I don’t very often struggle to begin a post when it involves a product review but Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids kind of has me stumped. We have been reviewing Starter Set 1 for the past few weeks, using it almost daily. There are some really good things about it but what it is that has me struggling to express is less clear.
The program is really quite straight forward – immerse yourself (or your kids) in the language of everyday settings without the aid of English and the understanding will come quicker and more permanently. This is how we all come to gain knowledge – through the use and context of the words being something we experience daily. Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids uses videos that are fully in Spanish to immerse the students in the language of everyday activities and conversation.
The goal of the program is for students to become comfortable with the Spanish language. The videos do this very well as the situations in the videos are ones that the learners experience every day – breakfast, foods, the house, having neighbors and friends, and the like. Because it is immersion, there may be quite a bit that is not understood but as the learners listen over and over, they will quickly become proficient at understanding what is going on. (For the most part – it was not until we saw the name Parker written that we understood what his name was. We thought it was Paquey.) Listening and watching over and over, providing repetition, is where the complete understanding comes from.
Now, the company describes this as an immersion program, but it is not the same as truly immersing yourself in the language all-day-every-day. It is, however, as close as you can get in any homeschool curriculum product I have seen.
WHAT COMES IN THE SET
In Starter Set 1, you receive:
- 1 video with three (3) episodes on it (Basketballs Aren’t For Breakfast, The Little Magic House, and The Little Magic House, Part 2) – these are the levels 1 through 3
- 3 Teacher’s Guides for levels 1-3
- 3 In-Flight Magazines for levels 1-3
- Flash cards for each of the levels 1-3
- Sticker set to correspond to vocabulary for levels 1-3
- Go Squish Cardgame!
HOW WE USED THE SET
We would begin each session by watching the video. The Guide has time limits on what to watch but we never found an easy way to watch only a portion of the video which meant that the very first time we watched all of the episode. After that, we watched the entire episode each time since they had already seen it and it didn’t make sense to cut it back then. After the video and the rapid review session at the end of the video, which I required the girls to answer out loud, we would choose activities from the Guide to complete.
We pretty much followed the suggested activities which included things like a geography lesson, putting the stickers on the corresponding objects, working on vocabulary words, playing “Me gusta/No me gusta”, and completing activities in the workbooks. The activities from the workbooks included some reading and writing activities, some pages to read on Peru (the country they “flew” to in the video), Spanish language idiosyncrasies, matching games, break the code games, and more. The guides have between 11 and 22 lessons with multiple activities each. If you do a complete lesson each day, this gives you approximately 12 weeks of lesson.
ME GUSTA (OR WHAT I LIKE)
This is a very straight forward curriculum. Easy to use, easy to implement, fun to do. The videos are fun and the kids really seemed to like them. They seemed to immediately begin learning and absorbing the language. The curriculum is set up like a flight (the video is the in-flight entertainment, the workbooks are the in-flight magazines, etc.) and that was kind of fun. The videos are jamb-packed with learning and information and the kids did pay very close attention, even if they didn’t understand it. The set has a lot of alternative activities that can be used or not used and they are pretty flexible in the use. For example: we used the flashcards to do matching games and to have a “can you find the ____?” hunt in addition to checking vocabulary.
NO ME GUSTA (OR WHAT I DON’T LIKE)
It quickly became too repetitive. As I said, evidently there is a place where you are supposed to stop the video. According to the Guide, you first watch 5 minutes, then 8, then the whole thing (12 minutes). It felt as though it would have terribly awkward to stop the video in the middle so I never found that stopping place, even watching for it. I figure watching it all the way through every time doesn’t hurt a thing, though. More learning, right? Except that watching the same video 11 or 12 times through gets very repetitive.
The stickers were bothersome to me. I didn’t want permanent stickers on things. Bread? No problem; that bag will eventually go in the trash. The balls? Problem because as stickers wear off they leave sticky. Stickers on apples and oranges make them inedible so we modified how we used them. I cut them out and left them on their backings. We then placed some tape on the back and stuck them to things. It worked well. I would suggest that the company visit the option of having removable clings rather than stickers.
I also was kind of baffled by the workbook, or in-flight magazines. The activities don’t go in order and they vary widely on the age-range that is capable and/or willing to do the activities. We had some activities done by Miss L who at age 10 can do some Spanish language writing and reading but almost feels like matching is below her intellectual ability. Miss J, however, at age 8 was a perfect fit for the matching activities and the ones where you circle things. The fact that you jumped around in the workbook was also hard for me to comprehend. I guess it is to make it more like a magazine but the girls seemed to have a hard time doing thing out of order in the workbook. To each their own, though, so we modified it and with the second workbook, we did it in order.
I think Starter Set 1 is a pretty good program. It is definitely the first immersion program our family has used and the girls liked learning from kids rather than grown-ups. It was fun and different. We have all learned a lot fairly quickly with the program. We have not gone very far on the reading and writing (don’t expect that with this program) but the hearing and speaking have definitely gotten better with Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids.
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