Henle First Year Latin
This Latin course from Loyola Press was designed for the serious student. It appears to be very thorough and fairly rigorous. The four levels were designed to use one each year of high school, for a total of four years of Latin. The digest sized books vary in length between 480 and 627 pages. The study of Latin is done systematically, starting with the basics and moving into readings and translations. The skills covered in the first books include a thorough mastery of forms, basic syntax, and simple vocabulary to prepare students for simple readings and translations. Each lesson is followed by several exercises. Because different people learn faster, the exercises vary in difficulty and students are not required to work them all, rather, they can choose ones that they are ready for. Any required exercises are marked. There is plenty of material for both class and private study. The second book is more intensive. Besides reviewing the first year's lessons, students tackle readings from Caesar's Commentaries, work extensive exercises, and complete Latin-English and English-Latin activities. There are several boxes of vocabulary for each lesson. Students who have completed the first year should be able to start right into the readings; however, the first 16 lessons provide a review and a slower start into the second year if students are not ready to jump right into Caesar. The readings also progress in difficulty, starting with simple sentences. The third book is an introduction to Cicero. The majority of the exercises are composed of readings, which the student translates from English into Latin, or from Latin into English. The exercises are all based on Cicero. When students progress to the fourth level of Henle Latin, they are translating longer readings. The text is based entirely from Cicero and Virgil. All four books are written in a very non-flowery and straightforward way, and each one includes word lists and English-Latin and Latin-English vocabulary in the back of the book. There is also an accompanying book
My teaching certifications are in foreign languages, so I have taught from (and learned from) a variety of language textbooks, and I would argue that this one is the best beginning text I’ve see. If your goal is to get students reading original Latin texts eventually, this text may be what you are looking for. The most accessible (easily read) original Latin text for students is likely the Latin Vulgate (the Latin translation of the Bible, written in the late 4th century A.D.). For this reason it is important for even secular students to be familiar with Christian Latin. Christian Latin allows students to access authentic Latin text which builds their confidence, skill, and interest as they work towards reading other secular Latin texts.
I would not suggest using this book if one’s intention is to skip anything with Christian content. While the readings are of both Roman and Christian themes, they are intended to be used jointly. Skipping one in favor of the other would not provide adequate practice for students of the skills presented in the text.