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Latin has been called a "dead" language, so why teach it to children? There are many benefits. Some argue that it helps improve SAT scores by building vocabulary. It is true that about two-thirds of our English words come from Latin roots, but Latin is about more than just learning lists of words.
Learning a foreign language requires children to organize their thoughts and understand grammar. Learning grammar in a second language helps children to understand the grammar in English. Moreover, learning other foreign languages comes easier to a child whom has learned Latin - French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian are all derived from Latin. Finally, learning Latin can help a child to understand his or her place in the history of the world as a whole.
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Resources for Your Children
The first question many parents may ask is, "How can I teach Latin if I don't know Latin?" With the plethora of resources available teaching Latin is not as difficult as it would seem. Here is a brief list of some of the best resources available for teaching children Latin:
Memoria Press - Prima Latina, Latina Christiana I, Latina Christiana II - While these Latin texts are very much Christian (prayers, vocabulary, etc.) the content and presentation are quite good. The text package is relatively inexpensive - Prima Latina is about $33.00 for the student book, teacher book and CD.
Latin for Children is another great option for teaching children. This program, just under $100 for the set including textbook, activity book, history reader, DVDs and Cds and answer key, is not completely secular. It does, however make learning Latin fun for the child, and it does challenge them more than other programs by moving them more quickly through vocabulary and grammar exercises. If you have a child who is good with languages and math, this program might make a great fit.
Lively Latin is a third option. This program costs $55 for the book PDF and the audio MP3 files for download. Lively Latin is completely secular, but it moves a bit slower through vocabulary and grammar.
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Once you have selected a Latin Curriculum, don't let the task of teaching your children this ancient language overwhelm you. The first step is to determine what the goals are. Start by looking through the book's table of contents. For example, in Latin for Children, the first chapter is about verbs and verb endings. The goal of that chapter, then, would be for your child to become more familiar with Latin verbs and verb endings. Write down goals on a sheet of paper.
The second step is to determine a schedule for learning Latin. I would suggest studying Latin for at least thirty minutes a day three days a week (preferably five) to begin with. Make Latin time fun. Keep it short to begin with so the child doesn't feel overwhelmed.
The third step in helping the child learn Latin is to get them excited. If you are excited for Latin time, they will be excited. Make it a special time for you and the child that they look forward to.
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Taking It to the Next Level - The National Latin Exam
The National Latin Exam and the Exploratory Latin Exam are offered on an annual basis. The Exploratory Latin Exam is open to students in grades three through six and the National Latin Exam is designed for students in the sixth grade or above. There are seven levels of the National Latin Exam, from introductory to advanced. It is worth signing up - the exams recognize student achievement, and the upper levels of the exam offer scholarships to those who do well.