It’s homeschool planning season, and if you’re like the families in our Language Learning At Home Facebook group, you might already be making decisions about your foreign language study for next year. Perhaps you’re starting a completely new language or you’re looking for a curriculum that will take your child to the next level of proficiency—and if you’ve found it hard to choose between all of the options available, you’re not alone! In fact, you’ve come to exactly the right place.
Today, I’m sharing ten questions that you can ask when choosing a foreign language curriculum. Whether you’re looking online or previewing materials at a homeschool convention, if you ask these ten questions, you can be confident in your choice.
Over the next two weeks, I’ll also be providing these three practical (and extensive!) resources, so that you know ALL of the homeschool curriculum options available to you:
- A homeschool Spanish curriculum round-up;
- A homeschool French curriculum round-up; and
- A homeschool Latin curriculum round-up.
Parents have told me how much they would like to see a list of foreign language homeschool curriculums in one place, so I promise to deliver! If you’d like to be notified when these round-ups go live, feel free to sign up right here, and I’ll send you a short e-mail letting you know.
In the meantime, here are the ten questions that you can use to evaluate any homeschool foreign language curriculum:
1. Is it developmentally appropriate?
In my experience, this is the most common challenge homeschool parents face with language learning: finding a curriculum that matches their children’s developmental stage. Young children (preschool-elementary) learn languages differently from older children, so it is essential to ask this question of any curriculum that you are considering. Often, a child who is “struggling” to learn a second language might actually just be suffering a mismatch with a particular curriculum. If this is an issue that you’ve encountered, don’t worry—my curriculum round-ups will address this explicitly.
2. Does it fit our family’s language learning goals?
One family’s language learning goals may vary widely from another’s—and that’s okay! Generally speaking, however, there are three “levels” of language learning that a homeschool language curriculum can help you achieve:
If you’re simply desiring to expose your kids to foreign languages—a worthy goal in itself—then choosing a curriculum that includes the basics of that language is completely appropriate. If, however, you’re seeking for them to be proficient in a foreign language—perhaps in preparation for future studies or because you’re moving to another country—then you’ll need to find a more comprehensive curriculum. And finally, if you want your kids to be fluent, then you’ll almost definitely have to supplement your homeschool curriculum (whatever it is) with authentic language learning practice in order to create an immersive experience for your kids.
3. Does it offer enough daily practice in the target language?
If a curriculum promises to teach your student to speak a foreign language with just 15-30 minutes of practice a week…run! Luckily, I don’t know of any official homeschool curriculum on the market that makes such bogus claims. However, there are some mainstream language learning companies that try to market their products to homeschoolers and they might be willing to try selling with this tactic. In general, language learning requires at least 15 minutes of practice every day as a bare minimum (just like math or a musical instrument)—so I would have serious reservations about any product that promised results with less.
4. Does it challenge students in all areas of language learning: reading, writing, listening, and speaking?
To learn a modern language, children need practice in each of these areas. For a “dead” language, like Latin, obviously, you can skip the speaking and listening (though recitation in the language is still a useful tool for learning its grammar).
5. Is it engaging enough for my children?
Since motivation is a key part of language learning, be sure that the curriculum you choose will suit your child’s learning preferences. A child who hates sitting still will likely not thrive with a curriculum that is all bookwork.
6. Does it align with our family’s overall homeschool philosophy?
If it's very important to you to follow a particular homeschool philosophy (Charlotte Mason, Classical, etc.) then you’ll want to ensure that your language learning curriculum complements that. This is another piece of information that I’ll be including in my curriculum round-ups, so that you can have it at your fingertips.
7. How much parental involvement does it require?
If you are fluent in another language—or are interested in learning one alongside your children—then you might not mind using a curriculum that requires parental involvement. But if your language learner prefers to learn independently or, for practical reasons, you need him to, then you might want to consider a curriculum that is more open-and-go and perhaps even offers most of the teaching through a live tutor or video lessons.
8. Does it offer a cultural component for students?
This factor ties back into motivation and the purpose of language learning. While a language curriculum without a cultural learning component might be able to convey the basic principles of a language, it would be missing the bigger picture. So I like to see at least an attempt to teach some culture as a part of any curriculum.
9. Can it be used for more than one student at once?
This won’t be a concern for every family, but if you’ve got similarly-aged children who want to learn the same language, you may be able to find a curriculum designed to teach them all at once—saving you time, energy, and money.
10. Does it fit our family budget?
This factor is no less important for being purely practical! If a particular curriculum will cause too much of a strain on your homeschool or family budget, it may be wise to choose another option. There are low-cost ways to reinforce language learning that can complement any curriculum.
I hope that you’ve found these ten questions helpful—and don’t forget to check back soon for my curriculum round-ups, so that you can put them to use!
Now that I’ve shared these ten questions, do you have any that you would add? What have been the most important considerations for you when choosing a homeschool language curriculum?