Author Archives: Michelle

All About Spelling

I have learned that the worst thing you can do…a sure-fire way of ruining a curriculum…is to tell everyone how great it is. At least, that’s been my experience. Several times I have posted about a curriculum, singing its praises to the sky, only to find a few weeks later that it’s no longer working for us. Okay, this hasn’t happened every time, but it’s happened often enough that I should know by now to hold my tongue until we’ve used something for a good long time and are sure we’re going to stick with it.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing. And a few months ago, I ranted and raved about Sequential Spelling, which we were half-way through at the time. Well, guess what? We’ve dropped it.

It just became such a drudgery. We both dreaded doing spelling and there was evidence that not much learning was taking place any longer. It became necessary to do a lot of drill because there isn’t enough built-in review. One of the things that I really don’t like about the programme are all the homophones. Lesson 97, for example, contains all these:

  • Heel
  • Heal
  • Peel
  • Peal
  • Steel
  • Steal
  • Serial
  • Cereal

Then, a few lessons later:

  • Brake
  • Break
  • Steak
  • Stake

And it continues, throughout the book.

How on earth is a young student supposed to keep all of those straight? It’s craziness.

Esa and I both became so sick of it. It was eating into our time to do other things, and as I said, the lessons just weren’t sticking very well.

We dropped spelling and the sun came out once again. It was like this huge weight had been lifted…we both looked forward to lessons more and we had so much more time for other things.

However, I wasn’t comfortable having no spelling in our homeschool for too long, so I decided to have another look at All About Spelling.

I was tempted by  this programme before because I really like the idea of learning the rules behind spelling. There were times during our phonics lessons when I wondered why a certain pattern is followed…I could see the pattern, but I didn’t understand why.

We’ve begun with level 1, and even though Esa can already spell all of the words presented in the first level, there are skills and rules presented that he doesn’t know. He also couldn’t tell me all the sounds that the letter “A” makes…or any of the other vowels. It’s also a good way of getting him used to the programme before moving on to more difficult material. We’re cruising through the 24 steps, doing about 2 a week. We’ve just finished step 4 and so far Esa’s enjoying it. I’m allowing him to do all the writing on the dry erase board, which makes a nice change from paper and pencil. It’s too early to say if it’s working, but it’s fun.

We’ve been doing a lot of phonics review because even though Esa’s reading well, there are certain phonics rules he’s forgotten or hasn’t mastered. I was going to order Explode the Code and work through that series from level 4 onwards, but AAS is not only a spelling programme, but works to reinforce phonics instruction as well.

I wasn’t really looking forward to using manipulatives and cards, but it’s not as fiddly as I’d feared. It’s scripted so I don’t have to spend ages reading and planning the lesson ahead of time.  Esa really looks forward to spelling, and honestly, so do I. ♥


Posted by on April 16, 2011 in Second Grade, Spelling


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Sometimes I Don’t Like Living in England…

…and sometimes I love it. We had a weekend break in London. The weather was glorious and whilst strolling the bustling London streets I felt…at home. Strange, considering I’d love nothing more than to buy a cottage out in the country and live a slightly hermit-like existence, burying myself in my books and enjoying a quiet life virtually stranger-free. But I loved it in London. No one looked twice at the white woman wearing a headscarf. It made a lovely change from being stared at, spat at, and called “white Paki.” The people were actually friendly.

But it was more than just the lack of racism. It’s just such an amazing place. Bursting with history, crammed with people speaking all languages; I heard French, German, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and many more that I didn’t recognise. Beautiful architecture, wisteria in full bloom climbing up the terraced houses, a myriad of adorable and tempting boutiques, maddening one-way systems, surprisingly clean streets, endless places to eat, constant police sirens; the noise was ceaseless.

I was a typical tourist, gawking at everything, snapping photos left and right.

On Saturday we strolled through Notting Hill, then visited the Natural History Museum. Here is the entrance:

And just look at that ceiling…

When I’m rich I’m having that in my house. Well, not that one, but a copy. Just waiting to win the lottery (which I don’t play) or for a rich relative (which I don’t have) to die. Any day now…

On Sunday we did the touristy thing and walked along the Thames. Here are some highlights:

Harrod’s, which I really wanted to go into, but didn’t have time:

The iconic red double-decker:

The Big Pickle, more commonly known as the Gherkin:

I love this style of terraced house:

Another row of houses I love, this one with a bit of Wisteria. (Other houses had Wisteria leaking from their very pores, but I couldn’t get shots of those.)

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre:

Esa and Hubby, posing with the London Eye and Th Houses of Parliament our new mansion in the background:

St. Paul’s Cathedral and some other stuff:

Some interesting sand sculptures, which the tide washed away not an hour later:

We also went into the Tate Modern (to use the restroom), which was a monstrous and rather ugly building, but I felt cosmopolitan going in.

In truth, I probably wouldn’t  be happy actually living in London, but it sure is a fabulous place to visit. ♥


Posted by on April 13, 2011 in Family Life, Holidays, Second Grade, Time off


Half-Way Through the Year

We’ve been plugging away happily with our school work, and we’re three weeks shy of the midpoint. Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to:


We have just begun Singapore level 2. I cannot emphasise enough how great his curriculum is. It truly does develop mental arithmetic skills. Esa does not work out math facts on his fingers; he is able to add and subtract 2-digit numbers in his head. My own math skills have even improved. He has nearly all of his addition facts memorised now.


Song School Latin is such a light and fun introduction to Latin. The little stories with Latin words mixed in help to bring it to life. If there isn’t a story for the chapter we’re doing, I make one up. Esa really enjoys doing SSL, and he especially enjoys the online drill.


We’ve done lesson B-4 of BFSU, but this one was a bit of a dud for us. It was on life cycles and it didn’t really cover anything Esa doesn’t already know. However, I chose not to go into too much detail with regards to human life cycles. Esa’s very innocent when it comes to the differences between boys and girls and knows nothing about the birds and the bees, and I’d like to keep it that way for a while; I’m just not ready for that innocence to be quashed, and I honestly don’t think he’s ready yet, either. He’s not asking questions. Well, a while back he did ask me where babies came from, and I just told him, “from God,” which is the truth according to our beliefs. When kids ask this question, they aren’t always looking for a full breakdown, complete with diagrams and a viewing of “The Miracle of Life”. He was satisfied with this answer and hasn’t shown any further curiosity. When he does, I’ll go into a little more detail.

Lesson B-4A is one of those on-going ones, so I’ve taken a few notes and I’m preparing for lesson D-4. I’ve posted the study sheets for B-4 and D-4 on the curricula page. I’ve also posted our sequence of study.


Esa’s moved on to book C in the Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting series. In all honesty Esa’s handwriting isn’t great. It can be beautiful when he takes his time, but it’s often a mess. The italic font is lovely, I just wish he’d make more of an effort to use it when he’s doing his spelling, copywork, and dictation.


Esa’s reading well, but he gets sloppy sometimes. He often forgets some of the phonemes, so we’re going through The Road to Reading and reviewing everything briefly, focusing on weak areas.

He’s currently reading Fantastic Mr. Fox and is addicted to The Secret Garden. He listens to the audio book for at least an hour a day and he has me reading it aloud in the evenings. It’s his new favourite.

I knew some things needed to be cut out of our schedule, and although I was loathe to do it, I have put the axe to a few things. Here’s what we’ve cut and why:

British History: This was always scheduled for Friday, and for the past several weeks it’s been omitted because we’ve needed to finish up something else that got bumped earlier in the week. I’ve decided to leave British History until we’ve finished our survey of world history, then do a year of BH, go through world history again, then do BH again. By that point Esa will probably be doing A-levels..

  • Picture Study: This was such a great addition to our homeschool last year. But for some reason we’re just not into it any more. ARTistic Pursuits contains some picture study, so for now we’ll content ourselves with that.
  • Handicrafts: This has been on my lesson plans sheet since we began homeschooling 3 years ago. We’ve never done any handicrafts, so I’m ditching it until Esa’s older.

I’d like to say that these cuts have lightened our load, but they haven’t; these things weren’t getting done anyway. However, I feel less over-scheduled and less guilt over missing so much out, now that there’s less to miss out.


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Grammar for Grown-Ups, Wasting Time, and Pop-Factor Novelists

We had a week off from lessons the week before last, and during that time I did a fair bit of grammar. I’ve set Harvey’s Grammar aside for now. I got to a lesson and had little idea what I was doing. The lesson gave a one-sentence definition of some grammar term (that I now can’t recall), then launched in with the exercises. I was pretty lost. I managed to muddle my my through and get about half of the exercises correct, but it was really frustrating and I don’t feel I learned anything.

The other thing I realised was that I still don’t quite understand what a predicate is. The definitions in Harvey’s are difficult to decipher, there isn’t enough explanation, and few examples are given. I’ve decided to work through some other resources, then maybe use Harvey’s for further practice. I’ve recently purchased:

The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need (Kindle edition)  I’m not sure if I agree with the title here, but it does look like a sufficient book for my needs. Eventually I may purchase the Chicago Manual of Style, which is the be all and end all of grammar and usage manuals, but I think it would just overwhelm me if I had it now.

If I’m struggling with that book, I’ve got Painless Grammar to fall back on. This is a children’s book that explains grammar in a delightful, and as the title suggests, painless way. This will also make a great resource for Esa when he’s a little older.

But my favourite resource, the one I keep picking up and drooling over flicking through is Grammar by Diagram. I ordered this workbook, only to discover that you need an accompanying textbook. The only place I could find it at a reasonable price was from Alibris. Apparently, the book shipped on the 14th, but it’s been a week and it still hasn’t arrived.

This chunky workbook is packed with diagramming exercises. Fortunately, the key is at the back, so there’s no emailing publishers, trying to strike a balance between sufficient grovelling and proving that I’m not a pimply teenager looking for a cheat sheet.

I’m convinced that the best way to gain a thorough understanding of grammar is through diagramming. I liken it to translating exercises when learning a foreign language. If you’re learning say, French, you aren’t just going to memorise lists of words everyday. You’re going to spend a good amount of time translating stuff. That, after all, is the whole point: to be able to read and understand French (or take some English, wave your translating wand, and turn it into French.) Diagramming is the same. It’s taking what you’ve learned and putting it to use. Okay, it may not be useful in a practical sense, but it will cement those grammar points. Then, when you sit down to do some real writing, you’ll have the necessary grammar know-how. After diagramming a few hundred thousand sentences of increasing complexity, you’ll have a firm grasp of grammar.

Alright, you don’t need to diagram that  many…just a few hundred. (I ♥ grammar.)

If you’re wondering whether grammar is worth studying, you’ve got to listen to this podcast; it’s informative and humorous:

Sadly, I did waste a lot of time on the computer during our week off, playing Green Farm, Zen Garden, Flower House, and Barn Buddy on hi5,  but it was nice to have that luxury, and I think it was therapeutic. I can sometimes stress myself out by trying to make every minute count. I have so little free time and I have so many things that I have to/want to do…I need to get the most out of every day and it can get tiring. I enjoyed lazing about a little. I also spent a lot of time looking at Latin curricula for myself, sorting out answer keys, reading, and working on my grammar study, so it wasn’t a total waste.

This week I began my Latin study. I spent a good 20 minutes lovingly covering my copies of Wheelock’s Latin, Wheelock’s Latin Workbook, and Collins Latin Dictionary with book-covering film. The softcover Wheelock’s books are quite thick and not sturdily-bound, so they will need the reinforcement. I’m happy I didn’t go for the Kindle edition, because I find myself flipping back and forth a lot in this book.

I’ve also put a notebook together using a 4-ring binder (they come in 2- and 4-rings in the UK), dividers, a snap pocket (they don’t have the kind of folders you get for binders in the US), and paper. (I ♥ notebooks.)

I’ve finished How Not To Write a Novel. This book could have been subtitled How to Piss Off Crappy Writers. While I found this book helpful (somewhat) and hilarious, at times it felt like a bit of a rant. I think the editors were tired of seeing certain things in the novels presented to them, and this book was a way to vent that annoyance. I found many of their writing faux-pas to be no-brainers. Take, for example:

  • Men Are from Cliché; Women Are from Stereotype: Wherein the characters are built solely of broad gender stereotypes

Melinda picked up Joe’s beer-stained sports  section with a wry smile, replacing it with another saccharine-berry scented candle. As she sat on the pouffe to enjoy her copy of Brides’ Shoe Monthly, she wondered if he would remember to call for their third-date anniversary.

Meanwhile, across town, Joe gave the jailbait waitress a sly wink, letting the caveman in him take over…

The passage goes on a bit, but you get the idea. A few others:

  • I Mean This!! It’s Important!!: Wherein the author punctuates hysterically
  • Linearity Shrugged: In which the author assembles the novel in no particular order
  • Gibberish for Art’s Sake: Wherein indecipherable lyricism baffles the reader

These writers aren’t going to get published even if they do fix these problems; these are merely symptoms of a bigger writing malady. I also suspect that some people writing in this way won’t even admit that they’re making such hideous blunders. It reminds me of those people who audition for shows like X Idol and Pop-Factor. They launch into heartfelt, yet horrendous and interminable renditions of I Will Always Love You, and when they are booed off the stage they throw themselves at the presenter, crying angry, hysterical tears, and insisting that they CAN sing ’cause  mamma said, and they are going-to-be-famous…just-you-wait.

Clueless…the lot of ’em.

Having said that, the book was an entertaining read and I did make a few notes. But it certainly won’t be the only book I read on how to write a novel.

I will be posting about homeschooling soon…I promise.


Posted by on January 21, 2011 in Grammar, Latin, Michelle, Resolutions: 2011


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Latin for Older Students

I had a go with the Latinum curricula, but it’s not for me. It’s more geared for learning to speak Latin, which isn’t really what I’m interested in. I do plan to learn pronunciation as I go along, but it’s reading-fluency that I’m after.

I was planning to purchase So You Really Want to Learn Latin,  but decided to go with something a little more grown up. I’m almost tempted to delay Esa’s Latin instruction for a few years; there are some great programmes available for older learners.

Lingua Latina

I’ve not looked in depth at this set of books, but from what I understand, it kind of throws you into the deep end as it’s completely written in Latin with no English instruction. Something like this just won’t work for me just yet. I need a systematic approach. I want a combination of reading and drill.

So then I looked at:

Wheelock’s Latin

This programme has been around for donkeys’ years and is well-loved by many. There’s a plethora of supplementary resources available for Wheelock’s, some of which are free:

The text includes answers to some of the exercises, but not all. You can request the answer keys by filling in the forms here: (I was given approval within hours, although I had to set up an account, download Adobe Digital Edition, AND discovered that I’ll have to re-download the files every 60 days.)

There’s an online study group that I’ve joined here:, and a new beginner’s group starts in a week or two.

One frequent complaint about Wheelock’s is its heavy emphasis on decoding rather than reading. Many students come out of the programme knowing lots of grammar, but unable to read fluently. In an Amazon review, one reader recommended:

Learn to Read Latin

(Bless you, dear Reviewer!) This, from what I gather, is an amazing Latin programme that teaches grammar and vocabulary, and has you reading lots and lots of original Latin literature.  It comes with a workbook for drill and seems to me to be the best combination of reading and drill. Together, the set is over 1,000 pages.

More information, including how to get hold of the answer keys, can be found here: (again, I was given approval within just a few hours and the files were simple, saveable pdfs.)

I’ve decided to go with Learn to Read Latin. It isn’t cheap, but for what you get, I think it’s amazing value.

Knowing what to buy is a little confusing. You can purchase it as:

  1. A complete paperback set (ISBN: 0300103549)
  2. A complete hardback set (ISBB: 0300109377)
  3. Paperback Textbook OR Hardback Textbook PLUS workbook (paperback)
  4. A two-part set, each, for the textbook and workbook:

It took me quite a while to figure all this out, so I thought I’d post it here for anyone looking to buy this programme. I know I have UK links, but you can search your preferred seller by copying and pasting the ISBN that appears on the page to which I’ve linked.

I’ve gone for option #3, with a paperback textbook. Wheelock’s 500+ page book was only £3.99, so I threw that one in with my order to provide extra practice, clarify any areas on which I may be stuck, and give me the spoken element as well, with the audio files. A Kindle edition is available, but for something like this, I want a hardcopy that I can flip through and mark up easily.  Later, I will use the Wheelock’s reader and Lingua Latina.

AND…the authors of Learn to Read Latin are putting out a similar series for Greek! It’s due to be released in June of this year.

If, like myself, you’re of an enthusiastic nature, or just looking for some good Latin resources, here is a great page bursting with links:


Posted by on January 9, 2011 in Latin, Michelle, Resolutions: 2011


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To Jab or Not to Jab

Vaccines are a hot topic for many parents, especially here in the UK, and especially amongst homeschooling families in the UK. I know many homeschooling families who have chosen not to have their children immunised, and one mother even claimed that the rise in measles was due to immigration. I had to bite my tongue and go to my happy place to avoid responding to that.

I know immunisations aren’t without risk, and I’m well aware of what those risks are, but not immunising is also full of risk: brain damage, paralysis, heart failure, and death. Yes, for some children the immunisations don’t ‘take.’ But if all children, who are able to be, are immunised, their immunity provides protection for the unprotected ones, as they will not catch and pass on the illness.

I feel that many parents have become complacent because we don’t know what it’s like to live in an age full of communicable, deforming, deadly childhood diseases. We don’t know what it’s like to worry that our child will catch polio or diptheria…and this is because vaccinations have just about wiped them out. We now fear the result of the immunisation more than the disease itself. That’s understandable; I always felt a little nervous whenever Esa had another vaccination, and I, too, worried about any long-term damage. But I knew the risk of him catching measles and suffering complications was higher than the risk of a severe reaction to the jab. I also didn’t want to put other children at risk but leaving my son unprotected and allowing him to not only catch a disease, but pass it on to another child who is not immunised.

I’m not posting this to spark debates or condemn parents who don’t immunise; it’s just one of the many tough choices we parents have to make and to each their own. I’m just voicing my own opinions on vaccinations,  and I wanted to post a link to an article that may be of interest:

Doctor Behind Autism-Vaccine Link Study Accused of ‘Deliberate Fraud’

It turns out the data in the study linking MMR to autism was fudged and Dr. Wakefield’s been banned from practising medicine.

After the study was published,  many parents stopped administering the vaccine to their children, and the cases of measles increased, as did measles-related deaths.

This passage, in particular caught my attention:

“We had a measles epidemic in Britain, a drop in immunization rates in [the United States]. I personally know of children who were brain-damaged as a consequence of their parents deferring immunization as a result of this concern,” Wiznitzer said. At the same time, he said, “[autism] research monies were diverted to disprove a hypothesis that was never proven [in the first place] rather than invested in exploring issues that would be of benefit to the public and to children with the condition.”

Not all children who are immunised actually gain immunity, so he can’t really prove that all the children he’s come across have suffered brain damage because of not being immunised, but surely some of them could have been spared such a horrible outcome had they been immunised. Not only have many children suffered from preventable illness, but autism research has suffered, which is such a shame.

What are your thoughts on vaccinations?


Since posting the above, I’ve had a comment that I wanted to share:

HI, Michelle,
Oh, I agree with you!
Yes, there is risk in any immunizations and for that matter in taking any medications.
But, as a Polio survivor, I know what it is like to live a life after getting one of the diseases that today we have an immunization for. I lived in a time when many, many children came down with Polio every year! Our parents lived in constant dread that their child would be the next victim. I was one of the very must lucky ones: My experience with Polio as a four year old child left me to learn to walk all over again and then with little or no problems until I hit age 50 and became one of the generation of Post Polio Syndrome victims. No one knew about PPS and no one predicted its results. I went from being an active adult to walking with a cane, from a practitioner of yoga to one who could not get into the most easy pose, from an independent person to one who has limited mobility. Yet, I’m still one of the lucky ones: others suffer breathing problems, depend on wheel chairs and scooters, or have great difficulty swallowing food or liquids. Almost every family had one or more polio victims when I was a child: our family had three. One cousin spent her life in steel braces, on crutches and in the end in a wheel chair. Children spent years in “iron lungs” just to stay alive. All life has risks, yet we have polio immunization now, we no longer have whole hospitals filled with children and teens with polio.
My mother lost two little sisters, one in the morning and one that same afternoon, to diphtheria when Mama was a child. The whole community was hit. My grandfather dug the graves and buried the girls himself as no one else would for fear of the terrible disease. (early 1900′s)
My grandmother lost two siblings with in one week to scarlet fever, in her childhood. We NEVER want to go back to that time. There are risks in taking ANY medication, but to go back to a time before immunization we just do not want our children to do that!
Keep Esa safe as our medical level can!




Posted by on January 6, 2011 in About Us, Family Life, Hot Topics, Michelle


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My Many Enthusiasms

I’m one of those people who always needs a hobby and a project. I have to be reading a non-fiction book about some passion of mine. My Amazon wishlist is miles long…well, really I should say wishlists; I have several (20, to be precise), divided into categories like art, Kindle books, Esa reading, math, high priority, third grade, etc. I keep lists, notes, and journals related to my hobbies, too.

I’ve always been this way, but I think it really took off when I learned to knit. I joined knitting groups, both virtual and real, bought several books, needles in every size, and amassed a collection of yarn so vast I could  have opened my own shop (well, almost). (However, I wasn’t as enthusiastic as this lady.) The same thing happened when I learned to sew. And then I got started with homeschooling. That has been my biggest project to date.

Some of my interests die out. Sewing is pretty much dead. This is partly due to the fact that there aren’t any decent places around here from which to buy fabric. The main reason is that I can’t sew the kinds of clothing that I like. I prefer sweaters (too expensive to knit), jeans, and corduroys. I can sew tunics and simple tops, but how many tops does one need? Sewing also began to feel too much like work. I’m not saying I’ll never sew again, but it’s not a regular thing.

Knitting is sporadic. It’s one of those things that I kind of forget about. Then, when I pick up the needles again, I rediscover how enjoyable it is. After a few weeks, something will happen to break the habit and the needles start collecting dust again. I spent months knitting a beautiful, cotton, cable-knit and moss-stitch sweater for my son only to get so completely burned out on it that I gave up after knitting everything except the hood, but I just could not bring myself to do it. It’s still sitting in a bag somewhere, and even if I did finish it, it certainly wouldn’t fit him, although I have a few nephews that might like to have it. One of these days…

Some of my passions, however, endure. If anything, they grow stronger with time. The biggest of those is reading. I enjoy reading now more than I ever have, and as long as I have the use of my eyes, I will read. The others include writing, grammar, foreign languages, homeschooling, art, and baking.

No project excites  me more than a new project. So, as you can imagine, my list of resolutions has me nearly ecstatic.

Which reminds me, I’ve also added gardening to my list. Last year I really neglected the garden and this spring I want to get back out there and get my hands dirty.

I’ve recently discovered My Yahoo!. I’ve had a Yahoo! account for some time now, but I had no idea I could customise the My Yahoo! page. You can add and remove content, move things around, change the background, and add pages. I discovered all of this when one of my enthusiasms, grammar, had me subscribing to podcasts. I was able to add the podcast to the My Yahoo! page.

A grammar podcast?! Yes, indeed! (I told you I was obsessive…er, enthusiastic.) Grammar Girl has many podcasts that are entertaining and informative. I’ve learned a great deal already from browsing the site, and I plan to listen to at least one podcast a week (and take notes!) to improve my usage.

Let’s leave grammar for a minute so I can tell you about another great resource I discovered.

Getting excited about this podcast thing, I started searching around for other podcasts. Here are a few goodies:

I’m still looking for more, so if you have any good ones, I’d love to hear about them.

Another amazing one that I found was for a website called Latinum that uses an out-of-copyright book called A Practical Grammar of the Latin Language, as well as other books and resources in the public domain, to teach Latin.

From this page of the site:

Latinum teaches Latin. The site opens a pathway to full command of the language.

All of our course materials are available for free, and are based on out of copyright textbooks, or copyright-free materials.

You will find everything you need here to learn Latin to an advanced level. There is no need to even buy textbooks, if you are prepared to use digital books. Everything you need is also available on DVD on my little store – prices are very low.

Molendinarius (Evan der Millner) has constructed Latinum as an audio course, based directly on the course of progress followed by students in the Renaissance, at a time when Latin was used regularly by educated people across Europe for reading, writing, and speaking.

The goal of Latinum  to give you the tools to master Latin, in all its forms.  To this end, textbooks that were written for teaching Latin as a ‘workhorse’ language are used – Comenius‘ 17th century course ( possibly the most complete Latin course yet written, covering 4 years of full-time education), Adler‘s Practical Grammar, and various Structured Dialogues, and simple stories.

You can follow the steps  broadly outlined here – but feel free to use the materials in any order. You are encouraged to begin working with Adler (step two) at the same time as working with elements from step one.

Okay, this all sounds great. But I have enough experience with old books to know they’re not always user-friendly. I’ve not had a good look at this programme yet, but I’ll definitely give it a try.

Speaking of old texts, let’s get back to grammar now. I’m a quarter of the way through Harvey’s Elementary Grammar and Composition, and it’s hard…really hard. I sometimes have to read some bits several times, out loud, before I get it. I’m just not used to the antiquated language. My brain is really getting a workout, but there’s one problem: the answer key has several inaccuracies. Here’s an example from an exercise I recently did:

Point out the participial nouns (gerunds) and participles in the following exercises.

2. Looking over the wall, we saw a fox caught in a trap.

I identified “looking” as a present participle and “caught” as a perfect participle. The answer key lists “looking” as a gerund. I really didn’t feel that was correct. I went online to read a little more about the difference between gerunds and participles and it confirmed what I thought to be true: gerunds are the noun forms of words (walking stick, looking glass [a kind reader has pointed out that walking and looking, as used here, are adjectives; quite right!] I like skating. [That one is correct]) and participles are verbs used as adjectives (Situated on a high hill, the fort was easy to capture).

As further proof, if I were to say: “Looking over the wall, the fox was caught in a trap” I would have the famous dangling participle. The sentence implies that the fox was looking over the wall, not we.

I’m 99% sure that “looking” isn’t a gerund in that sentence. If you, dear reader, know for sure, please let me know.

There are several other mistakes, some of which are glaring, and some, because I’m not quite Grammar Girl, have me scratching my head. This makes me very reluctant to use this programme with Esa. However, Classical Writing has put together a workbook and answer key to go along with Harvey’s. For some reason, I feel more confident using their materials.

I’ve been taking a closer look at First Language Lessons levels 3 & 4 and I’ve decided we’ll definitely use them prior to Harvey’s. I suspected it wasn’t necessary to do levels 1 & 2 prior to level 3, and according to this review, I’m right. In a few months, when I order it, I’ll take an in-depth look at it. We can always do some prep work beforehand with level 2, if need be.

FLL 3 & 4 covers so much and is a lovely, gentle way to learn grammar. I also love that it has sentence diagramming, which truly helps with understanding the parts of speech and how sentences are put together. I’ve been diagramming with Harvey’s, and it’s been my favourite type of exercise.

I’m going to continue with Harvey’s, and I’ve also found these resources at the library:

I’ve reserved English Grammar In Use. I’m hopeful it will prove more user-friendly than Harvey’s.

Currently Reading:

  • A Woman’s Place: An Illustrated History of Women at Home, from the Roman Villa to the Victorian Town House
  • Great Expectations

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