Why Paideia Latina?
As the Classical Christian movement experiences a resurgence in schools and home schools, a variety of Latin curricula have been published to teach Latin to elementary children. In my position as Latin teacher at a small Classical Christian school, I have seen a plethora of options to choose from. But while many of these curricula are satisfactory and doable, I found myself spending so much time creating supplementary worksheets and quizzes that I decided it would be worthwhile to create my own elementary Latin curriculum which fit our school’s specific needs. Some of the things I wanted in a curriculum were:
- Pronunciation Guide for Each Word – Although Latin used to be taught in schools for centuries prior to the 1900s, the decline of the Classical model of education has done away with it almost entirely. Because most parents don’t know Latin, it tends to be the most difficult subject for parents to assist their children with. I have found that a pronunciation guide for each vocabulary word helps parents study with their children. Instead of expecting parents to read and master pronunciation instructions at the beginning of a book and the rules for accenting, it is more convenient for them to have a transliteration of each vocabulary word in the word list.
- Concrete Vocabulary – In elementary Latin, it is much easier for students to learn nouns, verbs, and adjectives that deal with concrete items from their own experience rather than abstract concepts (where the English definition has to be learned as well as the Latin vocabulary word).
- Age-Appropriate Derivatives – One of the huge benefits to learning Latin vocabulary is that approximately seventy percent of English words are derived from Latin roots. However, most of the small words in our language come from Anglo-Saxon roots, and these are the words that children learn first as they learn to speak. I wanted a program that would gradually introduce English derivatives from Latin at an age-appropriate level. For example, the word circumnavigate would be an appropriate derivative for fourth grade since it can be described in concrete terms and related to knowledge students already have about explorers. The word judiciary is best saved for learning in later grades.
- Trivium-Appropriate Activities – While many Latin programs incorporate chanting and singing as students memorize verb and noun forms, I found that the grammar lessons in the book were often too dense for elementary students to understand. I wanted a curriculum that would keep lesson text short and then have a “Grammar Sound-Off” to solidify the main concepts of the grammar lesson in a way that is fun for elementary students.
- English-to-Latin Translation – Since Latin is an inflected language, the ending of the word changes depending on what job the word is doing in a sentence. (If the word is the subject doing the verb, it would have a different ending than if it were the direct object receiving the action of the verb.) Many students fail to master the inflected endings unless they are required to translate from English into Latin. Because of the difficulty of translating from English to Latin, however, students also need “baby steps” to help them do this at the elementary level. I wanted a curriculum that would give students the support their abilities need to do this necessary English-to-Latin translation.
- Incremental Translation Practice – Many other curricula introduce a grammar concept and then expect a student to be able to use that concept in sentence-level translation. I wanted something that worked at word level and phrase level first, isolating the new grammar concept to solidify it before expecting students to utilize it at sentence level.
- Story Grip – Many Latin programs offer students disconnected sentences to translate. While this can be necessary to reinforce specific grammar concepts, I also wanted to provide students with stories to translate that would keep them engaged and wanting to read further. To this end, I have incorporated a story at the end of nearly every chapter, interpolating English words where necessary to make the translation easy and confidence-building. The stories are taken from history, literature, the Bible, or my own invention.
- Quizzes – While some elementary Latin programs only test on memory work, I wanted quizzes that would assess understanding as well. I wanted to give students accountability for mastering chants and vocabulary but also accountability for mastering the grammar and translation concepts.
I hope this brief introduction provides you with an understanding of how and why this curriculum is structured and the instructional benefits it can provide in your school or home school. The name of the curriculum itself comes from a Greek word “paideia” after which our school is named.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction [paideia] in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16)