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How to Scale Your Child's Latin

In a previous article, I talked about my friend Denise’s philosophy of “scaling, not bailing.” Here is the way I think about it.

Every Henle exercise is either a grammar-stage exercise, a dialectic-stage exercise, or a rhetorical-stage exercise. When your child does Henle First Year, he/she will see the first half (or so) twice. EVERY EXERCISE DOES NOT NEED TO BE DONE. You do not need to be a slave to the guide! Rather, it is a framework. If you’re like me and my daughter, you want to get Latin all done and check it off your to-do list. However, if you are struggling, it is much better to scale than bail. Instead of thinking of Latin as something you need to get all done, aim to work on the concepts. If you look at the contents page, it says what you should be learning in each lesson. Students also need to memorize the vocabulary in each lesson.

  1. GRAMMAR STAGE: These are exercises that say things such as:
  • Decline…
  • Tell what these forms are…
  • Translate one or two words…
  • Give the genitive and accusative singular…
  • Memorize vocabulary…
  • Memorize the declension of…
  • Study the present tense of …

Be careful, some of these are not numbered exercises, but they are important nonetheless. Many of them involve the Henle Grammar book. These are foundational exercises. Most of the time, Henle will exercise you using one tense, declension, etc. at a time. You cannot really move to the next stage unless you can easily do exercises of the grammar stage.

  • Tell the gender and gender rule of..
  • Translate Latin to English sentences and explain the cases…
  • Translate prepositional phrases from English to Latin

Exercises like these require more than just recalling information. You have to synthesize the Latin words in some way. This is not only using memorization, but also using deductive and inductive reasoning. You have to know your cases and what prepositions govern what cases. You also have to know how to differentiate between cases, tenses, and declensions.

  • Long passages of Latin to English (such as the readings)
  • English to Latin sentences
  • Long English to Latin passages
  • Authentic authors

These exercises are for students who can do the grammar and dialectic work easily. English to Latin is the hardest thing you will do. (I think it is harder even than translating Virgil sometimes. Latin composition on the model of Caesar was one of my hardest Latin courses in college.) Many times, you first have to put the English sentence into what looks like a Latin translation sentence, and then translate that into Latin. Latin and English are not exactly equivalent. If your student is struggling, do not do these exercises (or do just a few sentences of it). They are, for lack of a better term, where the rubber meets the road. If students do not understand their cases, do not know their vocabulary, or do not know their endings, this is where it will hurt them mightily. Go back to the grammar and dialectic exercises to find what you are lacking. Try the rhetoric-stage exercises again later.

Latin is a worthwhile endeavor. Think of it as a puzzle to solve rather than a chore to be done. Your goal is to graduate to the rhetorical level in order to read authentic Roman authors!


TIERS: challenge
CATEGORIES: Classical Christian Education, Dialectic Stage (ages 12 to 14), Rhetoric Stage (ages 14 to 18)

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