Outside the narrow world of classical homeschoolers, Latin is kind of a strange thing to study, with no obvious point or application. If you want your kids to learn Latin, it helps to cultivate a home atmosphere in which Latin is regarded as self-evidently awesome.
Because Latin is awesome, there are plenty of routes for doing that; the spells in the Harry Potter series, for example. (There’s nothing like opening your Latin book right after finishing Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and finding yourself required to conjugate expecto, as in expecto patronem.)
But the main thing we do is sing in Latin. Latin was the language of church music for more than a thousand years. From choral singing in high school and college, I have big chunks of the Latin mass committed to memory. But there are many Latin songs, rounds, hymns, and carols that even very young children like Colin can master.
We started with the “Boar’s Head Carol,” a very old Christmas carol which, helpfully, is sung mostly in English with a little Latin sprinkled in. We’re particularly fond of Honky Tonk Confidential’s alt-country version, which, alas, is not online. Here is a group called Magpie Lane singing it:
We’ve also learned a beautiful Taize chant, very simple in both the Latin words and the melody. We picked it up from the new UU hymnal, Singing the Journey. The words are Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est, which means “Where there is charity and love, God is there.” Here’s a choral arrangement that is much fancier than ours:
The big winner around here, heard frequently from both kids, is “Non Nobis Domine” from the Kenneth Branagh film Henry V. The words, it turns out, were the motto of the Knights Templar: Non nobis domine sed nomine tuo da gloriam, or “Not to us, O Lord, but to thy name be the glory.” (Warning: the video clip is gory. But the music is lovely.)
I’m looking forward to the day when they’re strong enough singers to do “Dona Nobis Pacem” and the Praetorius “Jubilate Deo” as rounds. Then, the sky will be the limit as far as Latin singing opportunities are concerned. In the meantime, Alex’s Latin studies keep paying off by incrementally unlocking a bit more understanding of songs she knows by heart. And in the meantime, at three and a half, Colin already thinks of Latin as something pleasant and accessible that the whole family likes and uses all the time.