Sunday, July 1, 2012

Review: Homeschool Spanish Academy

We have tried, off and on, to learn Spanish.  Dale really wants that to happen, but it is hard when I don't know much of the language myself.  Whatever we have tried in the past has had some positives... we learn some words, we learn a bit of culture.  But we've never stuck with anything very long, mostly because nothing has ever felt like it truly would work out.

Or at least that used to be true.  Homeschool Spanish Academy is different.  In lots of ways.
  1. I don't have to do the teaching.  Native Spanish speakers, who live in Guatemala, teach live, ONE ON ONE via Skype.  (The teachers all speak English also, and will use English as much as necessary in the class time.)
  2. While there is a standard curriculum, it is adapted to the student.  So if your student has already learned to count, or has learned the colors, they will briefly touch on that and then move on. 
  3. Homework (for the elementary levels) consists of reviewing what has already been taught.
  4. Unlike other online courses we've used that involve a real person doing the teaching, we can schedule it around our lives.  So one week, we have class on Tuesday afternoon, another week we head to the library after stuff in town and do a class Monday early evening.  Classes are available between roughly 9:00 and 5:00, Mountain Time.  (Of course, if you want a set time, you can schedule it for every Thursday at 9:30 a.m. too.) 
Summer has been a little crazy, but Thomas is over halfway through his half-semester (he's attended five of the seven classes) in the Early Learning Level.  At $59.99, that is just over $8.50 per class.  Twenty-five minutes of one-on-one attention, from a Spanish teacher in Central America.  (Prices are lower per class when you purchase a full semester at a time, or do two classes per week.)

These teachers are top-notch too, and they have to continue to learn -- all instructors are required to spend a certain number of hours each month studying English, Bible, and education methodologies.

What did Thomas think?

Well, I have to be honest and say he was NOT excited about the chance to learn Spanish this summer.  It's been tough on him, as the timing pretty much stinks.  We were in Fargo when this started, had a visit from family, had a week-long science camp (that's when we did class in the library), Dad was on vacation for a week, we spent a lot of time this past week volunteering with the area fires, or watching news broadcasts as he had a handful of friends in evacuated (or pre-evac) areas, and now he is at Scout Camp.

If I could have chosen this, I would have been starting him next week.  This past six weeks has not exactly been conducive to him focusing on much of anything.

That being said... his statements about the classes have been fairly positive.  Especially after this fifth class.  The first class is a chance to learn how the course works and for the teacher to assess the student's knowledge.  In his case, the next three focused primarily on learning the alphabet, most especially learning the sounds the vowels make, and reading Spanish words.  It was class #5 where he started having more "real" conversations with his teacher, and that was the point where he started to get a glimmer of why I was so excited about this program.

He loved that the teacher would personalize things.  This is a slight paraphrase of the conversation they had on Friday (Rosa, his teacher, in italics, Thomas in parentheses.  I know some of the stuff the teacher said in Spanish first, then in English, but, ummm, did I mention I don't speak Spanish?):

Do you have brothers and sisters? (Si) How many brothers?  (tres)  Are you the oldest or the youngest? (in the middle)  What is your oldest brother's name? (Connor)  Is Connor a nino or a senor? (giggle... I guess a nino, but really he's kinda in between).  Oh, we have a word for that too!  Connor is a muchacho.  Can you say muchacho? (muchacho)  Thomas, you are really a muchacho too.  You're too big to be a nino, but not a senor yet, right? (Si, I guess...)

How old is your sister?  (seis)  Is she a nina or a senorita?  (nina)  How about your mother, is she a senor or a senora? (senora)  What about me?  Am I a senora or a senorita?  (senora)  Oh, Thomas!  I was hoping you'd say I was a senorita! 

They also went through some basic greetings -- hello, how are you, good afternoon, etc. -- and conversed a bit back and forth.

Thomas thought that was fun.

One thing I think I would do differently if I could go back and start over, though, would be to bring up that he has struggled with reading.  He really struggled with the part where he was mostly reading words (class #3 and #4).  I think most older elementary students would move through that section faster, just because they wouldn't have to expend quite so much energy in the process of reading.  I'm guessing (because I'm not a language teacher) that he would have been better off if they had focused on the sounds of the vowels, then covered the consonants, and then mostly moved on to some of the more conversational materials.

Another really great thing with this program is that after your initial class, you have a choice as to whether to schedule your class with the same instructor, or whether to use any instructor.  We did have the same instructor (Olga) for the first two classes, but then with our weird week, she wasn't available when we could do things the third week, so we had a new instructor (Nora), and then we had Rosa for sessions 4 and 5.  Thomas seemed to like the variety, and all three were simply wonderful.  I can see one of my children, however, getting very stressed out about switching teachers.  For him, I would be scheduling further in advance and trying to stick to one teacher.

I am very, very seriously contemplating purchasing more time with this program.  I am tempted to have Richard and Trina do the early learner level together (you can have two students take the course together, if they are close enough in age/ability and if they work well together).  I am tempted to have Thomas and William do the middle school level together (middle school is longer -- 50 minute classes, and starting at that level there is homework).  And I am seriously tempted to have Connor do the high school level.  Given his Latin studies, I think he could fly through some of the early portions of the program (did I mention how much I love that this is personalized?)  I'd love to do the Adult Program too... but that is a fantasy. 

If this is something you are interested in, you do need to install Skype, if you don't already have it.  I didn't.  A headset with microphone and headphones is good if you can't have your student in a quiet room.  And you do need a minimum amount of download/upload speed.  My very rural internet easily met the requirements.

This method of teaching language is simply brilliant.  Tech support is wonderful.  I highly recommend Homeschool Spanish Academy.

To see what my fellow crewmates had to say about the different levels of Homeschool Spanish Academy, click the banner here:


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Schoolhouse Review Crew, I did receive products as mentioned above for the purposes of a review.  All opinions are my own.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

If you are interested, here are more of my Schoolhouse Crew Reviews.

1 comment:

Charlotte said...

This looks like a great resource for Spanish! Thanks for the informative review.