Friday, April 29, 2011

Review: Latin's Not So Tough

As part of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I have had the chance over the past few months to use Latin's Not So Tough Level 3 with William.  I have previously used some of the Greek material from Greek 'n' Stuff, so I was interested in seeing what the Latin program was like.

Anyone who knows me already knows that Latin is something that is important to me.  And William really hasn't had any direct instruction in Latin.  He has picked up bits and pieces of Latin, and has definitely picked up a fair amount of cultural and historical information.  When he found out were were getting this, he was really excited to finally get to start learning Latin.

Latin's Not So Tough Level 1 is intended as the starting point for very young students.  For young elementary students, Level 2 is the recommended starting point.  And "older students can easily start in the third level."  So, seeing as William is a 6th grader, Level 3 seemed to be the appropriate place to start.

Latin's Not So Tough uses an inductive approach to teaching grammar.  Inductive = a parts to whole approach.  So the student isn't learning the paradigms, or the chants (amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant).

Level 3 consists of 36 lessons, averaging almost 5 worksheets per lesson.  The idea is basically that you work through a page a day, plus go through flashcards, and this would take you through a schoolyear.

I love that concept.  One worksheet per day is pretty non-intimidating, which is a very good thing for my pencil-phobic, dyslexic child.  So, with some anticipation, we dug in.

How it worked in Our Home:

Well, we started off with the first lesson which consists of six pages of review of the alphabet.  Since all the Latin William has listened to has been using Ecclesiastical pronunciation (LNST uses Classical), much was new information.  We spent about two weeks going over this (each page consists of six letters.  Most of our time was spent on the vowels.

Then we dug into lesson 2, which consists of four pages of diphthongs and special consonants.  This also took us two weeks.  There are 16 total sounds to be learned in these four pages.  William found this really confusing, and I had to come up with other ways to reinforce the lessons.   Having flashcards would have helped.  The flashcards that you can cut out and paste onto index cards in the back of the student workbook don't include the letters or diphthongs.

We ended up not being at all diligent about our Latin over Thanksgiving/Christmas, and basically started back up in January needing to spend a couple of days reviewing the pronunciation of the first two lessons.

Then we moved on to lesson 3.  Lesson 3 consists of 20 "review" vocabulary words.  Considering we hadn't used any previous levels of Latin's Not So Tough, this was not review for William.  We tried doing a page (4 words) a day, but that was totally unrealistic.  We ended up slowing that down to more like two pages a week, with me finding supplemental "stuff" to help him get the vocabulary.  That worked okay.  The workpages look like this:

We continued on to Lesson 4, and William ended up totally stressed out when he saw that it was more vocabulary review.  Another 16 new words.  By now, we had to slow down to about a page per week, as William was just not able to keep up the pace of learning that many new words in a week without any solid way of putting them into context, aside from what I was able to make up as we went.  There is the suggestion in the Answer Key to use the derivatives to help teach the words, which did help.  Some.  He may have been able to handle a faster pace if I had been more proactive in creating exercises for him.

Sometime around now, though, I pulled out some of the many other Latin resources we own and I started using some of their sentences and exercises to help William to learn all of this review vocabulary.  And to reward him for all of his hard work by throwing in some Roman culture and history information, which Latin's Not So Tough does not include at all.

So, after about four months of using Latin's Not So Tough, we turned to Lesson 5.  Which gave us... are you ready for this?  Fourteen new vocabulary words to "review."  I thought William would burst into tears.  I continued to find supplements to help him actually DO something besides just memorizing vocabulary words.  And I showed him that Lesson 6 was where the review stopped, and encouraged him that we were almost there...

Even with that carrot, about halfway through March (we started at the beginning of October), William begged and pleaded to be allowed to do something else, anything else, for Latin and to never have to look at this book again.  Ever.

Since I was so tired of having to create my own lessons to teach this "review" vocabulary, I couldn't say no.

Looking ahead, once the actual lessons start, the program looks reasonable.  Maybe we could have made it work.  Looking at, say, Lesson 21 -- page 1 has them learn 3 vocabulary words (very similar to lessons 3-5).  But three words on a page means so much more white space.  The second day has him filling in the correct words to complete the sentences, and then translating those seven sentences.  Day 3 is three new words.  Day 4 involves writing down the Latin for 24 English words/phrases (mostly verb phrases like "she prepares" or "he fights").  Day 5 gives three new vocabulary words.  Day 6 involves picking out which Latin word matches the English at the beginning of the row.

THIS is a pace I think he would have been able to handle.  He may even had been able to do more than one worksheet in a day.

My opinion:

I think that no matter the age of the "older child" starting at Level 3, expecting that in five weeks (26 days) they can learn all the pronunciation of the letters and diphthongs plus 50 vocabulary words is entirely unrealistic.  I don't think I'd recommend any child start with Level 3, unless he has had a year of elementary Latin already.  Maybe it would work for a student in Junior High, particularly one with a SAT type of vocabulary already.

We did not find the CD to be terribly helpful.  I remember really liking the Hey, Andrew, Teach Me Some Greek alphabet song, and I probably was anticipating something catchy and memorable.  Instead, the CD consists of someone reading the text on the page... such as the "sed means but" that I quoted above from Lesson 3.

I also prefer language programs that also teach something of the history and culture of that language.  And for my children, a DVD based program seems nearly essential.

So my recommendation?  If this program appeals to you, start at Level 2.  An older child will probably move fairly rapidly through that, and then you could probably skip the first five lessons of Level 3 (all the review) and go straight on to Lesson 6.  I'm not sure if both levels could quite be completed in a schoolyear, since I haven't seen Level 2, but I would think most older kids could come close.

The products I received included the Student Workbook ($21.95), the Full Text Answer Key ($21.95), and the Pronunciation CD for Levels 1, 2, and 3 ($10). 

You can check out what some of my fellow crewmates had to say about various levels of Latin, Greek, and Bible at:

Any questions? I'd love to know what you would want to know in deciding whether or not this is something you want to purchase.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive Latin's Not So Tough Level 3, including the student book, the answer key, and the CD, in exchange for my review of the product.  All opinions are my own, and receiving complimentary products does not factor in to my opinions.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.


Beth said...

Going by your review I have to agree that starting with level 2 would be wise if the child hasnt already had lessons before. I am glad we got Level 2 here, we still had a review to go through first but it wasnt really hard. Great review!

Michelle Smith said...

Thanks for your review, Debra. It helps me to realize that if we should choose to do Greek again next year that we should probably choose a lower level to plan to supplement the review portions somehow in order to maintain interest.

Debra said...

Beth -- glad to hear my assumptions about starting at Level 2 were reasonably good.

Michelle -- well -- I have used the Greek materials (levels 1 and 2, and I own some of 3), and I don't think that it is really comparable in that respect.

Go check and see when Tess does her review of Hey Andrew Level 3, for the perspective of someone who *started* there. But *my* take, for your kids, would be that you probably could jump to Level 3.

Lessons 1 & 2 review the alphabet, which your kids would know after working through Level 1. Then there are only TWO lessons of vocab review, with only one word per page, followed by a practice page on that vocab word. So Lesson 3 reviews FOUR vocabulary words. In total. A man, a brother, an apostle, and I see.

Lesson 4 is also vocab review. TWO words. I know, and "and".

And then you're done with review. SIX vocabulary words is quite different from FIFTY.

After that review, you spend three lessons working on those words and introducing the idea of "I know" vs. "we know" and you don't get any new vocabulary until lesson 8 (p. 39)

Totally different. Totally. And honestly, in looking at this, I'm back to thinking maybe I should be using Level 3 of Hey Andrew.

Tess said...

@Debra, wow, boy am I glad I got Greek and not Latin!

@Michelle, I just posted my Greek level 3 review. It is NOT like the Latin at all. Much more reasonable with the review. I would NOT want to start Hey Andrew below Level 3 with a child over age 10. We've made it work here. Don't let the Latin discourage you from the Greek.