I was sure my kids would be speaking a foreign language at early ages, but it didn’t happen. I learned German in school but wanted my kids to learn Spanish. I was thrilled when I met Anne Guarnera of Language Learning at Home, who not only has a Ph.D. in Spanish, but homeschools and helps homeschoolers teach their kids foreign language.
Anne graciously agreed to an interview for The Homeschool Sanity show and answered these questions.
Why teach your kids a foreign language?
It allows us to serve others. A huge 75% of people in the world do not speak or understand English. We can serve people internationally or the large number of non-English speakers in our own communities.
Maximizes verbal skills. Learning a second language doesn’t impede the development of your child’s first language. The more languages you speak, the faster your brain functions. Kids who study foreign language improves processing speed for all subjects.
Teaches the importance of habits. Regular practice is the foundation of language learning, just as practice of a musical instrument is to music learning. Habit formation serves our students well in the study of all subjects.
What age do you recommend starting the study of foreign language?
As soon as possible. This isn’t to discourage students who haven’t started until middle or high school. I learned foreign languages when I was older. Older students have the advantage of understanding grammar and can learn more quickly.
Starting early is a real advantage for homeschoolers. You can make the decision to incorporate foreign language into preschooling. Formal study isn’t required, however. Picture books, CDs, and apps are a great place to start.
What are some tools parents can use to support their language learners even if they don’t speak the language their children are studying?
There are three types of resources I recommend. There are language learning apps. For younger students, the Little Pim app. For older students, I recommend Duolingo and Mango Languages that is often available through your public library.
A second type of resource I recommend is audiobooks in foreign language. The audiobooks teach accents. They can be paused and words looked up or used along with a print book.
A third type of resource is other people. I encourage parents to be creative about finding real-life opportunities to connect with foreign language speakers. That might be something like volunteering places where there are foreign languages spoken. Your child might join a Skype group to speak with native speakers with your supervision.
How can parents help motivate their kids who might not see the point of language learning?
Know your child. Help your child make the connection between what they’re doing and a larger goal. Because it requires so much deliberate practice, it can be hard to see the end goal. Introduce real-life scenarios in which they can use the language. Again, interacting in a community activity where the language is useful can be motivating. Or connect language learning to a future career plan or mission trip.
Even parents who are raising their children bilingually struggle with motivation. My own son recently told me he wanted to be a normal kid who just “talked English.”
I was compensated for my time in sharing these resources. All opinions are my own.
I have shopped Homeschool Buyers Co-op for a long time and I love knowing that I’m getting the best possible price on curriculum. The co-op helps homeschoolers harness group buying power to keep prices low. Getting an excellent price is especially important if you plan to invest in an all-in-one curriculum. An all-in-one or multi-subject curriculum can save your sanity by reducing decision fatigue and planning time. These are just some of the options available through the co-op for you to consider.
Monarch Online Curriculum from Alpha Omega
I have used some Monarch courses with my students and find that they’re an excellent option for parents looking for cumputer-based curriculum. Co-op buyers save 10%, which is the best deal you will find!
Monarch is an interactive, Internet-based Christian homeschool curriculum for grades 3-12 that’s compatible with most web browsers on a Windows® or Macintosh® operating system.
With Monarch, you get:
Dynamic, Media-rich Lessons: Bring learning to life with over 50,000 multimedia elements! Immerse your child in an enriching, multi-dimensional educational experience that includes video clips, audio files, challenging games, interactive exercises, and more.
Core Subjects & More: Monarch offers Bible-based online lessons in the five core subjects of Bible, History and Geography, Language Arts, Math, and Science, as well as a wide variety of enriching electives.
Automatic Grading: Enjoy freedom from paperwork! Automatic grading and recordkeeping conveniently record lesson assignments, test scores, and upcoming assignments for more hands-on teaching time.
Anytime access, no installation: Perfect for your on-the-go schedule, Monarch’s Christian homeschool curriculum is accessible around the clock with a browser and Internet connection. With just a username and password, you’re curriculum-ready in seconds.
The best part is you can try it free for 30 days with no risk!
I have also enjoyed using Horizons curriculum with my students. At the co-op, you can be sure you’re getting the best price.
Horizons is a brightly illustrated, engaging workbook curriculum filled with consumable lessons and hands-on activities for grades PreK-12.
Christian Worldview: Horizons courses support a Christian worldview that complements parents in their biblical teaching.
Spiral Learning: Horizons Language Arts and Math use a spiral learning method that helps students master concepts through a natural process of introduction, review, and reinforcement.
Colorful Curriculum: Eye-catching graphics and illustrations make the student material visually appealing and help keep students excited to learn.
Hands-On Lessons: Students using Horizons curriculum often find the hands-on lessons to be interesting and exciting. Much of the student material is filled with colorful illustrations that complement the activities to help students understand concepts.
I had a homeschooling family member who relied on Lifepac for all her curriculum. It made homeschooling simple! Save big on it at the co-op.
LIFEPAC is a Christian homeschool curriculum for grades K-12.
Designed by a team of accomplished educators with years of classroom experience, LIFEPAC is based on the principle of mastery learning. Students master content in each unit worktext before progressing to the next.
Bible-based: With Bible verses from the King James Version and biblical content that promotes a Christian worldview, LIFEPAC encourages critical thinking skills that promote and strengthen a student’s faith in Christ.
Flexible: Affordably priced, LIFEPAC lets students receive a Christian homeschool curriculum at a fraction of the price of regular textbooks and workbooks.
Economical: Affordably priced, LIFEPAC lets students receive a Christian homeschool curriculum at a fraction of the price of regular textbooks and workbooks.
Portable: Unlike heavy textbooks, LIFEPAC’s compact design is popular with busy homeschooling families on the go.
I have used and loved so many resources available through New Leaf Publishing. The group buy offers up to a 40% discount on them!
Master Books is the world’s largest publisher of creation-based material for all ages; including apologetics, homeschool resources, reference titles, and quality children’s literature. You may already be familiar with some of their wares like:
Over 550 Titles to Choose!Literature, Science, History, Apologetics, Parenting, Creation & MORE — Members choose from OVER 550 TITLES! If you like Creation-Based Science materials, have a desire to build your home’s Apologetics library, or you just love Christian literature; then this is the GroupBuy for you!
I enjoyed using this streaming service I accessed through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op several years ago and it’s improved immensely since then. Co-op buyers save 60%!
Bring Your Homeschool Lessons to Life! It’s easy to see why homeschoolers rave about Discovery Education Streaming Plus. It’s probably the most extensive and feature-rich educational video streaming service in the world.
It’s much like having the entire DVD selection of your local public library available to you from the convenience of your home, 24/7/365.
But it’s not just a collection of videos that you can watch from beginning to end. This library has been organized into useable video clips, organized and categorized, close-captioned, and supplemented with lesson plans, teaching guides, interactive simulations, images, audio resources, and other resources and materials that you can incorporate into virtually every aspect of your homeschool curriculum.
Discovery Education Streaming Plus features:
Thousands of full-length videos from scores of producers, segmented into tens of thousands of content-specific clips tied directly to state and national standards.
Supplemental resources such as Assignment Builder, Quiz Center, Writing Prompt Generator, lesson plans, and more
Fast and accurate search functionality and dynamic navigation menus
The ability to customize and personalize lessons to different subjects, grades, and learning styles
Comprehensive K-12 curriculum coverage in six core subject areas.
Thousands of images
Membership in the Discovery Educator Network (DEN)
Interactive self-paced training
Exclusive Discovery programming such as Frozen Planet, Human Planet, LIFE, Into the Universe, Mythbusters, and Curiosity
Video series from trusted content providers such as BBC Worldwide, CBS News, Channel 4, Discovery Studios, Scholastic, TV Ontario, and Westin Woods
Hundreds of games, skill builders, and body atlas interactives
Thousands of self-paced math tutorials spanning concepts from basic addition to calculus
Thousands of audio files including podcasts, classic literature audiobooks, children’s literature audiobooks from Scholastic, and numerous supplemental study aids for auditory learners
I received free access to an art course and was compensated for my time. All opinions are my own.
Whether you want art to be a part of your teen’s homeschooling or you want art to be a part of your child’s free time, you may need to motivate your child to pursue artistic studies. Or if you’re like me, you have to motivate yourself to include art in your teen’s studies. There are three ways that have worked for me to motivate my teens to learn art.
#1 Enroll your teen in a short-term class
My kids have enjoyed creating a project as part of one class or even a week-long camp. They have all been reluctant to participate in a full semester or one-year course — even those who enjoy art. Perhaps this is because art becomes a must-do, instead of a want-to-do activity. They also have a lot of other coursework and commitments. I can’t say that I’m any different when it comes to learning something new. I much prefer a smaller commitment.
I have taught art class to my teens after learning from a book. My kids have been much more motivated to learn from an artist. Although I can teach art, I’m not the best teacher for that subject. My students have been motivated to please the art teacher by following instruction. As a result they’ve learned more.
#2 Make art social
I purchased a book-based art curriculum for my son, who is talented in art. I thought he would love it. Instead, I couldn’t pay him to do it. When I had all of my kids do art together, he loved it. Part of the fun of art lessons is seeing what other people create. It’s inspiring. I’ve learned this in scrapbooking and Bible journaling classes.
If you aren’t homeschooling other kids, your child would likely enjoy having you do the lessons with him. You may surprise yourself and enjoy it too.
#3 Give your child choices
I hated piano lessons as a kid because I had to play the boring songs that were preselected. Art is very similar. If the lessons ask your child to create art that doesn’t appeal to her, your teen won’t be motivated. Provide many options from drawing to painting to mixed media. As our kids get older, choices become ever more important for motivation.
How Sparketh Online Art Courses Can Motivate Your Teen to Learn Art
Sparketh is an online art course platform that provides beginner, intermediate, and advanced courses. The courses motivate my teen to learn art because they are short courses. The first course she chose is just 15 minutes of videos.
I love that the courses are taught by younger instructors. They serve as great role models for my daughter, where I can’t as much. However, the online platform allows me to participate too. We can choose a course, assemble the supplies according to the recommended setup, and have a fun finished project in no time.
The number of choices is amazing. My daughter loves doing her hair, so this hair-bun course was perfect for her. I am amazed by her nearly-finished drawing. It looks just like the example!
You can join Sparketh free for a month. That’s a great way to see if these online courses will motivate your teen to learn art like they did for my daughter.
Reading skills can deteriorate quickly in the summer without attention and so can math skills. While summer is the time when many homeschooling families take a break, making time to maintain the math skills students have gained during the school year is crucial. Here are three easy ways to do it.
I received access to a math program and was compensated for my time in reviewing it. All opinions are my own.
#1 Focus on living math
You may not want to get the workbooks out in the summer, but you can easily incorporate math into your everyday life. Have your child calculate how many cans of water will be needed to make lemonade. Double a recipe. Measure a sports court for badminton. Determine the diameter of a beach ball by measuring its circumference with a tape measure. Have your child keep a running total as you grocery shop or determine the best deals based on size of products. Make a graph of the most common plants, bugs, or creatures seen on a nature walk. Determine the volume of a jar of sand or work math problems in the sand with a stick. Calculate gas mileage from a road trip. The possibilities are endless!
Be sure to review math facts as you travel. Listen to math fact songs or skip count together as you do chores. (Unfortunately, summer doesn’t mean a break from chores!)
#2 Play math games
Play games to maintain your child’s memory of math facts. Children who struggle with higher-level math usually haven’t mastered their math facts. CTC Math includes a speed skills game and a times tables video game interface that are perfect for maintaining math fact memory.
On rainy days, break out the math board games. On sunny days, do some active math games outside. Do math hopscotch. Or have a broad jumping contest. Have the kids calculate their percentage improvement for successive jumps. Maintaining math skills doesn’t have to be boring!
#3 Use a new curriculum to keep skills sharp
Kids usually have no interest in using the same math curriculum in the summer that they’ve used all school year. And who can blame them? Summer is a great time to change things up. The benefits of trying a new approach are:
filling in gaps in your child’s math education
help explaining concepts that weren’t mastered
more motivated students
If you’ve been using a computer-based curriculum, consider using a workbook or print worksheets as needed. If your child enjoys online math, look for a different program for summer.
If you’ve been using printed curriculum, consider using a video or computer-based approach.
Why I’m Using CTC Math to Maintain My Kids’ Math Skills This Summer
CTC Math is a computer-based math curriculum, which is new for my younger students. They use workbooks during the school year. Because it’s online, there are videos that explain math concepts in depth.
I love that I can select just the topics my kids need to review. Each video and set of questions take just minutes to complete, meaning that I can keep summer lessons short. My kids aren’t bored reviewing concepts they have already mastered.
I tend to lose track of my kids’ activities in the summer, so I love that I can view exactly what my kids have completed (or not).
Finally, during the summer I don’t have time to do a lot of lesson planning. CTC Math makes it easy for me to assign lessons to keep my kids’ math skills strong. Giving the kids lessons requires just a few mouse clicks!
Of course, CTC Math isn’t just a curriculum for summer. Its benefits make this complete curriculum the perfect choice for the school year, too.
What are you waiting for? Do some living math, play a math game, and consider an alternate curriculum for the summer. CTC Math is an excellent choice.
There are a number of problems homeschoolers have in using digital curriculum. I’ve had them myself! But now that I have the solutions, I’m excited about using digital curriculum again. I can’t wait to share the solutions I’ve discovered.
Before I share the solutions to the challenge of digital curriculum, I want to share the advantages of it.
#1 It’s less expensive.
Digital curriculum is generally less expensive than print and even if it isn’t, you don’t have to pay for shipping. Digital curriculum is really less expensive when you are able to make copies for more than one student. For example, two print mission manuals for Grammar Galaxy are $60 while one digital copy is just $25.
#2 It takes up less space.
Bookshelf space is at a premium in a homeschooling home. Digital curriculum is perfect for homeschooling in small spaces or just because you cannot buy one more bookshelf.
#3 It’s easier to use with multiple students at once.
Digital curriculum is perfect for morning/family/circle time because you can display the text on a large screen for all to see and read. It’s also ideal for homeschool co-ops, even if the co-op is just you and another family. You do want to make sure you are complying with the publishers’ rules for use before using curriculum with a co-op, however.
#4 It may include multimedia for many learning styles.
Some digital curriculum includes audio or video which is perfect for auditory or visual learners. Multimedia can help expand your students’ attention span and increase motivation.
#5 Digital curricula may permit your student to use digital tools and create digital projects.
I interviewed Beth Napoli about cool webtools for students. You’ll want to listen to that episode if you haven’t already. Beth’s online unit studies direct students to create digital projects — in the process, teaching them valuable skills. Other curricula allows students to type on pages rather than hand write on them — something my boys have always appreciated.
Problems with Digital Curriculum
These advantages of digital curricula sound great, don’t they? But there are problems in using digital curriculum, too.
#1 Digital curricula can be expensive to print.
This is especially true if you are printing color pages or have to use a printing service. You may need to purchase binders or a hole punch to prepare your curricula for use.
#2 Digital curricula can be time-consuming to print.
The more pages to print and hole punch or bind, the more time it will take you to prepare the lessons. If you do not have a two-sided printer, it can be challenging to get your printer to print all of the pages in order. Paper jams inevitably occur. Finding time to go to the print shop can be a problem. I’ve even been hassled by a print shop about the copyright of a curriculum that clearly gave me permission to make copies for my family.
#3 Digital curricula can be difficult to organize.
You think you bought a digital math curriculum, but now you can’t find it. Maybe it was on the computer that died. What website did you buy it from? Can you download it again? What was it even called so you can search for it on your computer or in your email? Maybe you give up on finding it and buy something else. Can you tell that I’ve had these issues?
Solutions for Using Digital Curriculum
Thankfully, there are solutions to these challenges.
Print curriculum using the right tools.
First, if your curriculum needs to be printed, purchase a laser printer that prints on both sides of the page. These printers like the black-and-white and the color laser printers I have from Brother are extremely economical to use even though they require an initial investment. The toner has to be replaced very infrequently. I buy off-brand toner that saves me even more money. Click the images below for pricing.
A laser printer will also save you time by printing faster and eliminating the need to go to the print shop. Purchase a 3-hole punch that goes through a stack of pages. If you’re printing digital curriculum, the time-savings are worth the negligible cost.
Don’t print curriculum.
You can also save time and money by not printing your curriculum. It doesn’t make sense to print curricula that includes lots of web links or that allows your student to type in fillable forms. Instead, consider opening your PDF curriculum on a laptop that is connected to your TV so everyone can see at once. You can also use a device like Apple TV to wirelessly display the curriculum on a large screen. If curriculum is to be read by an individual student, open it with or send it to your tablet. Here are instructions for opening a PDFs on a tablet.
What if your curriculum includes pages that require hand-written work? Open the curriculum on a tablet using the free Adobe Reader app. Your student can type or write with a finger or stylus anywhere on the page. No printing required.
You can use a combination of these approaches as well. If you want your student to read the text on a tablet but do the written work by hand, only print those pages that you think are critical. Remember that a lot of written work can be done orally as well. With Grammar Galaxy as an example, you could put the Mission Manual pages on the big screen and ask your kids the On Guard questions without having them use a highlighter. Or better yet, for squirmy learners, ask them to touch the correct answer on the screen.
How to Keep Your Digital Curriculum Organized
You may be thinking that this sounds great, but how do you find the curriculum you purchase and how can you keep track of it from now on?
Find the curriculum you already own.
My recommendation for storing these files permanently is to store them in the cloud using Dropbox or Google Drive. Then if your computer crashes, you’ll still have access to your digital curriculum. Create a folder for Dropbox or Google Drive labeled curriculum and add it to your favorite folders. (Click here for how to use Dropbox and here for how to use Google Drive). Next, open all the files on your computer and sort them by kind of file. You want to look at Adobe Acrobat files. Fortunately, those will already be near the top because they start with A. Look at each PDF file’s title. If you know it’s curriculum, drag it to your newly created Curriculum folder. If you don’t know what something is, hover over the title to reveal it in its entirety. If you still don’t know what something is, double click it to check. If you find a file you’re sure you no longer need, put it in your computer’s trash. My youngest will be a 6th grader, so when I did this and found first grade curriculum, into the trash it went.
If you have many files that go with the same curriculum, create a new folder for that curriculum within the Curriculum folder. Use the command key to click and highlight all these files. Drag them all to the specific folder.
Finding access to courses you’ve purchased is more challenging. Do a search of your email for the course name if you remember it. Search for the words course and receipt. Check your payment records. If you used PayPal, you can search for the company name or look through your activity.
Create a database of your curriculum.
The next step is to create a database listing all your curriculum. I would not put regular ebooks in this table, but would reserve it for other homeschooling materials. The easiest database for me to use is Airtable. I think you will love it. Set up an account. Once you have an account, you can make a copy of the database I’ve already created for you. Once you have copied the database, you can add your curriculum to it with its name, subject, grade level, format, password, and notes. I’ve already set up these options for you, so you can select them quickly. You have the option of attaching PDF curriculum directly to the database or of pasting the dropbox or Google drive URL where you have it saved. I recommend using the URL because the free version of Airtable only includes 2 GB of attachment space per database.
If that sounds like gobbledy gook, don’t worry. I’ll show you step by step what to do in this video.
If you’re still with me, here is what your Airtable database will allow you to do. You will now be able to see exactly what you already have for each subject and each grade level. And ta da, you’ll actually know where to find it! You’ll also be able to keep track of the new digital curriculum you purchase.
I have been going through this process myself and I can’t believe the valuable curriculum I haven’t used because I couldn’t find it. It was out of sight, out of mind. Now that I’ve found it, I’m so excited about using digital curriculum next year.
Digital curriculum can save you time, money, and your sanity when you use these approaches.
Driving students to lessons is time consuming for homeschool moms. Look for a teacher who can come to your home instead. Both Gena and I have used this approach successfully. If your instructor can’t come to you, Skype can make in-home lessons a possibility. YouTube is another great way for your student to take lessons at home. Raising DaVinci offers an online ukelele course your kids may be interested in. The ukelele is an inexpensive instrument for emerging musicians.
While you’re driving, listen to a classical music station. Or compare genres by listening to a variety of stations. You can also do this at home with Amazon Prime Music or Spotify which has premade playlists of various genres. Do double duty by listening to music while doing art projects.
You can also enroll in a music course. Squilt, Bright Ideas Press, Zezok, and NotebookingPages.com all have courses Gena recommends. I also highly recommend the courses at Learn.MusicInOurHomeschool.com. We have taken the 20th Century Music Appreciation Course in its eBook form. It’s now available along with other period studies at Learn.MusicInOurHomeschool.com. These complete courses can be learned independently if you can stand being left out and are a fantastic option for co-ops. Gena’s 15-Minute Music Lessons are another easy way to include music in your homeschool. All lessons include printables you’ll want to use with course.
I’m excited that Gena is offering my readers a $10 off coupon for any course (besides the homemaking and sampler courses) through May 15th, 2017 with code SANITY.