Tag Archives: homeschool

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!

Homeschooling Thought: Individualism and Family

A craft one of the girls made up.  Crafting is definitely not my thing--but hey--it's hers and that's special.

A craft one of the girls made up. Crafting is definitely not my thing–but hey–it’s hers and that’s special.

This morning I cleaned up a crafting mess in the schoolroom, a beautiful beaded bracelet made by my 9 year-old daughter.  Crafted all on her own.  I had nothing to do with any of it because I hate crafts.  On Wednesday, a homeschooled high school student is visiting my home to sift through my closet, with the intent to help me become more fashion savvy.  To help me learn my body type, how I should choose clothes based on my body type, and which colors suit me best.  Because I am stuck in black yoga pants and an Indianapolis Colts’ t-shirt.  A few weeks ago I bought pumpkins from a seventh-grade homeschooled entrepreneur hoping to make some extra bucks selling pumpkins of all sizes from his family’s hook-up trailer.  Because he was so cute and I wanted to make some pumpkin pie.

Homeschooling done properly strongly promotes individualism.  Is that scary?  Is that scary to a government?  To an institution?  To a person?

Homeschooling done properly strengthens families.  Is that scary?  To a government?  To an institution?  To a population?

However, consider too that homeschooling done properly also strongly promotes a clarity of how a student’s individualism fits into the context of a society, most often the family (for most of us, no small task)–and also commonly within a church community and/or in the teamwork of extra-curricular activities.

I am grateful for the opportunity to homeschool.  To watch my children blossom and learn their individual strengths and weaknesses in the safe harbor of our loving home.  I am grateful that they have the opportunity to become strong women, free to follow their own course, but learning that to succeed in life and relationships, it requires learning to respect and work with others to achieve a higher goal for all.

Is homeschooling detrimental to a society?  To a nation?

Happy Thanksgiving time to all here in the US.  Practice gratefulness in all things but don’t ever stop working and striving to make your world a better place in the small ways that you can.  In your home, your workplace, your community, your dinner choices, your children, your homeschooling, your marriage, your church.  In all things.


My Kids Are Homeschooling Me

My kids are homeschooling me.  I now know that…

…wiggling counts as P.E class.
…doodles are no less than art class. (Seriously, probably more like “Brilliance in Art.”)
…8 X 8=64 on messy tables and clean tables alike.
…even very great students had to be taught how to fold and number their papers.
…erasing is an underestimated skill.
…precise, thorough explanations will earn–drum roll, please– half results.  (No explanations earn none.)
…if mom drinks hot tea during school, kids need to drink hot tea during school.
…9:30 am start really means somewhere between 9:35 and 9:45 am.
…phone calls are like fire drills.  All semblance of school stops.
…irritated or angry screaming brings about the unintended, although quite desirable, act of laughter.
…ALL holidays and all humble rooms deserve decorations, whether the teacher thinks decorations are just excuses for messes:

Haunted bathroom

Enter at your own risk…my four-year-old won’t without me. Nice effect.

Count Dracula

Great hiding spot.

Toilet decorated for Halloween

Chills down your spine?

Decorating the toilet for Halloween

“Ghost of the butt.”

Haunted Toilet

The needed close-up. (These are taped on then covered with clear contact paper in case you want to try.)

Halloween toilet decor

Close the lid on “Ghost of the Butt” only to find “Ghost of the Plunger.” Too much GI talk going on in this house.

Halloween bathroom decoration.

Lookin’ good.

Spider on floral display

Even mom’s dainty decorations are not spared.

Happy Halloween!  Have a great week!  Do you have your Halloween candy plan ready to implement?


Why I Don’t Like Homeschooling


Hey.  It’s quite the thing nowadays.  Homeschooling.  Everyone’s doing it.  They’re telling you why they love it.  Why it’s right for them.  But what about the flip side?

We love homeschooling!  We think it’s the tops!  Every good thing, though, has its drawbacks.  So to be fair, here are some of its challenging aspects.

Title One, Which Draws Interest: Why I Don’t Like Homeschooling.
Title Two, Which I Prefer:  What Makes Homeschooling a Great, Fun Challenge?

Lack of alone time.  “I’m sorry, brain, did you say something?”  There’s just about no such thing as alone time.  On the spectrum, I require high levels of alone time (in my house), and this has been my biggest challenge!  A helpful spouse and skillful use of a babysitter has helped ease the pain.

Messy house.  Entropy at its finest.  Oh, the clutter.  Glitter.  Glue.  Shoes.  Dishes.  Laundry.  Spills.  Another spill. 

Three meals a day.  More dishes.  “I know it’s 2 o’clock, but come on, can’t we just get through history and poetry BEFORE I make lunch?”


If you can deal with sassy, you’re 75% there!

Dealing with sassy.  “‘Don’t-ch-you’ roll your eyes at me…”  When my first instinct is to yell, fuss, and holler, my newly trained response has become to bite my tongue ’til it bleeds and speak softly with a voice dripping sweet tones of kindness.  It works.  My tongue is so swollen I can’t say anything I’ll regret.

Rainy days.  Indoor recess.

Juggling different age-levels of learning.  “How about some Mickey Mouse Clubhouse?”  I’d say my youngest child is the rate-limiting factor in progression of our school day.  Sometimes it’s difficult to keep the older ones focused with little interruptions and disturbances.

Also, we try to do the same subjects at the same time for each child, but this gets challenging for math, grammar, phonics, and spelling due to age differences.  So I’m learning flexibility.

Flexibility.  Just call  me a wet noodle.  It is no longer, “My way or the highway.”  It’s all about finding a, maybe creative, way to get needed tasks, living, and learning accomplished.  Sadly, I still prefer it my way.

Wondering if “I’m doing it right.”    Most of the time a homeschooling parent knows everything is going fine, but sometimes doubt creeps in.  Especially when you talk to another homeschooling parent or see a friend’s extra-bright school kid.  “Your kid does what/reads what/plays what/memorizes what/writes how? –Oh, well, that’s great.”  Shoot, I’d better get on the ball!

"Hey--you!  I didn't graduate from Indiana University with my 'Mrs.', don't you know."

“Hey–you! I didn’t graduate from Indiana University with an ‘MRS’, you know.”

Losing my identity to the world.  Nobody knows what you used to do. Nobody cares where you went to college or what you majored or mastered or doctorated in.  You are a stay-at home parent.  H-o-m-e-m-a-k-e-r.  Heck, your kids don’t even know or care.  Once, my husband said to my kids, “Your mom’s a doctor.”  “Nuh-uuuh.  She’s mommy.”  And that, folks, is why I do this.  That is one heck of a compliment.

It’s all me.  School doesn’t happen without me.  My devoted presence allows school to be conducted in about a quarter of the time.  If I manage a phone call, the plumber’s visit, or try to clean the kitchen, pretty much school stops.  (Probably because I’m not doing it right.)  It’s a bit annoying that I can’t get anything done sometimes without falling behind in school! (Flexibility.  Yuck.)

Bad days.  Scrap days.  The days you throw up your hands and say, “Get outta’ here.  Go.  Go play.”

My kids.  Oops.  Slip.  I guess homeschooling wouldn’t be an option without my kids.  They’re the best.  But I won’t lie.  Homeschooling (and parenting) is a lot of work and a great challenge.  It requires a lot of time and energy and creates so much worry, frustration, and fear. (Wish they’d say that when they show all those stupid “baby bumps” in People magazine.) But spontaneous hugs and “I love yous” as the kids speed through the living room on the way outside –well, I can’t even explain what that’s worth.

“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”  Neil Postman (NOT John Whitehead)

All the best to you today.  Hope maybe you found something useful here.  Terri

You may (or may not) be interested in the following posts:

Why We Homeschool

Parenting Mission Statement

I Could Never Homeschool My Kids