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    How I Teach Latin

    April 10, 2017 by Brandy Vencel

    Let’s just admit right now that the word “teach” is a misnomer. I do not “teach” Latin; I facilitate. I buy the curriculum. I set up the schedule. I make sure questions are answered. But I do not teach. Why? Because I don’t  know Latin.

    I want to learn. I hope that someday, I will be able to say that I do know it. Already, I know much more of it than I knew four or five years ago when we first started.

    But I’m not fluent, and I’m not qualified to teach my high schooler.

    Can we learn Latin in our homeschools, even though Mom has no clue? Mom doesn't have to TEACH it; only FACILITATE it. And this can work out beautifully!

    Before I go on, I think it’d be good to mention that I think the work we are doing is generational work. We have to make our peace with that and know we’re not going to hit all our ideals in the first generation, and that’s okay.

    When it comes to Latin, the ideal is that I’d already know Latin and be able to walk my children through the Latin grammar and Caesar and the Vulgate and All The Rest with the ease of a well-worn path.

    The truth is that Latin wasn’t on my radar until a couple years before I needed to teach it. Before that, I didn’t even know what an inflected language was, how it was different, or why it mattered.

    So in this generation — the one we’re in right now — I facilitate Latin. My children will know much more Latin if and when they begin to teach their own children. It’s possible that, for them, the path really will be well worn. And if that’s the case, it will have only taken one generation to get there.

    But even if the path feels a bit bumpy and they still need a map, they’ll do a far better job than I did. And that is entirely the point.

    With that said, my older son is getting to where he can actually read in Latin. I mean, without having to look stuff up all the time. In fact, I’ve decided we’re going to do for him what we did when he was little and first became literate in English: we’re going to buy him a Latin Bible.

    Q-Age-Ten, on the other hand, is flying through her first year of Latin at greater speed than her brother before her. I think I see another Latin Bible on the horizon in a few years!

    The way we’re doing Latin isn’t the only way, of course. But it’s a path that seems to work. I’m becoming more confident in recommending it as time goes on.

    Can we learn Latin in our homeschools, even though Mom has no clue? Mom doesn't have to TEACH it; only FACILITATE it. And this can work out beautifully!

    Here’s what we do:

    1. Start Visual Latin 1 in fourth grade (ish).
      • I say “ish” because some children aren’t quite ready. With my oldest, I needed to do a term or two of grammar first and then start Latin near the end of fourth grade.
      • With my second child, I gave her permission to watch the videos more than once. So the first day, she’d watch the video and think about it and narrate it. The next time, she’d re-watch the video (if she felt she needed to) and then do the worksheet. This means that each lesson took two weeks instead of one.
    2. Hit a wall.
      • This is an oft overlooked part of the process. At some point, Visual Latin gets hard. In my experience, it’s between Lesson 10 and 20.
      • If it’s the end of the year, we persevere. If it’s mid-year, we go ahead and move on to the next step in the process.
    3. Start Henle and use Visual Latin videos for support.
      • Here is a free guide that shows how Henle and Visual Latin match up.
      • Please note that we did NOT finish Visual Latin,
      • Yes, you have to buy all three if you’re going to do this: Henle Latin 1, Henle Latin Grammar, and the Henle First Year Answer Key.
      • Henle offers a more mechanical approach to Latin. I find that helpful at this point. We spend a year (or two) going slowly through Henle — only level 1.
      • I hope that Q-Age-Ten will only spend a year on this. We hit the wall this week, but since it’s the end of the year, we won’t switch to step 3 until the beginning of our next school year.
      • We do not finish Henle. It is not the point to finish anything. The point is to learn Latin, right? So as long as we keep moving in the right direction, we’re good. A year or two in Henle gives the proper grammar foundation, and the Visual Latin videos make it more pleasant.
      • We do not do many of the Visual Latin worksheets during this time.
    4. Switch to online Latin class with Dwane Thomas.
      • My oldest just finished his second year of this. He has just about completed Lingua Latina I (it takes two years to get through all of it). Beause Mr. Thomas’ classes focus on reading — and because Mr. Thomas has a good sense of humor — learning Latin has been a delight.
      • At this point, I’m not really facilitating at all — Mr. Thomas is. He sets the pace. He gives out quizzes and assignments. I just make sure there is time in the schedule to complete the assignments and attend class.
    5. When the child shows evidence of literacy, buy him a Latin Bible.
    6. Continue with online Latin class.

    So … can we learn Latin in our homeschools, even though Mom has no clue? YES! Praise the Lord, yes we can. You’ll have to be something of a colearner, of course, but it’s totally worth the adventure. It’s a beautiful road to travel.

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  • Reply Valerie Henderson December 19, 2022 at 10:43 am

    Hi Brandy, the link above for making Visual Latin videos work with Henle Latin is a dead link (error 404). Where can I find this? It seems important! Did you save it anywhere? We got through lesson 15 of Visual Latin…it got hard…I’m looking at Henle for January. Help?

  • Reply Danielle February 11, 2019 at 12:15 pm

    My daughter has officially hit the VL wall! I remembered this post, but I am glad I looked it up again…. I thought you had said that the wall happened *after* lesson 20, not between 10 and 20 (we are on lesson 12). Ha—nice to know that we are right on schedule ??

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    Vulgate! You give them the Vulgate. Another reason to love you ?!

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  • Reply Melissa Greene May 8, 2017 at 9:14 am

    Hey Brandy,

    I attempted Latin with my daughter in 5th grade using Latina Christiana and it was a bust. She hated it and struggled through. We ended up stopping mid year. She did complete Caesar’s English through MCT Language Arts, but we haven’t done much since. Whenever I bring it up, she acts as though she has PTSD 😉

    In hind sight, I was giving her too much at once, like drinking from a fire hose, and not doing it alongside her. I’ve looked at Visual Latin a couple of times, but haven’t made the purchase. I love the look of Henle and own the beginning books, but having no Latin knowledge myself, I’m not sure how to properly pronounce the words. Is this the reason you pair VL and Henle…to get the proper pronunciation?

    Also, I’m on board with teaching Latin, but after reading Consider This, (chapter 7) Glass makes my reasoning feel utilitarian. ;-p I get that the ancients learned Latin to read original texts, but now that everything has been translated, is it still as important as it once was? I also believe in primary sources so I’m sure reading the original text would be extremely gratifying. I’d love to hear your thoughts on our modern reasons for learning Latin (vocabulary, grammar, easier to learn romance languages, increase logic/reasoning, etc.) as being utilitarian.


    • Reply Susan Bush November 6, 2018 at 6:40 am

      I have these same thoughts after reading Consider This!

  • Reply Rebecca Beck May 3, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    My oldest (almost 10) loves Latin. We did Latina Christiana along with song school Latin for fun. Now we are into lingua Latina and love it! A big help on the side for us is to do Latin hymns, prayers and there is even a book of nursery rhymes. He just memorized She’ll be coming round the mountain! I’m totally learning along side him so we both reference the teacher manual. The ultimate for us is participating in a Latin Mass, utterly beautiful! My goal for him was to be able to read Latin by high school and I think he may get there sooner. It’s amazing to see how much his knowledge of Latin affects his comprehension in other subjects, I can definitely see CMs relations at work. Also, I love the idea of giving a bible when they are fluent in a language! I had no prior knowledge of Latin, and if I can facilitate my sons learning, anyone can!

  • Reply Julia April 30, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    Oh and I meant to post this under the recent podcast you did…drat.

  • Reply Julia April 30, 2017 at 9:24 pm

    Oh Brandy, you ladies said at the end to find our own schole sisters… is anyone here from twin cities mn are? ): I searched everywhere and never any luck…

    • Reply Steph May 3, 2017 at 9:49 am

      Hi Julia,

      Perhaps I’m out of place to comment here as I am not homeschooling at the moment–just reading about it. I’m from the twin cities area. I have an 8 year old (2nd grade public school right now), 5 year old (will start K in the fall if I don’t make the leap) and 1.75 year old.

      Please let me know if you are interested in chatting sometime. We can see if we can figure out how to connect! Maybe it is serendipitous that you posted here 🙂

      • Reply Julia February 10, 2018 at 9:46 am

        Steph, I just saw your comment. Where do you live and did you decide to homeschool in the end? I was reading over this blog again so I can decide on my Latin for this coming year. It would be cool to meet perhaps. Thanks

        • Reply Becky December 26, 2018 at 8:25 pm

          Another person from the Twin Cities….This is our first year home schooling boys ages 9,9,7, and 5. They wanted Latin but I decided to wait until January because I didn’t have any experience and everything was new. We are starting with Visual Latin after Christmas break!

  • Reply Alissa April 29, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    “With my second child, I gave her permission to watch the videos more than once. So the first day, she’d watch the video and think about it and narrate it. The next time, she’d re-watch the video (if she felt she needed to) and then do the worksheet. This means that each lesson took one week instead of two.”

    I’m a bit confused… Did your daughter watch the videos twice, but complete the course quicker? What is the recommended number of times to watch each video?

    I’m also curious as to students attitudes toward learning Latin. Do the video courses make it more palatable?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 1, 2017 at 2:49 pm

      Ha. I think what happened was that I said it backwards. 🙂 I will have to go fix that. Until then, it should have said “each lesson took two weeks instead of one.” Sorry about that!

      I think the recommended number of times to watch the video is only one, but I have found that doing it twice has worked really well for this particular child — she caught different things both times, and then was able to do the worksheet much more easily after the second video than when she was only doing one viewing.

      I find that one of the strong points of starting with Visual Latin is that the teacher is funny and so my kids look forward to it. It makes it fun and it doesn’t really feel like a burden. 🙂

  • Reply Confused April 13, 2017 at 10:16 pm

    So if the goal is to learn Latin to read the Bible, I thought the Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek? Where does Latin fit in? Am I totally retarded?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 17, 2017 at 8:27 am

      I don’t think the goal is to read the Bible necessarily, though admittedly the Vulgate is MUCH closer than the English Bible to the original (because it’s an inflected language). The goal is to read the many great works written in Latin — remember that not only are there great pagan works in Latin, but the Church talked to herself in Latin for at least 1000 years and science did likewise for many hundreds.

      As far as giving my child a Bible in Latin, I think I’d give him one in *any* language he became well-versed in, were it available. 🙂

      • Reply Jill April 30, 2017 at 4:31 am

        Andrew Kern talked about this (in passing) at the GHC in Cincinnati. He mentioned that listening to and following along with a Latin Bible is really helpful because much of it is so familiar in English. The same is probably true of most of us homeschoolers – there are many passages in the Bible we know almost “by heart” in English, so listening to or reading them in Latin can help us hone our translation skills and get a feel for the language. My kids and I aren’t quite to that point *yet*, but hopefully within the next year or so 🙂 You could use classic works originally written in Latin, but the truth is, we just aren’t as intimately acquainted with them as we are the Bible!

        • Reply Brandy Vencel May 1, 2017 at 2:46 pm

          Yay! I love that he said that! It makes me … feel like I might be right. 😉

      • Reply confused May 7, 2017 at 6:44 pm

        oh I guess I misunderstood, as I thought you said that in your previous Latin post. So why learn Latin over Hebrew and/or Greek? Someone convince me… 🙂

        • Reply Alissa May 10, 2017 at 6:49 am

          I am wondering this too. Memoria Press has some great articles on why Latin is important, but I am wondering if these same benefits can be obtained from Greek or Hebrew.

  • Reply Isabelle April 10, 2017 at 7:31 pm

    Hello! First time I am ever making a comment :). Brandy, you have helped my family so much with all your posts, thank you !
    Three of my six children have worked through all the LFC Primers (two did only part of them), and then my two older ones have done Latin Alive I through IV. My oldest takes the Latin AP this year as a senior, her younger sibling is in the Latin Alive Reader this year. They are both in online classes in High School, since I was not able to keep up with them. My third did Latin Alive I with me (11 at the time). This year my younger ones (12,10,8) switched to Memoria Press Latin, with uses Henle in their Fourth Form. I love the Memoria Press Latin, lots of exercises! I like the Henle text, but it is very hard to teach if you do not know Latin already or how to teach a language more grammatically. I feel confident now to teach the Henle, but I can tweak it and give more context. I think Lingua Latina is great, we use it. But I think it needs a strong grammar program with it, so the student does not start guessing the translations. This becomes a bad habit quickly ;).
    I am from Europe, so I had to learn English which really made a difference in my attitude towards teaching the children a second or third language. We have done Ambleside Online for three years now and love it!
    Thank you again so much for sharing your wisdom!
    P. S. I really enjoy this little yellow book for a shorter Latin course : Gwynne’s Latin: The Ultimate Introduction to Latin Including the Latin in Everyday English

  • Reply Ann-Marie April 10, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this, Brandy 🙂
    I have been intrigued by VL since your mentioning it last year and am so again now with seeing your last post about it as well.
    I had a few questions if you don’t mind.
    Have you ever tried CAP’s LFC? We did SS Latin with all three of my boys and loved it and really learned lots of grammar with it as well. We progressed into LFC1 with the two oldest and am now on LFC2. Must add that LFC2 has not been going well for us, but, that is our fault in consistency, not the program!
    My two oldest are 13 and 15 this year and we’ve all been working through the programs together as I love to learn it right along with them.
    Do you feel if they have a good handle on grammar then they would understand VL? I looked at the sample video and it is very different then what we are used to with LFC, but, different is good, right 😉
    I keep hearing about this VL wall that people hit. Is it a hard wall to scale?
    Also, we have Henle, but, have yet to use it.
    Would you suggest if we have some latin under our belts to try to begin with option 3 that you listed?
    Henle has always looked intimidating to me. I don’t know why, it just does.

    I do like the idea of them being able to read it as well as learn all of the nuts and bolts behind it. Like I said, we have not reached that point yet with LFC 2, but, most likely would have if we’d been more diligent about it this year.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  • Reply Hayley April 10, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    You make it sound so easy, or maybe I should say not so daunting. I was going to wait another year but this post makes me feel ready. 🙂

  • Reply Juliana April 10, 2017 at 8:52 am

    I am so confused about which route to use with Latin.

    There seems to be two camps (schools of thought). 1) the Grammar Camp and 2) the Reading Camp.

    There are wise people that I admire in each of the “camps”.

    The Grammar Camp: I hear them saying that learning Latin grammar is very important. Important for learning English grammar, syntax and logic. (Henle, Andrew Pudewa, Leigh Bortins)

    The Reading Camp: I hear them saying that reading (and perhaps enjoying) Latin is the goal. (Charlotte Mason [as I understand it from listening to “Delictable Education”], Lingua Latina and Mr. Thomas)

    I am truly confused on how to move forward. I really like the idea of Mr. Thomas’s approach but I don’t have enough experience to trust that.

    Your plan sounds balanced, but we’re getting a late start.

    We stopped Visual Latin around lesson 20 (though he left me behind a few lessons before that). This year we’re working through “Getting started with Latin”. With the background that Mr. Thomas gave us we did 2 lessons a day until about lesson 70, now we do one a day. We will be done about the time summer hits.

    So would you suggest Henle for a while? Due to budget constraints, we probably won’t be able to do Mr. Thomas’s online classes, I will learn with my daughter as we go.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 10, 2017 at 9:35 am

      I feel like a balance is necessary! I’m with Miss Mason on the ultimate goal: we learn the language in order to read original works in Latin — because there is much wisdom to be gleaned there. BUT … I think getting more grammar mechanics actually helps with that goal. There were places where my son did really well these past couple years that he directly attributed to his work in Henle. I think all the English grammar, syntax, and logic that comes is a side bonus, but not the goal.

      Personally, YES, I would recommend Henle for a while — BUT I say that with an ignorance of Getting Started with Latin. I wonder if looking at an online sample would help you determine whether or not you were duplicating too much? For me, I wouldn’t have wanted to do Henle without the VL videos, but we already owned them (and it sounds like you do, too!).

      I understand the budget constraints. I recently heard there are some things available for Lingua Latina (if you want to go that route later) online for free. I believe they are put out by the publisher? I haven’t checked them out, but it might prove helpful?

  • Reply Danielle April 10, 2017 at 8:01 am

    So if you had a student who would be 9 years old for all of “4th grade” (summer birthday) do you think you would wait until age 10/5th grade? Or maybe do grammar 1st semester of 4th grade and then try to ease into Latin 2nd semester?

    I’m totally chomping at the bit to start either Latin or Greek with my kids, because those are the languages I really want to learn…but I’m also feeling a fair amount of guilt over failing to really learn a modern language in these early years as Charlotte Mason would have us do. ?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 10, 2017 at 8:04 am

      If your child knows no grammar at all, then yes — if it were me, I’d do a semester of grammar first. My third child had so much familiarity with grammar because of being around her older siblings that it wasn’t an issue for her — but VL1 assumes they know basics like nouns/verbs/adjectives and so I had to remediate my oldest a bit before it felt “right. — I’m glad you asked this because I’d completely forgotten until you said this! I think when I have time later I’ll go add that bit into the post.

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