Monday, September 2, 2013

Review of Homeschool Spanish Academy

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For the second time since joining the Crew, Therese was privileged to try out seven lessons from Homeschool Spanish Academy. Although she is only 12, she is in 9th grade this year, so we asked to review the High School Program.

How it Works

Homeschool Spanish Academy uses Skype to provide one-on-one Spanish lessons to students everywhere. Although they don't cater only to homeschoolers, they are a natural choice for us. With HSA, you have a native Spanish speaker coming into your home via Skype once a week (or as often as you schedule lessons) teaching your child Spanish. Because it is just the teacher and your child, the classes move at your child's pace. Because the teacher is a native speaker, you can be sure that the accent is perfect (which, as the wife of a native speaker, is very important to me).

Getting set up to take the lessons is very easy. You can sign up for a trial lesson at HSA's website. After that, the tech department calls you on the phone to make sure that you meet the technical requirements to take the classes (basically, if you can Skype, you'll be fine - if you don't know if you can Skype, they are just the people to help you figure it out!). After that, you take your free class. If you decide to move forward, you choose the right level for you or your child (yes - they have adult programs, too!). Finally, you decide whether to sign up for a half-semester (7 classes for either $99) or a full semester (15 classes for $169.99). Pricing information for the high school classes we took is as follows. Notice that the classes get cheaper when you take a full semester and when you take two per week, rather than one.

Therese and Homeschool Spanish Academy

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For all seven of her lessons, Therese had Marleny as her instructor. Keeping the same instructor is not required by HSA; in fact, they encourage you to try out multiple instructors. The instructor keeps detailed notes of what is covered during the lesson so that any teacher can pick up right where your child left off. My reason for not changing instructors was simple: Therese is kind of shy. Once she establishes a rapport with a teacher, I want her to keep it, especially since this is (obviously) a class that requires a lot of speaking (and in another language!). Last time we reviewed Homeschool Spanish Academy, we tried out multiple instructors, and it is absolutely true that they pick up right where the previous one left off. I felt that Therese lost ground because of her shyness, though. Since she liked Marleny right off the bat, I wanted to keep her with her.

Lessons precede as described in this video. I realized too late that I don't have any pictures of Therese doing her lessons, but that because she wouldn't let me in the room with her (she didn't want to speak Spanish with me there).

Again, last time she had lessons, I was in the room with her, and I think that hampered her progress. She was afraid of making a mistake in front of me (I have high school and college Spanish and have known her native-speaking father for 20 years). Massive kudos to Marleny, though, because after these seven lessons, Therese's confidence has increased so much! She is speaking without fear. She will turn to me and say, "Is that right?" So even though I wasn't there for her lessons, I know she was speaking and learning. I know she was getting lots of positive reinforcement, too, because that's the only way you gain that kind of confidence.

That confidence, in turn, led Therese to show Marleny what she already knew about Spanish. She has taken Spanish in various forms over the past few years, usually of her own initiative. She has also had Latin for several years. In their last lesson, Marleny brought up the conjugation of "ser." Therese immediately conjugated it for her. Therese told me that Marleny was so impressed that she knew how to do that.

This example highlights my only frustration with Homeschool Spanish Academy: I don't feel that there is any real assessment to find out how much a student knows prior to beginning lessons. I tried to tell Therese to tell Marleny at the start that she had had some Spanish and a lot of Latin - that she could conjugate, understood Spanish sentence structure, and had Cuban grandparents (and so was exposed to spoken Spanish all the time). Because she wouldn't do that (I think it was a combination of being too shy and not wanting to sound like she was speaking too highly of herself - anyone who reads my blog knows that I have cornered the market on that!), I feel that she didn't get as much out of these classes as she could have. If there had been some kind of assessment at the outset, perhaps some of her prior knowledge would have been exposed. Still, the majority of the responsibility for that probably lies with Therese. She definitely did better speaking up for herself this time around and she did learn a lot.

Homeschool Spanish Academy, ¿si o no?

Si! I really love HSA! I love the wide variety of instructors available, and I love that they are available at all times of the day. The instructors (and I am speaking of my experience last time as well, since the three instructors we used then are still with HSA) are all *so* nice and encouraging. Although they are fluent in English, the classes are conducted as much in Spanish as you can handle. They are as immersion as you can get. When you consider how much Spanish you are getting in a 50 minute period, the price for these classes is tremendous. For example, in the full semester option (15 weeks and 2 classes a week), it's only $10 per class! For one-on-one teaching, that's incredible. 

I have a huge advantage in that my husband was raised bilingual. Because I consider speaking Spanish non-negotiable (at least living in Southeast Texas), though, if he hadn't been, I would place a high priority on fitting Homeschool Spanish Academy classes into our homeschool budget. You just can't substitute textbook lessons for interactive spoken lessons. Textbook lessons can't come close to Homeschool Spanish Academy. Try the free lesson and you'll see what I mean. 

Nearly 50 Crew families got to try Homeschool Spanish Academy. Click the banner below to read about their experiences. 

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