Oct 162016
 

There are a few subjects that strike fear in the hearts of homeschoolers. Advanced math and high school science are a couple that are usually on the list. But there’s another equally scary subject and that’s…

FOREIGN LANGUAGE!

Why is foreign language so scary? The simple fact is that most of us in the US are not bilingual. And it’s really hard to teach something that you don’t know. So by necessity most homeschoolers either look for someone else to teach their students a foreign language, choose a foreign language that isn’t spoken like Latin, or choose a foreign language curriculum that teaches directly to the student with little parent/teacher involvement.

When I was approached by Speekee to review their Accelerate Spanish program for homeschools, I jumped at the opportunity because I’m one of those typical Americans who isn’t bilingual. I’m also stretched for time, so I’m always happy to find educational opportunities that don’t require much input from me. Speekee provided me with 1 year of free access to the program in exchange for my honest review.

Speekee Accelerate Homeschool Spanish

The Facts

Speekee Accelerate is a video-based Spanish curriculum designed for students ages 8 and up. In addition to short videos, Speekee Accelerate includes worksheets, audio clips, and activity ideas for additional instruction. Each of the 40 weekly lessons is divided into 4 parts. On day 1, students watch the entire video (about 15 minutes). This video is completely in Spanish, spoken by native Spanish speaking children. There is very little explanation in the video, rather it immerses the student in the language. For the next 7 lessons, various sections of the video are watched again with emphasis placed on a different topic that was covered in the video like numbers, colors, greetings, etc. There is also an option to receive a weekly e-mail with activities and links for each lesson.

Speekee Accelerate Homeschool Spanish Screen Shot

A peek at the lesson interface

My Opinion

The video lessons are quality productions. We did not particularly entertaining, but these are not designed to be entertaining.  The videos allow the student to hear the language spoken. They have kept the dialogue to a minimum. I think that makes them not as overwhelming as watching a regular television program in Spanish. (We do find it interesting to do that occasionally, just to hear the language, but we could definitely not learn Spanish that way.) It’s really not possible to create a very exciting storyline with limited Spanish vocabulary.

I love the fact that the lessons are short. It makes it much easier to fit into our busy days. The weekly e-mail is a fantastic idea and the activity ideas are extra helpful and add some fun to the program.

Speekee Accelerate is a great way to add elementary Spanish instruction into our homeschool day.

Speekee Accelerate Homeschool Spanish Sample Worksheet

A sample worksheet

The Cost

Speekee is a monthly subscription product. You pay just $7.50/month for access to 4 different learning products. In addition to Accelerate, there is Speekee Fast Track for ages 4-7 and Speekee TV which I previously reviewed here. Speekee Play is an on-line game to reinforce and learn more Spanish. If you’re unsure about Speekee, they offer a 2 week free trial and you can cancel your monthly membership at any time.

If you’re looking for an easy way to add some elementary Spanish to your day, I recommend that you try Speekee.

 

Sep 132012
 

Much research has shown that early childhood is an ideal time to begin learning a foreign language. Because of this, I’ve always tried to expose my children to Spanish at a young age. I chose Spanish mainly because it’s the easiest foreign language to find resources for children. Ideally, I would teach them Spanish by speaking it to them. But unfortunately, I don’t speak Spanish. So we’ve used various computer programs, some television shows, and even a homeschool class to expose the children to Spanish.

Now I still have young children but Lizzie (almost 6) hasn’t really had any exposure to Spanish with the exception of watching Dora. (I hope I’m not the only one who has really high ideals and standards with the older children, but then relaxes them out of necessity with the younger ones!) So I was really excited when I was selected to review Speekee TV.

What (or who) is Speekee?

SpeekeeSpeekee is a lovable, purple, Spanish-speaking puppet. Speekee and his friends speak only Spanish on the 10 episodes of Speekee, so watching Speekee is a total immersion in Spanish. The program is not vocabulary focused, although there is plenty of vocabulary included, but is very conversational in nature. The program also includes many songs which are very catchy. (I catch myself singing them!)

In addition to Speekee TV, there is a free FastTrack curriculum  that adds fun activities, worksheets, and flashcards correlated with specific segments of the Speekee episodes. The FastTrack program provides plans for 40 weeks of instruction. It can be accessed on-line or e-mailed to subscribers weekly.

Although Speekee is available on DVD, I received Speekee TV to review. Speekee TV is a subscription service allowing access to all the episodes on-line. We can hook our computers up to our television, but for ease of use (or maybe my own laziness), I just had Lizzie and Andrew watch Speekee on my laptop. We experienced no difficulties accessing the website or streaming the programs. The interface to select an episode is very intuitive, and Lizzie quickly figured out how to start the desired episode.

I opted to use Speekee in the simplest way possible. I had Lizzie (almost 6 and in the 1st grade) and Andrew (20 months) watch the programs. That’s it. I did receive the FastTrack curriculum e-mails as well, and they look like an excellent way to reinforce the Spanish learned in the program. I will be using some of the activities with Lizzie as she watches the episodes again. The activities are too advanced for Andrew, obviously. Speekee is recommended for children ages 2-10, so he’s a little too young. But he isn’t too young to enjoy the program. He LOVES it. He was sitting beside me when I started writing this review and was very excited to see Speekee on my computer. Then he was very upset that we weren’t going to watch Speekee right now.

Speekee

Andrew and Lizzie watching Speekee

So are my children walking around speaking Spanish after 6 weeks of watching Speekee? Well, no. But Andrew is just barely starting to speak English. And with a program like Speekee, that isn’t the goal. I think Speekee is a fantastic and fun way to get children started on Spanish. They can learn at a young age what Spanish sounds like. They can begin to imitate it and say Spanish words with the correct accent. That can only help them in future study. (By the way, I should mention that Speekee is a UK production, so the Spanish spoken is like the Spanish spoken in Spain, not Latin America. It’s the same language, but there are some differences in some pronunciations I’ve been told.)

The recommended age for Speekee is 2-10. In my house it would never work past about 8 years old. Not because the content is too easy, but because my children would revolt at watching anything so childish after that. But every family is different, and I’m sure there are many who would find it an effective program for 10 year olds.

There are 2 subscription options for Speekee TV

  • $7.50/month or
  • $60/year

Both options give 2 weeks free at the beginning of the subscription. That allows users to try out the program to make sure it’s a good fit for their family.

If you have little ones, I highly recommend Speekee!

Disclosure: I received a 6 month subscription to Speekee TV in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Jan 042012
 

As classical educators, we’ve invested a lot of our school-time studying Latin. There are many reasons why we’ve chosen Latin as our primary language to study, but we’ve always planned on adding Spanish to our curriculum later. (We did introduce some Spanish early with programs like Jump Start Spanish. And my younger daughter is completely addicted to Dora at the moment, and she’s picking up some Spanish there.)

Recently my older daughter (6th grade) has expressed an interest in adding another language to her studies. When I got the opportunity to review REAL Homeschool Spanish as a member of the Homeschool Crew, I was excited for her!

Homeschool SpanishHomeschool Spanish is designed specifically for the homeschool family to learn Spanish together! It is suitable for elementary and middle school aged children with a high school supplement to be available soon. The curriculum is divided up into units that focus on specific groups of vocabulary words. For example, Unit 1 covers various greetings and asking and answering the question “How are you?”. Unit 2 introduces colors and numbers. It is very hands-on and filled with ideas to incorporate learning Spanish into every day.

The curriculum includes a book, activity book, answer book, and audio files. There is also a Daily Curriculum Guide available. The materials are currently available as a download for $49.95 without the curriculum guide and $59.95 including the guide. The hardcopy book with CD’s for the activity book, answer key, and audio files is $89.95 without the curriculum guide and $99.95 with the guide. You can see more details about the various purchasing options at RealHomeschoolSpanish.com.

I think this curriculum is well laid out. The Daily Curriculum Guide, although not essential, is extremely helpful for implementation since it suggests activities for every day. It does move fairly slowly though, so if you wish to complete the curriculum at a faster pace, you may not find it as helpful. The audio files are absolutely essential for this Southern, non-Spanish speaking mom. The file names make it easy to locate the correct mp3, and the files are divided into separate folders for the book and activity book. The activity book has a variety of puzzles like crosswords and cryptoquotes to practice the vocabulary words. Younger students may have difficulty with these activities. The curriculum includes a wide variety of ideas for practicing the vocabulary such as puppets, board games, journaling, and drawing comics. These ideas vary enough to appeal to students with different learning styles.

If you’re looking for a Spanish curriculum for your children to work on entirely independently, this is not it. But if you’re looking for a gentle, hands-on, incremental approach to learning Spanish for your entire family, you should definitely consider R.E.A.L Homeschool Spanish. You can download samples to see the layout and hear the audio before you buy.

Disclosure: I received R.E.A.L. Homeschool Spanish for free in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.
You can read what other members of the Homeschool Crew think of Homeschool Spanish on the Homeschool Crew blog.

 

Oct 162011
 

When you tell people that you’re teaching Latin to your children, you get a variety of responses.

People who don’t homeschool tend to think it’s a bit odd and usually lump you into the category of parents who push their kids too much in academics. (OK, so they don’t say that exactly, but you can imagine the look accompanied with the standard, “Oh, really? Why? Isn’t Latin a dead language?” comments.)

People who do homeschool have usually heard of other homeschoolers who teach their kids Latin, so they’re not usually as surprised. But their reactions tend to vary based on their own homeschool philosophies. On one end you have those who think that you need to relax more. That is contrasted with those on the other end of the spectrum, who want to know what Latin curriculum you use, because they’re either planning to, or are already teaching Latin too. I’m always eager to talk about curriculum, so I much prefer the latter.

A few years ago, there were not very many options for Latin study. It seems that more people are recognizing the value of teaching Latin, and as a result, more companies have begun offering Latin programs specifically designed for homeschoolers. While it is fantastic to have so many options, it can make choosing curriculum a daunting task.

Visual Latin

One of the newer Latin programs is Visual Latin. I had heard nothing but positive things about this new program, so I was excited to take a look at it for myself.

I received Lessons 1-10 of Latin 1 to review. (The entire Latin I course consists of 30 lessons.) Each of these lessons is divided into 3 video segments. The first segment introduces the topic and discusses the basic grammar. The second segment has sentences, and the third segment is Latin reading. Also included for each lesson are worksheets in pdf form.

I received the downloaded version of these lessons. (DVD’s are also available.) These can be watched on the computer or on the television if you are able to connect your computer. (That’s what we did.) They can also be watched on an iPod or iPad. I wish I had an iPad to test it out on. I didn’t try it out on my iPod, because I don’t typically find it a very convenient way to watch videos.

My two older children have been studying Latin for several years now. (They’re on different levels using different programs. But that’s a story for another day.) Since neither of them are beginning Latin students, I didn’t have a child who could truly test this product. (My younger children are not ready for Latin because they’re not reading well enough in English yet.) But I had my older son (13 years old) view the videos with  me. I choose him so that he could start the year with a little basic review, and so that I could get his opinion of the program. (I also needed him to help me hook my laptop up to the television.)

Visual Latin

What did we think?

First, Dwane Thomas, the instuctor, is very funny. He also explains the concepts well. But we both especially enjoyed his humor.

This approach to Latin is entirely different from that in any of the other curricula I’m familiar with. Rather than starting with memorizing noun or verb endings, Dwane starts with examples of whole sentences and demonstrates the different endings by showing many examples. It definitely is a more interesting approach.

Did I mention how funny Dwane is?

The downloads were convenient and easy to use. You are allowed to make enough copies of the worksheets for your immediate family. That is a significant savings over purchasing consumable worktexts.

What I can’t say is if this different approach to learning Latin is effective or not. I can’t say because there wasn’t anything unfamiliar in the lessons that we studied, which the exception of a few vocabulary words. I tried to imagine myself not knowing Latin. I don’t know if I would be confused or not. What I suspect is that this program is super for some types of learners, but some children may prefer a more traditional program.

I think that if my older son were just now starting Latin, Visual Latin would be at the top of my list. (And I have 3 more children who will be studying Latin in the future.)

The good news is, you can take a look at this program for yourself before you buy it. Visual Latin allows you to download free sample lessons. Or, if you don’t want to download lessons, you can watch a complete lesson on their website.

You can purchase the lessons in groups of 10 to download. Each 10 lesson set is $25. That cost is quite a bit less than buying videos and texts for the other Latin programs I’ve used. (You do have to print the texts yourself.)

 

Disclosure: I receiving 10 lessons of Visual Latin to review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own. This post contains affiliate links.

Enhanced by Zemanta