Recently my 13 year old son and I got to try out an online video-conferencing Spanish program called, “Homeschool Spanish Academy” and we’re really excited to share our experience with SpanglishBaby readers.
Homeschool Spanish Academy – What is it?
Founded in 2010, Homeschool Spanish Academy is an online “Spanish institution that offers interactive immersion lessons with native-speaking Spanish instructors in Central America,” (Guatemala to be exact.)
As the name indicates, Homeschool Spanish Academy is aimed at homeschooled children, but I believe this service is a fantastic option for all kinds of students. My boys, for example, attend a public school, and a language immersion program isn’t available so we’ve had to wait until middle school for our kids to get any classroom instruction in Spanish. We are raising them bilingual here at home and try to speak as much Spanish with them as possible, but classroom-style instruction also plays a role in achieving fluency, (not to mention, I myself am not a native speaker.) That, I believe, is where a service like Homeschool Spanish Academy could step in.
How it Works – Getting Started
When I spoke with the founder, Ron Fortin, first via E-mail and then by phone, I was a little nervous about the logistics of how it would work, but in the end, it was an easy and well-organized process. You can sign up for a free trial lesson on the website, telling them a little about yourself and your student. Providing your phone number is important because Ron then calls to help you make the necessary technical preparations which consist mostly of an easy online test to see that your internet connection is fast enough. Ron and I also connected on Skype, where the classes are run, so that he could make sure the teacher would be able to send me a request before our scheduled appointment.
How it works – The Class
Five minutes before our scheduled appointment time we sent a message on Skype to our instructor, (Rosa) to let her know we were ready. When it was time, Rosa called us on Skype and we answered with video. Rosa (who is bilingual), introduced herself and asked if I wanted to stay for the session. I let her know I would be in the room observing, off camera, if either she or my son needed me.
To get started Rosa chatted with my son until he relaxed, which served the dual purpose of accessing his language skills. My son’s Spanish was at a sufficient level for her to give instructions in Spanish, and so she continued in Spanish. Within Skype, Rosa opened a document that was visible to both her and my son, but in a way that allowed them both to still see each other as well. In real time, she could scroll through the document and highlight or point to things she wanted him to read aloud to her. When he made mistakes, she gently corrected in a way that was not at all discouraging. Rosa is a great teacher and she made my son laugh several times.
At one point Rosa asked my son in Spanish to tell her something he had a lot of at his house. He got stuck trying to think of something and finally blurted, “gatos.” Rosa couldn’t hide her curiosity, “Es verdad? Is it true?” she asked.
“No,” my son laughed, and Rosa laughed too.
What Did the Student Think?
While I thought the class was awesome and would highly recommend it, maybe it’s more important to see what the student has to say. My 13 year old’s opinion:
“I felt that it was a very good learning experience and I liked the method of teaching – Doing it on Skype also made it much more interesting than just sitting there with a workbook by myself. The teacher was very helpful and friendly and I even learned some new things in the short session I did. Rosa [the instructor] made me feel more confident and we had fun together. The technology they used was really advanced. It was cool how they put the work up on the screen so we could both see it.”
Programs & Pricing
Homeschool Spanish Academy has an Early Child Language Program, Middle School Language Program, and High School Language Program – Ron also tells me they teach adults and have a curriculum specifically tailored for situational conversations. New this year: They now offer paired classes, where two students – of the same household and within 3 grade levels of each other – can use the same computer and lesson time to meet with an instructor.
Special deal for SpanglishBaby readers!
When you sign-up with Homeschool Spanish Academy, get $10 off any package – all you have to do is mention “SpanglishBaby” in your E-mail, phone call, or contact form!
Additional program details and contact information can be found at the Homeschool Spanish Academy website.