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Our Roman Roots

by James R. Leek, Ed.D.

Reviewed by Martha Robinson

Purchase details: Our Roman Roots, by James R. Leek, Ed.D., $44.99 for set (spiral bound student manual, paperback teacher's manual, and cassette tape). Published by St. Paul's Press. Please support by buying this program from our Amazon affiliate link.

Our Roman Roots is a thorough and yet FUN introduction to Latin. Dr. Leek has combined Latin grammar with derivatives, thought-provoking quotations, Latin songs and prayers, and Roman culture, geography, and history to create a program stimulating enough to capture both the student's and the homeschooling parent's interest. Subtitled "A Catholic Student's Guide to Latin Grammar and Western Civilization," this program has much broader appeal than the market for which it was written, Catholic homeschoolers. Our Roman Roots has a theme of Christian virtue that crosses over all denominational boundaries.

Our Roman Roots has three units of five lessons each. The units are "Education and Civilization," "Law and Civilization," and "Beauty and Civilization." Each lesson in the unit has a theme that is carried throughout the five days of work (three days of new material, one day of review, and one day for a quiz.) The titles for the first unit are shown below as an example of the morality-based themes of this program:

  • Lesson I: Success depends on learning
  • Lesson II: Education can improve our ability to reason
  • Lesson III: Education can teach us to be better neighbors
  • Lesson IV: Education can draw out talents that lie within
  • Lesson V: By leading us to truth, education lifts us above the cares of life

Each lesson is laid out in a day-by-day, step-by-step format. Days one through three begin with the "Quote for the Day" tied in with the lesson theme. The "Word Power" section shows a Latin word and about six English derivatives of the word. Next is the "Oral Passage of the Week," a song, chant, or prayer, that the student recites daily. The "Grammatical Objective" section explains grammar clearly. Concepts are presented slowly and explained thoroughly. The last item in the lesson is the "Extension Activity" in which the student is asked to do a brief research project, some reading, a composition, or journal writing. The parent may need to adjust the Extension Activity based upon the student's maturity.

The review plan on day four sums up the week's work by section -- Word Power, Oral Passage, and Grammatical Objective. Then, an additional Extension Activity is assigned. A quiz that includes both oral and written components occurs on day five.

The material used in the lessons is rich and diverse. Mottoes from states and the U.S. Constitution are used to support the chapter themes. Fables, mythology, brief biographies of men of the time, and other information about Roman schools, the Vulgate Bible, and more, are included. Bible prayers, verses, and stories, including David and Goliath, the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, Sign of the Cross, and verses from the Gospel of John, are taught in Latin. A study of maps of the Roman empire incorporates geography. Many more topics are covered.

Our Roman Roots offers a thorough introduction to Latin. About 150 vocabulary words are introduced. Nouns of three declensions are used in all five cases. The four principle parts of verbs, and the present, perfect, and imperfect tenses are explained. Questions, adjective agreement, and prepositions are also discussed.

Our Roman Roots was designed for families who are not familiar with Latin. After a section explaining the flow of the student manual, the teacher's manual is strictly an answer key. The heart of the program is in the 135 page student book that is not consumable. Exercises, vocabulary, and quotations are to be copied into a notebook. The quizzes in the manual may be reproduced. The audio tape, which was recorded by the author, is easy-to-understand.

Fourth to eighth graders are the target market for this program, but Our Roman Roots could be an effective introduction for older students, and younger students may participate in the oral parts of the program. The author suggests that you repeat Our Roman Roots a couple of years later if you use it with fourth graders. Dr. Leek recommends a first year Latin program after completion of Our Roman Roots.

Recommendation: As I was working on this review, I had the opportunity to correspond with the author, James Leek. His comments on the intent of the program are well worth reading: "As you probably have concluded by now, the text is more than Latin. It is a curriculum in itself like a humanities course. Latin is taught but so is English vocabulary, key values of Western Christian culture, logic, grammar, and research skills. Children are asked to think and to apply the knowledge gained. They are guided through fundamental principles of freedom, duty, truth, and beauty while at the same time learning oral Latin. My 28 years of teaching taught me the value of student success and student delight in learning as well as a commitment to serve the subject. Most Latin texts chase away beginners because they forget this. A very very small percentage of students thrive studying Wheelock. This text is an attempt to introduce the beginner of any age to Latin and keep their interest. It is designed to be easy to succeed using it."

Our Roman Roots will ignite your student's interest in Latin. The author did an outstanding job pulling the program together with character-building themes to make this MUCH more than a Latin curriculum. Our Roman Roots would be an excellent choice for an introductory Latin program for a family that enjoys integrating subjects.

The program has only fifteen lessons. With younger children, the lessons could be stretched out over two weeks with vocabulary study on off days. Older children could move quickly through Our Roman Roots and move on to more advanced Latin studies.

Prayers and hymns at the heart of the Catholic faith are included and make this program particularly meaningful to Catholic families. Protestants could easily pass over the few items that are specific to Catholicism. Our Roman Roots will truly be beneficial to all Christian families. resources related to this review:

Latin Curricula Comparison Chart to help select an introductory or intensive program.'s Classic Languages Resource Section
Review of Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum by Laura Berquist

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