Help Your Kids Succeed with Latin (when you have no idea what you are doing)

Helping Your Kids Succeed with LatinI have a confession. Last year, my daughter started learning Latin, and by the second month of school, I had checked out. Completely. I was barely paying attention anymore. Occasionally, I would check her assignments against the answer key, and drill her flash cards. But mostly, I was absently letting her try to teach herself Latin.

That’s right, homeschooling parent of the year right here, folks.

To make things worse, this year, I agreed to the task of tutoring her Challenge B class. Where I’m supposed to teach Latin. And not just the ‘easy’ beginner Latin. The fast paced Challenge B version. So, there’s that.

What’s a girl to do in a tough spot like this? Hire a Latin tutor to teach it for you, of course! Which is exactly what I did. A sweet and lovely veteran homeschool mom is graciously teaching my kids each week, and I could sing her praises all day long. But next year, I want to be prepared to take on the task myself.

So, I’m learning quickly how to teach Latin at home without knowing Latin myself.

With each year of homeschooling that passes, I am convinced that learning is wasted on the young. Our adult brains are so much more prepared to learn, we are less distracted, and far more capable of managing details and multi-tasking than our teens. I know we often feel like we are too old to grasp new info, but keep this is mind when considering Latin: we don’t need to know everything. We just need to know a few things – the most important things – and help our kids learn them too.

Here’s how you can teach your older kids Latin without really knowing it yourself!

Firstly, if you aren’t familiar with English grammar, review the basics as soon as possible. Develop a reasonably strong grasp of terms like; noun, preposition, subject, predicate, direct object, indirect object, conjunction, and other similar terms. Without a decent understanding of what each of these means, Latin is almost impossible. So, not only do you need to know them, your student does, as well. For a quick review, check out Rod & Staff Publishing’s remedial English books. They are an easy way to quickly and systematically review the English parts of speech. If you are a bit shaky on these terms yourself, make sure you pick up the answer key!

Drill the rules everyday. The Latin rules are imperative to understand. Chances are, you will be able to learn them quicker than your kiddos. Every day as you begin your Latin lessons, ask your kids about the rules they’ve learned so far. Some common things I ask everyday:
– how do you find the stem of a noun
– how do you know what declension a word belongs to
– what are the gender rules for each declension
– what is a predicate noun
– what is an appositive
– what are the rules for declining adjectives
…and others like this.  You and your kids will benefit HUGELY from doing this simple task for 5 minutes at the beginning of each lesson.

Although it is time consuming, drill vocabulary regularly. It should probably happen each day, but in our house, we just can’t get around to it that often. Instead we aim for once a week, twice if we can swing it, and we take turns. I allow my daughter to quiz me, and then I quiz her. We have to give the translation, gender, declension, and any other rules that govern the word (ie: like lex or pars for 3rd declension, or if it is an exception to a gender rule). For prepositions, we give the case that governs its noun.

Be sure, as your children are moving through the exercises, that they aren’t skipping over a lesson! It’s easy for our kids to jump from exercise to exercise in an effort to get them finished quickly! But sometimes, there is a lesson tucked away between the exercises, and our kids will skip right over them! Take a quick peak before they begin for the day, and be sure to read through any lessons with them!

As your children complete their work, check in with them. Have them do 2 or 3 exercises, then check their answers against the answer key. Latin is TOUGH at best – so don’t allow your kids to work for an hour, then tell them they’ve missed a step all the way. Regularly checking progress is imperative!

Consistently ask ‘WHY?’ Have your kids justify their answers from time to time, regardless of whether they are right or wrong. It will solidify their knowledge of the material, and sometimes, you will discover that they are getting to the correct answer accidentally! It’s very possible, since many declensions have identical endings. Remember that true understanding of a concept can be measured by the ability to teach it back! GIve your kids the chance to teach Latin to you!

Invest in a good set of charts. Whether it be a resource provided by your curriculum, or something you’ve found online, keep copies of ending charts handy. Allow them to be written on and highlighted. Let your kids make them personal, and consider making a set of your own so that you can keep track of your own reminders and rules.

Keep up the flashcards! It’s a bit overwhelming. But making a flashcard of every single word you learn will be invaluable to you and your kids. This year, I’ve made a set as we’ve gone along, since last year, it was too big of a task for my daughter to complete on her own. Many parents help out with this task, so don’t feel bad assisting with this big part of learning Latin! For a tutorial on making Latin flashcards, check out this post here!

Most of all, find some joy in the process. Praise effort and completion, even if it was a long and hard road! Look for Latin in the world around you and continuously search for ways to show your kids that Latin isn’t a dead language. It’s in our world every day!


I wish you much success on your Latin journey! What tips and tricks do you have to help your kids learn Latin?

5 comments on Help Your Kids Succeed with Latin (when you have no idea what you are doing)

  1. Julie
    January 21, 2015 at 7:28 pm (2 years ago)

    We do the flashcards but I have also made a Latin glossary where I have a page for 1st declension nouns, a page for 2nd declension nouns, a page for adverbs, etc. That way we can drill with the flashcards but I can quickly go to the Preposition page to find my list of prepositions and their meanings too. You can do this in Excel, each on its own tab and then alphabetize them by sorting when you have added a new crop of words.

    I also made great charts for my class (I teach Challenge B too) which I put into page protectors. I tell them to fill in the charts from memory daily before they start their work (they write on the plastic sleeve with a dry erase marker so they can erase at the end of the day) and then lay the charts in front of them as they translate. This assures that they know the charts, but makes their brains hurt less to get the charts in written form in front of them as they translate.

    Reply
  2. Michelle
    October 20, 2014 at 6:14 pm (3 years ago)

    Amen! Thank you for posting this because I thought I was the only one. Latin has been so overwhelming that it has seriously made me question cc all together. These tips give me hope, to at least finish the rest of the year. We are in challenge B now but I checked out during Latin last year and now it’s so fast pased I’m drowning. Thanks for the tips!

    Reply
    • amygarwood
      October 20, 2014 at 9:44 pm (3 years ago)

      I think it happens to many of us! And truthfully… I sometimes question the Latin curriculum too. It’s so dry and poorly laid out in my opinion. I am not sure why it can’t be just a bit more fun, and possibly a bit more interactive. But regardless – I’m glad the post helped, and hopefully you can try to catch up!

      Reply
  3. Pam B
    October 16, 2014 at 6:55 pm (3 years ago)

    I’m with ya sister! One thing I did with my flashcards is divide them up by part of speech and declension. Once we got six weeks in, it was too overwhelming to try to find a particular word based on the week we first saw it. You are correct – this is definitely stretching my poor old brain! Praying for you and yours as you wend your way through Latin.

    Reply
    • amygarwood
      October 16, 2014 at 11:45 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you! Prayers always appreciated! And we split our cards up as well! I keep them alphabetical in groups of nouns, adjectives, verbs, and conjunctions and pronouns (so far!) And while Latin is challenging, I’m seeing the beauty in the method. Glad to be with you on the journey!

      Reply

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