Let’s face it, there are lots of good options out there when it comes to foreign language curriculum. So how do you weed through them all and make your final selection? I’m glad you asked because today I’m sharing some things to consider before making that purchase.
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My kids are currently working with their third — yes, third — foreign language curriculum and they’ve all been completely different programs. Sure, they’ve all had strengths, but those strengths weren’t enough to meet our needs.Consider these 3 things before buying a foreign language curriculum for your kids. #ihsnet
That’s how I’ve learned what things to take into consideration before making that homeschool curriculum purchase. You see, foreign language isn’t like math or history for homeschool parents. Most homeschoolers have a decent foundation in those subjects.
Foreign language is different, though. Some parents, myself included, have little more experience with foreign language than a couple of classes in high school and random phrases from Dora the Explorer episodes.
That’s why your foreign language curriculum choice matters. The good news is that you don’t have to stress while searching for curriculum. Instead, use these three things I learned to help you choose the foreign language program that’s best for your kids.
What to Consider When Choosing a
Foreign Language Curriculum
First of all, let me tell you about the different curriculum options we tried so that you can understand the comparisons made below. First, we tried Rosetta Stone Spanish. You’ve likely heard of this software before since it’s been on TV commercials and other mainstream advertising avenues. It may be a popular choice, but my son hit a frustrating roadblock early on and he never made it far in the program.
The Fun Spanish was our second attempt with foreign language curriculum. Technically, it was more than an attempt because my son completed it and enjoyed using it. Even so, my takeaway after using this one was quite different than I expected.
Our most recent experience involves using the online membership to Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids. Now that you know which programs we’ve tried, let’s look at what to consider when choosing your foreign language curriculum.
1. An Accent Can Be a Hurdle
It’s entirely possible that your kiddos have accents and you don’t even realize it. That’s where we hit our big roadblock with Rosetta Stone. Their curriculum features a “speech recognition technology,” which can be a great thing, but it can also be a source of frustration.
My son was fine with concept of interactive lessons, but the speech recognition aspect left him in tears each day because he couldn’t advance. He knew the words and their meanings, but having to repeat them back perfectly was a problem.
He genuinely thought he was repeating the words exactly as he heard them in the examples, but his southern accent didn’t jive with the speech recognition technology at all. There was nothing he could do to work around it either because he couldn’t hear what he was doing wrong in order to fix it.
Take away: a program that relies on exact repetition isn’t a good fit for kids with accents.
2. Workbooks Aren’t Enough
Because we had such a rough time with our first foreign language curriculum, we moved to a completely different approach the second time around. We chose The Fun Spanish from Brookdale House because there was no speech recognition required and we needed some fun after the disastrous first experience.
It turns out that The Fun Spanish was good. My kiddo loved working through it, particularly because he loved the invitation to draw in each lesson. I personally liked that he enjoyed it and there was no struggle, but also that it was helpful with sentence structure, conjugation, and vocabulary.
Nonetheless, I learned that workbooks aren’t enough when it comes to foreign language. It sounds like a no-brainer now, but I tried so hard to find something different from our Rosetta Stone experience that I over-corrected.
While my son certainly didn’t have to deal with speech recognition technology this time, he also didn’t have pronunciation examples to guide him. So, he knew the words on paper, but didn’t have help speaking those words. That’s no bueno.
Take away: unless you personally speak the language well enough to demonstrate pronunciation, your kids need more than a Spanish workbook — even a great one— to learn the language. You can keep using the workbook, but you’ll still need to find help with pronunciation.
3. Child-oriented Programs Are Best
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for choosing a foreign language curriculum that’s good for everyone in the family, but I noticed pretty quickly that there’s a difference between a curriculum designed for kids and an adult option that kids can also use. They’re not interchangeable.
You see, my son and my husband were actually working through Rosetta Stone Spanish at the same time until my son hit that roadblock. That immersion-based software worked well for my husband, but not so much for my son because the lessons were adult-focused.
It’s nice to have a curriculum that builds conversational skills, but all settings and situations aren’t necessarily relatable for kids. For example, workplace scenes with adults in business suits don’t exactly meet kids where they are. The same can be said of adults celebrating something while drinking cocktails.
That’s why kids typically learn better with a program made for kids. Using a foreign language curriculum made specifically for them helps them learn the language in a context and setting they understand.
Take away: a curriculum designed for kids helps kids engage and apply foreign language skills in their day-to-day lives.
In closing, I’d like to once again say that all of the Spanish resources we’ve tried were good in some way, they just weren’t all a good match for us.
Like any other homeschool subject, we’ve learned that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to foreign language.
Between the accent issues, the lack of pronunciation help, and application goals designed for adults, there are legitimate things to consider when looking at all the options.
So, have we found the right fit for foreign language? I believe so. We’ve been using Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids for several months now and have found that it helps us avoid all of the trouble spots mentioned above.
There’s no speech recognition conflict due to our accents, there’s an abundance of help with pronunciation, and it’s 100% made with kids in mind. The best part is that you can try it out before you commit. Click the image above and check out their free trial for yourself!