Vesuvius and Other Plays
Although not specifically designed for homeschool use, it would be hard to beat the combination of history, culture, grammar, and literature found in this immersion-based Latin program! The strength (and appeal) of this program is that it gets students reading and comprehending in Latin right away. Each "stage" or chapter in the text opens with illustrations captioned with short sentences or paragraphs in Latin. The captions are designed to be the "model" sentences for that stage. Between the pictures and the text, students can intuit the meaning of the sentences, even if somewhat roughly. This is followed by a vocabulary list that includes the Latin words (and their English translations) used in the captions. Following the vocabulary list is a reading passage, also entirely in Latin, and another vocabulary list. With the Latin students have already learned in the captions and vocabulary lists, the reading passage should be understandable for them. The first three units use fictional but realistic stories about Roman characters which are strung throughout the book, while Unit 4 utilizes actual Latin literature for practice. Following the Latin immersion passage, youll find two sections which focus on language - "About the Language," and "Practicing the Language." In the first section, students will read simple explanations of Latin grammar and syntax, while example sentences (in Latin) are also given. Some of these sections are purely informative, while others feature short practice exercises or reference charts. The bulk of the text exercises are found in the "Practicing the Language" section, where students use their Latin reading, grammar, and usage skills to translate and complete sentences, change parts of speech into different forms, and more. There are usually three different types of exercises in each of these sections, which give students a nice variety of practice. After all that hard vocabulary and language work, students will come to one of my favorite sections, the cultural background. This section features fascinating facts about life in ancient Roman times and its all in English, so it gives students a break from reading in Latin. The text is augmented by full-color photos of artifacts, ruins, and period artwork, and in my sample of Unit 1, topics include gladiatorial shows, Roman beliefs about life after death, the work and treatment of slaves, education, local government and elections, and much more. The last portion of each stage focuses on word study and word patterns (in Units 3 and 4). Word study focuses on English words derived from Latin and includes several exercises which explore the Latin roots and the English meanings. In "Word Patterns," which are only found in the last two units, exercises practice Latin vocabulary, grammar, and usage. A "Vocabulary Checklist" is located at the very end of each stage and lists the important Latin words (and their English translations) which were learned in that stage. At the end of each units text, there are summaries for grammar, word order, usage, and a complete Latin-English vocabulary index (alphabetized by Latin word). An index of cultural topics, an index of grammatical topics, and a time chart spanning 2500 B.C. to 1945 A.D. for Rome, world history, and world culture are also included in each textbook. Unit 4 includes additional sections on poetry, metrics, and literary and rhetorical devices. Student texts are all paperback.
Now that youre familiar with what the text contains, lets look at the spiral-bound Teachers manual. A lengthy introduction about the course and using the student text in the course orients you to the material and offers suggestions for teaching the course. While designed for the classroom teacher, there are plenty of suggested teaching methods and ideas that will be of use in the homeschool as well. The center of the book holds the "Stage Commentaries," which offer abbreviated summaries of each stages content, additional information and notes on the photos and illustrations found in the student book, a suggested introduction to the stage, teaching guidance for each portion of the stage, suggested discussion questions, and further activities. No answers to the exercises in the text are found in this section, just teaching information. The appendices hold diagnostic translation tests, a complete list of the "Vocabulary Checklist" words, lists of vocabulary by form, a bibliography, answers for text exercises, diagnostic tests, and workbook exercises.
Omnibus workbooks include a variety of activities that are based on the vocabulary, grammar, and storyline from the text. Some exercises in my sample of the Unit 1 Omnibus workbook include translating sentences, matching, multiple choice, identifying proper word forms in a sentence, matching sentences with pictures, speaking sentences for oral practice, and much more. Additional cultural information and literature are found in the workbooks, which are closely correlated with the information found in each stage of the text. The workbooks are consumable, and no mention of copying is mentioned. Because of this, you may choose to complete exercises on a separate sheet of paper in order to "stretch" them through the years.
Latin Value packs are also available. Each cost-saving bundle contains one student text and one workbook for the unit.
Other components offered include the audio CDs, Activity Masters, Stage Test books, and Latin readers. Audios include selected recordings of model sentences, dialogues, and stories using the classical (or restored) pronunciation. If you are looking for extra grammar, reading comprehension, review, and word study exercises, the Activity Masters provide even more practice (although for the price, they may be better suited to co-op use). Stage Tests are spiral-bound and feature multi-page test masters which thoroughly test the information covered in each stage. These are reproducible, but because they are somewhat pricey, you may wish to skip them unless you find you need the additional reinforcement. The readers are designed as a supplement to the program, with reading selections in Latin at a level consistent with what is taught at that unit.
Its a complete, high-interest, high-rewards program. Students find themselves reading right away while they learn the language, and the content is fascinating. I love the way the characters and storyline become more complex throughout each text. If nothing else, you want to go on to learn more! The drawbacks are that the program is relatively pricey, and because its designed for a classroom situation, it expects that the teacher knows enough Latin to facilitate the class. However, all answers are included in the teachers materials, and if you learn some Latin along with your students, you should be able to help them if they need assistance it just may be more difficult than if you had a strong background in Latin yourself. The program would work best for students who are strong independent learners or anyone looking for an immersion course that incorporates a lot of historical and cultural information as well. If this approach interests you but you have younger students, check out Minimus: Starting Out in Latin. Jess