Monday, December 5, 2011

Teaching Language Doesn't Have to be Hard - A New TOS Review!!

Since the beginning of our homeschooling journey, my husband and I decided that we would be teaching (and possibly be learning ourselves) several languages along the way.  The first we started with was Latin.  We have been pursuing to learn Latin for about 3 years now, ever since Arianna was in first grade.  This year, however, our family was chosen to review a product from Great Commission Languages.  We had a choice of Spanish or French and since I have had Spanish both in high school and college, I thought it would be a great refresher for me and it would be an easy transition from Latin to Spanish .
The Product:
Great Commission Languages was created in 2004 by a homeschooling family providing a Christian language program for the homeschooling arena.  They want to assist others in fulfilling the Great Commission as commanded in the Scriptures.

One of the greatest things probably about this program is that you DO NOT have to know Spanish in order to teach your children this program. Teaching languages is a hard and daunting task and Marie and Peter Sherwood have taken on the task and produced a good product.

The product we received was !El Espanol Facil! (The Easy Spanish!) Junior Level which is for K through Grade 3.  I thought this would be the best fit for us since I have both a first and third grader.  What we received was a spiral bound book that included 2 CD's.  The first CD has printable activity sheets to go along with the lessons, a full index of the tracks, and the listening tracks for the first 12 lessons.  The second disk has lessons 13-34 as well as the storyline on odd tracks and vocabulary on the even tracks, and six "bonus" tracks of extras.  The disks can be found in the back of the back so you won't lose them.

There are 34 lessons which are created to be done once per week.  Each lesson includes a short story, vocabulary, an activity, some cultural information, teacher helps and "front cover work" created to help the child remember the lessons from a glance at the front of their binder.  You can go to their sample page (for both the Junior and regular levels) and watch a video where Marie discusses how to use the program.  You can also check out the samples of the Table of Contents, and 2 lessons including the lesson, vocabulary, and storyline.

The creators of the program follows Charlotte Mason's Method as well as Bloom's Taxonomy and higher order thinking by Dr. Jeanne Chall.  They also have used native speaking from both Mexico and South America, allowing the children to hear the differences in the language spoken. The words chosen are done phonetically as well as incrementally making sure to use those that are found in conversation and are used with high frequency.  These methods help this program to have a solid foundation.

In the Junior level (which is $69.95), the focus is more on the stories and songs which is easier for the younger child/student.  The older kids level ($139.95) goes more into depth with the grammar and writing, but doesn't lose the fun of the stories and songs and can be spread over 3 years for a younger student or a 1-2 year program for an older student.  And if you want to check them out without taking the full plunge you can order their sampler CD which has both samples of French and Spanish.  If you decide to order the full curriculum at a later date you get a rebate of $15 (the cost of the sampler) and then you can hand the sampler off to someone else!  That's great!!

Our Experience:
I was super excited to be getting a chance to start another language program, since we had been doing Latin for a while.  When we received our book however, there was a minor glitch ... my CD Disk #1 was for French. :(  After a longer then expected wait we finally got the CD corrected and were able to start our first lesson.  I will say that through the time of waiting I had GREAT customer service!  Marie was great, quick to respond - which was something I wasn't quite expecting.  I also didn't expect the author to be the one responding because that's just not what happens.

Unfortunately due to the slow start and the holidays we are only a few lessons in.  Once I received the book I read the teacher notes, which seemed minimal to me, as well as look through the lessons and activities, trying to make a plan of how we would be incorporating the program into our day/week.  I had a few more questions for Marie about the way the program was intended to be used.  She was gracious to speak via email several times as well as send me some new introductory notes they are/have been working on which I greatly appreciated.

So far, I think this version, is a little less difficult then I had expected.  Each lesson is to be done per week, but the lesson in the Junior level are at a lower level then where my daughters are able to perform.  I think it has to do with the several years of Latin they have under their belt.

However, they do love the stories, learning the new vocabulary, as well as the fun activities.  I think we will keep at this for a while to get a better handle of the program and I will be using Marie's suggested weekly schedule she shared with me.

My Thoughts:
I think this is a great program, especially if you have had no or very little language study.  However, if your family is like ours and has been studying language for a while, then you might want to get the sampler CD and check out both the Junior and regular level to see which fits your family best.

I also have loved my interaction with Marie via email.  She has been great to talk to and has loved the feedback and I have loved her willingness to help us fit the program.  That shows to me people who are committed to their program and to homeschoolers at large, not just out to make money from your purchase.

So if you are looking for an easy way to get your family studying language then you want to check out Great Commission Languages. You can see what other Crew members thought about all of their different programs.  And please feel free to contact Maria via email and ask her any questions that you may have.

*** I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2011-2012 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for a thorough and honest review. Though I am compensated with free products, I am not compensated in the form of money for any of my reviews. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences with the products and services that I receive.***

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