Tag Archives: languages

Picta Dicta Vocabulary Builder (Latin) ~ a Crew review

Picta Dicta

Vocabulary builds on itself through many avenues, one of which is knowing the languages that English originates from. One of those languages that is a foundation for English is Latin and Miss E and I have been reviewing a product from Roman Roads Media called Picta Dicta Vocabulary Builder. This is an online program that helps introduce and build vocabulary in Latin.

Roman Roads Media has a large number of products to support a classical education in the home. The goal of Roman Roads Media to make curriculum available that is high quality, affordable, and flexible.


The Program

Picta Dicta Vocabulary Builder is a subscription (14 months) to a self-paced study of Latin vocabulary. There are currently two levels available to choose from – easy and normal. The easy level works more with the visual correlation of the printed word to the spoken word with a picture to help facilitate the connection. The normal level does the same but also adds more written – writing out forms, giving gender, participles, or genetive forms. In the easy level, there are three activities per chapter. In the normal level, there are five activities per chapter.

Normal level chapterseasy level chapters

Each chapter begins with the vocabulary. Learn is what they call this activity. There is a picture given with the word, the definition, and, when appropriate, a sentence or phrase for context. The program pronounces the word and it is expected that the student will repeat the pronunciation of the word while studying the page. After becoming familiar with the information, the student clicks the thumbs up in the bottom right corner. (I also found that a simple enter key stroke will move the program forward.)

sample of vocabulary image

There will be several words given and then a quiz feature will appear. The student completes the short quiz and then continues with more vocabulary. This will continue until the student has successfully completed the activity. There is a small icon in the upper right corner that shows the progress within that activity. This is mastery based so missing something will trigger the program to provide the student with more practice opportunities.

2018-08-28 09.03.28

After Learn comes Choose. This is another matching type of activity where the student is creating the connection between the spoken word, the written word, and the picture.

Next is Spell. This is where things start to get tricky and more difficult and where the normal level really differs from the easy one. In this activity, the student is expected to spell the word, typing it out. It goes over the word more than once when you miss it, which is helpful and really encourages the student to commit the word to memory. It takes time. I have done this lesson multiple times in chapter 1 and I am still not happy with my score.

After Spell the student takes on Forms. Enter the REALLY tricky part if you do not already know Latin forms. This is more of an experimental part for us since we don’t have any instruction in forms, yet. At least, not with these vocabulary words. But, that’s okay. It just takes longer to go through it and to learn the forms. Repetition is key here and repeating until an acceptable score is received takes time. This is not in the easy level.

The final activity is Test Forms. This is just a double check to see if you remember what you learned in the activity before. After completion, you can go back and repeat or train on any of the activities or move on to the next chapter. This is also not in the easy level.

Our Use and Thoughts

The program is simple and straight forward, though it is not easy to do. The site itself, the program? I give it a thumbs up! I find it a fun and easy way to work on Latin when I am not feeling up to a full-fledged curriculum of Latin.

image and words

Miss E, age 14 and in 9th grade, has been using this program, as well. She is spending about 20 minutes per day with the program and is progressing well. She is finding it relatively easy to work through, though the spelling and the forms are making her work. She has made it through chapter 4 and is working on chapter 5 now – basic actions. She seems to be doing well and I like that it is a Latin program that makes sense for her learning style.

The dashboard for the learner is simple to navigate. Login and then click go. It takes you right to where you left off. Even if you stopped in the middle of an activity. The thumbs up in the lower right corner will move you on to the next page that you need. There is a question mark that appears during the activity if you need some more help or review. Click on the word and the program will read it for you. If you want more practice, you click the picture of the dumb bell and it takes you to some training exercises that do not score. Log out when you are done. Easy-peasy.

The dashboard for the parent or instructor has a bit more to it but it is still simple enough to figure out. From the main dashboard, just click Go or Play to go to you own work. If you want to see how your class is doing, click on learners. It will tell you where the students are at and what their last activity was, how long they spent on it, and what their score was. You can look at those stats for the day, the week, the month or the course.


I really like this program. It is an effective way to easy a student into learning Latin that is not strong in the classical memorization styles. Our plan is to finish out the program with Miss E on the easy level, where she has been working. Then, we will start again but move her up to the normal level. (Our subscription is for 14 months so we should have time to at least work on it some.) Since you can go back and repeat, practice and train as much as is needed during this time, I am hoping to continue beefing up my own Latin vocabulary. I took Latin in high school and loved it. I haven’t had much practice with it in the years since so this has been a lot of fun for me. I definitely recommend you check out Picta Dicta Vocabulary Builder is you are working on Latin or have a student who might need a different type of Latin course. Roman Roads Media also has a couple of other products you might be interested in – another vocabulary program called Picta Dicta Natural World and a rhetoric program titled Fitting Words Classical Rhetoric.

Want to know more? Check out this video from Roman Roads Media about this program.

At Home.

Visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read other reviews on the Picta Dicta program we used, as well as the other program and the rhetoric course. Click on the banner below.


Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! ~ a Crew review

learning Biblical Greek

Greek is not a language I ever really thought would happen in our home but At Home Dad was interested. He has been using Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! – Level 3 Set for about a month and seems to be pretty impressed with the product from Greek ‘n’ Stuff.

Greek level 3

We received a package that included three items:

  • Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! A Biblical Greek Worktext Level 3
  • Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! A Biblical Greek Worktext Level 3 Answer Key
  • Pronunciation CD for Levels 3 and 4

Greek ‘n’ Stuff has a number of products that include not just the Greek language studies but also some Bible studies, such as Jonah & Ruth, I Samuel, Acts, or Esther (which are other titles the Crew is reviewing right now).

Since At Home Dad is the one who used this product, he wrote the review this time. Without further adieu, here it is:

Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek!” is a progressive, long-term study of New-Testament (not modern) Greek, designed to enrich the study of the Bible. I think we have all had a moment of wishing we could read the Bible in its original languages. While I don’t hold any illusions of becoming fluent in Greek, I have wanted some kind of self-study for a long time, and never found the time, or a way to get into it. So I was excited to get to review this product and see if it would get me started on the path.

The study is designed for children, but does have recommendations to start on Level 3 for an adult beginner student. This is what I did. Based on the types of activities included in Level 3, I would say the first few levels probably correspond to elementary students. This was not a problem for me; it is easy to take the meat from the lesson without using the “entertainment” aspects of it. Besides, I’m easily amused anyway!

That said, jumping in was not exactly easy; the review at the beginning goes very fast when it’s not review to you, and I got bogged down just trying to learn the alphabet: there’s learning the symbol, how to pronounce it, where it comes in the alphabet, and of course teaching your hand to make this particular squiggly mark! That’s not the fault of “Hey, Andrew!”, but just a matter of patience and taking the earlier lessons slowly.


By the way, the study was only organized into “lessons” after the fact, because some teachers wanted it that way. The author originally wrote it with the intention of moving at your own pace, the ideal being about a page a day plus flash card practice. At that speed, Level 3 would take about a school year. Using a “lesson approach”, it is one lesson a week for the same length. By that standard, I am at the end of the second lesson, which concludes the alphabet review, and am about to go into the new material.

So, how did I do? Am I fluent yet? Not by a long shot! There are no shortcuts with learning a language, only good or bad methods – and time. I’ve had a little over a month with the product, and am still excited about it. Life happens, though, and I haven’t used it every day like I should have. Like most things, a language becomes easier through repetition, and I have many reps to go in this study!

I received the Worktext and the Answer Key, as well as a CD that included a Greek Alphabet Song and pronunciation of vocabulary words, in lesson order. This CD seems to cover Level 4 as well as Level 3. I was not so impressed by the quality of recording; there is a lot of tape hiss. I think a newly-recorded digital recording would make the pronunciation clearer. I also didn’t think the song was very memorable, but a child might think differently. As for the Answer Key, it is basically the Worktext with the answers filled in. There is some information on guiding the study as well. Unless you are already a Greek scholar, you are going to need both books!

Things to Notice:

One thing that I noticed was a lack of grammar tools as a part of the lesson. Information on punctuation, verb tenses, accent marks, and so on are not really a part of the daily lessons. They may be part of the earlier or later levels, or this may just be the approach. There is a lot of word-by-word and phrase-by-phrase work which may not appeal to everyone. I did find the information I was looking for in the appendices, but it was pretty basic. On the other hand, learning by word and phrase is the way we all learn our first language, so I won’t knock it as a technique.

One final note: parents don’t necessarily need to study along with the student. There aren’t really any open-ended questions; everything has a “right answer”, and it is right there in the answer key for you. It does seem like it would be better, though, to do it alongside them in order to add that little bit of “lecture” that guides learning in a lot of children. There is not a lot of written instruction; it is very much a “just do it” approach. An adult wanting a crash course in Greek will probably want to look for other sources to supplement “Hey, Andrew!” for that reason.

Alrighty. Me again. One thing I will add is that if your student is using level 3 after having had some Greek already, they will also benefit from having a Greek New Testament. Hey, Andrew! recommends some copywork and daily reading in Greek from it once they become familiar with some words and phrases. (Guess I need to start looking for one for At Home Dad now that he is moving into that phase.) If you have further questions, there is a good FAQ page on the Greek ‘n’ Stuff site with a lot of good information.

I am certain that At Home Dad will continue to use this and increase his knowledge of Greek, thus increasing his ability to understand the Bible better. And that is a worthy goal.

At Home.

Visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read other reviews on Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! There are also reviews on the Bible studies for students.

Teach Me Some Greek {Greek 'n' Stuff Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

First Form Latin ~ a Crew review

First Form Latin review

Never in my wildest dream did I imagine I would have the privilege to teach my girls Latin and never did I imagine how easy it would be if I did. We have been using the First Form Latin Complete Set from Memoria Press and found this to be a wonderful curriculum.Latin text

What Is Included

First Form Latin is a complete curriculum, containing everything that is needed to lay a firm foundation in Latin. The complete set includes:First Form Latin Complete Set

  • Student Text
  • Teacher Manual
  • Student Workbook (one workbook per student is needed)
  • Quizzes and Tests
  • Answer Key (for workbook, quizzes and tests)
  • Pronunciation CD
  • Flashcards
  • 3 DVD set of instruction

When we were trying to decide if this would be a good fit for Miss E (13/8th grade), we watched the first lesson video, available on the Memoria Press First Form Latin page. From that moment, I began to hear recitations of Latin vocabulary and verb conjugations. She really grabbed a hold of the language and wanted to know more. That, to me, is a sign of both a good curriculum and a good presentation of it.

That – a good curriculum with a good presentation – is First Form Latin in a nutshell. It is a well-designed curriculum by Cheryl Lowe. It focuses on grammar forms and vocabulary. This beginning stage was simple enough for Miss E to grab hold of and understand. The presentation of the curriculum on the DVD is well done, also. Latin teacher Glen Moore walks through each of the portions of the lesson with the student, speaking clearly and explaining new information.

How We Have Been Using First Form Latin

DVDs and CDsFirst Form Latin Complete Set has been easy to implement. We start by watching a lesson on the DVD. These lessons are easy to follow for me, though Miss E struggled with it. While watching, Miss E would have her student text out so she could follow along and see the words, endings, or other things Mr. Moore was stating. Miss E said about the DVD that so much was tied to English grammar and formal names for parts of grammar that it was difficult for her to follow along. I did need to stop the DVD and explain things to her as we went along. Miss E also said that in the first lesson, she felt as though it started part way into the lesson, as though maybe she had missed something that came before. I wonder if this is due to there being previous Latin courses that this is a natural follow-up to, though this is a starting course on its own for students in 5th grade or above.

After the DVD lesson, we would pull out the flashcards and Miss E would review the new material presented in the lesson. Then she would add those cards to the flashcards from previous lessons and review all of the material she had covered.

Latin flashcards

The next day, she would begin with the flashcards, speaking out loud. These cover vocabulary, endings, reciting phrases, and probably more that I am forgetting. After going over the flashcards, we would put on the pronunciations for that lesson. Then she would do the workbook page for that lesson. We would do this for the next five lesson days, as there were generally five workbook pages for each lesson. I would check her work as she went along on the workbook page using the key provided in the Answer Key book. (I loved that it is spiral bound, making it easy to have sitting open while she worked through her pages.)

Latin workbookAfter completing the workbook pages, we would then go back to the DVDs and move on with the next lesson. In general, this is the pattern we are following. However, there have been a couple of days where Miss E did not feel completely comfortable with the verb endings or the vocabulary. So, instead of pushing forward without the comfort of knowing the material well, we spent a day or two just on flashcards and/or the pronunciation CD. This really built necessary confidence, since each lesson builds on those before it.

Miss E’s Thoughts (paraphrased by me) –

It has been fun learning Latin. I wish I understood more of the [DVD] lesson. I like learning the words but it moves so fast. I don’t always understand and remember all the words before we are supposed to move on to the next lesson. I do like the program and am enjoying getting to learn Latin.

My Thoughts –

The First Form Latin program has been easy to implement, easy to add to our day. While there are quite a few components to the program, I cannot imagine trying to teach this Latin program without everything that is included in the First Form Latin complete set. Each of the components adds to the ease of implementation. It would be nice for there to be a bit more information about how and where to include the pronunciation CD and the pronunciation practices, as well as the most effective way to implement the use of the flashcards. I do, however, feel like we have found an effective flow to the program for our family.

First Form Latin is a pleasant program and I have really enjoyed being able to add a language that I enjoyed learning for a year way back when. I am thrilled that Miss E is enjoying it. If you would like to take a closer look at this program, visit Memoria Press. On their First Form Latin page, they have a sample lesson video. There are also samples of the Student Text, Student Workbook, Teacher Manual, and Answer Key.

In addition to the reviews of First Form Latin Complete Set , other Homeschool Review Crew members have been reviewing other Latin programs. These include:

Two other programs were being reviewed during this time. They are The Book of Trees and Nature’s Beautiful Order .

In the past, we have reviewed the following from Memoria Press.

At Home.

Find the additional reviews from the Homeschool Review Crew by clicking the banner below.

Latin, Nature and Trees {Memoria Press Reviews} 

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Language Exploration – Middle School Monday


Have you ever had opportunity for your students to explore different languages or different ways of writing languages? Our local museum has a room that focuses on languages. Well, a few very select, very different languages. And Miss E loves exploring that room every time we go to the museum.


Heraldry, hieroglyphics, and pictography are the main three languages to explore here. These are not your typical “languages” but that is part of what makes these explorations so interesting. With information on their uses and templates to help you write, these languages are fun and different.


Each time we go, Miss E sits down and writes something using each of the languages. Whether it be her name or designing a shield with heraldry symbols to describe who she is, Miss E spends a lot of time absorbing and using these languages.


On the wall, we see this:


Last time we were in the museum, Miss E spent a very long time copying down much of this chart. She found it interesting to look at the changes of the letters. She also really enjoyed seeing the letters for the Greek alphabet since she is studying Ancient Greece. She found it so interesting that she copied it carefully and added it to her Ancient Greece notebook. (The review for this study from Home School in the Woods will post today, as well.)

From the many typewriters to an old-fashioned printing press to a telephone operator’s booth, there are lots of ways to explore languages that are not just studying Spanish or German or even sign language. Language is using words and symbols to communicate. And this room broadens our understanding of that.

At Home.

Spanish Class from Middlebury Interactive Languages ~ a TOS review

We have been very thankful to get to participate in a 3rd review of Middlebury Interactive Languages. We have used Spanish Courses each time and this review period Miss J (age 7/2nd grade) has been using Elementary Spanish 1 (Grades 3-5). This was a perfect fit for her considering she has completed both of the previous Elementary Spanish levels. (See our reviews from 2014 and 2015.)

Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}Middlebury is a company that has created online coursework that immerses the student in the language being learned. This is accomplished through a course that is rich in audio, video, and aural opportunities. At this level, there is very little written instruction and when it is, it is to accompany the audio giving the instruction. Everything within the lessons are structured to be highly immersive, allowing the student to experience the richness of the language.drag-and-drop-activity

Elementary Spanish 1 (Grades 3-5) is designed to promote increases in vocabulary and understanding as well as to increase pronunciation accuracy. We did not have a teacher-guided course, though it is an option at this level. The course covers the following topics:

  • family
  • numbers
  • greetings
  • adjectives/feelings
  • food
  • community professions
  • body
  • animals
  • colors
  • clothes
  • weather and seasons
  • school
  • calendar

These topics are taught through native folk stories, myths, legends, songs, and more. This not only teaches the vocabulary but it stresses the way the language is used and many points of cultural importance.


Middlebury has made some very nice changes in the navigation of the site since we first navigation-from-homepage-clipreviewed with them and this time around has by far been the easiest for navigation. My favorite change is that there is a way to navigate to the next lesson with a single click after login. You can either click “Continue My Course” and it will take you to the next lesson for you to complete. Or if you want to jump to the lesson scheduled for that day, you click on “Scheduled For Today.”  If you are right on schedule, the two options look the same. As you can see here, Miss J is not. Middlebury schedules a lesson every weekday. We have not been keeping up with that, though it is our goal.

You can also navigate the site by clicking the three bars that are in the upper left corner. That brings this dropdown menu:


The Table of Contents will take you to the lessons and you can then find the lesson you are looking for. Completed lessons have a check mark over them. You can also navigate to the Grade Book from this point.

The Grade Book has some really nice features. Remember this is the Grade Book for the course option with no teacher assistance from Middlebury. Much of the course is self-grading and you see those grades appear here. This is a shot of what the grade book looks like when you are looking at the view with tests and quizzes.


You can also click a box to get a Course Grade. Easy and simple if you need to keep grades.


The activities that the student will participate in vary widely and that is a wonderful things because it really keeps the student’s attention. When the student clicks on the “Continue My Course”, the program take the student to the end of the last lesson completed. This is what one of Miss J’s looked like:


recording-herselfAs you can see, there is a picture listing of the pieces of the lesson on the left. The completed ones have a check mark on them. There is a box to click at the bottom of that column to move to the next lesson. The activity is on the right. This particular activity was a Speaking Test on numbers. She had to click the record button and record herself saying the correct number in Spanish. She then listened to herself to check and make sure what she said was right. She them clicked on the circle in the upper right and it submitted the answers. Since this is not teacher assisted from Middlebury, the fact that she recorded for each of the activities is what it is grading, not whether or not she answered correctly or pronounced correctly.

The activities vary widely but each of them are engaging. There are stories (told entirely in Spanish), exploring the page to learn new vocabulary, coloring pages (click to color), click and drag to match, speaking labs, songs, and videos to explain cultural traditions and activities. There are most certainly other activities that I didn’t list here. It is definitely a varied approach that immerses the student directly in the language.

This immersion is a large part of what I like so much about Middlebury Interactive Languages. The student is told stories completely in the language. The songs are completely in the language. The student has to speak in the language. The vocabulary words are in the language. So much is done in the language that the student learns a lot through the exposure.

We are thrilled to be studying Elementary Spanish 1 (Grades 3-5) this year. The experience is enjoyable and much learning is going on. You know it is working when Miss J is playing outside and singing a song from her Spanish Course. It made me smile to see the way the language has become part of her.

At Home.

The Homeschool Review Crew had families working with no only the Spanish Courses but also the French Courses, the German Courses, and the Chinese Courses. Click the banner below to read about their experiences.

Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages} 

Find Middlebury Interactive Languages on Facebook, Twitter @middinteractive, and

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Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids ~ a TOS review

Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids
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 PROGRAMFL4K using workbook

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.

FL4K starter set 1


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!


FL4K videoWe 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.


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.


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.

FL4K stickersThe 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.

FL4K matching gameSUMMARY

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.

At Home.


Read more reviews from other Crew families by clicking the banner below.

Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review

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Middlebury Spanish ~ a TOS review

Middlebury reviewWhen languages fascinate, the opportunity to review an online language learning program is exciting. The youngest giggly girl loves languages and Middlebury Interactive Languages has been a great fit for her. We reviewed Middlebury previously and J used the first semester of their Elementary Spanish I, K-2. This time around she was able to complete the second semester of this course. There are a number of Spanish Courses available, from Kindergarten through high school, including an AP course.

J was just as excited this time around as she was before and insisted on completing more than one lesson each time. Most common, she completed an entire unit at a sitting. She will be going back through the lessons if time permits before the subscription runs out to help engrain the learning in her mind. But she is getting it and remembering it.

That is what happens for her when learning is authentic. What I mean by that is the learning is done true to the situations in which it will be encountered or through stories and songs and discussions. Middlebury teaches their elementary courses through themes – colors, numbers, body parts, and more. Then, using authentic stories, fables, myths and legends, the vocabulary is emphasized within the story to help the student understand and gain the context use of the words. This helps the student understand the culture while learning the vocabulary.

When the learning is authentic like this, I see the application of it happening in daily life. It is not at all unusual for J to use Spanish words to ask for something or to discuss something. No, they are not yet complete sentences but she knows and understands the words she is using. A big part of that understanding comes from the authenticity of the teaching and the age-appropriateness of the topics and themes. The immersion in the language, combined with the funny cartoon characters and variety of activities has made all the difference.

calendar theme

An Example Unit

In any given unit, the student will experience a wide variety of activities and immersion moments. Each unit begins with an exploration of the words that are the focus of the unit. Then there will be a story told entirely in Spanish with illustrations and words on the screen to help the student follow the story line. Then the student will revisit the cartoon and the movement will stop on certain scenes to help focus the student’s attention on the key words for the unit.

After this, the student will begin listening to words and matching them to a picture or setting. The student might match the written word to an audio of the word. The student might have to click on the matching picture of an audio prompt. There is a lot of verbal work with the program. The student is exposed to the pronunciation a lot during a unit, as many as 20 times or more. This is very helpful and by the end of a unit, J’s pronunciation is pretty good.

Each unit generally has at least one printable worksheet for the student to complete. There are coloring sheets, vocabulary lists, full stories, and worksheets to go along with the lessons. Most units have seven lessons.

calendar worksheetAt the end of the unit, there are tests for matching the words and phrases but there is also a speaking lab test. In the speaking lab, the student has to pronounce the words. This provides a well-rounded, experiential exposure for the student to the language and its use.

Each part of Middlebury’s unit works together to give the student a very diverse, immersion into the language and culture for a better understanding.

What You’ll Need

Middlebury is an online course. To use Middlebury Interactive Languages, you will need:

  • a computer with speakers and a microphone; and
  • a subscription to the site (either with or without a teacher; see options for Spanish Courses).

***We used this program without issue on both a relatively new desktop PC and a pretty old Mac laptop.
***For the microphone, we hooked up our video conference camera. The microphone worked with the program just fine.

microphone example

A Couple of Notes

We had some of the same issues this time around with navigation. When you log into the site, there is a fairly blank screen. Time and again, I have had to remind her where to click to find the table of contents. Then she had to remember which unit she was on. Once to this point, there are check marks that come up when you have completed a lesson (if the student remembers to click to have the activity checked) so it is easier to find which lesson of the unit you are on. I would love to see a navigation that required a lot less clicking from the initial page, especially for these younger ages. My 11 year old was more than capable of helping her get to her lessons but as a 6 year old, it was just too many clicks for her to remember.

We have really enjoyed this course, yet again. We love the interactivity of each lesson and the inclusion of cultural lessons and stories/myths/legends. It makes for a language learning experience that is remembered.

At Home.

Connect With Middlebury Interactive Languagues on social media:
Twitter  https://twitter.com/MiddInteractive
Instagram https://instagram.com/languageacademy/
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Middlebury-Interactive-Languages/141015515949753
Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/middinteractive/
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Our Crew Year Favorites

So, I am going to get this up today, even though I just got the other post up this morning. A couple of reasons, one of which is that the link up for this post closes tonight. Somehow, with all of the other stuff that we had going on, I missed that! So, you’ll get more than one post today. If you have been with us here for very long, you’ll know this is not the norm. If you are one of our newer subscribers, well – this is not the norm. I try to do no more than one a day and only 3 or so in a week.
2014 Blue Ribbon Awards
Our first year with The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew just ended and we had an amazing year, full of fantastic opportunities. To view the Blue Ribbon Winners with the entire Review Crew, click the image above to head over to the TOS blog and view all the categories. To find out our family’s favorites, keep on reading. (All links go to our reviews. They are not affiliate links.)

Literature Curriculum: Homeschool Adventure Company – The Wise Woman

Language Arts Curriculum: Moving Beyond The Page

Language Arts Supplement: Out of the Box Games

History Program: Moving Beyond The Page

Science Curriculum: Supercharged Science

Science Supplement: ScienceandMath.com

Math Curriculum: IXL

Math Supplement: Clued In Kids – Multiplication Dragon

Foreign Language Curriculum: Middlebury Interactive Languages

Fine Arts Curriculum: ARTistic Pursuits

Christian Education: Apologia – What On Earth Can I Do?

Christian Education Supplement: Egglo Entertainment

Preschool Resource: IXL

Elementary Resource: Out of the Box Games

Mom Resource: Apologia – Flourish

Best Resource I Didn’t Know I Needed: My Student Logbook

Best Digital Resource: IXL

Favorite Book, Audio Book, Audio Drama: Heirloom Audio Productions – Under Drake’s Flag

Just For Fun: Clued In Kids

E’s Favorite (age 10): Heirloom Audio Productions – Under Drake’s Flag

L’s Favorite (age 8): Out of the Box Games – Snake Oil

J’s Favorite (age 5): Curiosity Quest

Our All Around Favorite: Apologia – What On Earth Can I Do?

We had two other favorites that we just couldn’t put anywhere on the voting so I am going to call them Family Favorites. They are both amazing resources and I am thankful we have them around.

Family Favorite #1: Maestro Classics

Family Favorite #2: Spelling You See


Thanks for joining us for our first Crew run. We hope you will around. Our second Crew run is about to begin and it promises to be just as amazing as our first. At Home.


A Review: Middlebury Interactive Languages

Middlebury title

“Hello.” (with more emphasis)
“Hola.” (with equally more emphasis)
“Hello. Hello. Hello.” (said in frustration)
“Hola. Hola. Hola!” (said with enthusiasm and understanding)

With this exchange in the first lesson, J was hooked on Middlebury Interactive Languages. J has been wanting to learn another language, preferably Spanish or Hawaiian, since her sisters are learning those languages. However, programs we have experienced are not easily accessible to a pre-reader or early reader. She was ecstatic when Middlebury Interactive Languages came up. It has been a great fit.

Middlebury Interactive Languages ReviewJ on computerJ is using one of the Spanish Courses, specifically Elementary Spanish 1, Grades K-2. She is using the course without a teacher but there is an option with a teacher. I do not know the details of the differences in the program when you add a teacher. She is five years old and working at a K/1 level so she fit this age group well. Middlebury has done an excellent job of exposing the students to a lot of vocabulary in the immersive approach that they employ in their programming.

An immersive approach to language learning implies that the students will be surrounded by that language and it will be the primary focus of the learning that happens. Each unit contains an story, myth, or legend from a Spanish-speaking culture and the materials for that unit are built on the story, myth, or legend. The K-2 lessons focus mainly on vocabulary. The student learns these words through stories, songs, games, and various practice activities. Middlebury uses the immersive approach effectively. You can read more about Middlebury’s use of the immersive approach and their development of these lessons on their website.

Some Kid-related Information

The very first lesson J logged onto began with a click-to-color activity on greetings. Next, she saw a folk tale told entirely in Spanish. It was illustrated with cartoon characters and the words (in Spanish) were on the screen as they were said. It was done in such a way that she paid a lot of attention to it. She picked up several words and their meanings just by watching that folk tale. She was also exposed to some important elements of the culture. In order to ensure that the student understood the elements that were the focus, there was a review and a repeat of the folk tale. This was followed by three practice activities using the greetings from the folk tale in different ways. The lesson ended with a speaking lab where the student can listen to the word or phrase, record their own speaking, and compare their pronunciation.


Two of the pages to print out and complete.

Throughout the lessons that J has completed, the activities have been varied. Some of the activities and teaching modes used have been a video, click-and-drag activities, coloring pages to print off and use, click-to-activate activities, putting things in order, worksheets to print off and complete, answering questions, speaking labs, and more. The variety of activities has been a definite bonus and has helped a lot in making this a program that J enjoys using. She looks forward to using Middlebury because within each lesson there are a minimum of 5 different activities.

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

One example of the activities that the student is given.

Each lesson includes what is called a speaking lab. This is an activity that includes a button to click on to hear the program speak the word or phrase. Then it is the student’s turn to record their voice saying the same word or phrase. To do the recording, we used a Logitech camera that plugs into a USB port and has a built in microphone. It worked well on our desktop computer. We would just plug the camera in, hit record and then click allow (only had to click this the first time after it was plugged in), and then speak to be recorded. J really liked having the microphone available to record herself and listen to her pronunciations. She seems to have a pretty good ear for languages and was able to correct some of her pronunciation just by listening to the program and them listening to herself. This was one of the bonuses of Middlebury.

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

An example of the Speaking Lab.

 Some Grown-up Information

Middlebury Interactive Languages has a dashboard where you can access the lessons via the calendar or the table of contents, as well as accessing the grade book. For our family, the grade book was not very important. It does show the grade for activities that are graded. They are graded by whether or not the student got the answers correct and it doesn’t affect the student’s ability to move on. If you have a need to see each activity and the date it was completed on, you have to make sure that you check the box “show course work” in the upper right hand corner or you will only see the quizzes and tests. If you need to be able to print a grade report, you have that ability. The only “complaint” that I have about the dashboard is that it is awkward. It is not intuitive to use but it is not all that hard to figure out.

One other thing that was a little bit strange is the way the lessons were scheduled. Middlebury suggests 2 – 3 lessons per week for K-2. For us, the lessons were scheduled on the calendar with five a week. This means that if we looked at the calendar, we were behind. Additionally, that shows up on the grade report. It shows as a due date and a completed date for the course work. This means that the student’s dates will be show up as late after the first day. I don’t know if this is typical scheduling for Middlebury or not. It didn’t bother us at all but is just something to be aware of.

Middlebury Interactive Languages is an online course. You will need a computer with internet access to be able to use this course. For the Elementary Spanish 1, K-2 course, the microphone is optional but definitely made a difference in the experience. You will also need to register and pay for the course of your choice. The Spanish Courses differ in cost. The Elementary Spanish 1, K-2 course is $119 for one student for one semester without a teacher.

worksheetThis is definitely a well-liked program here. J asks all the time to be able to do a lesson. Of course, that distracts E who wants to be a part of the lessons. She is ten and in the 5th grade but these lessons are still fun for her to do and be a part of. We try to schedule the lessons so that J can run the computer and answer the questions with E sitting beside her. But, if we can’t do that, E just comes and redoes a lesson. That is easy to do by just clicking the lesson from the table of contents or calendar and starting it over. It is not graded after the first time a student goes through the activity but that didn’t matter for our purposes.

So, Spanish will continue in the lesson plans with J and E enjoying the unique way Middlebury presents the language. At Home.

You can connect with Middlebury Interactive Languages on social media through the following links.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Middlebury-Interactive-Languages/141015515949753
Twitter: http://twitter.com/MiddInteractive
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/middinteractive/
Google +: https://plus.google.com/b/110371351490550861545/110371351490550861545/posts

To find out about other courses offered by Middlebury Interactive Languages, please visit the TOS Review Crew blog by clicking the banner below.

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A Review – Mango Languages


Mango Languages has turned our house it a place that sounds like this:
E: Aloha! Pehea ‘oe?
L: ¡Buenos días! Estoy bien, gracias. ¿Y usted?
E: Maika’i au, mahalo.
L: Que tenga un buen día.
E is learning Hawaiian. L is learning Latin American Spanish. I am trying to keep up with both of them. And J is learning both by osmosis, doing tons better than me, and mumbling in whatever languages appeal to her at any given moment as she practices. All 3 giggly girls are loving it and it makes my heart sing to hear them growing in such unique ways.

Mango Languages Review

What Is Mango Languages?

We have been using and reviewing Mango Homeschool Edition, which is created by Mango Languages. This is a language homeschool curriculum. They have been around for a few years but you wouldn’t have necessarily found them in the homeschool arena. You might have heard of Mango before and found them in your local public library. They have had a product for language learning that many have used successfully from the library. They have now stepped into the homeschooling language learning market with Mango Homeschool Edition.

Mango Homeschool Edition is different from the public library edition in some very significant ways. First of all, as of this writing, there are 61 languages available in the Homeschool Edition but only a fraction of those are available in the library version. In the Homeschool Edition, you have access to all of the languages for the duration of your subscription and can work on more than one at a time. Also, the library only has one level of any given language, while the Homeschool Edition will take you through as many levels as they have available. (An example is that Latin American Spanish has 3 levels and only one is accessible at the library.) Additionally, there are community features (forums and discussion panels, files for printing) that are not available in the library edition.

As Mango grows, their product will expand and change, and, I expect, get even better. For the purpose of this review, we were working with a version that had the community features accessible, the files accessible, and the lessons. One of the big pieces missing for the review and that I am excited to see when it becomes available is a way to track student progress, both in the lessons completed and how the student did on tests, where tests are available. (Not every languages has tests available at this time.) They are currently developing a way to set and track personal goals and create individual lesson plans. Mango has these pieces in development at this time and expect to be adding these this spring.

How to Get Mango Languages

You can visit Mango Homeschool Edition at their website http://MangoLanguages.com. You can also find them on various social media outlets such as Twitter: https://twitter.com/MangoLanguages,
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/mangolanguages/, and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MangoLanguages.

The current, introductory pricing model is as follows:
1 subscription is $18/month or $125/year total
2 subscriptions is $28/month or $175 /year total
3 subscriptions is $38/month or $225/year total
4 subscriptions is $48/month or $275/year total
5 subscriptions is $58/month or $325/year total
Anything over 6 subscriptions is a special group rate that will depend on the number in the group.

Each person learning a language needs their own subscription. These family packs offer a substantial savings, as does choosing an annual payment over the monthly payment options.

What Age Range Does Mango Fit

Mango tells us that this program is appropriate for ages 6 through adult. My personal opinion is that this is style of learning is acceptable only for someone who is comfortable reading English first and the age of this can vary from child to child. Age 6 is the low end of the age range for who this program will work for and, really, I feel 7 is probably more accurate. Once English can be read comfortably, this program could be a good fit and it is definitely appropriate up through adult.working on mango

How We Used Mango

For us, each person in the family has their own account. J, the youngest giggly girl, has not actually used hers. J is an emergent reader at this point, so it is not a good fit for her. L is using her account to learn Latin American Spanish. E is using hers to learn Hawaiian. She is also planning to start Latin American Spanish before too long. I am using mine to keep up with the Hawaiian and Latin American Spanish that the other two giggly girls are learning. Daddy is using his to learn Latin American Spanish, which will benefit in his job.

When it is time for a Mango lesson, the giggly girl logs onto her own account, clicks through to her community (the term Mango uses for the languages learning space and lesson – each languages has its own community), and logs into her language. From there, she begins working on the lesson. I would sit with the girls through each of their lessons, partly to know where they are, partly to hear how they are progressing, and partly to attempt to keep up with them.

The lessons are audio/visual flash cards, where you control the speed of change with a click of the mouse. Each lesson begins with a conversation between two people being spoken out loud and highlighted on the screen in the language, so you can see and hear at the same time. From there, each card has a word or phrase, some new and some review, read aloud for the student to repeat. Sometimes it is in the language; sometimes it is English. Some of the cards have cultural information that affect how you use the word or phrase being worked on. For the lesson, you click through the flash cards and listen and repeat.

Here is a good example of how the audio/visual flash cards appear on the screen.

Mango Languages Review

Something I really liked about this set up is the constant ability to hear the word or phrase. You can click on button on the screen and it will repeat it. You can click on the word or phase and it will tell you what it is in English. You can click on a different button and see switch between the literal or common translation of the word or phrase. This is also where you can use a microphone to check your pronunciation against the pronunciation of the speaker. (A microphone is not necessary but it is helpful. We saw the girls’ pronunciations grow by leaps and bounds when they started using it. We did not go buy a microphone. We used the video camera that we can plug in through a USB port. There is a microphone built into the camera and Mango recognized it.)

To use the microphone, you click on the little microphone icon. The student then clicks record, waits for the countdown, and the speaks the word or phrase. From there, the student can play back their own voice, the voice of the native speaker, compare the visual interpretation of the sound waves for the two voices, or playback both voices at once. The girls loved this feature! E especially had lots of fun trying to match the sound waves on every single word or phrase where it was available. And, as I mentioned above, we saw huge growth in their pronunciation when they started playing with this feature.

voice recognition

We repeated each lesson more than once to help the girls with retention and pronunciation. The lessons do a great job of review and building on previous learning but we just felt more comfortable repeating lessons. Some of the early lessons were repeated 4 times, especially in Hawaiian, because it is a new sound to our ears with different emphasis and pronunciation of sounds.

Another thing we did to assist the girls in learning and to help this be a portable program for us was to make physical flash cards for each of the words and phrases. We do not have any tech devices that can access the web on the go. If for some reason, we didn’t get a Mango lesson done before we needed to leave the house, we could grab the flashcards and take our lesson with us. The girls worked on flashcards in the car and in the waiting room at dance class. Sometimes, we did the flashcards while waiting for another giggly girl to finish her Mango lesson. These were a definite bonus for us!

Our Recommendation

Mango Homeschool Edition has been a nice addition to our homeschool routine and learning. We will definitely be continuing to use it for the girls’ language program. It has been fun for the girls and they have grown with their confidence. We definitely think this has been a great benefit to our family.

If you are looking for a language program, I highly recommend that you visit Mango Languages at http://MangoLanguages.com to view more information about their product and to sign up. Join us in a learning community for language. At Home.

Want to learn more and read what others have to say about Mango? Click on the Review Crew banner below to visit the Review Crew home. Then click on the button there to see many other families’ view on Mango.

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