Why Should I Learn Latin?

Why would I ever consider teaching latin to my homeschoolers? We live in america and latin is a dead language, right?

When we first starting homeschooling and I was researching curriculum, I quickly realized there were a lot of homeschoolers out there teaching Latin to their children.

Honestly, at first I thought they were just snobby homeschoolers who were teaching their kids Latin just to make themselves look good. I just couldn't see the value in learning Latin. After all it's a dead language, so what's the point?

Well, it took me a while, but I finally see the light.

Last summer my 11-year-old son decided he wanted to learn Latin as his foreign language. So I researched Latin curriculum and finally found one that looked promising.

He's been learning Latin for almost a year now, and my eyes have really been opened to the benefits of Latin. I'm now a huge advocate of learning the language; not necessarily for some of the reasons others have, such as being able to read Caesar and Cicero in the original language. The goals I have for my children are more utilitarian than that.

Here is why I want my children to learn Latin.

Latin improves their English vocabulary.

Approximately 60% of all English words — and an incredible 90% of words greater than two syllables — are derived from Latin roots. Additionally, approximately 10% of the Latin vocabulary has made it directly into English without any intermediate change. (If you're interested, here's a list of some Latin words that have been adopted into our English language without any change at all.)

By learning Latin, my children are learning English. Because my 7th grade son has learned the Latin words felix, mendax, pecunia, and puer, he already has a very good idea what felicitous, mendacity, pecuniary, and puerile mean.

And since several English words are often derived from a single Latin word, studying Latin could be considered a much more efficient means of learning English than through studying an English vocabulary curriculum.

For example, by learning a single Latin word such as pugno, my son can easily figure out what the words impugn, pugilist, pugnacious, and repugnant mean. Seems like a pretty good return on investment to me. (If you're interested, here's an excellent list of Latin derivitives.)

Another benefit of increasing their English vocabulary through learning Latin is improved SAT test scores. I'm not one to teach to the test, but if learning Latin will help my children score better on their SAT, I'm all for it. There even seems to be some statistical evidence that Latin students score better on the verbal portion of the SAT.

Latin is an excellent foundation for learning other languages.

Latin is the language from which the Romance languages are derived. If my children learn Latin, not only do they gain an excellent foundation in the English language, but they will also have a distinct advantage if they choose to learn another language such as Spanish, Italian, or French. Since so much of the vocabulary is derived directly from Latin, they will already be familiar with a great deal of of the language.

Our Latin Curriculum

My 7th grade son is using the Cambridge Latin Course (North American Fourth Edition). We're currently half-way through Book 1 and we have both thoroughly enjoyed it.

The main reason we like Cambridge Latin Course so much is that it is reading-based curriculum, not grammar-based. In other words, the student learns vocabulary, grammar, and structure through reading Latin narratives, not through memorizing lists of vocabulary words and reciting declensions and conjugations. This method means that Latin vocabulary is learned in the context of a story and consequently it is remembered more easily — which has definitely been true for my son. Specific lessons about syntax and grammar are still included in the curriculum, but those lessons follow the narratives in which the student sees examples of those particular grammar rules.

So even though Latin might still be considered a dead language by some, it's certainly not useless. I'm convinced that my children will be gaining an immeasurable benefit from learning Latin.

What about you? Do you teach Latin in your homeschool? Why or why not?

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  1. says

    We are going to do a Jr. version during the summer- I'm lucky enough that my mom went to all-girls Catholic schools and learned Latin, so she can teach my kids. I also see it as beneficial because of how many words and languages are derived from Latin.


  2. Kim says

    We don't homeschool, and my oldest is only 10, however we have been using a set of flash cards called English from the roots up, avail on amazon. We play games with them, and start conversations with them during dinner. This set has Greek and Latin root words that our language is built on, and then on the flip side are examples of the root word in use. ex photos is Greek for light, graph is Greek for to write or draw, hence photograph is to draw with light. We started using these as our children needed an extra challenge in the area of language arts. Also, I see many benefits to having this base of knowledge as they continue their studies in all areas, especially lit and science. I would welcome a more involved Latin program as my children get older. Sounds like fun!


  3. says

    Most excellent. I'm definitely going to consider Latin in our curriculum. We love and highly value the study of languages anyway, and Latin seems like such a good foundation for language learning, much like the piano is a good foundation for playing any instrument.

    We lived in Italy for three years (military family) and put our son in the local Italian school while we were there, for the 3rd through 5th grade. Italian, of course, is greatly derived from Latin. One day he asked me what "legible" meant, and after I told him he said, "That makes sense, because "leggere" means "to write" in Italian. Any doubts I may have had about the benefits of immersing him in a language that isn't spoken anywhere else in the world were immediately appeased.
    .-= Jolyn@Budgets are the New Black´s last blog ..“Just keep on painting, keep on painting…” =-.


  4. says

    We use Latina Christiana and are loving it! The kids really enjoy learning the latin prayers and playing around with the phrases they're learning. The preschoolers are picking it up too since they're always within earshot during our lessons. I love that!
    .-= Ginger´s last blog ..Schooling Adoptees =-.


  5. Elizabeth says

    I've taught my 5 children from Latin Christiana and other Latin texts from first grade to twelfth grade and it's worked fantastically. They're all grown and are incredibly successful in their individual fields, which I attribute greatly to studying Latin. They all speak several languages fluently.


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