Foreign Language with Middlebury Interactive

by Dawn Oaks on October 2, 2015 · 0 comments

Tackling foreign language study in middle school was not on the plan this year.  However, my son was so excited to have an opportunity to study German that we plunged into Middlebury Interactive Languages digital foreign language program.  Our review will specifically focus on his experience in using the Middle School German 1 course from Middlebury Interactive Languages.

The Program:

Middlebury Intereactice Languages is an on-line interactive program that teaches students foreign language skills.  These include being able to read and speak the language as well as teaching things about the culture.  During this review period our son, who is at the 6th grade level for his other coursework, worked in the Middle School German 1 course designed for students in grades 6-8.  Middlebury Interactive has courses appropriate for Elementary, Middle School, and High School students. The languages offered through this company include Spanish, French, German, and Chinese. The classes that we have looked at are all designed to take a full year of study to complete. The level I courses at each grade breakout do not expect any prior knowledge of the language in order to be successful.

How The Program Works:

The German I course was broken up into units based on different topics.  This was largely driven by vocabulary subjects, such as clothing, food, greetings, etc.  Each of these units then contains daily lessons where the student is focusing on not just the vocabulary, but also learning about grammar, word order, and the culture of the people.  The lessons vary as new material is presented and reviewed.  Students have exercises that help to reinforce vocabulary skills, reading comprehension, speaking and diction, and writing.  Because their ability to speak the language is an integral part of the program, students do need to have some sort of microphone connected to their computer.  Our son used a headset that enabled him to clearly hear the lesson content and also speak back into the program.

The program provides immediate feedback to students on how they are doing.  This is a self paced course, which means that your student can work at a pace that is comfortable to him.  All sections of the course remain open so it is possible to go back and review lessons or redo them if a greater level of mastery is sought.

In the upper left corner of the console, there is a button that activates a drop down menu that allows you to access the table of contents of the course as well as the stored gradebook for easy reference.  Most assignments are automatically graded by the software.  There are some assignments that must be graded by either the parent or a teacher.  This program can be purchased with the option to have a teacher from Middlebury Interactive oversee your child’s progress and grade these assignments.  This service is purchased at an additional cost.

Within the gradebook, you can generate a summarized grade report.  However, if there was one area of the program that I would encourage further development, it is in the area of record keeping, especially as you move from middle school into high school.  As a homeschool parent that keeps documentation of my child’s work, it would be helpful to be able to print a copy of the table of contents or scope & sequence of the course as well as a more detail grade report.

Our Overall Impression:

We reviewed the Elementary Chinese I from Middlebury Interactive Languages last year with our son.  Our previous review can be found here.  When our son heard that we had an opportunity to review another course, he was very excited about trying out a new language and specifically requested German.  I bumped him up to the middle school level because of his age.  He was able to be successful with the lessons, but it did definitely take more effort than the elementary course.

Overall, I feel that this is a very solid program in teaching foreign languages to students of all ages.  The decision to pay the additional fee to have the added teacher feature is completely up to the individual family.  I could see it being more beneficial at the high school level and if your child was really super serious about foreign language study.  The majority of the assignments are automatically graded by the software and do give a good indication of how your student is doing. If functionality could be added to the grade book to print these individual assignment grades it would be a real winner for documentation purposes as you no longer have access to your child’s work after your subscription expires.

The best part of all is that both last year and this year, our son has enjoyed doing this and it is one subject that we have not had to pester and bicker over getting his work done.  That says a lot all by itself in this mama’s book!

As always, I do encourage you to check out the reviews by others on the Homeschool Review Crew.  There are families that have used various levels in each of the foreign languages, so you will probably find additional information specifically on the language and level of study you might be considering for your children.

 Middlebury Interactive Languages Review
Crew Disclaimer

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Game Night with USAopoly

by Dawn Oaks on September 30, 2015 · 0 comments

Racing to meet the UPS driver is a fairly common occurrence in a homeschool family that does product reviews.  However, when those reviews involved things for Family Fun Night and don’t feel like curriculum, the kids don’t watch for that big brown truck they begin to stalk it.  That was certainly the case with this latest review from USAopoly when they sent us Tapple and Wonky to try out.


The USAopoly company specializes in creating games and puzzles that provides hours of laughter and fun for the whole family while also using critical thinking skills.  Shhhhh… Don’t tell the kids that last part, because they will never otherwise know that these games area about anything other than fun.

USAopoly has common names in family fun games such as Risk, Monopoly, Jenga, Cranium, Yahtzee, and Clue.  Each of these games are available in different versions.  For example, there is a version of Risk that is completely based off of the popular series, Doctor Who.  They also have games that are not as well known, but need to be because of the overall fun factor that they create in your home.  These games are truly addictive!


Tapple is a fast paced word game designed for ages 8 and above.  The game can be played by 2 to 8 players at a time so it is the perfect game for both family fun night as well as a small party!  The manufacturer states that it takes 10-20 minutes to play, but our family would recommend clearing a larger amount of time.  This games was truly addictive.  It is kind of like your favorite cookie – you just can’t stop at one.  One round will lead to another and on and on and on.

The main game console is placed in the middle of the table within reach of all the players.  A card is selected for the topic of the round. As you can see in the graphic above, an example of a topic might be TV Shows.  Each player must come up with the name of a TV Show or a creative word related to the topic.  For TV Shows, this could be Animal Planet or adventuresome. They key is that the player must come up with a word or name that begins with a letter that has not be pressed down. Once he has successfully come up with a name or word, he pushes the lever down for the first letter of the word he said and hits the timer in the middle for the next player to begin.  The next player now has 10 seconds to come up with a word before the timer runs out.  The last player standing is the winner of the round. There were times that we used up letters in and still had multiple players left in the round.  In these instances, each player must now come up with two new words for each letter before the timer runs out.


While Tapple really challenge your word finding skills and creativity in word association, Wonky is a more critical thinking game related to building and problem solving.  It too is designed for ages 8 and up.  At least two players are needed to play, but more just increases the fun.

This game is also addictive.  There is competition between players, but we also found a cheering on of everyone just trying to get the tower one more brick higher than in the last round.

At the beginning of the game, each player begins with 7 cards.  The goal is to get rid of all your cards.  There are three types of cards: ones where you are told what block to place, action cards to pass your turn or reverse play, and combination cards that have both the placing of a block and an action. The real challenge that is not apparent in the photo above is that the blocks are not perfect cubes.  There are some sides of the blocks that are outwardly curved making the tower not only wobbly as it grows in height but also as more and more curved surface make it lean further.

So What Did We Think:

These are games that we have not seen before, but are certainly glad to have.  They were fun and really brought the laughter and smiles into family fun night.   They were challenging and ones that we found pulling off the shelf frequently.  We loved them because everyone could join into the fun and they did not take a dedicated evening to play.  However, many times we found ourselves playing round after round after round.

Be sure to check out what the other reviewers had to share after using Tapple and Wonky with their families.

 USAopoly Review
Crew Disclaimer

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Literature Studies with YWAM

September 24, 2015

YWAM Publishing has an abundance of great resources; not the least of which are their missionary biographies and study guides.  We have incorporated their materials into our homeschool curriculum over the years and were thrilled to be able to take another look.  This review will be focusing primarily on the missionary biography about Jacob Deshazer from […]

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A Review of Fascinating Chemistry

September 23, 2015

Our newest review is of an on-line chemistry course, Fascinating Chemistry, which is brought to us by Fascinating Education.  This is the first in a series of courses that uses very much a video approach to learning, which is great for the visual learners in your family.  The other courses in this series are Biology […]

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Great Source for Worksheets Across Subjects

September 18, 2015

Our latest review is one that I really have been surprised at its versatility and the many opportunities we have had to incorporate it into our homeschool experience.  For this reason, I am excited to share with you about the Individual Membership we are enjoying from Super Teacher Worksheets. When I first viewed the Super Teacher […]

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Stinky Kid Math ~ Product Review

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Living History on the USS LST 325

September 13, 2015

The guys and I made a spontaneous trip into Cincinnati today after reading a news article about the USS LST 325 being docked for just a few days on the waterfront.  We are studying WWII history this year and there is nothing like being able to walk through history rather than just reading about it. […]

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Roman Town ~ Product Review

September 2, 2015

Sometimes it can be a challenge to find a way to combine fun and school in the same assignment.  Yes, there are lots of creative ideas out there to tweak curriculum or even make your own units.  It is certainly nice though when it already comes packaged that way.  This is exactly what we found […]

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Farmers are a season ahead, but God is in Today

August 26, 2015

These days seem to be marked with struggles to live in the present.  As our oldest recently left for college, there were so many moments when I found my mind drifting back to the past.  Moments of her learning to walk, teaching her to read just before bed as we poured over Charlotte’s Web, and […]

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Homeschooling Where You are Planted

August 12, 2015

During the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop, we have chatted about setting goals for your school year and also realizing that you just can’t fit it all in.  Today’s topic is about Homeschooling Where You are Planted.  Finding freedom in knowing that God has planted you and your family right where you are at this […]

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