Monday, October 3, 2011

Review: Visual Latin

Latin is a subject that I always felt was beneficial to learn because it is not only the gateway to other foreign languages, but to English as well. However, I've always been intimidated by teaching it. Thankfully, there are many programs out there with plenty of teacher support and DVD lessons, even for the completely Latin-challenged homeschool mom. I've reviewed some of these in the past, and while many of them were decent programs, I haven't found one that was a fit for my youngest *right now* for a variety of reasons. The end result is that I have several programs on my shelves waiting for a potential fit in the future, with a lack of Latin studies in the present.

When I had the opportunity from Timberdoodle, a provider of homeschool curriculum, to review Visual Latin, my first thought was that the readiness for Latin in my student simply wasn't there and perhaps I should pass it up.  However, Visual Latin is a new program and the sample videos looked very interesting.  Furthermore, this one for sure wouldn't end up taking space on my shelves because it is a download (DVD versions are also available).

Visual Latin is taught by Dwane Thomas, who has been teaching Latin for 15 years.  I'll share more on the instructor later.  Two levels, Latin 1 and Latin 2, are available. For this review, I received Lessons 1-10 of Latin 1 in the download format. Visual Latin is a self-paced course and can be adaptable for a variety of ages and learning pace.  The recommended age is 9 and up, and is designed for a pace of 20 lessons per semester, or 2 lessons per week.  No additional texts are needed, though there are recommendations and suggestions of texts to use with the program to count it as 2 high school credits.  By itself, Latin 1 could be counted for 1/2 high school credit, and Latin 2 for another 1/2 credit.

The structure of the program is very simple.  Each level has 30 lessons, purchased either 10 at a time or as a complete set at once.  Each lesson is broken down into three parts - Grammar, Sentences, and Reading - with a separate video for each.  There is one worksheet to complete after each lesson part.

Below is an introductory video by the instructor that explains the approach of Visual Latin and also gives you a feel for the instructor's style.

Much to my surprise, my reluctant student did not balk when it came time for Latin studies.  In fact, I actually heard him refer to various things from his lessons outside of the time spent on it.  He started in with an attitude of "Latin is hard", yet gained confidence the more he was in the program.  I believe there are several contributing factors to this for our particular student.
  • The lessons are presented in small bites.  The video for each part is anywhere from 3 to 8 minutes, perfect for those that tend to have limited attention spans.
  • Similarly, the worksheets are one page for each part.  I had my son complete the worksheet immediately after watching the video while the content of the lesson was still fresh in his mind. He wasn't overwhelmed by the writing requirements or length of the worksheets.Furthermore, clear answer sheets are provided for mom.
  • Dwane Thomas has a quirky sense of humor and lots of energy.  He is definitely not a stuffy Latin teacher. Stuffy Latin teachers wouldn't dare comment on being a Ninja or use a Snuffleupagus as part of the lesson! 
  • Similarly, Dwane Thomas does not present himself as the perfect teacher.  He makes mistakes and casually corrects them, sometimes poking fun of himself.  This is great if you have a perfectionist at home.
  • Students start reading Latin very early and there are no dreaded charts to memorize.  This gives a sense of early success in the program.
    • The video sessions alleviate the requirement of teaching for intimidated moms. In the case of the downloads, they are also extremely portable for watching at home or away.
    My son preferred to watch on his iPod, even at home.
    The worksheets aren't lengthy and reference charts are provided in the working space.
     In the words of my son, "He was really funny, which is why I liked it so much."  This program has a ton of wiggly boy appeal.  It's efficient.  It's funny.  It's portable.

    You can purchase Visual Latin DVDs from Timberdoodle.  At the moment, they don't carry the download version, but if you can't wait to get this program, you can purchase the instant Visual Latin download version directly from Visual Latin.

    6 FREE Visual Latin Lessons!

    Disclaimer: As a part of Timberdoodle's Blogger Review Team. I was provided this product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I have received no other compensation. I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool. This review contains affiliate links.

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