On the other side of AP Latin

This week my oldest takes her AP Latin exam. Hitting milestones like these tends to make me reflective, and I thought I would look back on her four years of Latin study and pick out what she has gained from it.

When I started her on the Latin journey, it was mostly based on faith and hope that a return to past traditions would yield higher results. Now that I have seen it first hand, I can say why (I think) it makes you smarter. 1. Students have to work really hard to pick the right English words to translate Latin to English. This is because one Latin word can mean several different English words. Nuance plays an important role, and I have seen first-hand how my daughter is a better writer as she deliberates over her word choices. She critically thinks about how whole passages are written and what the author is trying to make you believe. 2. Latin word order is entirely different than English, and endings of the words indicate the part of speech. This means that a student has to analyze each word in the Latin sentence and determine the grammatical structure and work to put the words into correct English word order. 3. Preparing for the AP Latin exam involves huge amounts of literary analysis skills. My daughter has learned to dig for meaning through verb tense choices, word choices, sentence structure and more. This is done through reading The Aeneid, and analyzing the meter and the Latin words chosen to create and convey meaning. Then Caesar’s De Bello Gallico is also studied and analyzed. Students have to work really hard to access and understand the works in English. Reading the Latin and translating is such a high-level educational experience. 4. Her vocabulary is off the charts. She tested above 1700 Lexile level on her virtual schools reading tests since she was in Latin 2 in 7th grade. 5. Latin requires extreme attention to detail. This is the area of Latin where my daughter struggles the most. I think this is likely due to a combination of her youth and her personality. I have been very impressed with how she has grown and improved in her ability to pay attention and notice minor details. 6. Learning Latin takes loads of grit. Latin can sometimes be tedious and dull, and sometimes really interesting. There are a lot of highs and lows in it–at least if my kid is anything to go by. She has both hated it and loved it at different times. Persevering through the subject has given her strength of character and a myriad of academic skills.

These skills have transferred to other disciplines and subjects. My daughter took AP US Government in 8th grade through an online school. She had to write a media guide where she analyzed news articles and looked for bias. She had to write multiple essays for the class. Her teacher said he had never seen another student like her and that, “Her powers of analysis [were] off the charts.” It is entirely attributed to her Latin preparation and whatever natural talent she was born with, but the way her mind was trained was through the Latin. I don’t know if all of my kids (or anyone else) will get the same results, but my current plan is to put all of my children through Latin because I didn’t do anything else to explicitly train her to analyze or process information (besides allowing her to read extensively). 

All told, DD will have finished 7 AP classes and tests by the end of this week. (Over the course of grades 7-9.) Her most difficult classes have always been her Latin classes, and by comparison everything else has been very doable for her. I am extremely satisfied with what she has gained through her Latin study, and she will be continuing on with Latin 5 in her 10th grade year. She will also be adding Greek because she is interested in learning another classical language, and also because we love this quote from Winston Churchill, “I would make them all learn English: and then I would let the clever ones learn Latin as an honor, and Greek as a treat.”

Latin Update

So it has been a year and a half since I first started using First Form Latin, and I wanted to write an updated review.  First Form Latin did a really good job of teaching my child the first quarter of high school latin.  I definitely think it is a good option for people who want to teach their child Latin, and I would recommend it because it does what it says it will do.

With that being said, I will not be using Second Form Latin this school year.  Instead we are going to be studying Latin through The Lukeion Project.  They have two prerequisites of sorts for their Latin classes: Witty Wordsmith and Barbarian Diagrammarian.  My oldest is currently enrolled for both of those classes this year.

So why switch if First Form was working?  Well, there is a lot that goes into that.  The first reason is that I was frustrated with trying to implement First Form.  We are not robots.  I try really hard to have my kids get up and follow a beautiful schedule that I set up in Homeschool Planet.


See?  It really is beautiful.  I tried to hit Latin first all last year, but guess what?  Life happens.  We had a rough month here or there.  We had some awesome extracurriculars and opportunities pop up that messed with our schedule.  And sometimes my perfect child felt less than perfect and didn’t want to do those worksheets NO MATTER WHAT!!  And when you miss, it really messes with your progress.  With a memory based curriculum you have to go back and review to refresh yourself before you go forward.  So a curriculum that is supposedly one school year long took us 1.5 years to finally finish.

I vowed repeatedly to get more structured–more robotic.  And we did get more disciplined.  Latin really pushed us into a new world of order and routine.  I started using a schedule like what I have above because of trying to teach Latin.  We managed to pull through the first book with an “A” on the last test, but it felt like dragging my daughter through thorn bushes.

Then I ran into a friend of mine.  She has amazing kids, and her oldest got a perfect score on the ACT and is very accomplished.  I told her that we were finishing up First Form, and she was surprised that I would use it for a kid like Anna.  One of her kids has a learning disability, and she uses the Form series for her.  She thinks it is good too, but not for a kid without any handicaps.  She told me to go through Lukeion.

I looked into Lukeion and saw that Chapter 1 of the textbook covers a ton of material compared to First Form.  At the end of four years of Latin with Lukeion, you are ready to take the AP Latin exam.  After four forms, you are ready to go into high school latin 2 and would still need 3-5 years of study for the AP test.  So for the same amount of time, we could do Latin and then Greek.  That is definitely appealing.

What isn’t appealing is the tuition.  I don’t want to pay to take all of those classes.  Especially because I would have to pay for it again with each subsequent student instead of just buying the curriculum once and then having it for each kid.  I hemmed and hawed over it for a long time, but after starting in Witty Wordsmith, I am convinced it was the right thing to do.  The routine and structure of due dates (that are not from me) and lecture times is exactly what we need to successfully study a foreign language.  I really feel that this investment will come back to me in the form of scholarships and college acceptance.

Witty Wordsmith


One of my favorite things to discover in homeschooling is a way to shortcut a lengthy curriculum, and still achieve the same (or more) learning.  And I am excited to announce that I have made an awesome discovery.

A lot of classical homeschoolers do spelling lessons, and then when they have finished their spelling programs they jump into Vocabulary from Classical Roots(VfCR).  This program spans 4th grade to 11th, and I don’t know about anyone else, but I could really use some more free time in my schedule.  I was excited to lose spelling and pick up some time for other subjects that interest my kid.  (Computer Animation in Blender, for example.)  I did not want to fill that same subject period with another program that spans 4th-11th grade.

Enter the Lukeion Project to save the day!  They have awesome course offerings, and among them is Witty Wordsmith, a fabulous, one-semester!!!! course that covers way more word roots than the entire scope and sequence of VfCR.  To give you an idea of how many more words, the first week’s lesson had 58 prefixes, and the second lesson word list had 8 prefixes and 38 base stems.  If you contrast that with VfCR, you would have to go 2 years and 4 lessons in to get that many word roots.  Plus there are several suffixes in the VfCR program and Witty Wordsmith doesn’t cover them as much because they are more intuitive and mostly indicate how the word is used in a sentence (-ly would indicate an adverb and -able is an adjective ending).

I have already seen results in Anna’s vocabulary after only 2 weeks.  She is thinking about words differently and is understanding them better.  She ran across megalithic in history this week, and was able to pick apart the meaning.  I am one happy mom right now.

The course is structured so that you attend a live, online session once a week and then you do a weekly homework assignment that is due two days before the next class session.  You also have a quiz every two weeks, and they are cumulative which really helps with retention.  The quiz has a window of time that you can do it that spans from Saturday to Wednesday.  My 10-year-old has been performing well in the class, and so far she has spent 2 hours in class, 3 hours studying flashcards, and around 4 hours doing homework.  So your weekly guesstimate on time commitment per week would be 4-5 hours, although Anna is very meticulous, so it may be less for your child.  Since the class is on Thursday and the homework is due Tuesday, those hours have mostly been in between those days for us.

I will come back and update this article at the end of her 13 word list adventure.

(I wasn’t offered anything for my opinion, and I paid full price for the class.)


Why am I trying Latin?

So why do I teach Latin to my kids? That is a good question, and I am feeling it out as I go along, but my main motivation for even starting Latin is the fact that the great writers of the past learned Latin. If you Google the question of whether or not to teach Latin to people you will find many articles extolling the virtues of Latin as part of a rigorous, classical education.

They use to teach Latin and Greek to everyone who was educated, and people enjoyed reading Charles Dickens.  They discontinued the practice and now people think books like “Hunger Games,” or the Twilight Series are amazing.
Since I wasn’t fortunate enough to be taught Latin as part of my education, I can’t fall back on personal testimony over whether Latin is worth my kids time or not yet (although my daughter is starting to see connections between words that I never saw), but I think it is worth the effort when I read articles like these:
How can I teach my kids Latin when I have no experience at all in the subject matter?
Well, happily, there are lots of Latin programs that are designed to be used with a teacher who doesn’t know the material.  But for me this has also meant spending money on programs that just did not work out.  Latin for Children (LfC) was like that for me.
On the surface, and after reading many reviews, I thought I had a winner with LfC.  It had DVDs, so I was just the guide, not the teacher.  It had pronunciation CDs and I could decide between either ecclesiastical or classical styles so students in my co-op could choose which style they liked the best.  It had fun readers and lots of materials as well as cool online materials to supplement.  I thought that I would be really successful with the materials.
Then I tried it for a school year.  The idea behind the program is that you memorize a lot of material as a young student so that when you get to actually mastering principles of grammar you have a huge advantage.  But for my kids it meant memorizing things outside of any usable framework or context.  It also meant tons of review sessions because each lesson had a lot of memory work and I didn’t want to lose all of the words we had learned.  Book A had 36 lessons or so to work through and all of them had a ton of memory work.
We gave it up after 10 lessons (one lesson a week) as it was clear that the other members of our co-op weren’t retaining any of the information and my kids were only retaining because we listened to the Latin CDs all. the. time.  I don’t want to work through a curriculum for basic exposure and have nothing to show for all of our effort.
I want understanding to grow and be able to be built upon.
Enter The Form First series from Memoria Press.  My 3rd grade daughter has had so much more success with this series than LfC.  Each lesson explains the concept being taught so there is a context for the memory work, and there are plenty of worksheets to review the material.  I haven’t had to do much with my daughter except have her work through the worksheets, do the oral drills, and either conjugate or decline the vocabulary (10 words) per lesson.   I have been amazed by her progress.  She even told me that she didn’t really understand what Latin was until we switched from LfC to First Form.
First Form is hard work and can be really monotonous, but Latin isn’t supposed to be fun and games.  It is supposed to discipline the mind.  How will that be done without having the student complete something they don’t want to do?  My daughter sometimes groans when I tell her to get her Latin out, but then she tells me how proud she is of her Latin homework binder.
It forces attention to detail because when an assignment is graded a student sees the silly mistakes that were made and how that affects their grade.  If a student doesn’t want to spend time correcting an assignment then being more meticulous becomes a virtue.
A parent that is looking for a more “fun” approach to learning a language, and who doesn’t have strong expectations of retention would probably prefer the fun approach from Latin for Children.  But a parent who wants Latin to accomplish the goals listed in the articles I found will be much more satisfied with the Memoria Press version of Latin education.
Personally, if I were the first type of parent, I would teach my child Spanish or French as Latin doesn’t seem as useful unless it accomplishes the discipline, rigor, and precision its study promises.  Just having a passing familiarity with a foreign language is good for when you go to a Mexican restaurant and remember hearing the word leche and feel excited that you vaguely remember it may mean “milk.”
Does that mean that I have sold off my LfC materials?  No, I have them with my Minimus Latin materials because I used to be that mom that wanted every curriculum to be super fun.  Maybe I will be able to pull them out and use them someday in some other context—I think Minimus looks like fun to just sit and read during a summer.  And maybe one of my kids down the line will enjoy looking through the LfC materials.  But for now First Form is doing the job admirably.
As a side note, I never received any of the materials for my reviews or opinion.  I paid my own hard-earned cash and this is my own opinion after trying both options.