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
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?