Monday, September 2, 2013

{Crew Review} Homeschool Spanish Academy

 

Without a doubt, we have been blessed with opportunities to experience learning using up-to-date technology.  Our review of Homeschool Spanish Academy gave Ben the opportunity this time to use Skype to practice his Spanish with teachers whose first language is Spanish.  It was a great opportunity (I can say that confidently, but Ben would say it was just plain hard) to work on verbal expression and comprehension on the spot.

Homeschool Spanish Academy (HSA) gave me access to their Middle School Program (ages 12-15) in a half-semester subscription.  This includes seven 50-minute on-line lessons in a one-on-one teaching session for $104.99.  You can also purchase a subscription for twice a week at both  half and semester length intervals as well as a package for two students.

Although this sounds like a lot of money for just one quarter of the school year, you really need to consider what you are getting:

  • one-on-one instruction for your student to meet their specific language learning needs
  • an instructor who speaks Spanish as his/her primary language
  • a trained instructor
  • a solid curriculum that mirrors traditional learning sequences and includes learning about the culture. You can view a teaching sequence here for Middle School and here for High School.

 

How We Used This Program:  Signing up for our lessons was really quite easy.  Thankfully, there are plenty of YouTube videos created by HSA (such as one on registering students, scheduling sessions, and turning in homework) to help you navigate your member page, which looks like this:

 

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I appreciate that they listed all their step-by-step YouTube videos right when I log in, so if Ben or I forget how to do something, we don’t have to search for a solution! {I will note that I did have to call HSA because I could not figure out how to add Ben as a student after I had signed up for our class.  Hector answered our call and was SO patient and helpful – especially since the answer was right in front of my nose - and I just wanted to share how great their customer service was.}

Another thing that I liked about HSA was that I didn’t have to lock myself into a set day and time for our lessons.  Especially since we began using this over the summer, I really needed to have the flexibility to schedule Ben’s classes around vacations, car troubles, and soccer mom duties.  At first, I scheduled just our first lesson, not sure Ben and his instructor would click.  But after a good lesson, I went ahead and scheduled the another set of classes with Luisa, Ben’s teacher.   I really liked her gentle approach and kind demeanor with Ben.  He isn’t the most outgoing child, so speaking to new people has been emotionally hard for him, but I think she’s been great.

One of the things I didn’t realize about HSA is that the encourage you to use several different instructors during your coursework.  An email shared with our TOS Review Crew from HSA said as much:

“Trying other instructors is actual highly encouraged (up to 3 instructors). This gives students the ability to experience different teaching styles, but more importantly to hear different accents. Our instructors keep very detailed notes for every session. As a result, the instructors always read the notes before going into a class, regardless if it's a regular student or a new student. Furthermore, if there are ever any questions regarding session notes, our instructors work in the same facility and are often times sitting right next to each other and can quickly pass information back and forth as needed.”

To me, this demonstrates a huge amount of professionalism among the staff.

Class Day via Skype.  First off, I should say that speaking Spanish out loud is, for Ben, akin to pulling teeth.  It makes him really nervous—and I completely understand because I was the same way as a teenager (my grandfather spoke Spanish fluently yet I never spoke a word to him).  So I would not say that Ben loved this review – but that is no fault of this vendor. 

Luisa, Ben’s instructor, did a great job of helping Ben ease back into Spanish after a few months off.  During that first class I sat in only for about 15 minutes but left because I could tell Ben was using me as a crutch and wasn’t engaging with his instructor enough. Once I left, Ben really had to rely on Luisa for vocabulary and speaking.  She has gradually gotten Ben to utter more than a one word response in Spanish (I listen through the door!) – yay, Luisa. 

Using their scope and sequence, she wisely went ahead and placed him at an appropriate level and began instructing him in class.  Using Skype’s texting feature, Luisa was able to provide written vocabulary for Ben so he could hear and see Spanish.  I really like that Ben is hearing a true Spanish (El Salvadoran) accent – mine is pretty good, but there is some Midwestern twang that I won’t be able to eliminate. 

After every class, Ben is sent a link to download his Spanish homework.  These are colored workbook pages that he prints off.  Because it has been summer, we’ve had a harder time being consistent in doing a little bit of Spanish practice every day, but in general Ben’s been given enough work to make practicing Spanish a 15 or so minute/ day routine.  Usually, his written work is due a day before his class. 

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{For the record, Ben did turn in all his assignments;  the one it says is missing had nothing written to turn in.  I’m not sure how to get this taken care of.}

Ben’s most recent class was a quiz!  Can I say that I love and appreciate that he is getting tested every couple lessons to hold him accountable and keep his skills sharp.  I asked him how he did after his 4th lesson (quiz day) and he said he was glad to have a week off so he could study and practice more before session #5.

I’m not sure where a grade will appear on our member page – or if a grade is offered in the middle school program.  I’ll try to remember to update this review after his next class.

 

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Work page sample from Homeschool Spanish Academy

My recommendations & thoughts: I’ve really been impressed by Homeschool Spanish Academy and how they are using technology to deliver a relevant foreign language experience to students of all ages.  Although our budget right now is super tight, I am definitely considering HSA for the future.  Homeschool Spanish Academy offers programs for all ages, which were offered to The Crew for review:

Early Language Program
Middle School Program
High School Program
Adult Program

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

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All prices are accurate as of blog posting. 


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