Once or twice a week, my two Latin students (aged 9 & 11) and I sit down to do Latin together. I hand them a parsing worksheet I’ve made and I have my Henle stack. I work on the next Henle exercise until someone needs help or thinks they’re done (they aren’t done until it’s all correct, so they’re never done when they think they are). After a school year of this (though we’ve definitely missed weeks), I’m through the first two lessons of Henle. :) Only 40 to go.
At this rate, I might finish Henle before my last child graduates – maybe.
Because the primary argument that pulled me into studying Latin in the first place was the grammar argument, I wanted to make sure we took a strong translation approach. Latin for Children provides translation and reading exercises, but since we weren’t moving on until we had some semblance of mastery on the chapter, we needed to do something to work toward that mastery, and it seemed like full parsing and translating was the best thing to do – after all, it’s what created the most resistance. The more we practice it, I figure, the better they’ll get at it, the more accustomed to it they’ll be, and the more they’ll understand how Latin works.
And, as John Milton Gregory states in the seventh of his Seven Laws of Teaching, “No time is wasted which is spent in review.”
And, by sitting down together as we do it, I am able to tutor them much more effectively. In parsing and translating, I can see where they are currently struggling:
- Are they looking up every word in the glossary? Then we need more vocabulary review.
- Do they always forget what parts a noun and a verb have? Then this parsing business is exactly the practice they need.
- Do they have no idea what person means? Then it’s time for a refresher grammar lesson, again.
In parsing and translating a sentence, they have to remember everything they’ve learned to date and use it. No multiple-guess quizzes, no fill-in-the-blank by guessing the teacher’s mind – rather, actual, meaningful usefulness.
No matter how much they cry or argue or complain, it is good work and they are better for it afterwards. They are learning to be careful and deliberate and accurate, and those are skills that will serve them well even if they never read a lick of Latin.
So, I use a simple practice page for this that I created not because there are not enough review materials in Latin for Children as it is, but because it simplified our review process. I pull sentences provided within the LFC workbook, but copy them onto these sheets for a few reasons:
- I’m not confident enough in my own Latin yet to compose my own Latin sentences.
- Those sentences were already composed to help the student review the lesson material.
- My boys’ handwriting doesn’t fit well in the space provided in the workbook a lot of the time. These workpages have much more blank space.
- If I copy out the sentences, I can pull sentences from previous lessons. Chances are, they don’t remember the sentences they did last month anyway, and I can at least swap out a different verb with the same conjugation if I want to change it up. This allows us to get a lot more translation practice, which I consider the most valuable part of Latin, while still using the sentences written by the curriculum people (i.e. people who know what they’re doing).
- Usually the workbook only requires parsing or translating, and rarely marking sentence parts. But if the boys already have to mark sentence parts, then they’re a step ahead when they have to parse. I want them to do all 3 steps as much as possible.
In helping my boys through these translation exercises over and over again, I have finally made it over my own Latin difficulties and see how the endings work, what they’re doing, and that they are communicating something. I have several key phrases I repeat each and every time as I help them over their own bumps and stalls:
- “What is the ending?”
- “What does that ending tell you?”
- “Is it a noun or a verb?”
- “What parts does a noun have?”
- “What parts does a verb have?”
- “What’s number mean? What are the two options?”
- “What’s missing in your translation?” (Usually it’s a capital letter and a period.)
The good news is that after about 100 repetitions of the same question, they actually do start to ask it themselves. Just when you think it will never happen, suddenly you hear one muttering the question under his breath to himself and then you know it was sinking in after all. Just don’t be surprised if it takes a solid year – or two.
It takes patience, certainly. So we are all being stretched and growing: they are learning discipline and I am learning patience – and we are all learning perseverance. Learning is often difficult, and that’s ok.
We used to only do two sentences in a sitting, because it stretched them so much. Now they can do four, and though some days are still tearful, by the time we’re done, we’ve pulled through and taste success.
Learning to read Latin might be an important classical aim, but even if we never do, learning Latin will have made us better people.
I’ll email you this translation worksheet for free, just enter your email below:
Another handy thing about this translation practice page is that of course you can use it with any Latin program. Maybe you’ll even be able to compose your own Latin sentences – just realize that while parsing them, your child might catch a grammar error in your construction. Just sayin’.