explain as thoroughly as I needed, but the magic of dvd allows you to go back and play that part again, and again, and again until you get it.
  • Both of us like the printed materials. The student workbook is easy to use. The Teacher's Manual is basically the student workbook (so you can follow along) with the addition of the answers and some extra information to share with the students.
  • The class sessions on the dvds are thorough and help you visualize what she is telling you (she writes on a marker board).
  • The audio cd is a nice bonus and another way for auditory learners to practice what they are taught...especially useful when it comes to mastering the pronunciation.
  • Each lesson has these consistent sections: Vocabulary, Grammar, Practice Exercises, Chapter Reading, Culture Corner, Derivative Detective, and Let's Talk.
  • I think by the end of Unit One you will feel pretty comfortable with your studies. We do. Just remember, you can take as long as you want to complete each unit. Whatever works best for you and your student.
  • There are some great bonus FREEBIES on the Classical Academic Press site to help you study, and a few extra purchases I think I want to make for next year, like the Latin Crossword Puzzles and the Latin Word Quest poster. There are also Latin term coloring pages that I can print for the littles to color, if they need something to do while we are learning our lessons, and they seem to want to join in.
  •  As we reviewed the product, we wished there was an electronic drill program offered on our computer to supplement it. Guess what? There is! Check out Headventure Land for Classical Academic Flashcard Drills for ALL of their award winning programs. We did the drills for the first six lessons and while they are simplistic, they do help you learn the words. Just one more way to get the knowledge in your brain...awesome!

Here are a few of the things we did to supplement our Latin studies and pique our interest during our mini-unit Latin trial:

I had Tex read the first five chapters in Famous Men of Rome and complete the questions in the workbook. The Latin Alive! Book 1 Unit One concludes with infomation on Romulus and Remus. A more detailed version of the story is in FMOR and Tex loves reading that sort of thing.

We also found several videos about Rome on instant download from Netflix. There were even more if you wanted to plan ahead and have them mailed to you. Our two favorite instant movies were Colosseum: A Gladiator's Story (really good) and Pompeii: The Last Day (Tex said it was a bit creepy, though). The Lost Ships of Rome was interesting about excavations on five ships, but they didn't tell you what they discovered about the amphoras once they got them back to the labs! We were thrilled that all of this tied in so well to the Roman Town game we reviewed earlier in the year. Isn't it nice when a unit just sort of falls together?

Here are a few more resources I own that we did not take the time to use, but plan to use next year. You can see how easily you could make a RICH unit study with the Latin study as the core, adding the rest around it (history, art, culture, archaeology, mythology, literature, architechture, science, etc.), without a whole lot of effort. One trip to the library would gain me more picture books than we could read in a year, and just a bit of creative thinking and we can come up with field trips, costumes to make, meals to eat...Oh, and a trip to Busch Gardens The Old Country to ride the Roman Rapids and Escape from Pompeii is a must! How come my High School language classes were never this much fun?

Don't forget to download a free copy of the Kindle version of Beric the Briton: A Story of the Roman Invasion by GA Henty. How's that for a read-aloud wrap up?


I hope I have given you a few ideas and some encouragement about consdering using Latin in your curriculm, even if you are not a follower of the Classical Method of homeschooling. Of course, you do not have to teach Latin only when you are doing World History. Because it is so tied to our English language, which we use everyday, and because many high schoolers will one day take the SATs and Latin studies are a great help with the Vocabulary section of those standardized tests, there is a use for Latin in almost any curriculum.

This Latin program is a good, solid choice.
 Check out their site and give it a try!

**Do you have a question I didn't answer or need more support? Not only does the author invite you to email her personally with any questions you might not find answers for in the textand/or dvds, but there is also a Yahoo! Group you can join HERE.

**You can stay up-to-date by following the Latin Alive! blog, which is maintained by the book's authors.

**Still not sure if you should teach Latin? Check out this essay on the benefits of Latin language study by the author of Latin Alive!

**Have you made the decision to teach Latin, but not sure how to go about it? Here's another essay by Karen Moore that tells you how to go about getting started on your road to Latin proficiency. This essay is intended for users of the Latin for Children program, but applies to the program we reviewed, as well.

**To see what others on the Crew had to say about various Classical Academic Latin resources, click HERE.

**Here are a few more links for you to check out before deciding if this is the best Latin program for you:

Tex enjoying his Latin studies. He can't wait until next year to really dive in!



I received the Latin Alive! Book 1 bundle in return for trying it out in my homeschool classroom and then sharing our experiences here on this blog. I have tried to remain objective, but what you read here will naturally reflect my opinions on the product. I cannot guarantee or predict if your experiences will be the same as mine. I hope you found something useful in this review, and if there is anything you were wondering about that I did not answer, please feel free to contact me.


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