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.

 

Jun 102010
 

We’ve always planned on having our children learn Spanish. It is a very useful language to know in many parts of the U.S., including our area of North Carolina. We even purchased Rosetta Stone software when our children were younger. We haven’t made learning Spanish a priority though, so they’ve learned very little.

Even though we haven’t been actively studying Spanish, I couldn’t resist when I was offered a copy of Comic Mnemonics: A Fun, Easy Way to Remember Spanish Verbs to review. The concept was so intriguing, I knew I had to see it. I also suspected that this would be a fun way for my son who loves comics (both reading and drawing) to remember Spanish verbs whenever the time does come.

What is Comic Mnemonics? It is a supplemental resource to aid in memorizing Spanish verbs. It is not a stand-alone Spanish curriculum. It contains 100 Spanish verbs arranged alphabetically. The first page has the verb with its pronunciation and meaning, along with a cartoon picture and mnemonic. The conjugation of the verb is also listed.  On the back of each page is just the Spanish word and the picture so the student can quiz himself on the meaning. It also has practice sentences to fill in the correct form of the verb.

For example, the verb ASISTIR means to attend. The comic illustration shows a bench. In front of the bench stands a head coach and a student in a tuxedo. A basketball player is sitting on the bench. Under the comic is the following statmement. (I’ve tried to format it the same as the book.)

The assistant, Joe Best, attends the games formally dressed.

A few days ago, I handed Comic Mnemonics to my older son (12) and asked him to look at it and tell me what he thought. Twenty minutes later, he returned saying that he thought the comics would make it easier to memorize the verbs. As a little test, I quizzed him on the first 10 verbs. (Remember, he isn’t studying Spanish.) He was able to tell me the meanings of 8 of them after his brief look at the book. Obviously that little quiz reveals nothing about his long term memory, but I found the results encouraging nonetheless.

If you’re studying Spanish, you ought to look for this helpful guide. You can find more information about the book, including where to purchase it, at www.comicmnemonics.com. The retail price is $16.95 in the U.S. Coming soon to the Comic Mnemonics series are Spanish II, Spanish III, ESL, and French. I’d love one for Latin too! (hint, hint)

Disclosure: I received a free copy of Comic Mnemonics from Alacan Publishing in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated for this review.