Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Words Have Meaning: Know Your Greek and Latin Roots

As a true "Language Geek", Jeff has often talked about how useful it has been to know something about the Greek and Latin root words when studying other Romance languages like French - and also in studying English! So when the opportunity arose for our family to review the Greek and Latin Root cards provided by the Lonestar Learning company, I jumped at it! 

The cards are simple and straightforward. They come in a plain bubble-wrap type envelope and are so simple that I wasn't entirely sure how to use them at first! In the envelope was a shrink-wrapped type stack of cards and a paper that gave a few suggestions for how to use the cards. 

There were 60 cards in all (30 for the Greek roots and 30 for the Latin); each card was printed on heavy card stock and laminated, and the root word was written out in clever pictograms that are designed to give the student an additional visual clue to the meaning of the word.

Maestro has always been a pretty heavy reader, and it has helped his vocabulary immensely. Chef has taken a slightly longer route to reading and comprehension, but he loves to write. He is also pretty right-brained in his thinking. What that means is that I may not ever understand exactly how he comes to some of the conclusions he does, but that the more I look for ways of thinking "outside the box", the more he might latch onto a concept and run with it in his own unique way. To that end, these cards have provided a unique - and more importantly a visual method for Chef to learn his roots. 

So how did we use these cards? Well, they're not entirely intuitive. I looked to the website for some ideas; I talked to the kids for games to play; I read the little paper that came with them. First, I taped a bunch of them to the wall just across the hall from the laundry room - a place every kid goes to (nearly) every day. This is also just up the wall from their chalk board and our monthly calendar. The bright colors and pictures invited even the younger kids (all but Mr. Magoo) to stop, look, and ask questions. "What does that say?" Or to guess at what they might mean. Some were more obvious than others: COSM - as you can see to the right in the picture below - gives the idea that space is involved somehow. So from there we could look up COSM in the dictionary and see what words might that root be connected to. 

Others weren't so easy to figure out: Chrom, for example. Hmmm... it sure is colorful, but not much in the way of a picture to help us out. You get the idea - back to the dictionary.

We also are working on pairing up different cards: can we make words using two or three cards? Do the roots work that way? 

One of the most impressive linguists I have ever known was a Marine officer. He was studying two languages and (for some strange reason I've never understood) was also studying the word lists for the SAT. A game he would play was to have someone open the SAT list and give him any word on the page. His claim was that he could tell you the meaning, spelling and origin of any word in the book. We were never able to stump him. It made a huge impression on my young 18-year-old self - and in hindsight, I have to think that part of his ability to remember so much in the way of vocabulary had something to do with the way he understood the roots of the words we use! This memory serves as another idea for showing my children why learning these roots matter, and how they might be helpful.

More than anything, these little cards gave us an opening to talk about where our words come from, how they might be linked to the French that Jeff speaks (and that we're beginning to study), or Spanish, or the Greek we sometimes hear in church, or what new words might mean. I tried to keep a handful of cards in the car with me so we could look for a root-of-the-day (or week) while driving around town running errands. 

The Greek and Latin cards are $39.99 for 60 laminated cards, sturdy enough to hold up to the abuse of at least a 4-year-old, but the vocabulary-building potential is primarily aimed at the 3rd - 8th-grade group. You can also get cards for Math, Science, and Reading, all the way up through the 8th grade level! 


If the above link doesn't work, you can go HERE to check out other Schoolhouse Review Crew opinions!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.


  1. We homeschooled years ago and both our sons used a similar program. We made our own cards from a book resource and they both can see the improvement in their vocabulary and comprehension. Glad to see there are still resources this available.

    1. The kids enjoyed trying out new combinations too - I do remember making my own cards and I must confess these were much more convenient!


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