Saturday, August 31, 2013

Homeschool Spanish Academy (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Vivimos en una economica mundíal.  Es muy importante que una persona estadounidenese se puede leer y escribir una idoma otro de inglés.  Pero, si una persona solamente se puede leer y escribir, tiene solamente un medio de la lengua.  Es igualmente importate que una persona puede comprender una conversación en la otra idoma, porque es muy probable que él tiene que hablar a personas en esa lengua.   La programa de Homeschool Spanish Academy es excelente para un estudiate aprender como todos los partes de la lengua español. Casi todas las lecciones se completó en español - desde el principío "¡Hola! ¿Como estas? Me llamo Nora, su profesora.  ¿Como se llama?"

Ok.  Está bien.  That's enough Spanish for now.  I purposely started this review in Spanish, the same as Nora, Luke's teacher, began their very first session together.  Translated, the above says:

We live in a world economy. It is very important that a United States citizen can read and write in a language other than English.  However, if a person can only read and write in this other language, he only has half the language.  It is equally important that a person can understand a conversation in this foreign language, because it is very likely that at some point he will need to speak to someone using this language.  Homeschool Spanish Academy's program is excellent for a student to learn all the parts of the Spanish language.  Almost all of the lessons are done in Spanish - from the beginning introduction, "Hi! How are you? I'm Nora, your teacher.  What's your name?"
Homeschool Spanish Academy
Homeschool Spanish Academy is the brainchild of founder Ron Fortin.  After college and a stint in the Marine Corps.,  Mr. Fortin became a corporate IT consultant.  After just 18 months of this, he found himself called to become an educator.  Where did he feel led to? A school in Guatemala that was seeking a principal.  While he was there, he also saw an opportunity to teach not just the children there, but American children, by providing quality Spanish education and tutoring to the homeschoolers he knew from "back home."  Mr. Fortin gathered certified Spanish educators from notable Guatemalan institutions, and HSA was born.  When you've been in the Marines, you know a bit about high standards, and he holds his teachers to some pretty tough ones.  All have experience in teaching, but that doesn't guarantee them a position in his company.  All teachers must pass rigorous interviews and teaching simulations, and those that earn their positions must complete ongoing English, educational, and technology training.  Parents are asked to rate their instructors, and if there are problems, retraining is done to make sure the teacher meets HSA's exacting standards.  This company isn't looking to make a quick buck; it's looking to earn the privilege of teaching your student.

The customer service team at HSA is fantastic.  First, they have put together several videos to help the prospective and current student, from "What is Homeschool Spanish Academy?" to "How to set up an account" and " How to turn in your homework." Each video is available on HSA's YouTube Channel.   When I experienced some technical issues, they returned my email with directions on how to fix the problem within a few hours.  Luke mentioned to Nora that he wanted to continue after the review period, and before I could sit down and focus on registering, we got a phone call from HSA offering to register him for me.  All I'd have to do was pay the bill (via Paypal) and schedule the times of his classes. Be my guest!

HSA offers classes for everyone, from early elementary students to adults.  When you sign up for lessons from HSA, you can choose from several intensities.  Lesson packages are offered for classes once or twice a week, and for multiple durations.  If you want to just give it a try, you can do once a week for half a semester (7 lessons) for as little as $59.99 (Elementary Students) - less than $9 per lesson!  Luke's high school level course, given to us by HSA so we could do this review, had a value of $99.99 (a still reasonable $14.28 per lesson).  Of course, if you sign up for longer commitments, the costs decrease - after this review ends, we will be continuing on (at our expense) for the full 2 lessons per week for 15 weeks (1 semester).  The cost for that package is $299.99, which works out to only $10 per class.  No, it's not "cheap" when you look at it as a $300 outlay every four months, however, for us it is a great value because  I am absolutely certain that there is no way I could hire a private tutor for him for $10 an hour.  HSA also offers a complimentary introductory class, so you can test out the program.  This video from their YouTube channel shows you what a lesson may look like.

 This price includes EVERYTHING - lessons, texts, testing, and transcripts.  HSA will hold your information on record for up to 10 years, so that it can be accessed for record information. 

With this program, we can schedule instruction at a time when it is convenient for us.  This summer, we had once weekly lessons on Wednesday afternoons. This worked because we were able to coordinate Celia's violin lessons with Luke's Spanish lessons, and I just kept our Wednesdays free from other commitments.   When I asked them about the scope of the program, it was recommended to do two lessons each week in order to complete an entire year's worth of program in two semesters, especially for high school level.  (In two 30-hour semesters, you will complete enough to earn a full credit for the year. If you do less frequent classes,  it will take longer to earn the credit.)   Luke is happy that we are able to schedule his classes while the others will be at school (or in Damien's case, during naptime), so he has the quiet he needs to focus.  HSA recommends a headset with microphone, but we had no problem using the built in speakers/microphone in our computer (we have a MacBook Air) while in a quiet room with the door shut.   Depending on your choice of instructor, you have a choice of morning, afternoon, or even evening lessons, making this a great choice for students who are otherwise unavailable during the daytime.  If my other children weren't already receiving Spanish instruction at school, this would be a great supplemental program because they could easily work after school; an adult could take evening lessons.  

Luke's teacher, Nora Aguilar, is a teacher with 8 years experience.  She is well qualified with Bachelor's degrees in Bilingual Secretary and English Teaching.     Though she especially enjoys teaching younger students, I believe she and Luke have done well together.   When I registered Luke, I looked to find a few instructors who were available at a time that worked for our crazy summer schedule.  I found three, and gave Luke his choice.  He chose Nora because she looked strikingly like his former Math teacher, whom he really liked.  Nora and Mrs. M must be separated by birth, because Nora is also very patient and kind, especially when Luke starts tripping over his words because he can't coordinate his brain and his mouth.

The curriculum itself is very strong.  We have a slightly different background than many homeschoolers; this is Luke's first year of homeschooling so he has experience with Spanish instruction on both an elementary and high school (Spanish I) level.  Luke feels that while he is re-learning a little bit of what he knows (for example, the use of ser vs estar for the word "to be," names of world countries) but in a totally different, more in-depth way.  Along with practice with "ser o estar" he has significantly expanded his vocabulary.  Despite a total of 9 years of Spanish instruction, Nora delves into a vocabulary that he's never seen.  As for countries, he had learned the basic ones and their names before, mostly those in the Hispanic world.  For example, he already knew Spain is España and Republica Dominicana was the Spanish translation for Dominican Republic.   With Nora, he has delved into a number of other countries:  Germany is translated as Alemania, and a traditional German food would be called a comestible alemán.  While he knew that the United States was called los Estados Unidos, he learned that its citizens aren't really los americanos but rather los estadounidenses.  He has also learned that while citizens of Puerto Rico are called puertorriqueños, citizens of Costa Rica are not "costarriqueños" but instead are los costariquenses. These are important differences that in the business world can make a difference between success and insulting someone.  HSA's immersion-style curriculum includes practical learning that is important for conversational skills.

Because Luke has had prior instruction, including a year of high-school-level Spanish, he is able to compare a class setting program with the 1-on-1 opportunity that HSA offers.  Though they have not been able to expedite vocabulary learning (because there are so many new words he is learning), Luke feels that the concepts of things are being taught at a pace that acknowledges he's not a complete novice.  For example, with ser o estar, Luke had to work harder at learning the vocabulary of the sentences/phrases in the unit, but flew through the concept of "ser=permanent, estar=transient." Nora still will touch on things during their class time, to practice and ensure he knows it, but will not assign that section of homework, because she recognizes it is redundant effort.  He also really enjoys having private instruction.  Last summer, he applied to test out of Spanish I and was very nearly successful - only about 8 points shy of the qualifying exam grade.  He was frustrated because he already knew quite a bit and anxious to fill in that gap between what he knew and proficiency,  yet there were students who either had never had Spanish lessons before or that just were more inclined to distract the teacher so they had less work.  He has said that having lessons with Nora means he can go at his pace.  She will answer any questions and slow down if he's struggling, but he doesn't have to wait for another student to catch on (or want to catch on).

Speaking of that bane of every student's existence...if I had a nickel for every time I asked if somebody's homework was done, I could probably pay for an Ivy League education.  Homework for HSA is very simple.  Nora usually emails when she has posted the lesson's homework.  Luke then logs into his HSA account and downloads a PDF.  It took us a little to figure out how to get it to a fill-in form - it needs to be downloaded and saved, not just downloaded and viewed in a preview.  From there, Luke was able to enter his answers in.  Most weeks, homework is a five to six page document. Half is a lesson/summary, the other half is fill-in-the-blank.  It has included "identify this picture" (vocabulary review),  conjugating verbs to agree with the subject (syntax),  and writing/responding to sentences (conversation, vocabulary, and syntax).  It is a very reasonable amount of work, even for a high school student.  It takes Luke about half an hour to complete.  He then saves it with a new file name (he adds his name to it - this way Nora can see its his before she even has to open it, plus it makes it easy for him to tell if he has completed an assignment by looking at the file name) and uploads it using HSA's upload process.

Homeschool Spanish Academy fills a definite need in our curriculum plans. Luke needs to complete a minimum of two years of a foreign language in order to receive a high school diploma in New Jersey (though realistically, having three or four would make him more attractive to colleges).   With HSA,  I think he's going to become very proficient by the end of the high school program - he thinks more so than if he was in a regular group class.

Otras familas estudiando con Homeschool Spanish Adademy.  Algunos estudiando este nivel, y otros estudiando por otros edades.  Haga clic para leer acerca de sus lecciones.

Other crew families reviewed not just High School Spanish but other levels as well.  Click to find out what they learned.    


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