This apparently is the year for me and my kids to try live, on-line classes. First, MacPhail music lessons and now, Spanish lessons.
We got to try out a half semester of classes - which is seven, 25 minute live lessons through Homeschool Spanish Academy. Their How It Works section on their website is super helpful, but I am going to walk you through how it worked for us.
L-girl was the lucky one selected to try this curriculum. Obviously, they have different age ranges (Early Language, Middle School, High School and Adult) We are using the Early Language Program for ages 9-12. These lessons are 25 minutes long....the upper level classes are 50 minutes long.
To make sure this would work with our system, we did the background work of using www.speedtest.net and then a representative from Homeschool Spanish Academy contacted us and walked us through a few things on our computer to make sure our system would work. He also contacted us via Skype to ensure there weren't any reception problems there either.
Once we got approval for our system requirements, our next step was registering in their system and picking a teacher.
First, we went to Homeschool Spanish Academy's website and registered for classes with our basic information, age, any Spanish experience we had, what program we wanted to use, etc.
Now came one of the fun parts, picking a teacher. They had a list of potential teachers, their available times for clases, as well as their pictures and a little bit of biographical information on each of them. We read through them all and decided that Luisa sounded like she would be a good teacher.
So, we picked Luisa, then went to the schedule your classes page and found a time that worked for us. We decided on once a week lessons because I was afraid that more than that would overload L-girl. Homeschool Spanish Academy actually recommends twice a week classes for the best results, but I didn't want to scare L-girl.
We decided to go ahead and schedule all of our classes at the same time each week, with Luisa. But, the beauty of this curriculum is that you could have lessons at different times each week, different days...even with different teachers. Actually, that is another thing that they recommend....trying different teachers is actually highly encouraged (up to 3 instructors). It would give students the ability to experience different teaching styles, but more importantly to hear different accents. I was told by the ever helpful, Ron, that the teachers keep very detailed notes for every session (and we have seen Luisa writing stuff down). So, if you try out a different teacher, they would have all the notes from your last class, what you may have struggled with in front of them and could plan their class accordingly.
Again, we ignored that advice and just went with Luisa! We are such rebels.
You can tell Homeschool Spanish Academy knows homeschool moms, because they actually have the program set up to send you a reminder 24 hours before your scheduled lesson. We homeschool moms tend to get a bit distracted, so that gives us a heads up to double check our schedule/lives and make sure that the scheduled time still works.
So, now we are ready for our actual first lesson with Luisa. I will tell you L-girl was super nervous. Super nervous. She was even throwing around the random...."Why do I have to do this?" "Why didn't you pick someone else to take Spanish?" "I don't even want to learn Spanish....why are you making me do this?" You know....the usual.
When our lesson time came around, Luisa typed a message via Skype that just asked if L-girl was ready for her lesson. As soon as L-girl typed back that she was ready, Luisa officially called us via Skype and the lesson began.
The first few lessons were a bit rough.
Luisa and L-girl had a little trouble hearing each other. There was a slight delay in words and a bit of breaking up, like when you are losing a cell phone call. They were always able to eventually figure out what the other had said....but it was frustrating. Sometimes, Luisa would just resort to typing her questions or words in the little text box a the bottom of the page. The other problem we were having is we could hear other Spanish lessons happening near Luisa. We could hear other teachers and other students practicing their Spanish.
After the second and third lesson, Luisa said she would report our sound problems and someone would be in touch to see if it could get fixed. Nobody called after the second lesson, but after the third lesson, Ron, from Homeschool Spanish Academy called and ran a few system tests and made some suggestions for improving the sound. He said that Luisa is naturally soft spoken, so she has the volume turned up on her microphone, but suspected that she hadn't turned on the noise cancelling feature that would block us from hearing the other classes going on in her vicinity.
L-girl and I also decided that she would try using a set of headphones/ear buds for the next lesson to see if that helped. Lesson number four was much better....still not perfect.....but way better. L-girl and Luisa could hear each other and there wasn't as much "Can you hear me now?" stuff going on.
L-girl is really making progress. At this point, they are just working on Spanish words, names, and phrases. But, she is really soaking it up like a sponge. Her big brother, D-man, is taking Spanish in high school and she has actually been able to help him with some of his homework and practice.
L-girl is also having fun now. The nerves have worn off. She likes Luisa because she is sort of grandmotherly in her approach. Very patient. Very loving. Very kind hearted. The cadence and intonation of her speech is very encouraging.....even when she has to repeat the correct pronunciation of a word many, many, many times!
Luisa sends an e-mail after each lesson that has L-girls assigned homework.
I have seen and heard L-girl working on it. But, when I went to put together this review, I found something out.
This might be too small for you to see.....but, this is L-girls assignment summary.....can you see the green words? Those say....Missing.
Yes, L-girl has 4 missing assignments....well, 3 actually, since the top one isn't due until next week. I asked L-girl about this and she said she had done them, but wasn't sure how to hand them in. So, instead of asking me or watching the You Tube video...
....see the bottom one? How to Turn in Homework???? L-girl just decided to skip it! Grrrr.....
Rest assured, Luisa, her homework is on its way!!!
Now that we have the technical snafus worked out, we are loving this program. L-girl is really learning quite quickly conversational Spanish. I don't even think I heard her say anything in English during her last lesson!
You can create an account and try out one free Spanish lesson. What do you have to lose?
Oh, one of the other cool things you can do with Homeschool Spanish Academy is have "paired" classes. So, if you had students that aren't more than 3 grade levels apart, they could take lessons together....at the same time....at the same computer. Kind of a cool idea, I think.
For the half semester, Early Language lessons, with just one student, the cost would be $59.99.
Here is the standard pricing chart for the Early Language Program through Homeschool Spanish Academy. There is a different pricing chart for the upper level courses as their classes are longer.
And here is the pricing chart for the Early Language Program, if you are interested in a paired class for your family. Again, there is a different pricing chart for the upper level courses, because their classes run longer.
Technology is really sort of amazing, isn't it? This is a great program. It is a great idea for homeschoolers. We have tried other language programs in our school, but I really think there isn't anything better than learning the language from a native speaker. L-girl has moved along much more quickly in her lessons than I thought she would and she seems to be retaining a lot (thus her ability to assist her big brother with some of his Spanish!) She hasn't conjugated verbs or anything yet, but she is learning a lot of words and phrases that will be useful.
I highly recommend Homeschool Spanish Academy for the quality of the teaching we had with Luisa, but also the customer support and troubleshooting Ron did with us when we were having problems hearing (sort of important for the student and teacher to be able to hear each other, huh?)
Go see what the other TOS Reviewers had to say about Homeschool Spanish Academy.