Archives for June 2012

Schoolhouse Review: Homeschool Spanish Academy

Over the last 11 years of homeschooling, I have always been somewhat eclectic in my curriculum choices. Even from the beginning, I preferred to mix and match and pick out the ones that most interested me. Choosing curriculum is still one of the most exciting aspects of homeschooling, especially now that some of my children are getting older.

I recently joined the Schoolhouse Review Crew. It is affiliated with The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. I am so excited about this opportunity to review homeschooling curriculum and share my thoughts about it with you! I really feel like the timing of it was totally the Lord’s. This year is going to be more financially tight now that we are running two households on one income. This was further confirmed in the first review selection…

My oldest daughter graduated this year and has decided to study midwifery in hopes of becoming a missionary. She has studied Spanish over the years (usually through computer programs) and we even lived in Spain for 1 1/2 years. However, she still felt like she wanted to work on it more to become completely fluent.

She has attained a large vocabulary, but stringing the words together into sentences is a bit harder for her. I knew that to become comfortable doing this, she really needed some one-on-one time with somebody who speaks Spanish (my husband speaks Spanish, but doesn’t always have the time to work on it with her). I had thought about getting a tutor for her, but it is rather expensive and I didn’t feel like I wanted her meeting up with a “stranger”.

When the first review selection was announced, I *knew* it was perfect for Kendra. Homeschool Spanish Academy is just pure genius and I can’t believe it hasn’t been around before now. In a nutshell, HSA teachers are native Spanish speakers who work with students over the internet via skype. During the first lesson, the teacher evaluates the students level of understanding, then starts teaching them from that level (very personalized learning).

Because Kendra is more advanced, her teacher spends most of the time in conversation with her. While they are conversing, the teacher will type out any words/phrases that are unknown so that Kendra has a list to refer back to as she studies during the week. One exciting aspect of this has been in the content of her learning. Kendra had mentioned to her teacher that she is studying herbal medicine to aid her midwifery studies. The young lady teaching her is very familiar with herbal medicine and has taught many of the Spanish names of the herbs and their general uses (in Spanish as well).

How the Program Works

In order to study through the Homeschool Spanish Academy, students will need to have access to a computer with high speed internet (in order to have a quality connection on skype). The company will walk you through a diagnostic test to determine the speed of your internet connection. They also recommend a microphone and headset, but we were able to use the microphone on the computer just fine (however, I did make sure that Kendra was in a quiet room when doing the class).

Once the account is set up, simple log in a click on “schedule my course”. You can then choose a time and pick from several teachers. I am not sure if it is mandatory, but we always chose the same teacher. When the appointment time arrives, simply log in to skype and wait for the call from the teacher. Each lesson last 50 minutes for older students (ages 10 and up) and 25 minutes for younger ones.

Pricing

The pricing for the classes varies. The classes for the younger kids are shorter classes and are less expensive than for older children. There is great flexibility in the choice of classes. For instance, classes can be taken individually or two children can take a class together. There is also the option to take a full 15 week semester (with either 1 or 2 classes per week) or a half semester of 7 weeks (1 or 2 classes per week).

For a full list of pricing options, please take a look at the appropriate level of interest:

Early Language
Middle School
High School
Adult Learning

Age Range

This program is available for ages 5 and up. We only used the high school level, so I am not certain how the classes are taught for the younger kids. For Kendra’s lesson, the teacher spoke to her in Spanish unless she had a specific question that needed to be explained in English. I am guessing that the teachers would use more English for children that are beginning students.

Pros

I asked Kendra to make a list of the things she liked about the program. Here are a few things she mentioned:

personal help – personal tutor gets to know you and you get one-on-one attention

personalized learning – able to learn at your own pace and at the level you are at

personalized lessons – the teacher talks to you about what is going on in your life and talks to you about it in Spanish (this gives you a frame of reference for what you are learning. If there is something specific you are wanting to learn, or a direction you want to go with your learning, the teachers helps guide you in that direction.

personal classroom – you don’t have others staring at you when you answer a question or try to think of the words to use

Cons

For our family, the only thing that would be a deterrent to using this program would be the cost. I should say though, that most all of the foreign language programs I have used or seen are rather pricey. And when you compare the price of this program to tutoring services, the Homeschool Spanish Academy is really quite reasonable. I would also add that the motive for taking a foreign language would also factor in. For instance, if my child only wanted to take a foreign language because it was required, I might not fork out as much money. In our case, my daughter really wants to become fluent and converse in the language. In this instance, the price is well worth it! So I guess the “con” is only a con in certain instances.

Overall Recommendations

We feel so blessed to have found this program. I would love it if this type of learning was available for other languages. Having lived overseas twice, I truly believe that the only way to fully learn a language is to jump in there and use it. We don’t always have that opportunity here in America, so this program is a great alternative. I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to learn to speak Spanish!

To see what my fellow crewmates had to say about Homeschool Spanish Academy, click the banner here:

Photobucket
Disclaimer: As part of the TOS Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received the product or service mentioned above for the purpose of a review. All opinions are my own. For more information, please read my disclosure.

This post is linked up at The Homeschool Curriculum Review Roundup.

Winner of the Vision Forum Conference Pass

This week has been a whirlwind for our family.  We have packed up about a third of our house (including out chickens) and moved it to our home in TX.  The rest of our belongings will remain with my husband in Kansas until he can join us in TX once he retires next spring.  For now, we will hold down two forts, and hopefully get to visit each other often.

My mom is staying with us while she receives treatment at MD Anderson’s cancer center.   We were able to meet with her doctor Monday and find out what type of treatment she will be receiving.  Thankfully this round of chemo will be in the form of two pills she takes daily.  According to the doctor, she should experience less side effects than her first round 3 years ago.  She should also have a bit more freedom to go back and forth between her home in the panhandle and ours near Houston.

Right now, I am just thankful.  Thankful to be here, to be able to do any little bit that I can for her.  I think that when those we love are suffering, there is an overwhelming desire to just do something…anything, to help.

Needless to say, we have been without internet (I thought we would be able to have it connected as soon as we arrived, not so).  It has been nice in that it gave me time to work on getting the house in order.  Since arriving we (mostly hubby) have had to unclog the sewage line, put in a new toilet, have the septic tanks pumped, spread fire ant killer, build the chicken house, and replace a heating element in the refrigerator.  I bought some rope to string up a clothes line (got to take advantage of this south Texas heat), but will have to get to that later.  Just trying to catch my breath a bit.

And the winner is…

Well I guess this is really what everyone is waiting for, right?  Who is it going to be?  I am excited to announce that Tammy Bryant and her husband Eddie will be joining me in San Antonio for the Vision Forum Reformation of Food and the Family Conference.  I am excited because I know Tammy (I promise I didn’t pick her on purpose, I used Random.org…but I did pray first that the Lord would choose the person that needed to attend) and it will be such a blessing to see her there.  I am planning on taking lots of notes, and hopefully be able to share lots of good information with you all.

 

Giveaway: Vision Forum’s The Reformation of Food and the Family Conference Pass for Two

Several years ago, when I was a new homeschooling mom, I had a little boy who had lots of energy. And not only did he have lots of energy, he was very sensitive–to everything. His socks bothered his toes. The peculiar smell at the Jelly Belly factory was unbearable. He couldn’t stand wearing pants or long sleeves (he still only wears pants to church), because he was always hot. As he grew older, he had trouble learning to read and write.

I was at a loss.

I didn’t know if he just needed more discipline. Maybe I wasn’t being consistent enough. Or maybe I just wasn’t good at homeschooling. I read and researched and tried all kinds of things, but they just weren’t helping.

At the time, we ate the typical American diet minus the sugary cereals. I really felt that because I only let my children eat the healthy cereals, we were doing good. Little by little, I started reading about eating a “whole foods” diet. I learned the benefits of grinding my own grain and drinking kefir. Most importantly, I learned how sugars and dyes that are so prevalent in foods targeted at children, actually affect their developing neurological systems. Many of the behaviors I was seeing in my son were a direct result of the foods I was feeding.

Over the next year, I begin to cut out as many processed foods as possible. We replaced the Kool-aid with all-natural water. We bought our milk and eggs straight from the farm and ate our veggies out of a garden (unfortunately not my own…still working on that one). I learned to bake bread, and yogurt, even experimented with kombucha.

The results were dramatic. My little man calmed down (to a normal little boy level), things didn’t bother him quite so much, he learned to read, and I realized the importance of feeding our kiddos (and ourselves) a nutrient dense diet.

I guess that is why I am so passionate about eating healthy. I have seen both sides. I have experienced first hand, the benefits of eating foods that are wholesome.

Now don’t get me wrong, I still struggle to stay away from the sugar. Eating healthy is not always easy. It is not always the cheapest. It is not always what I want to do.

I still need encouragement in this area of my life.

That is why I am sooo excited about this upcoming conference!!!

There are so many AWESOME speakers at this conference!

Nancy Campbell is going to be there. Her book Be Fruitful and Multiply really helped me see that children are a blessing from the Lord. I can’t wait to hear her wisdom and her love of helping women in God-given roles.

Michelle Duggar will be speaking. I think my girls are more excited about seeing (possibly meeting) her than I am. I just want to thank her personally for living out the example of a meek and quiet spirit, modeling it for those of us who need that kind of encouragement.

Kim Coghlan from Life in a Shoe. I really wanted to meet her at the film festival. I saw her on the last day of the festival. She was busy talking to someone else and I didn’t want to interrupt. But when I turned around, she was gone. I didn’t see her again, but I hope I will this time!

Joel Salatin…as much as I am excited to hear the ladies, I am really excited to hear Joel Salatin, of Polyface Farms, speak. He is a wealth of information and I would love to have a farm like his, with all my kids working together, growing our food.

The Good News Gets Even Better

If you couldn’t tell, I am thrilled that I am going to be able to go to this conference. But I am even more thrilled that I am going to get to take one of you with me!

I have a pass for 2 (you and hubby can go!) to the Vision Forum The Reformation of Food and the Family Conference!

The conference will be held July 12-14, 2012 in San Antonio, TX.

Who Wants to Join Me???

To enter to win a pass for 2 to The Reformation of Food and the Family conference,

leave a comment below telling my why you would like to attend

and

share this giveaway (either on your blog, facebook, twitter, or with your neighbor).

I would ask that only those actually able to attend would enter the contest (I don’t want to give the pass to someone that can’t attend when there are others who are able to attend that would love to).

I will be drawing (via random.org) a winner next Monday, so please enter by Sunday, June 25th at midnight.

Can’t wait to find out who will be joining me in San Antonio!

The Call You Never Want to Receive

My husband had to work on Friday, so I decided to take all the kids with me to the homeschool conference. The two middle girls would be in the kids program all day, while the big kids would help me with the two younger boys. By 3:00 I still had not listened to any sessions, the boys were crying, and I was exhausted. I decided to leave the older kids at the conference to finish listening to the sessions (and I wanted them there in case the girls needed something) and take the little boys home for some rest.

As I was driving home, I got the call.

It was my mom. I had been waiting to hear from her and I suppose the timing was something only God could orchestrate. The scans showed that her breast cancer has returned and has spread to other parts of her body. The tears began to flow and I can’t remember the rest of the phone call. In fact, the rest of the day is a blur.

My mom is my very best friend. Our family has spent the last 20 years moving all around the world, making new friends and leaving them. Even with social media and email, it has been hard to remain close to the friends I have made. But my mom has always been there. She has been “the constant” over the years. The first one I call when I need to talk, when something exciting is happening, or when the days get hard.

And while I can’t remember much about the rest of that day, I do remember what I said to my oldest daughter, who is very close to my mom.

I told her that this is it.

This is where the rubber meets the road in the Christian walk. This very moment is what sets apart the non-Christians from the Christians. We may sin. We may stumble and fall. The world might say, “they say that are a Christian, but look how they live”.

But this is our defining moment. When death stares us in the face, we have hope. We have hope in the forgiveness of our sins. We have hope in eternal life. We have hope in Jesus Christ. And while sadness may overtake us for the moment, it is the hope that will sustain us until we meet again in eternity.

After that call, I suddenly older. It was as if in that moment, I realized that we are indeed mortal. In that instance, I could feel myself being rooted up from this world. On Saturday during the conference, a sweet family we know performed before the keynote speaker. The song they chose to sing expresses my feelings exactly…

This world is not my home I’m just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

The kids and I have been packing. We are going to be moving back to Texas. We are hoping that my mom will be able to receive treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

It is amazing when you see God working in such magnificent ways. Last October, when we moved here to Kansas, I was heart-broken over the fact that we weren’t able to buy a house and settle down here. I didn’t know at that time that the Lord was keeping us freed up, so that I would be able to pick up and move back to Texas.

So here we are again, moving…our fifth move in 38 months (thanks Kendra for keeping track). But we are grateful that the Lord has always provided and led the way. I am so thankful that we can spend this time with my mom. So while I am packing and getting ready, I am also researching healthy foods that I can make to nourish her body.

I would appreciate prayers for our family. As my husband held me on Sunday (by Sunday I was a mess), he said something that has eased my heart. “Jasmine, we have a hard road ahead of us, but by the grace of God we will get through it.” And we will.

To God be the glory…