Building Foreign Language into our School Day

by Dawn Oaks on October 27, 2016 · 0 comments


So many students are really resistant to fulfilling the high school graduation requirement for foreign language studies.  For this reason, I was thrilled to be a part of the Homeschool Review Crew‘s review of Middlebury Interactive Language‘s Middle School Chinese I.  My hope was that in getting a jumpstart on foreign language while still in middle school that it would be a much smoother transition in high school.  We have not done foreign language consistently in our homeschool.  Our son that reviewed this program was also part of our review of Middlebury’s Elementary Chinese I program.  So when given this second chance a few years later, he actually was thrilled. I think we are moving in the right direction….

What We Received:

For this review, our family received a user account for one student to use the Middle School Chinese I course.  This course is designed to be completed within a semester so we therefore were given a 6 month subscription.  Included in the subscription is the course content and the parent dashboard.

Our son used this course primarily on our family computer.  However, there is an app that can be downloaded on mobile devices for use on the go.  We did download the app on to our iPad for days when our family had more technology needs than could be accomodated by our one computer.  The software was fully functional on both devices.  Our son could also pick up right where he left off since this is an online resource.

How We Used This:

This is a curriculum that is truly done independently by the student.  Our son knew how to log into his account and it would take him directly to where he left off.  At times, he would click on the Table of Contents in the left sidebar, just because he is the type of kid that is always asking, “How much more?”  He does not mind doing the work, but likes to visually see his progress.

Each lesson took approximately 30-45 minutes to complete, which I felt was extremely reasonable at the Middle School level.  He found he could concentrate better and hear better if using headphones with a built-in mic.  I think this really did help him in blocking out background noise.  This was critical in that the program incorporates lessons which reinforce reading, writing, and speaking the language.  The Chinese program has an extra layer due to the nature of the language.  Traditional written Chinese has characters and symbols that are not like our alphabet.  Josh did learn to read the traditional Chinese as well as select the properly written words for sentences and in response to listening exercises.  For the written part of the language study, the program does have the alphabet based translation of the traditional symbols.  This enabled him to be able to type the words out as well.

In addition to the academic study of the language, its syntax, and speaking of it, our son was also introduced to the culture of China as it was embedded into the lessons. I honestly think this was his favorite part of the program.

So What Did We Think…

Middlebury Interactive Languages gets two thumbs up. The first for the learning that I saw happening and the second for creating a genuine interest in our son in foreign language studies.  Having a parent dashboard definitely allows the parent to know exactly what has been completed and the level of mastery that the student has accomplished.  Our son also knew how he was doing as each screen of work that he accomplished was graded before he moved on.  He did have the opportunity to redo lessons to help build mastery.  Like math, foreign language does build on itself so mastery is very important. Most of the time, I actually did not even go into the dashboard as our son was excited to share what he was learning.  He knew that he was acquiring mastery of a new language; there was no question.

Life presents itself with enough battles.  Finding a foreign language program that my son will do without a battle almost makes it a winner on that fact alone.  He not only recognized that he was learning to speak and read Chinese, but was excited about it.  He is a child that likes to look toward the future and had already put the pieces together in realizing that this was paving the way to easier and more successful foreign language studies in high school.

We have thoroughly enjoyed this review and will be continuing on with Middlebury Interactive Languages.  It seems to be such a good fit for our son that I would see us continuing to extend our subscription through his high school years.  Chinese is not the only foreign language to choose from.  Middlebury also offers courses in Spanish, French, and German.  These are offered at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels with multiple courses at each level.  Additionally, there are course offerings for AP French and Spanish.

If you are interested in a different grade level or language, please be sure to check out the other reviews from the Homeschool Review Crew.

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

Crew Disclaimer

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Traveling Back

by Dawn Oaks on October 24, 2016 · 4 comments


Coming back to writing has been a long time in getting here.  It hasn’t been a lack of things to write about, but so many different detours and side roads in life that it has honestly left me searching. Searching for directions.  Searching for answers.  Searching to make sense of all of the thoughts and feelings that each new challenge has brought to the surface.

During this past year, we have been adjusting to changes in our parenting.  We thought we faced challenges when our children were little.  No one really tells you about how that changes when you start parenting adult children.  And yes, you are still needed in a parental role as your children enter adulthood.  Their needs are different and the level to which you are actively involved in their decision making also changes.  It is a whole new ballgame with new rules.  And of course, the rules and needs vary from child to child.  Isn’t that just how life seems to roll? Changes and adjustments for everyone!

Our homeschool has changed.  We are now down to half of our beginning enrollment and a unisex school.  Just the boys and I!  Yes, it does matter.  Helping them grow into the men God is calling them to be is quite different in some ways than educating and raising our girls.  Our sons are yearning to be independent and taking on more control, decision making, and leadership.  These are all wonderful qualities and ones they will certainly need in becoming the heads of their own households some day.  However, it is a real balancing act right now in also still being under my authority in the schoolroom.  We are learning how to balance this and still allow them to flourish and grow.  Yes, mom is certainly going through a lot of growing  pains as well.

With all of this growth, we are seeing our “workforce” around the house and farm coming of age in taking on more responsibility, but also gaining wings and leaving for the next phases of their lives.  With two now in college and a young man beginning employment off the farm, we are feeling the changes in how we address the needs here at home.  Gary and I are also realizing that our kiddos are not the only ones aging so we feel like we are in a transition plan of sorts and really evaluating what God has for us in the coming years.  Part of this transition has been a rekindling of my professional life in taking on the role of Director of Advertising Sales with The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.  Being a virtual organization, it provides me with the opportunity to work from home.  However, it also comes with challenges of being here, but not here when my family needs me.  As with any job, these responsibilities that must be fit into our daily routine and sometimes last minute adjustments as needs arise.

Uncertainties? Questions? Worries? Confusion???

We find ourselves once again at a crossroads of sorts in feeling as if we have more questions than answers.  More uncertainties than firmly established plans.  So what is a person to do?

Just as our earthly bodies remind us that things are changing and not as solid as they once seemed, we are facing a future that does raise many questions.  We honestly are struggling.  According to the American Dream, we should be at the prime of our lives, preparing for retirement at seaside property, and having all the answers for our children and grandchildren as they come around in the coming years.  In using this as the measuring stick for success, I am sad to have to report that Gary and I are miserable failures.  But there is something that I am beginning to learn that may be a greater truth of golden value to carry us through our golden years.

We aren’t meant to have all the answers….

I have come to the determination that we really aren’t meant to have all the answers.  God is faithful to provide slivers of truth and direction as we seek Him, but we will never have all the answers.  Answers that reveal total security in how our needs will be met for years to come.  Answers to the most meaningful ways to spend the rest of our years.  Answers to just how our kids will turn out and who will they grow to be.  Answers to so many questions and prayers that feel unheard in the here and now.

This is the thing about having all the answers.  When we feel like we have it all under control, just know the next thing to do, and exactly how things will turn out, we lose all sight of our need for our Heavenly Father.  The most dreaded part of watching our children grow up is not feeling needed any more.  We so very much want them to be wonderful capable adults, but realize that as they do we are no longer needed in the same way.  It is in these days of such uncertainty and what feels like more than our fair share of questions without answers that my heart yearns more and more for long discussions over a hot cup of tea with my mom and seeking God’s Word for insights and direction.

In coming full circle and back on the main road from all of the detours, I can say that I am beginning to find comfort in questions without answers.  For it is in the seeking that I am forced to find answers from God the Father and learning more about who He really is.  These very truths are changing and molding me for a day when I will enter His courts with praise and worshiping He that sits on throne.  After all, the work He is doing in each of us unto completion is not to be successful according to the standards of this world, but for life everlasting in complete fellowship with Him.  This world is not our home!

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Summer Reading Adventure ~ Product Review

July 17, 2016

I would imagine by now that it is not a well hidden secret that we are a family that loves to read.  We incorporate great literature in our studies, but there are also times that we just love to snuggle up for some pleasure reading.  Our latest review is from Shiloh Run Press with their […]

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Forbrain – A New Technology for our Homeschool

July 5, 2016

From the moment I knew that our family would be reviewing the Forbrain headset from Forbrain – Sound for Life Ltd, the wheels in my brain began to really turn as to how we would push it to the limits.  The company’s website touted that it had applications for short term memory improvements, increases in […]

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When Counting Your Blessings is Hard

June 26, 2016

I was sitting in church this morning and was hit with a memory as if it was something that happened just yesterday.  In actuality, it was really 10 1/2 years ago. Our youngest had been involved in a accident that caused part of one of his fingers to be amputated.  It was a surreal moment […]

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Our Homeschool Year in Review 2015 – 2016

June 24, 2016

  The 2015-2016 school year has certainly been one of transitions and accomplishments from start to finish.  We have seen firsts and lasts.  We have cheered and cried.  And yes, we have learned some things along the way. Our school year actually kicked off with moving Rucia into her new life at college. Once we […]

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Check out Math – the LearnBop Way

June 22, 2016

We recently had an opportunity to review a new Math supplement and found ourselves questioning whether it couldn’t really be a full math curriculum.  When this opportunity first arose, I really was convinced that there are small variations, but most math programs are the same. I now stand corrected. We reviewed the LearnBop for Families […]

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Traditional Logic from Memoria Press ~ A Product Review

May 23, 2016

Those of you that have been following our homeschool journey over the years know that our family does not stick to one strict method of homeschooling.  In being more eclectic in our approach, I love to get to know what companies can be depended upon as we reach into Classical Education, Charlotte Mason, and other […]

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Saturday Happenings on the Farm

May 7, 2016

So many times friends are intrigued about life on the farm.  Today’s happenings include trimming and weeding our little blackberry and raspberry orchard.  Phase 2 of this project is bringing in materials to start building raised beds around them.  This will eventually be filled with wonderful organic black platinum mulch supplied by the wonderful ladies […]

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Kwik Stix – A New Flare in Painting {A Review}

May 4, 2016

We were pleased to receive the Kwik Stix 12 pk from The Pencil Grip, Inc to review.  It is always a lot of fun when you can get creative with a review and creative is exactly what we got. I have to say that I am one of “Those” parents.  I listen to friends chat about […]

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