Homeschool foreign language

Choosing a language

While classical homeschooling curricula typically include Latin as the main foreign language, we feel that unless a student intends to become a specialist in ancient literature, modern languages are a more beneficial way to leverage the large investment in time and energy that it takes to learn a new language. The greatest payoff to learning a foreign language is the opportunity to interact with people in that language, preferably by spending time in a country where the language is spoken. We therefore suggest choosing a modern language spoken in places where the student may someday travel.

An important consideration in choosing a language is the availability of child-friendly learning and practice materials. Popular foreign languages such as Spanish and French have good selection of quality courses for children, and it is also easy to find children's books, videos and movies in that language to practice reading and listening comprehension. These materials are much harder to come by, or may not exist at all, for less commonly learned languages.

Unless you have a particular reason such as a family connection for learning another language, we feel Spanish works best as a first foreign language for most students in the United States. Spanish is probably the easiest foreign language for English speakers to learn. It is widely spoken within the US and worldwide, and there are plenty of learning materials and Spanish-language media for kids. Later, advanced students can enjoy the wealth of world-class literature written in Spanish.

In high school or college, your child may decide to learn a different foreign language to support study abroad or career goals. Spanish is nevertheless a useful skill for any American, and having learned Spanish will make it easier to acquire additional foreign languages later.

Learning resources

You can start foreign language exposure in kindergarten or even earlier. Young children are primed for language acquisition, and are capable of acquiring native-like pronunciation if they spend enough time engaging with a language on a regular basis.

Our curriculum uses Calico Spanish course for elementary Spanish. This is a playful video and activity-based online course for young children. As a supplement, we include Salsa Spanish, a goofy and well-made video series for beginner learners featuring a cast of muppet-like characters with storylines entirely in Spanish.

Starting in middle school, students are capable of a more analytical grammar-based approach to language learning, and we transition to Breaking the Barrier, which is designed to provide the equivalent of high school Spanish coursework to homeschoolers. This course series can be commenced in sixth grade, and completed in ninth or tenth grade.

Language practice

Once your child has finished watching the Salsa video series (and is capable of understanding most of the Spanish in them), you can begin showing movies and video programs in Spanish. Most streaming services include the option to watch popular shows and movies in foreign languages, with or without subtitles. We recommend choosing something children like enough to watch multiple times, with a familiar or easy to follow storyline and Spanish that is clearly enunciated and not too fast. (A good example is the well-made Spanish version of the animated Dragon Prince series on Netflix.) We recommend watching each video once with subtitles, then again without them as many times as you wish to reinforce listening comprehension.

If you are lucky enough to speak the foreign language your children are learning yourself, that's great! Make the effort to use the language with your children as much as possible. Children will often prefer to respond in English when spoken to in a foreign language. You can prevent this by having Spanish (or other language) only days, where all family conversation must be in the foreign language.

Another option if you do not already speak the language is to learn it alongside your child. This makes it possible for you to practice conversation in that language, as well. You may also choose to use an online tutoring service to match your child with a native speaker for conversation practice.