Tag Archives: Spanish

Lively Latin, PA Homeschoolers Spanish, and Roman Roads C.S. Lewis Course

On-line, live classes have been helpful academically and developmentally in our homeschool situation. They teach attendance, listening skills, respect to diverse teachers and peers, excellent material, time management skills, and due dates. I often search reviews on-line before selecting products, and I am always grateful to be able to find feedback on them before trying them out myself. Today, in gratitude to those who have taken time to share, I am sharing my reviews.

Lively Latin II live on-line course

This was an excellent and interactive class taught by Magistra Drown (Mrs. Drown). It met once a week and lasted 75 minutes (but sometimes a little longer). My student was exposed to other students and also to a classroom-type environment with lecturing, questions posed by the teacher with students called on to answer, and breakdown into small groups during class to work on certain things together.

Often homeschooled kids think they’re “missing out” or that they won’t survive when they have to take a “real class” in college. Sitting in a classroom with other kids, perhaps more motivated or less motivated than they are, really can shed light on their own strengths and weaknesses as a student. My student enjoyed this class immensely and regrets that there will not be time for Latin III next year in her schedule, although we discussed picking it back up again as a tenth grader if desired.


  • Exceptionally organized with clear expectations
  • Wonderful, self-contained workbook (consumable) that is clear and concise
  • Includes excellent background in Roman history in addition to Latin language instruction
  • Fun, live classes with several kinds of in-class activities (whiteboard, breakout groups, question and answer, etc.)
  • Students from all over the country (and even world) participate
  • Kind and passionate instructor
  • Homework and projects are assigned but the time and work required from the student seems very appropriate. (Submitted via text photos on phone.)
  • Teacher sends update e-mails just about weekly to parents and responds in a timely manner when corresponded with
  • Live class


  • Needs to be on the computer
  • Does cost
  • Committing to a set time for class each week for a full year (my daughter had to sometimes take her on-line classes during vacation)
  • Requires use of phone to text assignments. (My daughter texted from my phone. It was not inconvenient for us, but for others it might be.)

PA Homeschoolers (Ray Leven) Honors Spanish II live on-line class

Please know as you read this, that this is my student’s favorite class. But I am going to lay it out to you. Senor Leven is a tough teacher. Tough. Anything you read out there in cyberspace about his class may probably be true. But it is a great class, and your student will come out speaking, reading, and writing Spanish like a champ. Although my student wrestled (I’m putting it mildly.) with this class initially, by second semester, it was the FAVORITE class, and when a track meet interfered with attending class one day, there was actually disappointment to miss the class! The class met once a week for 60 minutes (sometimes ran over a little) for the whole year.


  • Excellent interactive teaching style
  • An exceptionally honest teacher who provides accurate feedback for each student and pushes them to be the best Spanish student they can be
  • Spanish spoken in class by teacher and students
  • Small class size (4-6 students)
  • Diverse assignments (worksheets, paragraph writing, book assignments, on-line site)
  • Uses a spine textbook
  • Student needs to be completely responsible for all aspects of the class
  • Almost immediate response to e-mails
  • Mastery of material required and put to use so student moves toward fluent spoken and written Spanish
  • Live class
  • Students from all over the country


  • Intense pace
  • On the computer
  • Completing the on-line assignments on the website (which accompanies the book) requires extra screen time (I don’t like screen time much for homework/assignments. EVERYTHING we do nowadays is on a screen. I don’t think it’s healthy for the pineal gland and other light sensitive body parts and system loops.)
  • Big time commitment (1-3 hours of homework each day, weekend commitment routine)
  • Significant time management required
  • Student needs to be completely responsible for all aspects of class and there is little communication with the parent unless there is a concern. Student is the “owner” of this class, not “mommy or daddy.” (My student was an eighth grader, and I had not transitioned her to this mentality yet, so this helpfully, sometimes painfully, did it for us. Ha!)
  • Costs money
  • Committing to a set time for class each week for a full year (as mentioned above, my student did take her laptop and do class on vacation sometimes)

I’m saying all this so that anyone who is researching this class will know what to expect. It is a great class. Great. The on-line, live interaction is great. The content is great. The reinforcement is great. We are already signed up for Honors Spanish III. I highly recommend the class, but unless your student is used to tons of work and pointed, constructive criticism (and spoken in that Northeastern US accent which we Midwesterners sometimes perceive as short and hurried), be prepared for lots of push back. We had tons of push back. But we told our daughter to just do what she could initially, and we asked Senor Leven to be patient as we learned to transition from a middle school type study habit to an advanced high school type study habit. It took some time, but as I said, this class is now a top choice. I recommend this class highly for motivated Spanish students. Your student will LEARN!

Note: Ray Leven no longer teaches Spanish I. If you want to get into his Spanish II classes, then you have to have a Skype session with him and he will interact with your student in Spanish. He then lets you know if the student would be competent in his class. If he perceives gaps, he suggests tutoring to work on the weak areas. My daughter had to complete some tutoring. I’ll tell you, his tutoring is even harder than his class!!!!

Roman Roads C.S. Lewis Literature class by Christiana Hale

This was my first interaction with Roman Roads. It was a good experience and recommended by a friend. One thing I’ve noticed about these on-line, live classes is that the teachers are very passionate about their subject matters! That’s refreshing! The C.S. Lewis Literature class ran 90 minutes for the whole year. It focused solely on the literature of C.S. Lewis.


  • Teacher passionate and knowledgeable about the subject matter
  • Kind teacher, well-respected and liked
  • Live class with other students
  • Agreeable homework methods: reading assignments, shorter reading responses for each book. tests, longer reports due at each semester end, class lectures
  • Discussion encouraged in class among students
  • Students exposed to more of a lecture style class which they might see more of in college
  • Oral presentations often required of reading responses, but the teacher is so gentle and kind that my student was able to get over her fear of speaking and talking about her report in front of others
  • Pushed my student to consider pretty deep personal ideas about herself, life, and religion
  • Live class


  • Some of the philosophical ideas and metaphors of Lewis’s books are very deep and can go over the heads of younger readers. I suggest this class for an older student.
  • On the computer
  • Costs money
  • Committing to a set time for class each week for a full year
  • Sourcing all the C.S. Lewis material

Roman Roads and Christiana Hale were easy to work with. I will consider using Roman Roads again in the future, and any class by Christiana Hale I can tell will most probably be a joy.


I’ll happily answer anything I can or have time for! Happy educating! Do it with LOVE. Push with LOVE. Admit to your student when you make a mistake (but find ways to help each other through the mistake). I made a mistake this year. As much as my daughter enjoyed all these classes, we learned that three year-long live, on-line classes were too many. The classes were exceptional, but it was hard to attend all of them, scarf down lunch before running to violin, make it to rescheduled track meets, miss class for vacation, and so on–plus attend to the other homeschool classes I was responsible for. My student told me it was okay because she really liked all the classes and didn’t want to drop any of them. So I found other ways in the schedule to lighten the load. Don’t bristle. Don’t react when they get angry about too much work. Just think and manipulate your variables! Good luck!

Terri F

Teaching Homeschooled Kids Spanish, Part II

There’s a lot of talk about tolerance in America and how we, in particular our schools, can make people more tolerant. You can’t make people more tolerant from the outside in. It’s more likely to happen from the inside out, and there is a perfectly sound, academically acceptable way to begin to foster tolerance in our schools from the inside out: foreign language instruction beginning in kindergarten. Forget STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). There’s time for that later. (Neither Albert Einstein nor Isaac Newton flourished in their elementary math and science instruction, although I’ve read that Dr. Einstein learned French at a young age, had very little accent in the language, and was invited frequently to lecture in France, where he delivered the information in fluent French.) Foreign language acquisition promotes unity, brain development, and global competence.

In most American schools, learning a foreign language is a bottom priority and doesn’t truly begin until ninth grade (around age 15). So for all this talk about teaching kids tolerance (and for that matter, how to succeed in a global economy), we errantly save something that’s scientifically known to be best learned as a young child (which can promote tolerance and unity early on in an educationally appropriate manner) and shove it into the teenage curriculum. Think. What’s happening in the teenage years? At this time, kids are painstakingly trying NOT to be different! They just want a place to fit in.

Well, anyhow, my homeschooled kids are learning Spanish. It isn’t easy to track down tutors. It isn’t easy to keep them motivated. It isn’t easy to know what to tell the tutor to teach or how to teach it. But, my kids deserve, like most of the rest of the world, to know how to speak a couple of languages or more. I’d encourage the rest of you to call your local schools and start discussing academically legitimate ways to improve tolerance (don’t diss the other ways in any way, shape, or form–that won’t work), and I think early language acquisition is one of them. More rules won’t solve problems.

Okay. Enough on that. I want to share more on how we actually have implemented this Spanish curriculum. This is part two today. For part one, click here.

Where do you find tutors?

We chose the immersion method to teach our kids Spanish, which meant we simply needed a pleasant person who spoke Spanish and could interact with kids well.  My kids loved art, so the tutors would draw and color with them, naming colors, objects, and pictures as they went along. Sometimes, they’d go push them on the swings and describe the parts of the playground (swings, slides, sandbox). Sometimes they’d fly kites. But all of it was in Spanish. I didn’t want Spanish “class.” I wanted Spanish-speaking in life.

I approached many Spanish speakers I saw out and about, but I could see the thought of “teaching” intimidated them. It took persistent seeking to find someone willing to come be our Spanish tutor. Once they figured out all they’d have to do is play with my kids while speaking in Spanish, they didn’t mind.

Here are places and ways I have found Spanish tutors:

  • I have approached bank tellers with those little signs that read: “Se habla español.”
  • I have attended Spanish-speaking Sunday school classes and churches.
  • I have attended English as a Second Language classes that I found signs for at the library. I usually call and see if they need volunteers. If you get your foot in the door, you can meet Spanish-speaking students in the class who may reciprocate language instruction with you.
  • I have called a local university and asked to speak with the Spanish department head about potential students who may want to earn extra money tutoring.
  • I have asked the Spanish tutor we have to help us find another person if they have to leave.
  • Several of our tutors have been members of the local “International Club,” a club for people who move to our community from foreign countries, so this is a good place to ask.
  • I have asked the local Montessori school instructor. (Montessori schools are often multi-cultural.)

What did your Spanish teachers do?

My goal early on was immersion. Have the kids only hear Spanish with this person. What did they do? They played. Often my kids even picked the activity. I watched the kids for boredom or frustration during the “lesson” and guided them to different activities as needed. Many times, I got the tutor started on WHAT to do, letting them take over then as they figured out what I wanted. Some of our tutors have had their own unique ideas and after running it by me, did their own thing, and others liked it better if I told them what was on the agenda that day. I worked with the teacher’s style. Here are things I remember doing:

  • Playing on the swing set
  • Drawing (rooms of the house, gardens, and animals), labeling, and coloring
  • Flying kites
  • Having  tea parties
  • Planting seeds
  • Simple games like “Mother, May I” and “Simon Says”
  • Having competitions in the house among the siblings to see who can find objects fastest
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Classic children songs from the tutor’s childhood
  • Library books in Spanish
  • Flashcards
  • Spanish BINGO
  • Cooking food from the tutor’s homeland
  • Playing Barbies
  • Making plays in Spanish

How often did your tutor come?

Originally, all I could get was someone to come once a week as her work schedule allowed. As the years have passed, we have been able to find tutors able to come at a bare minimum of twice a week for two hours total a week. So my kids heard native Spanish at least two hours weekly in our home. Now, we are super lucky to have a friend who comes each day and speaks in Spanish with the girls.

Didn’t your children get frustrated when the tutor spoke only Spanish?

That was where my job came in. I almost always participated in the lessons. (I always asked the tutor if they preferred me present or not present. Usually they said they didn’t care. So then, I’d try it both ways and see which way my kids did better.) Not as a dictator, but more of an encourager, “Look we are in this together. I’m learning it too. We can do this,” and assistant teacher. If my children were getting frustrated, bored, or overwhelmed, I sensed it and could interpret or redirect as needed. Of course, I also asked the Spanish teacher to do that too, if they needed to. We had the best results when the tutor spoke entirely all in Spanish. My kids expected me to speak English and the tutor to speak Spanish.

How much did you pay?

This was greatly determined by the region of the country that I was living in, the year (prices go up as the years pass!), how much experience the tutor had, how many hours the tutor was going to come each week, how many kids I had at the time, and what the tutor was expected to do. I remember when a tutor asked for a certain price, and I was like, “Whoa! That’s a lot.” Then, I Googled it and saw that I was getting a bargain! Again, I think the price is greatly determined by your region of the United States. Our foreign language instruction does get the biggest chunk of our homeschool budget because I can’t teach it.


Well, I have more on this topic and will save it for another day. May you all be well and live well.


Illustration attribution: Francisco de Goya [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; {{PD-1923}} – published before 1923 and public domain in the U.S.

Teaching Homeschooled Kids Spanish

When my husband really decides to do something, he has a singular focus that only a few people in life can understand. I don’t. I’m slow and steady and persistent. He’s “cut the drivel” and do it now. Can be quite intimidating and abrasive for those who don’t get it. But once you recognize it as a signature style, it’s actually kind of fun to observe! Anyhow, he decided to learn Spanish about ten years ago. That meant if you even looked like you spoke Spanish, he would strike up a conversation with you in Spanish. He had a few fails, especially on people with Latino background who didn’t speak Spanish. (So much for not profiling…) He should have been embarrassed, but the thing is, he didn’t care! He was learning Spanish and wanted to practice whenever he could! Oh, but his wife and kids blushed. I mean, at the Mexican restaurant, people would be looking around for their food, and there would be my husband holding up their server with his Gringo Spanish. Eventually, though, we quit being embarrassed, decided to follow along, and now make friends at every Mexican restaurant we frequent.

I myself started learning Spanish about thirteen years ago during my fourth year of medical school. Fourth year medical school is the best year of your life, as all you do is “fun” rotations that you pick out. Plus, you get travel time to go to interview at residencies. That was the year I asked a Spanish-speaking bank teller if she knew anyone who could help me learn Spanish. I was encountering dozens of patients who only spoke Spanish, and I wanted to bridge that gap a little but didn’t know any Spanish speakers with time to help me learn. She put me in place with a pastor who was teaching his congregation English, and my foot was in the door. I still remember driving to sketchy neighborhoods at night and eating cactus and menudo (tripe; beef stomach).

That’s briefly our Spanish story. Both my husband and I decided that our homeschooled kids needed to learn a foreign language, and Spanish made the most sense. In general, we are very practical people. Being practical, we also know that the best time to learn a language is as a kid. We had moved around and it took a bit of time to find a tutor because, and this is my personal opinion, there is a general distrust between cultures and perceived social classes. But we found a native Spanish speaker to come to our home and spend time with our young children speaking only in Spanish. (She and every single one of our tutors have been amazing people. Each different. But each amazing.)

My oldest has been learning Spanish for about eight years now, and we finally just enrolled her in formal on-line lessons. Up to this point, everything has been done in our home by native speaking Spanish tutors who have had no training in teaching. They were just people who spoke Spanish as a primary language. I’d like to share our homeschooling Spanish experience for others to read who may be embarking on this second language trek.

We have four daughters, the oldest started learning Spanish at five years old. My second daughter was about 3. My third and fourth daughters will have been exposed to Spanish since they were born. I’m not a linguist. I’m not a teacher. I don’t even speak Spanish fluently, probably not even English either, compared to many of you! This is just my story and experience. I’ll run it in several pieces as it gets long.

Do you need a tutor who is a native speaker?

Until a few months ago, all of our Spanish tutors have been native speakers. This was a Spanish tutoring deal breaker for me. They had to be native speakers. Why? Well, our ability to hear language sounds and make our mouth, tongue, and palate reproduce them is strongest in infancy and childhood. As we age, this ability goes away, and any new language sounds that we encounter will be spoken by us with the closest sounds available to us from our own language. The later we learn the language, the greater the guarantee we will speak with an accent.

For example, I’ll never really be able to roll my r’s to say a word like rio; I’ll just consciously soften my r sound and add on some softened, repetitive d‘s (or t’s, both similar English sounds), like we do when we quickly speak the word batter.  As an aside illustrating story, my American aunt married a native German when she was 20. She moved to Germany with him and has lived there exclusively over 50 years. She tells me that Germans still tell her it sounds like she’s speaking with mashed potatoes in her mouth. Accents stick, and sadly, even when I am choosing my Spanish words correctly, some Spanish-speakers simply can’t understand me.

So I demanded a native speaker so my girls would not have a strong accent. Now that my oldest is 13, her Spanish is reported to me to be little accented by native speakers (maybe even “non-accented,” according to some). We have made the leap to transition her to on-line teaching, and the man is not a native speaker. This no longer bothers me because her “Spanish voice” is now ingrained, she continues to hear native speakers routinely, and now she needs to focus on grammar and progressing in her use of verb tenses.

For me, I believed in immersing my children as early as I could and as frequently as I could so they could get the SOUNDS EMBEDDED in the neural pathways of their brain and the CONNECTIONS WIRED to their mouths. Grammar and writing was not important to me early on. That is becoming important now that my oldest is maturing in her Spanish language, and so we have chosen an on-line tutor now who is not native that I know is strong in grammar skills.

For the fact, science-minded people, here’s an excerpt from a neuroscience book that you can read pieces of on-line:

Very young human infants can perceive and discriminate between differences in all human speech sounds, and are not innately biased towards the phonemes characteristic of any particular language. However, this universal appreciation does not persist. For example, adult Japanese speakers cannot reliably distinguish between the /r/ and /l/ sounds in English, presumably because this phonemic distinction is not present in Japanese. Nonetheless, 4-month-old Japanese infants can make this discrimination as reliably as 4-month-olds raised in English-speaking households (as indicated by increased suckling frequency or head turning in the presence of a novel stimulus). By 6 months of age, however, infants show preferences for phonemes in their native language over those in foreign languages, and by the end of their first year no longer respond to phonetic elements peculiar to non-native languages. The ability to perceive these phonemic contrasts evidently persists for several more years, as evidenced by the fact that children can learn to speak a second language without accent and with fluent grammar until about age 7 or 8. After this age, however, performance gradually declines no matter what the extent of practice or exposure.

That’s it for today. I’ll follow with the rest of the Spanish posts in readable bits. Everyone, take care!



Purves D, Augustine GJ, Fitzpatrick D, et al., editors. Neuroscience. 2nd edition. Sunderland (MA): Sinauer Associates; 2001. The Development of Language: A Critical Period in Humans. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11007/
Illustration: By Juan de la Cuesta (impresor); Miguel de Cervantes (autor) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. In public domain, {{PD-1923}} – published before 1923 and public domain in the U.S.

Our Fifth Grade Curriculum: Spanish , History, Poetry, and Music

I’ve provided links to what texts we use.  Most of the links are from Amazon because that’s where I find the most reviews to read from other people.  I like to read reviews.  That does not mean I bought it from Amazon, though.  I don’t get any money from Amazon or anything affiliated with any of these texts.  I am more than happy to answer any questions anyone may have about any of these texts or what we do in general!


Spanish text we picked upWe continue to have the gift of a great, steady native speaking tutor who comes to our home twice a week.  She follows an old textbook that someone gave to me a couple of years ago.  Just something I picked up along the way that seems to work.  It moves a little fast over some topics, so we supplement with exercises from several Practice Makes Perfect workbooks I picked up at Barnes and Nobles and Amazon in the past.  Our goal has Practice makes perfect textbeen to transition to thinking and speaking in Spanish during class time, but it is painful coming.  One day at a time.  My daughter’s verbal comprehension is good, and the teacher speaks in Spanish for the class.  Moving through the book and worksheets is also par on course.  It is simply the speaking application which stalls, although I know this is quite normal.  Besides our formal lessons, we have  a wonderful college student who watches the girls when she can; she is also a native Spanish speaker and tries to speak only in Spanish to them.  Both our tutor and babysitter are great people whom we consider our friends.

I have lots of Spanish resources in my home that we rotate through.  This year Spanish, like most everything else in our home, was streamlined secondary to the birth of our final baby.  If you’re working Spanish into your curriculum, you may want to check out my other homeschooling posts on this topic.  Or ask me in the comments if that’s easier.

History and Geography

Story of the WorldStory of the World by Susan Bauer continues to be our “spine.”  Actually both of my girls completely read the assigned material on their own.  They enjoy reading it and move quickly through the assigned reading.  I supplemented this year with lots Gilgamesh the Heroof documentaries appropriate to the sections they were reading.  Some of the documentaries were a bit sketchy, and some were top notch.  In addition, we supplemented with audio tapes, like The Iliad, and books, like Gilgamesh the Hero and Greek Myths from Usborne.  History is such a fun, easy topic to teach.  Actually, by now, I teach little.

Geography is taught alongside history.  As the history book circles around to the same areas for different cultures, it is easy to hash and rehash geography so it sticks.  As we rehash the geography, I also take time to ask them what other named cultures existed in the same region.


This year, we took time to simply review all the old poems we have memorized.  I wanted to expand the poetry curriculum teaching poetrybeyond simple recitation by either learning about some poets and their poems or learning about poetry styles.  I probably just didn’t have time, but I couldn’t find a poetry text which satisfied what I was looking for.  I settled on Teaching Poetry:  Yes You Can! (Jacqueline Sweeeney) and Read and Understand Poetry, Grades 5-6.

read and understand poetryTeaching Poetry:  Yes You Can! is a fairly brief paperback text which unintentionally mirrors our writing program excellently (Institute for Excellence in Writing)!  Topics hit on include similes, imagery, strong verbs, nouns and adjectives, onomatopoeia, refrain and echo, choosing titles,and structure.  The author walks the teacher through how she teaches poetry, even going as far as to provide some scripting for you.  I like it and think it’s a great little find, but if you’re looking for a student-led poetry text, this is not it.  (I was kind of looking for a student-led text this year.)  If you want your kids to view poetry as an expression of self, this is your book.  If you want your kids to learn how to best make poetry express themselves in a memorable fashion, this is your book.  The author also provides lots of examples of student-written poetry to illustrate how to incorporate her topics into writing poetry.

Read and Understand Poetry, Grades 5-6 is organized by poetic themes, rather than topics to learn in poetry.  I was looking for something more structured along the lines of “Meter–what is meter?”; “Rhyming patters–what are the types of rhyming patterns?”; “Form–what is form?”; and so on.  This book hits on that, but not in a logical, sequential fashion like I wanted.  Instead, the book presents poems based around a theme, and then tells about the features used in that particular poem.  Nice, but not what I was looking for.  (At the end of the book, there is a little summary of terms, but still not what I was looking for.)  My kids actually like the book, and we will keep working through it slowly through next year.  My fifth grader felt it was just at the right level for her, and I’d have to agree.  I would stick with the recommended grade levels.  The book uses multiple choice questions and also open-ended questions to “test” understanding.  At the end there is a glossary of terms and poets.  This book is very much like what I would have used in my public school education (although now it meets the beautiful, magnificent, sure-to-make-our-kids-smarter requirements of Common Core–don’t we all feel better?).


Violin was a new endeavor, and my daughter loved it.  She has lessons once a week.  They’re loosely Suzuki method.  She continues to dabble in piano on her own, moving forward in spurts.  Last year we used piano theory books, and I liked them a lot.  But this year, although we still have them, I didn’t make time for them.  They got a little advanced for me, and so I need to find the answers or someone who can tell me the answers!  My daughter is also playing guitar now this summer.  It really all just sounds so beautiful.  I’m so lucky to have such music in my life.


We kept it narrowed down to dance, ballet and tap dancing.  And of course the music lessons.


That’s about it for our fifth grade curriculum!  This was the year where independence took off!  It was refreshing for me!  Take care and may your homeschooling endeavors flourish!


Part 6 of Our Third Grade Curriculum: Dos Idiomas

Dos idiomas.  Two languages.  Spanish and English.  Like the Dora song.

Catchy music:  “I speak Spanish.  And English too.  I like them both.  What about you?”

We use a completely multi-modal approach to Spanish, focusing on speaking, not grammar.

Why teach a foreign language at a young age?  So they have twice as much to say, of course!

Objective:  Spanish (and English) fluency by junior high, with choice of a third language to be studied in high school.


Native Spanish speaker tutor twice weekly for one hour:  I read somewhere, don’t know where, that in order for a child to achieve language fluency, they need to hear a native speaker at least twice weekly.  We have found that our children’s Spanish improved by leaps and bounds when a Spanish teacher spends two hours a week immersing them.  I request that the Spanish teacher only speak Spanish, unless she sees severe frustration signs from the child.  I don’t care what the teacher does.  Each one has done different things with them.  Crafts.  Drawing.  Worksheets.  Reading aloud.  Starting seeds.  Flying a kite.  Flashcards.  Identifying toy foods.  Naming dinnerware.  Show and tell.  Mother May I?  Simon Says.  Candy Land.  But please speak in Spanish.

Parents endeavor to become more fluent in Spanish themselves:  Fourth year of medical school is the best year of your life.  The pressure is lifted as your staff doctors allow you to dedicate yourself towards getting accepted into your chosen specialty.  Some time is freed up.  Some medical students decide to have babies that year.  I decided to learn Spanish.  In Indiana, we were seeing huge numbers of Spanish-speaking immigrants who did not understand English.  What to do?  Learn Spanish!  My husband and I both worked to learn the language, and we still work to do so.  We use the broken Spanish we have around the house.  Smatters of Spanish.  Smatters of English.  Spanglish at its best.  The Spanish teacher (not tutor–my kids hear “tooter”–like in flatulence) helps me as much as the kids.  Our current Spanish teacher is great at forcing us to use our Spanish, as she has only been here in the United States for a couple of years.  Learning English is fresh in her brain.  She likes to torture us willing Americans by forcing us to use her beloved Spanish.  My husband and I used to talk in Spanish when we didn’t want the kids to understand.  That really motivated the girls to learn quickly so they could understand our secrets.  Another thing we do is attend the Spanish-speaking Sunday school class at church.  Talk about humbling.  My Spanish is probably at the level of a three-year old.  Unfortunately, it’s an adult class.  Oh!  Are they really saying something?  I just thought they were speaking in tongues!  Pardonnez-moi!  No.  Non.  Perdon!  Yeah.  That’s right.

Spanish CDs in car: 

  • We listen to Boca Beth .  We bought ALL of the Boca Beth CDs and DVDs.  If they were records (anyone know what I’m talking about here?) they’d have grooves lined in them.  Beth’s a Southerner speaking Spanish.  I always wondered how that sounded.  Now I know.  Beth piggy-backs the two languages (English and Spanish) in the exact same song.  Back-to-back right there together in your brain.  The phrases and subjects she chooses are common and useful.  Her customer service is impeccable.  Once I had to call her help-number when the internet wasn’t working right and my order was messed up.  Oh, my!  I got to talk to Boca Beth!  She answered the phone!  I told my girls and we all swooned!  Anyhow, she is clearly a Christian, and I know that may deter some of my atheist/agnostic friends (yes, I’m a Christian failure–I have some of those around still)–but I have to say that the material is SO good and she does not preach to you (or your kids).  Most CDs have no mention of Christianity so just steer away from those that do if it bothers you that much.  So really, check it out–Christian and non-Christian alike–let’s learn together!  I highly recommend Boca Beth.  You can see clips on You Tube too if you want a sample.
  • We also listen to Professor Pocket’s Silly Farm Adventure in the car.  Another great CD to play in the car.  However, it seems that it may be out of print and costs a pretty penny.  But if you can find it on the cheap, worth buying.  Or if you have some extra curriculum cash lying around it’s probably worth it.  They incorporate English conversation between an unaccented English (but clearly bilingual) speaker and an accented, native bilingual speaker.  Parts of their English conversation is repeated by the native speaker in Spanish.  The songs are in Spanish and fun, fun, fun.  If you don’t know any Spanish, you won’t always know what the songs are saying.  As we learn more and more Spanish, we understand more and more of the songs.  But the songs are super catchy.

Spanish DVD Programs:

  • Boca Beth has some great DVDs that mirror the songs on her CDs.  And you can order this silly, cute little puppet that the children, for some reason, love.  His name is Boca (Spanish for mouth) and he is seen in the DVDs.  My kids get their “Boca’s” out when we watch the DVDs.  We bought all the DVDs.  Her personality is contagious, and I just love to watch her dance and smile.  It’s infectious!  She seems to be just one of those people.
  • La Clase Divertida  (click on the name to pull it up) is another Spanish curriculum we invested in.  I picked it up back at a South Carolina Homeschool convention.  I actually met Senor Gamache there.  So cool.  Forget all these other superstars!  To talk to Boca Beth and meet Senor Gamache, well, that’s the tops.  We have purchased the first two levels.  Each level has a DVD with about 15 or so lessons.  The DVD lessons cover language, culture, and an activity.  Besides the language DVDs, included in the boxed kits are workbooks and items needed to complete a craft.  It’s a nicely packaged curriculum.  We like it a lot.  We used it when the girls were 5 and 3, but since they were too young to write, we just stuck with the craft and watching the DVD lessons.  We redid the first boxed kit earlier this year, and we sped through it (girls were 8 and 6).  We bought the second level, and it ramps it up a lot.  Wished there was a bit of a middle ground between the first and second levels.  We have taken the second level more slowly.  Senor Gamache’s curriculum is also from a Christian world view, which may bother some.  But again, a good curriculum is a good curriculum, and this is a good one.  My kids look at him and say, “He’s nice.”  As if they even know him.  Whatever.
  • Whistlefritz makes bilingual DVDs.  We have purchased one of them:  Inside and Out.  We liked it, particularly my 4 year old. I notice she really picks up the accent and calls the little mouse “Freetzie”  even though you and I want to say the short I sound, “Fritzie.”  So that’s worth something.  My older kids watched it a couple of times, and they aren’t too interested in any more times.  But it’s a cute DVD.  Looks like there are bunches more of them.
  • Muzzy, the well-marketed language program, was our first acquisition for audiovisual Spanish learning.  It’s okay.  The kids liked to watch it.  They still will watch it occasionally.  In the multi-modal approach we use, it is beneficial.  Boca Beth and Whhistlefritz do a better job of bridging the gap for a child learning to be bilingual.  I firmly believe in the immersion technique, but Muzzy doesn’t make the grade.  Its’ really just a cute cartoon in Spanish.  You can find those on YouTube or by changing your settings on your kids’ DVDs.  So if you’re short on cash, not worth the investment.

Favorite Movies in Spanish:  We watch Cinderella, Puff the Magic Dragon, and Tangled in Spanish sometimes in the afternoon and I have to get something done and they’re asking for TV.  As the kids already know what’s happening, it’s a nice way to work Spanish in.  For the older kids, put on the subtitles, too!  Either in Spanish or English.

Computer Programs:  With our teacher twice weekly, Spanish DVDs, CDs in the car, and mom and dad speaking Spanish as much as we can, we’re getting by without a computer program this year.  I rely on them if we are between Spanish teachers, although I’m thinking about getting them back in working order.  They’re a pain in the butt to reload when your computer crashes, as did ours.  Rosetta Stone is touted and touted, but my favorite is Visual Link Spanish  .  A wonderful program.  How could you not like a program with a “Burrito Builder” and catchy music.  If I had my druthers, I’d pick this over Rosetta Stone.  We have both, but currently right now they are collecting dust.  I plan to get them in working order again over the next few months, and maybe I can post a good review.

Free Online Spanish Games:  It took me a long time, but here is a site that engages kids, is easy to use, doesn’t take forever to load, and speaks some Spanish for them to hear.  OnlineFreeSpanish.com. If I find more good sites, I’ll post them.  There are some more boring sites for older students for grammar and such, but this site I listed is great for kids (and I listen in too).

You Tube:  Ahhhh.  You Tube.  Poetry recitation.  Piano music.  Spanish.  What don’t you have?  You Tube has lots of cartoon video in Spanish.  I found a Muzzy section on there, some “Caillou”, and “Sesame Street” (Plazo Sesamo).  There’s also a good one called “Pocoyo.”  Now, we watch a lot of “Kirikou” on there in Spanish.  Who is Kirikou?  He is one cute little African boy.  It may not appeal to some people’s sensibilities, as it is about an African tribe, and although it’s a cartoon, the women look just like they did in National Geographic when you gah-gahed over it as a child.  Clothes are scant.  There’s a foiling character who is a bit scary looking and casts spells and such.  But it doesn’t scare my kids, and I explain to them a little bit about African culture and climate (what little I know).  And you can find the cartoon in Spanish (and many other languages as well).

Flashcards:  I bought Usborne Spanish Flashcards.  I don’t like them.  The word is right there on front of the card with the picture and is too big to cover easily.  I bought eeBoo Spanish Flash Cards.  Love them.  Big size.  Beautiful drawings and color.  High quality cardstock.  One side is Spanish and the other side is exactly the same in English.  A picture, the word, and a short sentence with the word is on each side.  Our Spanish teacher uses them a lot.

Phonics book:  We don’t focus on written Spanish much, but I bought Juguemos a leer from Amazon awhile ago.  It is difficult to find and may be pricey.  We are slowly working through it.  It is actually a phonics reading primer and workbook they use in Mexico elementary students.  My kids read the primer with the Spanish teacher.  I muddle through the workbook with them slowly and surely.  They like it and don’t complain.

Library books:  We check out Spanish library books.  They read them with the teacher.  I’ll read some to my 4-year-old, but she always says, “English.  English.”

Time is running short.  I could type on and on.  I just want to add a note on the advertising-gimic of “immersion.”  None of those DVDs, CDs, or computer programs provide true immersion.  Parents provide immersion by repeatedly surrounding children with lots of diverse, rich material in whatever it is they want the child to learn.  Repeatedly.  Day in.  Day out.  Ideally, we would pack up for months and go to Spain or Mexico, and my children would be immersed in Spanish language.  They’d speak it within months.  The best we can do for now is to provide a native teacher, DVDs, CDs, our own attempts at language (my kids correct us now!!!!!!!), books, and striking up conversations with strangers who look like they speak Spanish.  Only to find out they’re Korean.  Embrace life.