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This post, Easy to Use High School Foreign Language Instruction: Spanish I, was made possible with subscription to High School Spanish I from Middlebury Interactive Languages for review as part of the Homeschool Review Crew.
There are certain subjects I am just not meant to teach for high school. I think that holds true for most people. For some it is the ‘hard core’ ones like math and science. For me, it is something like Spanish where my skills are so rudimentary. While I am fine dabbling with the early grades in Spanish, I know that I can’t plan and implement a full high school course.
Thankfully, homeschoolers have options!
While I could sign the boys up at the local university for basic classes, that would involve night time sessions in an environment they might not be ready to manage. A book based program like they use at the local high school would require more of my involvement than I have time to give. So, turning towards technology is a good thing for us.
Middlebury Interactive Languages for Spanish I
Middlebury has a long history of language instruction, both in a classroom setting and online. They are known as a place for executives to go when they need a crash course in a language and the culture of a new location.
The online component, available to homeschoolers or other interested parties, provides instruction from K through Grade 12 for the lanugages of Spanish, French, German and Chinese. The software developed for the online instruction uses an immersion approach, favored by many foreign langaguage instructors, while weaving in the teaching methodology used in their classroom settings.
We have reviewed 2 of their products in the past.
For this review, my 11th grade son has been doing High School Spanish I.
This is a self-paced program which means students work at their own pace. For some, they may have bursts of time when they are fully immersed in learning and finish several weeks of work in one. For others, they might need to go at the typical pace of one lesson per day.
High school classes, like Spanish I, are broken up into 2 semesters with 90 lessons in each. How long it takes to complete a lesson can vary on the student as some components are interactive. I am budgeting 45 minutes per day for my 11th grade son to complete a lesson. That’s the same length of time he would spend in a classroom at the local high school.
To take a class like Spanish I, you need a computer, internet connection and ideally a headset with microphone. You can make due with many built-in microphones in today’s laptops. However, the student may need to speak loudly or lean into the microphone for completion of the speaking exercises.
Lessons can be accessed through the calendar (which is auto populated) or by the Table of Contents.
Each lesson combines a mixture of instruction (audio and visual) with activities to assess learning. As mentioned, some of the activities involve them speaking (and recording) what they have learned.
They can play back each recording to hear themselves speaking and ideally adjusting as needed for pronunciation. Throughout the lessons there are quizzes and tests which are instantly graded for the student. Units also have a writing component.
Throughout the program, there are spots where a pdf of material is available. These are great to have for reference, particularly when studying for an upcoming test or midterm exam.
Our Thoughts about Spanish I
Overall, I am quite pleased with this program. My son was not the most enthusiastic student when I told him what was going on deck for this year. While his current plans for after high school do not include a college or university setting where 2 years of a foreign language is required, I would rather he be prepared just in case. (Note, if you have an 8th grader who is even considering an Ivy League school application…they’ll need FOUR years of the same language. So, no waiting until 11th grade like R has.)
For the introductory lesson, I sat alongside R. I did this partly to see how it would all work. And, I needed to make sure he had no issues with how to use the interface. We did have a few hiccups with one of the videos, but I never know if it is on their end or just our crazy Alaskan internet service.
Since that first day, R has been working independently. I told him to ignore the calendar option as it automatically set a pace for completing the course in 6 months. I know my son and there’s no way that would happen. As it is, Spanish I contains a total of 180 lessons for the 1 credit. 18 weeks of work if you are doing a lesson per day. Maybe if he wasn’t doing Academic Decathlon alongside his other classes he could do a compressed schedule. But, 2 or more lessons a day is more than he can manage.
So long as he is doing a lesson per day for the pace, I have had no complaints from him over the workload. He works through all the components of each lesson and his grades (all computer generated) are reasonable. I know from experience that he enjoys variety and doing some of his work on the computer. But, he is not prone to suffering what he considers ‘fluff’ or plain busywork. Middlebury seems to have left out anything resembling fluff and the breakdown of each lesson into small segments makes it easier to work through.
As a parent, I like having the ability to turn over the reigns for Spanish I. The experts at Middlebury design a program optimized for learning a foreign language. I just provide the access to my son and let him get the work done. If needed, there is an option to add a teacher component for regular interaction and evaluation. While he’s doing fine on his own for now, I am not adverse to the extra fee if it means a better educational experience for him.
The interface for downloading his grades for my own tracking program takes a few minutes to understand. I click on show all coursework to include activities with a grade that are not a quiz or test. But, it does take a few minutes to group together each particular lesson’s activities as the software does not keep them perfectly in order. I don’t mind the time, though, as I can also see when he completed each component and then remind him if he is starting to fall behind schedule.
Would I have him continue Spanish II with Middlebury? In a heart beat! While there are other options that also provide an immersion approach to learning, this one appears to be working well for him. The only addition I might consider for Spanish II next year would be the teacher component for more feedback on his progress.
Do you include the study of a foreign language in your homeschool?
Is it done via software, using a book based curriculum, or an online subscription like Middlebury offers?
Don’t just take my word for how we found this to be. Visit Middlebury Interactive Languages post on the Homeschool Review Crew website to see what other homeschooling parents thought about this course and other ones.