Latin Hacks: Verbs

third conjugation
I stumbled upon a “hack” while teaching my kids that I just have to share.  It may not continue to be useful, but it’s been super-helpful so far.

I tell them that every Latin verb has three parts:  what, when, and who.

It’s exactly backwards from how we would say it in English.

“He will eat.”   in Latin is Eat will he (ed e t).  So, we do our translations in reverse order.


Caesar was conquering.

1.  Conquer  = vincere.
We only need this guy for a second.

The “re” means  no one’s doing this, I just am, man. Cross him out.
That “e” in the stem means we’re in 3rd conjugation (chart above).
Now cross it out! “Bye, E!  Thank you for your information.”

2.  Caesar is a dude.  HE was conquering. = t

________    _____ _____ _t_

3.  WAS conquering is past tense. = eba

________    _____ _eba_ _t_

4.  What was he doing?  conquering – vinc

________    _vinc_ _eba_ _t_

5.  We have a noun.  He’s the boss in this sentence = first form

Caesar  vincebat.

That brings us to the second hack.  I tell the kids that while a verb has a “what, when, who”, a noun has “name, rank, and serial number.”


My WRTR Happy Place (So far)


I have STRUGGLERS in spelling.  Every year, we really need to reboot WRTR from the very beginning and find the holes that appeared during the summer.  WRTR has always been hard in this department.  Weeks of dictation!  This method I’m using (six weeks in) is GREAT for us so far.  I wanted to go ahead and share it.  I posted a google doc link below, because I dictate from my phone and edit as I go. (BTW, the highlighted words are from later lists.  I just needed them to make coherent sentences.)


(pdf, may not be up to date on corrections)

Here’s how I use it:

  1. We blasted through the phonogram review.  (We have trouble with the same 10 or so cards that we always have trouble with. There’s no need to take that slower pace in the guide.)
  2. We review the rules 10 minutes a day at the white board using THIS LESSON GUIDE.  (Note, the syllable division patterns are hard, so don’t expect anyone to remember them. I just introduce the concept and keep moving forward.)
  3. I started having them write from dictation, as soon as we’ve reviewed Rules 1-8, 17-19 (my kids have seen them before, so this takes maybe a week of the ten minute teaching sessions?).  For the older child that doesn’t struggle with dysgraphia or other fine motor issues, the A-G list was done in 2-3 ten minute sessions.
  4. I counted the number of missed words.  The kid who missed less than 20 got to pause for a hot second while I ran a normal spelling week for the other.  She had enough misspelled words in her homework to keep her busy for a week.  The kid who missed 20+ got to run a normal spelling week.  I DIDN’T dictate the markings.  He copied them and we reviewed them together several times that week.
  5. Since everyone was under 20 missed words now, we started dictating the I List sentences. At the end of each list, I grade, recount, and run a spelling week (or several) until we’re under 20 words again.  Once we hit the really hard lists, I’ll just dictate part of the sentence list and run a spelling week.


Mom-Formation Recommendations


I want to give my kids a classical education.  I know it consists of certain assignments and exercises.  But, if I don’t have actual knowledge about what I am doing or how it all fits together, how can I honesty persuade my child of an exercise’s importance?  “Do this it this way.”  “Why?”  “Cause the school says it’s important for your vis cogitativa.”  “What’s that?”  “I’m not really sure, but experienced moms tell me I’ll understand it all by the time you graduate.”

I have no idea what I’m doing. This whole experience feels like I’m trying to bake my Gran’s biscuits over the phone.  “How much shortening do I put in?”  “A good dollop or two.” “How much do I knead it, Gran?”  “Until it looks right.”  “What does that even mean?”  The results?  A lot of bad biscuits until I completely reinvent that wheel.  Even worse, since I’ve never experienced a Classical Education, it’s really like trying to bake Gran’s biscuits over the phone without ever having seen or eaten a biscuit before.

I tried to remedy my problem with a STACK of school resources and fancy old books.  Unfortunately, classical education (and it’s associated primary sources) uses a lot of Classical Verbage.  Knowledge, art, science, memory, imagination, intellect, ends, accidents, arguments, means, causes, passions — those words don’t mean what we think they mean and they’re used constantly.  We’re separated by a common language.  It’s as if my Alabama Gran was telling a British dude to how to make her “biscuits” over the phone.  He wouldn’t just have “no idea,” he’d have “the wrong idea.”

Getting the vocabulary straight has been a huge help. I haven’t completely remedied my situation, but I have come a long way and here’s what has worked for me.

1) Aristotle for Everybody, by Mortimer Adler.  This is the most effective way I know to acquire the vocabulary you need. He uses the words you KNOW to explain what is UNKNOWN. (Sound familiar?)  Read it cover to cover.  Even the introduction and back matter.  You’ll be all over the hierarchy of “goods” and get why the word “knowledge” is used so weirdly in classical ed.  “True, good, and beautiful” are actually categories of things, not just a catch phrase for “noble stuff.” Also it will give you a leg up on all that high school talk about the purpose of “the state” and government. In the back there’s a wonderful concordance for cherry-picking Aristotle or just getting a general idea on his works.

2) How to Read a Book  This is by the same author.  It’s a huge book, but it will catch you up fast on the whole “finding the argument” skills.  Part 2 and the first three chapters of Part 3 have proven to be the most helpful to me at this point. Maybe start there. Before this book, I had no idea how to find “the main points” of an argument.  If that’s you, definitely get going on this before your oldest hits 5th.  Also, in the back is a list of Classic books for you to read (if you like) and which sections of those books are the best.

3) The One Minute Aquinas, by Kevin Vost.  St. Thomas “baptized” and expanded on Aristotle’s work.  He comprehensively maps the human soul. It’s said that the Baltimore Catechism is distilled Aquinas.  They’re not wrong.  Understanding Thomas and his lingo will not only help in school, it will help in church.  This book is like De Anima for Dummies with a heaping helping of Summa for Simpletons

If you milk those three for all they’re worth and are still hungry for more, I just completed a self-study of Memoria Press’ Material Logic text. It’s also a very good “learn the vocabulary” text, but it takes some serious effort. It wasn’t fully understandable to me until these previous three books had yielded their fruits.

I hope these books help you as much as they’ve helped me. I am rocking out now on substances and accidents, actions and passions, sense/imagination/memory and agent intellect. What a RELIEF!

Ancient History at a Glance

BC timeline

Most ancient history timelines online are TOO complicated for me.  I just want to know what’s happening in Egypt while Greece is doing such-and-such. So I built one.    I put it below my beloved clothes pin timeline of centuries (empty and ready for a new year of clothes pins!) so you can see the size better. It’s two standard pages wide. There are SEVERAL versions in this post depending on what you want.  I have yet to decide what I want! Also, know that I ROUND.  This is not an exact timeline.  I constructed it mostly from watching the below awesome video. (and this one helped too.)

History overview excel

History overview blank pdf

History overview color pdf

As a png left

As a png right

As a png with names left
with names

As a png with names right



Names 2

Free-Reading Resources


Finding a list of books that fits your value system is difficult.  Then, you have to worry about reading level.  The following lists are compiled from lots of folks “good stuff” lists and organized by author and then by reading level.  Some lists are first organized by author, so scroll down and the list will repeat, sorted by difficulty.

And in each list, the ATOS reading level is that wacky number in the third column.