Latin in 4th grade. Part of me simply wonders, “Why?” That part of me, the mama part of me, still sees my oldest girl as young – too young for such big things. And part of me, the homeschool teacher part, sees her enthusiasm for learning and knows she can do it.
The teacher part of me is winning on this one.
We have had very little previous exposure to Latin. Since participating in Classical Conversations, we have familiarity with the Latin memory work for each cycle. As a family, we have also watched the first level of Song School Latin and have sung some of the songs. We know some very basic conversational Latin and some very basic conjugations. But, I do not believe my students would be able to tell you what a conjugation is, nor how to do one.
I have one student who is READY for more Latin. She has expressed a desire to learn Spanish, coming to me with new words and identifing Latin derivatives on her own. And I have another student who is, let’s see – less inclined toward diligent Latin studies. Oh, and we have a first year student and a toddler running around shouting out “Vale!” when someone leaves our home.
In general, we do a one-room schoolhouse thing around here. So I have these younger students in the room for almost all instruction. I wanted to reach them, too, where they are at. Plus, I wanted to create something that would be a cultural touchstone in our home. So, I came up with a combination of our Gathering and our Inductive Bible Study for Kids. I am calling it: Conlatio
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If you haven’t heard about the push for early Latin instruction, you might be wondering where I even got the idea. Two places actually. I initially heard about early Latin studies starting in 4th grade through Ambleside Online, a Charlotte Mason curriculum/reading list. The second was from reading Teaching the Trivium and The Case for Classical Christian Education (available on Scribd).
When people ask how we homeschool, I tell them we are a Classical homeschool with Charlotte Mason leanings. But I am quick to tell anyone who will listen: we are not slavish about any of it. God is our superintendent of schools and directs us in our studies. We utilize the Ambleside Online curriculum as a reading list of sorts. And we do not read nor do everything AO recommends.
Similarly, we utilize the Classical Conversations Foundations (and now Essentials) curricula for Grammar, structure for our year, and community. We do not do everything as “stick in the sand” as CC would recommend. We add richness to our school days with the AO readings, read alouds, and our family traditions.
But Latin, this long dead language, is recommended by both AO and CC. Ambleside Online is the early-adopter of the two – recommending formal Latin studies begin in year/grade 4. Classical Conversations provides memory work for the younger Foundations years (4-12) and begins formal Latin studies in middle school. The books I read this summer on Classical education both recommended early adoption, both suggesting 4th grade as a good place to start.
Classical Case for Latin
The Classical education authors made their case more compelling than AO. That is possibly because AO doesn’t do much to make their case for the Charlotte Mason approach – they will direct you to Miss Mason’s writings on the subject.
Douglas Wilson, author of the Case for Classical Christian Education, broke down classics professor and scholar, Francis W. Kelsey’s reasons for studying Latin into four categories: “The study of Latin promotes mental discipline; it encourages literary appreciation; it leads to a mastery of English; it provides a solid foundation for preparation for Christian ministry.”
The Bludorns, authors of Teaching the Trivium recommend Latin study, (alongside Greek and Hebrew study) for these reasons:
- Latin is basic to English.
- Latin is a springboard for mastering other inflected languages, such as Greek and German.
- The study of Latin sharpens the mental processes.
- Everything in culture is embedded in its language.
- Technical language is Latin,
- Latin is also valuable for further studies in all disciplines.
- Latin is useful in English.
Do you see how some of the arguments overlap? Their recommendations for the starting point for formal Latin education also overlap. They both recommend the commencement of formal study of some Classical language in 4th grade.
Ultimately, I chose to begin Latin studies with our 4th grader because of the “mental discipline” and “mastery of the English language benefits.” I also took into account her enthusiasm for learning the Spanish language and figured this would “kill two birds with one stone.”
In light of our current homeschool set up, I decided to extend our One-Room Schoolhouse approach to teaching Latin. The Gathering – our favorite daily tradition and the best thing we do in school – is so helpful in bringing us together, I decided to make a Latin-focused version.
It is a simple, once-a-week Gathering for Latin. Conlatio (con-lay-show) in Latin means, “a bringing together, gathering.” As I do with our usual Gathering, I curated some resources and brought together some super simple elements for our Conlatio.
The Conlatio includes a prayer, a Bible verse, a song, a phrase, and some grammar – all in Latin.
We have done it for four weeks now and I am over the moon about its success. The kids absolutely love it. We keep it short and sweet. And we have some reminders about it throughout the week. But I am simply ecstatic about how it is going.
Let me preface everything I say about our Conlatio with this: we don’t know everything. Goodness, we barely know anything. And yet…we are thinking about these things, incorporating these thoughts into our hearts and minds. I am not focused at this point on knowing all the translations of all the prayers and songs. Rather, I am looking to promote familiarity with and interest in Latin for my students.
It is a sort of fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants thing, but I invite you to follow along with us as we build our Conlatio. I have made the first two Conlatio pages available in our Shop.
Resources for Conlatio
The Conlatio this year is based on some of the elements of Memoria Press’ Latina Christiana. The Latin phrases, some of the Latin songs, and the Latin prayers are traditional, but they are included in Latina Christiana. We are also using elements of our memory work for Classical Conversations.
For more information about what we are doing for our Latin studies this year, please read this article.
I purchased the Latina Christiana pronunciation audio CD to help with pronunciation.
What Conlatio Looks Like for us
For the first Conlatio weeks, the Prayer is one of Queen’s College Cambridge’s Latin Graces. It is shortened to make it easier to “perform” and pronounce together. Currently, the only spoken audio version I have is from Latina Christiana, but I wish we could slow it down a bit. I might try adjust the playback speed in my music player to see if I can slow it down.
I also found a song version of this prayer on a podcast (available here). He begins by singing the prayer, says a little bit about it, then sings it again with a harmony line. Then he concludes the episode with just the harmony line. Hearing it three times with your family may help with both pronunciation and memory. I found this extremely helpful!
The song “Christus Vincit” became an instant favorite in our home. It is just so special! My kids are asking every day to hear and sing it together. And we are singing it at random times with everyone joining in.
I like the version on the Latina Christiana audio CD, but I have found another version on Spotify, too. Since we are used to Spotify for our Gathering Playlists, I created a Conlatio Playlist, too. Included on the playlist is a truly great audio version of “Christus Vincit,” as well as an instrumental version.
Our Classical Conversations memory work for this year includes John 1:1-7 in both Latin and English. Since we will be working on this in our home, I decided to add it to our Conlatio – just another repetition that leads to mastery. Singing songs has proven to be the best way for our family to learn, so we add songs wherever we can. We prefer the Kings Things version of this song as it has helped us tremendously to learn the Latin.
As we get into our Classical Conversations community days, we will take a bit more time to point out specific words in this verse and discuss.
The list of Latin phrases are listed on the Conlatio agenda. These are employed for our use in Conlatio from the Latina Christiana curriculum. I believe, based on my limited research into Latin instruction, Latin phrases are a user-friendly key to understanding and using the language.
The curricula we are using to formally learn Latin, Artes Latinae, also utilizes Latin Phrases as an introduction to Latin.
Ora et Labora
Each week we are spending a few minutes translating the phrases together. For the phrase “Ora et Labora” we came up with simple hand-motions to help us remember. And we talked about how important it is to pray before we work. By the time we were done discussing this phrase (in less than 5 minutes), all four of my children were able to say it and show the hand motions.
Each day of the week we were able to remind ourselves of “Ora et Labora.” Beginning our school days with prayer, followed by work has been such a good habit to form.
We used the same phrase devotionally later in the week by changing it to “Ora et Ama” – pray and love. Then we talked about the ways we can show love to one another.
Mater Italiae – Roma
My kids are familiar with the Latin word for mother – “mater” because of our time with Song School Latin. They are also familiar with the Latin grammar rule – “Latin nouns do not have articles – a, an, or the.” Thus, I challenged my kids to “translate” our phrase this week. By reminding them of what they know and having them make some “guesses” along the way (based on cognates), they were able to make the perfect translation! The Mother of Italy [is] Rome.
Caelum et terra
The way my kids quickly worked through this translation blew my mind! We incorporated memory work from all three cycles of Classical Conversations and sussed out the meaning together. I should say, they sussed out the meaning as I recorded it on the white board. We used Genesis 1:1 in Latin as the “key” to discovering the meaning of “caelum et terra.” At first, the only thing we knew was: “et means and.” We translated this one quickly because of the phrase “In principio” – which means “In the beginning.” This is the memory work verse included in this month’s Conlatio. It came together rather quickly.
We also talked about the endings of Latin nouns. The Latin memory work from CC Cycle 1 – 1st declension endings.
Labor omnia vincit.
This one was a bit hard. We had to use a key verse and then talk about Julius Caesar’s famous statement, “I came, I saw, I conquered.” But we did it! Again we started with only one word we knew for sure: “labor.” We remembered this from Ora et labora (week 1). The key verse for this week is John 1:3a – “omnia per ipsum facta sunt.” This can be translated: “All things were made through Him.” We relied heavily on our previous memory work from Cycle 3 of Classical Conversations. That got the first two words. Then we discussed, “Vini, vidi, vici.” I translated this phrase for them and said the last word was a perfect tense verb ending of our word vincit (also a perfect tense verb). A quick jaunt through our perfect tense song from Cycle 2 of CC, helped us to understand this more clearly. Also remembering that some Latin speakers pronounce the v with a /w/ sound, gives that clue to “win.”
Note: I do still have a question as to why Caesar’s statement drops the n in vincit. If you are a Latin scholar further along in your studies and know the answer, could you help us out and leave a comment letting us know?
The first four weeks of our Conlatio include the 1st Conjugation, present tense for Latin verbs. We have already learned this through our Latin memory work in Classical Conversations Foundations. This is simply a time for review of the song we know.
But as we move along, I have been challenging my kids to help me conjugate some verbs. I picked: amor – love and paro – prepare for the first two weeks. We were able to write the conjugation endings on the board, “find the stem” of each Latin verb, and “conjugate” it. Then we had a little discussion about the English and Spanish derivatives we know.
A Word About Conlatio
I feel the need, after writing this all in detail, to say a couple of things:
- We are not Latin scholars! I am probably getting some of this wrong. I trust the Lord will correct and amend as we go.
- This is a lot simpler in real life. Believe it or not, our Conlatio takes 15 to 20 minutes, max! When I say we have conversations, I mean kid-sized conversations. I am not lecturing. I ask questions. My kids answer. We celebrate things learned together. And we move on.
As I mentioned above, I invite you to join us on in our Conlatio with your family. We are already seeing so many beautiful benefits to it!