Contrary to popular belief, my children do not study Latin simply because I have an evil desire to torture them. In fact, if you saw the Latin program that they've been using for the past several weeks, you'd agree that it was not torture.
Why I am so impressed with Visual Latin:
1. Visual Latin takes an approach that builds understanding first, vocabulary later.
I like their whole approach to teaching Latin -- understanding first, vocabulary later. After learning a sentence, we can substitute in easy vocabulary to make our own sentences instead of just knowing random Latin words. For instance, the first lesson covers being verbs (I am, he is, etc). The worksheet lesson for part A has the student translating basic sentences such as Sumus in Italia. (We are in Italy.) The second worksheet asks the student to fill in the correct form of the verb in simple sentences. Definitions for any unfamiliar words are included on the page.
Addison really likes the third portion of each lesson, the worksheet where you translate a Latin Bible passage into English. Some of the vocabulary is provided, but the student is expected to know some words and how they are being used in the passage. In the first lesson, one of the verses translates into "God is good." The words God and good are listed in the vocabulary box, but the student is expected to understand and translate the Latin word for is. The translation exercise in lesson 10 is nearly 20 sentences taken from the story of creation. A sample sentence from that page translates, "The earth is beautiful and good." At this point, the student is familiar with enough Latin words that a vocabulary section is not necessary.
2. The video lessons are amazing.
At least I think they're amazing. I've watched video lessons for several different subjects. I know that all of the instructors are passionate about what they teach, but it doesn't always seem that way in the videos. In the Visual Latin lessons, you can tell that Dwane Thomas loves teaching Latin.
You can also tell that he likes making Latin enjoyable, even funny at times. My children apparently don't share my sense of humor and often failed to appreciate his somewhat nerdy jokes. I guess that's their loss. I thought his comments about the "confusative case" to be quite funny.
We enjoyed some of the added information that he included, interesting facts that make Latin more real and less academic. For instance, in the fifth lesson, he mentions how Romans didn't have capital letters or punctuation. They also didn't leave spaces between their words. After hearing this, Brennan declared, "I want to write in Roman." He thinks I'd quit fussing about the sloppy state of some of his assignments if he didn't have to worry about those pesky little punctuation and capitalization rules in English.
3. Visual Latin's convenient format is perfect for my family.
We reviewed the Visual Latin lessons in their download format. I loaded the videos onto my iPod, and Brennan was excited to get permission to use it as part of his schoolwork. On a different occasion, we watched the video together on the computer screen. I am able to view iPod movies on our main TV, but it wasn't ever as convenient for us to do Latin that way.
The worksheets that accompany the video lessons are well-done. I found that it provided enough practice with the new concepts, but most pages did not require so much writing that my children complained about it. The translation exercise was sometimes a bit lengthy, and I often took dictation for Brennan on those days.
From a parent perspective, I appreciated that the worksheets were more than just the homework that accompanies the information in the video. Brennan didn't always catch on to the Latin grammar concepts the first time that they were presented, and I was able to use the information included on the worksheet to help review it with him. I also like that the worksheets were pdf files. More than once I reprinted a worksheet that was either lost or that needed to be redone.
Finally, I like that the Visual Latin lessons are sold in sets of 10. As most homeschool families know, there are always programs that sound so great but completely flop when I try to use them with my own kids. There are other products that end up getting pushed to the side when life gets in the way of the best of intentions. For me, I like being able to use 10 lessons and then evaluate whether we should move on to the next 10 lessons.
If you are interested in knowing why (or at least some of the reasons why) I want my children to learn Latin, you'd be interested in seeing Dwane Thomas's short video "Why Study Latin?". It is available as part of the sample Visual Latin lessons that can be downloaded here.
Visual Latin is suitable for older elementary students and can be used for part of a High School Latin course as well. If you'd like all the specifics of how to count it for High School credits, be sure to check out Visual Latin's All the Specs in One Place page. Downloaded lessons cost $25 for each set of 10 lessons; lessons on DVD are slightly higher.
If you'd like to hear how much the other members of the review crew thought about Visual Latin, please visit The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew blog here.