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For the past two weeks, I’ve been writing about consistency on the blog, offering five steps to boosting consistency in your language learning and advice on how to keep language learning going when you’re in homeschool survival mode. Today, I’d like to talk about another strategy that can help you be more consistent with your language study: outsourcing it.
Why Outsource Your Homeschool Language Learning?
There are so many great reasons that a homeschooling family might choose to outsource foreign language study. Take a look at this list—do any of these apply to you?
You don’t feel like you have the time in your day to add in formal language lessons.
You don’t know a foreign language yourself and don’t have time to (or want to!) learn.
You’re having trouble finding resources for the language your child wants to study.
You have a new baby in the house and just need to focus on basics for a year.
Your child is gifted at languages and needs someone who can really challenge them.
Your child struggles with languages and needs an experienced teacher with new ideas.
Your child doesn’t want to learn a language with you, but will take instruction from others.
If this sounds familiar, know that all of these are completely legitimate reasons to hand over your foreign language study to someone else. There’s no shame in this—in fact, outsourcing the subject might be the best way to study it in your homeschool.
Here are a few creative ways that you can effectively “outsource” language learning in your homeschool.
Live Online Classes
These are a great option for children who are middle school-aged and up—actually, along with in-person classes and tutoring, I would consider these the gold standard for language learning. Online classes for homeschoolers often enroll less students than traditional language classes, so students get plenty of time to practice the language! If you have a more reserved child, an online environment can also help him or her to feel less self-conscious when speaking a new language—which I think is great! A number of homeschool curriculum companies now offer online classes in Spanish, French, Latin, and other languages. These include:
Classical Academic Press’s Scholé Academy (Latin and Spanish)
The Well-Trained Mind Academy (Japanese, Spanish, Latin, German, French)
Memoria Press Online Academy (Latin, Greek, French)
Veritas Press Academy (French, Spanish, Latin, German, Greek, Mandarin)
La Clase Divertida’s Online Classes (Spanish)
Outschool (many different languages)*
By the way, if you are considering enrolling your children in any of these online academies, be sure to start your research now! Many offer early-bird discounts for registering in February or March, and I’d hate for you to miss those.
*One thing about Outschool, at risk of stating the obvious: anybody can sign up to teach on Outschool, so the quality of their teachers can vary. Make sure to read your reviews before you sign up.
Online tutoring provides a customizable, one-on-one learning environment for your children—and thanks to the Internet, it’s actually incredibly affordable! Working with a tutor, you can set your family’s language learning goals, decide on a study schedule, and even have him or her tailor the content of the course to your child’s interests. This is an especially good option for students who are interested in a language that is less commonly studied, like Korean or Polish.
Our family has actually outsourced some of our Portuguese learning through the website iTalki, where my older son is working about once a week with a tutor. iTalki has experienced tutors in every language, and many of these tutors are actually professional language instructors in their home countries. iTalki’s prices vary by tutor, but are often quite affordable—we pay about $10/hour for our lessons, and I would say that’s typical. We’ve also been able to find a tutor who’s available during my toddler’s naps—the only realistic time to do these lessons—and I appreciate that convenience!
A quick caveat: I’ll say from experience that online tutoring is most successful when homeschool parents are involved in the tutoring relationship. You may need to interview several tutors in order to find one who is a good fit for your child, and if you have young children (as I do), you’ll likely want to attend their lessons alongside them. You might also need to provide the tutor with some guidance as to what kind of language practice your child needs, so that they can sync up with the curriculum that your child is using at home. While online tutoring is a great innovation in 21st-century language learning, it does take a bit of legwork on the parents’ part to ensure that it’s a success.
However, if you need a truly hands-off tutoring situation, and are willing to pay a bit more, there are a few other options. For younger kids, you can look into PandaTree (which offers classes to young children in Mandarin and Spanish) and Kids’ Club Spanish School. I don’t have personal experience with either of these companies, so I can’t speak to the quality of their classes, but they’re worth checking out!
Foreign Language Playgroups and Co-op Classes
If you live in a big city, chances are that you can find a foreign language playgroup for your young children on Meetup.com. If nothing is available there, make it happen yourself! Connect with other parents on local homeschooling Facebook groups or even on Nextdoor.
Extracurriculars in the Target Language
If your child has a passion for art or music, why not help him develop that talent while also improving his foreign language skills? If you have access to a native speaker who can teach your child’s favorite subject in the target language, by all means, hire that person!
This is a strategy that we’ve taken in our own family. Since our son is passionate about both visual art and classical music, I’ve found ways to “outsource” those areas of his education to skilled, Spanish-speaking teachers. For his fifth birthday, for example, his big “gift” was a series of art classes with a native Spanish-speaking friend of ours, who is both an artist and trained architect. As far as music appreciation goes, I’ve “outsourced” a large amount of this to high-quality podcasts, namely Allegro Mágico and Música en familia. We’re all learning together as a family, in Spanish, and I don’t have to come up with lessons on my own. Triple win.
Obviously, this kind of outsourcing won’t replace actual language instruction, but it is a great way to cultivate an immersive language learning environment in your home. And please, keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to pay for this kind of instruction—there some amazing free resources online. I’ve been particularly impressed with the wealth of classes that I’ve found
on YouTube. Here’s just a few that you might want to check out for your own kids:
Dibu clases: Drawing classes in simplified Spanish, for preschool and up
Rincón útil: Spanish-language STEM projects, for older kids
Ideas en 5 minutos: Crafts and experiments for kids in Spanish, for preschool and up
Culture classe: Art history, world history, and geography classes in French, elementary and up
La Cuisine est un jeu des enfants: Cooking classes in French, elementary and up
And by the way, because all of these classes are in video format, they’ll be useful even for children who are not fluent speakers of the target language. Whatever they miss in vocabulary, they’ll be able to understand through the visuals.
In Conclusion: Embrace Your Options, Avoid Overwhelm
Now that you’ve heard all of these ideas, you know that there are outsourcing options for every homeschool family, at every price point. If you’ve been avoiding studying foreign languages in your homeschool because you find the idea overwhelming or because you’re worried about staying consistent with it, look into these resources! Even if you’re a native speaker of another language and perfectly comfortable teaching your children, we all need a little outside support sometimes. If that’s your situation, know that these can be helpful to you too. No matter where you are on your language learning journey, you don’t have to do it alone—bring in these resources to enrich your children’s education and take some of the burden off of you.
Are you outsourcing language study in your homeschool? What resources are you using—and have you found them effective?