August 2, 2011 - Visual Latin
I've become somewhat of a connoisseur of Latin programs. We've tried quite a few and I definitely have my favorites (along with some real duds). One of the best programs I've recently seen and tried out with my son is Visual Latin. Visual Latin breaks out of the usual Latin program mold and interjects a much needed dose of fun, humor and solid Latin instruction that sticks!
While I have loved learning Latin ever since we started, Otter has been a much more reluctant student. Latin has almost always elicited groans and a general disposition of one attending a funeral, or at least having to eat a heaping plate of brussel sprouts (no offense to you who love that vegetable). It's always difficult when you love a subject and your child doesn't. I've wanted to somehow inject the my own soul-felt knowledge that Latin is AWESOME, beautiful and a worthy pursuit of time. He wasn't buying it. He was learning (painfully), but not liking.
Enter Visual Latin on the scene. I was skeptical. "Laugh through Latin..." Hmmm, I doubted it. As much as I love Latin, I've certainly never run into any program or material that makes me want to laugh while learning it. Let me tell you right from the beginning, it's true. We have been laughing through our Latin lessons and for the first time, Otter is ENJOYING them! This program is a gold mine in that regard. He actually wants to....continue. You know that parent's dream of seeing your homeschooled child who hates a subject change his opinion to actually wanting to spend time doing it, without pouting and even, *gasp*, looking forward to it... That's what's happened in our house thanks to Visual Latin. I've even caught my college-aged daughter peeking at a lesson and laughing along.
Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think all learning has to be fun. There are certainly some things you just have to do, whether you like them or not. How much nicer it is though, when a way to learn something kindles that fire in you and makes you hungry for more. Provides you with a little humor and smiles to boot? That's a really special bonus!
While Visual Latin delivers with the laughs, it also delivers with content. From the very beginning you are exposed to grammar concepts, vocabulary and the way Latin works. We've just finished with the 10th set of lessons (each set has 3 videos with 3 corresponding worksheets) and Otter is translating controlled vocabulary paragraphs with ease. Visual Latin also has a knack for presenting things in a way that seems so natural and easy to learn. Nothing ever feels overwhelming (think of endless drills/chants/tables that are a drudge with other programs). There really is an easier way. This isn't to say that Visual Latin is too easy (Otter rates it at a medium level of difficulty), but the creators of the program have a terrific insight to how kids learn and offer up lessons of the perfect duration and presentation (at least for us!). Maybe that's because the teacher and producer have 8 homeschooled children between them.
For the purpose of this review I was able to obtain the first 10 lessons. Each lesson has 3 videos and 3 worksheets. So with the first 10 lessons you get 30 videos. Each video is usually about 8-10 minutes long. Each worksheet is usually just a single page (with the exception of later translation exercises that may span two pages to make room for a box of vocabulary words). We usually take 15 to 20 minutes to finish our entire Visual Latin lesson, although it can sometimes run a little shorter. You get the idea.
The lessons are broken down into 3 bite-sized pieces of material. First Dwayne Thomas (that's the guy teaching the lessons in the video) introduces a grammar concept. The 2nd day you see these grammar concepts illustrated in sentences. The 3rd day has you working from a Latin text (abridged stories from the Latin Vulgate). Otter just recently (and easily) translated the following from worksheet 10 C (30 days worth of lessons for us) after first watching it being read in the video and repeating it out loud:
"Est dies septimus. Caeli et terra sunt perfecti. Opus Dei
est completus. Deus est laetus. Opus est bonus. Terra
est bella et bona. Caelum est bellum et bonum. Adam est
laetus. Hava est laeta. Hortus est bonus et pulcher.
Animalia sunt laeti. Est multa herba in terra. Herba est
cibum bestiarum in terra nova. Cibum Adami et Havae est
fructus aut holus. Omnes sunt laeti in terra nova. Opus
Dei est bonus. Deus complet opus. Deus requiescit."
Compare this to what was being translated after nearly a year with a different program when you FINALLY get to a chunk of text vs. the sentences and phrases you've been dealing with all year long:
"Lavinia femina est. Lavinia agricola est. In terrā laborat.
Equī et taurī in terrā habitant. Sunt gallinae et gallī et porcī.
Est frumentum in terrā. Sempronia amica est. Hodiē Sempronia visitat. Heri Lavinia laborābat. Hodiē Lavinia nōn laborābat.
Hodiē amicae in silvīs ambulant. In silvīs explorant. Lavinia et Sempronia in fluviō natant. In silvīs cenant. Crās Lavinia in terrā laborābit."
Don't worry if you don't understand a word of Latin in the examples above. What I wanted to show you is that with Visual Latin you are translating large chunks of text every 3 days from the beginning and understanding what you are reading without spending tons of time trying to memorize vocabulary. The vocabulary is learned in context and retained without a lot of effort. It's a very similar approach (the immersion approach) that is found in Lingua Latina, a program Dwayne Thomas of Visual Latin recommends, and one that Otter and I have also been working through very slowly. In fact, Visual Latin has really enhanced our study of Lingua Latina and added a bit of insight that has made it easier and clearer.
Another great thing about Visual Latin is that it employs a variety of ways to get the material in your head. You listen, watch, read, say and write Latin. It's also very approachable. It doesn't feel like some stuffy Latin scholar is force feeding you lessons. Dwayne Thomas makes mistakes and catches himself and just comes across as real. I think it's reassuring to Otter to see a teacher make a mistake and then correct it. You can also tell that Dwayne loves Latin. It really comes across in the lessons and is infectious.
Latin is one of those subjects a lot of people aren't sure how to approach. I'm happy to say that Visual Latin has made it not only very approachable, but even entertaining. It's given Otter a confidence I've not seen with any other program we've tried and it's made our Latin time something we BOTH look forward to. I'm happy to report that we have the rest of the lessons that are available and are looking forward to the next batch (Visual Latin 2) as soon as it is out. I'd be ecstatic if they would consider continuing on and creating even more lessons beyond that!! We'll continue to use every last scrap of what is created because quite simply, it works and we really, really like it.
If you are thinking about purchasing a Latin program, take a look at Visual Latin! The website has some freebies for you to try (4 introduction lessons and 2 "real" lessons). The program gets even better as you move through the lessons beyond lesson 2. Also, so you know, we were provided with the first set of lessons for free in exchange for this review. All of the above is my real opinion and I'm not pedaling their program because I received a freebie. I'm sharing a real and true love for Visual Latin of my own accord. Check it out!
*Note: The above comments reflect our personal opinion(s) of materials. We aren't experts! We're just a homeschooling family with ideas of our own about what works and what doesn't for US.