Our Fourth Grade Curriculum: Spanish

Do you teach a foreign language in your homeschooling?  When did you start?  How is it progressing?

Why We Chose Spanish

We chose Spanish as our children’s foreign language, and we tried to teach it as much as we could as soon as we could.  My husband and I had both learned some Spanish during medical school and residency because there was a large Mexican immigrant population where we did our residencies in Indiana.  We like foreign culture and language and wanted to try to converse with our immigrant patients as much as possible in their own language.  Since we knew Spanish a bit, it made sense to have our children learn Spanish.  Plus, Spanish-speaking people could be found easily around us.

A Brief History of My Fourth Grader’s Spanish Background

We found a Spanish tutor when M1, my now ten-year old fourth grader, was 5 years old. Before that, we talked to her in our self-taught rudimentary Spanish. We frequented Mexican restaurants and my husband insisted on speaking Spanish with the waiters. (I always wondered what they thought of us fools.) We volunteered at English as a Second Language. We watched Muzzy and Barney in Spanish. Did Rosetta Stone, Visual Link Spanish and some kid’s computer programs in Spanish. It was a Godsend when we finally found a tutor.  She came once a week and played and did art with my daughters, speaking Spanish to them.

Having my children speak a foreign language is something we just won’t budge on. Here we are 5 years, a move across the country, and several Spanish tutors later. (Our tutors, sadly to us, come and go as they get new jobs or their families change. However, we have enjoyed each tutor and their different accents and approaches with the kids. Our current tutor has been with us for about a year now. We have had Puerto Rican Spanish, Colombian Spanish, and Mexican Spanish. They’re all a bit different, and interestingly enough, we’ve found Colombian Spanish easiest to understand.) We are at the point where M1 grasps the understanding of both written and verbal Spanish when in context. When words are not used in context, she may not be able to tell you meaning. Her own use of the language has drastically increased, and we (my husband, the tutor, and I) all agree that it is time to push her into speaking mostly only in Spanish for her lessons.

An Exceptionally Brief Video of My Daughter Speaking Spanish

Our Fourth Grade Spanish Curriculum Includes:

Using a tutor.  Our Spanish tutor comes twice a week, including summers.  She does not have a secondary degree in teaching, her own language, or even the English language.  For now, I don’t care!  She can speak Spanish and is willing to work with M1 to find out how she best learns to SPEAK Spanish!  M1 learns so much just by listening!  Our goal for this elementary stage is to simply get M1 SPEAKING Spanish.  Grammar focus will come later.

(Note:  Our tutor works with each child one on one.  Initially, a year or two ago, we had the tutor work with the girls together, but then their abilities started spreading apart.  At this point, we separated them for individual lessons.)

The tutor tries to speak only in Spanish during class, but when M1 doesn’t understand, she explains things in English.  I tell her that right now the most important thing is for the kids to hear, hear, hear Spanish.  I chose a native speaker because I feel that the children pick up the tongue positions of foreign language sounds naturally; for example, they don’t have to think about rolling the “R.”  It just happens.  Also, as much as possible, I don’t want them at this young age to learn by “translation.”

Although I don’t spend too much money on homeschooling,  I’d say we do spend the bulk of our homeschooling budget on our Spanish tutor (and the computer programs we invested in are kind of “salty” too–but they can be used for many years).  Without a tutor, though, I don’t think my kids would learn Spanish fluency in our home.  I could feed them vocabulary and verbs, but I don’t think our goal of fluency would be achieved.

wpid-IMAG2426.jpgRead and Understand, Grade 3.  As M1 was understanding well and beginning to speak Spanish more, our tutor and I decided she needed practice in making sentences.  I would have preferred to not use a textbook, but our tutor is not a trained teacher and prefers to have something to guide her.  We started using Read and Understand, Grade 3.  It has reading selections from various backgrounds (myths, poetry, nonfiction, and science) that are in both English and Spanish.  M1 doesn’t like it because it requires writing sentences quite a bit.  I usually work with and compromise with M1 on this abhorrence of physical handwriting, but in this case, I am not her teacher, and she must do what her Spanish teacher asks her to do.  Her tutor also gives her homework–which she hates!  I like it because it keeps us accountable on the days the tutor does not come.  Plus, she gets a feel of real, live homework!

We did not buy Read and Understand, Grade 3 especially for homeschooling.  My husband picked it up several years ago for himself and never used it.  It has worked great for M1. She reads the passage aloud with the tutor for pronunciation work.  She then translates it as best she can orally to English.  Finally, she does the written exercises at the end of the lesson which require her to formulate and write sentences in Spanish.

Visual Link Spanish (link)  We really, really like this program a lot.  Currently M1 is working through the Level 2 Verbs section.  She learns 30 verbs and then there is a fun game to quiz her on the verbs.  Her Spanish tutor then has her come up with sentences using these verbs.  M1 likes this program much better than Rosetta Stone, which she described as “Boring!”  The whole family (even my 5 year old tries) likes to use this program.  We have used Rosetta Stone in the past, and, like M1, I like this one better, too.

Mom and Dad Learn Spanish, Too!  My husband is very good at this and keeps diligently working.  I’m hit or miss, depending on what nutritional health topic is fascinating me at the moment.  However, I feel I must make a much bigger effort in learning and using my Spanish again.  I notice when I use as much Spanish-Spanglish as I can around the house with whatever I know, the girls start using their Spanish, too.  When I don’t, they don’t.  So here recently, I’m back at Visual Link Spanish, too, and back to sitting in on their lessons with them with the tutor.  I really have a sense that my children will come to speak with fluency at a younger age if I use my Spanish, too.  Sadly, yet excitingly, they do correct my around-the-house Spanish.

Miscellaneous  The tutor occasionally uses flashcards as needed.  We listen to Spanish CDs in the car.  My husband and I attend Sunday School in Spanish and the girls sometimes finish their class early and come and listen in.  Despite dietary restrictions, we still can pretty comfortably eat occasionally at the local Mexican restaurant where we all try to use our Spanish.  (Our youngest is known there as “Pollito.”  One time, speaking Spanish, they asked her her name.  She thought they asked what she wanted to eat, and she yelled out loudly in her characteristic style, “POLLO!”  So they took to calling her “Pollito,” which means “little chicken.”)


I guess this summarizes what we do for fourth grade Spanish.  If I’m still posting next year, I’d love to be able to say that M1 has progressed to conversing somewhat easily in Spanish.  It will be fun to see if it happens.  For us, I really, really think that the more my husband and I use our Spanish in the house, no matter how bad it may be, the more M1 will come to use the Spanish she knows.

I hope you and your families are full of love, peace, and joy!  ~~Terri

PS:  Did anyone who has been around awhile notice that I learned how to put a video on?  Don’t even tell me if it doesn’t work.  Next, I’m going to learn how to hook my laptop up to my scanner so I can scan in my hand-drawings in future health-related posts!  Big plans.  Oh, big plans.  One teeny, tiny step at a time!  LOL!  Learning is fun!

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