Did you know that Middlebury Interactive Languages was chosen by Homeschool.com readers as a Top Back to Homeschool Resource? You can find the awards here, and see more about Middlebury’s products here. Interested in Homeschool.com’s Back to Homeschool e-magazine? Then just click here!
We’re having an entire Back to Homeschool Event!
The Value of Learning a New Language Online
By Theresa Bruns
As a homeschool parent, I discovered the advantages of using an online world language program to give my children access to a second language and culturally authentic materials. The digital courses not only provided us with the flexibility that our family needed but also with an excellent curriculum.
As a homeschool mom of four, I have heard frustration in homeschool circles when it comes to choosing a world language curriculum. There are many options, but without expertise in that area, quite a few homeschool parents feel frustrated determining which option is best for their children. Even as a Spanish teacher, I had to do a great deal of research on how to provide the best world language education to my own children. Ultimately we chose Middlebury Interactive’s online curriculum, and our children have greatly benefited from it, continuing their language study in high school and college.
One of the benefits of digital language courses is that they offer homeschool families flexibility. Courses are self-paced, offer individualized learning and are adaptable to many different learning styles. Additionally, they are highly effective for the advanced, self-disciplined student. A good digital language program can compensate for the absence of a world language teacher and give students the start in second language acquisition that they need to be successful.
There are many proven benefits to exposing students to language and culture at an early age, starting with elementary courses. Students in middle school and high school will become successful in their pursuit of second language acquisition through task-based activities that reinforce learned skills and provide immediate feedback, as well as videos featuring native speakers at native speeds. Some families have benefited from purchasing additional support from a language teacher, while others find that doing it on their own fits their child’s learning style.
The self-paced program is enticing to homeschoolers in that they can work on the program as slowly or as quickly as fits their learning style and interest. Because digital programs offer that freedom, a homeschool student who is highly interested in languages can work through a program quickly at his or her own pace. A student who needs to work a bit slower but still wants to learn the language can also do so. Both types of students are able to learn the language at a comfortable pace.
Most homeschool families are comfortable with the core curriculum subjects and can dive right into choosing a program that fits their family; however, a second language is different because they don’t feel they can teach it if they don’t speak the language. It’s common for homeschool families to find someone who can teach their children the language if second language learning is important to the family, but that is not always convenient.
A digital language education program, such as Middlebury Interactive’s, gives students access to listening activities with native speakers, authentic materials to read that are created for the target culture, opportunities to write and speak, as well as instruction on grammar. Because the interactive online program is complete with computer-scored assessments, a homeschool parent can feel confident that they will be able to accurately monitor their student’s progress in the language. Because most homeschool students don’t have a certified world language teacher available, a good world language curriculum can still allow homeschool students to study a second language in their own home.
As a homeschool mom, I actually learned alongside my children. We enjoyed exploring and finding ways to reinforce what they were learning in their curriculum. Through the digital courses, a homeschool parent can find ways to reinforce the language, such as during dinner hours—where only the language is spoken, art and music exhibits that feature the culture they are studying, finding a native speaker with whom they can practice, attending a church service in the language, visiting cultural restaurants or volunteering within a community of people that speak the language.
When considering a language program for your children, consider the flexibility, accessibility and benefits that a stand-alone digital curriculum can provide for your children. Your children will have the flexibility they need to learn the language and have access to a curriculum that will hone their reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. And remember, you don’t have to be a language teacher for your children to learn a second language.
Theresa Bruns taught Spanish for more than 20 years at the high school and collegiate levels. She also taught online for seven years and is now a part of the professional development team at Middlebury Interactive Languages. Theresa and her husband homeschooled all four of their children.