8001 San Miguel Canyon, #411
Prunedale, CA 93907
Although I am not a diehard classical educator, there are many aspects of a classical education that I like and use with my family. However, I have modified the intensive study of Latin and/or Greek to include only a thorough study of Latin and Greek roots. Learning roots is important because it gives the child the ability to decipher words that they've never encountered before. If they can find a root in the word, then they have a chance of figuring out at least part of its meaning. Studying roots is also important in preparation for taking the SATs and/or ACTs, which are usually required for entrance into college.
At this time, there are not many curricula on the market covering the study of Latin and Greek roots, so I was very excited to receive Vocabulary Vine to review. This curriculum teaches 108 Latin and Greek roots in a spiral fashion through "critical thinking activities, a dozen no-preparation hands-on games, and the natural fun of word play." You may be wondering what a "spiral" approach is; well, basically it's previewing a root while studying the Study Root and then studying/reviewing it again later. Here is an explanation as written in Vocabulary Vine: "By reviewing studied material after a few days, and again a few days after that, your long-term retention improves tremendously. In this program, you generally preview a root a few days before you study it because you use it in another Study Root's Example Word."
The program is set up to cover a root a day, three times a week, in order to get through the list in a typical 36-week school year. You can shorten or lengthen your study by covering fewer or more roots each week. It all depends upon the age and ability of the child you are teaching as well as your goals for your family. There is no age recommendation on this program, but from my experience in teaching roots to my children and to a co-op class a few years ago, you could use Vocabulary Vine with children at least as young as third grade.
Each study day, the child creates a root card using index cards, which are then filed away in a card file box. The directions for creating each card are clear and easily understandable and written out step-by-step. After writing the root, definition, and origin on the card, it is then time to write out the definitions of three Example words using the study root. This is where the spiral approach comes in! In defining the words, the child learns the meanings of other roots that are part of the Example words. When the child encounters a new root while defining the Example words, he begins a new study card for that root and then sets it aside until it comes up for study again. This is a brilliant method of covering the material, and the root card box can be taken anywhere for review (you know, those long doctor office visits?).
After the first few weeks, you will have enough cards with which to begin playing games. Twelve games are included in Vocabulary Vine. I find that games are truly a fun way to add a little spice to our homeschool studies. Ms. Hasseler has intentionally included only basic, open-ended instructions. She understands that each family is different and so can add their own creative touch to the games. A supplemental Bingo & Game Tile Set can be purchased along with Vocabulary Vine, and I do recommend spending the additional money to do so. This is an inexpensive program--only $16.45 for the book and Bingo & Game Tile set! My son loves to play games on Fridays. It's a great way to end the week and is my treat for a job well done Monday-Thursday!
In addition to the Main List of roots to be studied, several other parts of the book are worth mentioning: a Frequently Asked Questions section, Supplemental Information giving details about root study and the program, and several appendices--Prefixes, English to Roots, and a Condensed Root Glossary. All in all, this is a nice program, easy to implement, and inexpensive to boot. Obviously, there are more than 108 Latin and Greek roots to study, but this program can be adapted for use with any list of roots that you would like to cover with your family. Even if you own another program--and I do own another program which has sat on my shelf now for several years because I wasn't quite sure what to do with it--I would recommend beginning with Vocabulary Vine first. The spiral approach is most effective for long-term retention of the material. After we finish Vocabulary Vine, I think I'll pull the other program down and continue teaching my son even more roots because now I know an easier and more effective way to help him learn this material!
Product review by Kris Price, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, August 2006