This is one amazing program that I believe has lain hidden from the homeschool community for the most part. There are those who really want to teach Latin, but look at what is out there and think, "Oh boy, can I really do this?" I was one of those people and can honestly say, no longer! Minimus is a gentler and vastly more interesting program than any I have seen available and one in which you and your children will learn a great deal.
Published by Cambridge University Press, this course is for the elementary grades and combines the history of an actual family from Roman Brittan. Now I love history and we are currently studying Rome, so this program fits in nicely with a study of the ancients and only adds to the understanding of the people who really lived at this time. It can be so easy to think of ancient people as almost mythological, when in reality they were a lot like us. In Minimus, we meet a family through the guidance of the household mouse, Minimus. There is a mother, father, three children, three educated slaves and, of course, a cat. The father, Flavius Cerialis, did not come from Rome, but from Batavia (what is now the Netherlands) and was an actual commander of the ninth cohort of Batavians in the second century AD. His house, located in Vindolanda, Roman Brittan's Northern Frontier, is currently being excavated! Not associated with the Minimus program, but fascinating nonetheless, is a website (www.vindolanda.com) I discovered in my search for more information on Vindolanda. You can experience an exciting virtual tour of sorts and find out what is going on in the city right now by going to this website!
What you will discover in the Minimus curriculum is not only a wealth of real history, but also a very good basic introduction to the language of Latin. There are 12 chapters to this non-consumable program and each begins with a picture story. The stories are conversations between family members (or family animals) and those with whom they come in contact. Your child will learn what it was like to be invaded by Romans, to serve in the Roman army, to be the wife or child of an officer, and the part slaves played in Roman life. When it is possible, the publishers have used material based on what was real in the life of this family and even present pictures of the actual writings of tablets used between them!
The picture story is used to introduce the subject and specific language for the chapter. Following this is the "Words to Help" section, which lists and translates new words encountered from the story and then you will see the "Grasp the Grammar" section. Grammatical concepts are explained and, where necessary, reinforcement activities follow. "Roman Report" (information on Roman life) and then "Latin Roots" come after. I really like this section as it introduces the English derivatives from various Latin words encountered in the lesson. For those of you who like a little mythology in the study of Rome, there is a myth or story told in English, a "Grammar Summary." Finally, there are "Words to Remember." These are a review of important grammatical points and words covered in the lesson.
Both the Teacher's Resource Book (TRB) and the Student Book (SB) are absolutely invaluable. Not only does the TRB have all the needed explanations and detailed information for you to be able to teach the course, but the book is immensely helpful in all sorts of ways with suggestions for activities and little notes about how to say things correctly. There is another item that does not come with the books, but I find to be particularly helpful; the cassette tape. For a mom who has no prior experience with speaking Latin, this was a wonderful addition to the course and makes the SB come alive. You can follow along and see how things are pronounced and that makes it quite easy to read later on. It can be listened to over and over to reinforce the correct pronunciation and you could even have your children perform a Latin play!
The entire program from www.cup.org is $109.95, but there is so much that comes with it, along with the fact that it is reusable for all your children that makes it a clear bargain. It is obvious that a great deal of thought, work, and time went into this program and the results are lovely. The Teacher Book is 80 pages in a spiral bound format and the Student Book is a sturdy paperback. The Student Book is full color and replete with different pictures of artifacts from the Vindolanda site. The publishers state that this was written to "give pupils a taste of the language that the Romans spoke and brought to Brittan, and which was so influential on the development of many other languages, especially English." In this, they succeed in an interesting, engaging, and colorful manner. I highly recommend this course!