Category Archives: Spanish

The Structure of Language

The more I study different languages, the more I prove to myself that the dispersion at the Tower of Babel is the only possible explanation for the organization of different languages. Languages started out structured, and have and borrowed from other languages and otherwise broken down over the years. It’s ludicrous to think it happened any other way. Thermodynamics strikes again…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A Creative Curriculum for 5th Grade

We are doing so many things this year in our homeschool! Many of the topics don’t take long to complete, usually less than a half-hour. This is good for Ian because he gets bored pretty easily. About the only thing taking us any longer than that is all of the reading we are doing together. And, since we’re doing that together, Ian actually enjoys it! Here are a few of the things we are doing:

Reading living history books. My favorite so far has been one about the life of Squanto – why isn’t there a good movie out there somewhere about his life? The dude has a phenomenal story.

Law & Government. We just started this one as a family. It basically consists of a textbook, two CDs and a DVD. The textbook has a two- or three- page introduction and an outline for each lesson, along with questions and suggestions for further reading. This is going to be an interesting course. Unfortunately, we can only do it on Wednesdays when Jesse is home with us.

Reading. This subject has been the biggest surprise this year. Ian has been a good reader for a long time, albeit a slow and reluctant one. This year alone, he has tripled his reading speed (thanks to watching movies in Spanish with English subtitles), and has gone from dreading the subject to loving it. I honestly didn’t think it was ever going to happen for him, but we finally found a book series that he enjoys, and now, he reads anywhere from one to two-and-a-half hours every single day. He only has two books left in the series (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), and I am starting to search for more books he may enjoy.

Math. Ian’s math skills have developed in leaps and bounds this year. We have been using the Memrise app for multiplication and Spanish. I no longer have to drill him anymore, yet I almost always remember to casually quiz him throughout the day on one or two math facts. I was amazed at how well this works! His math book is almost fun for us now that he is better at facts.

ControllerArt. Ian has been drawing lots of MineCraft-related pictures on graph paper. It’s perfect for someone who isn’t confident in their skills as an artist because you only have to draw one block at a time. Last night, he began working on a Mario-based art project. He drew a whole level, complete with secrets and switches and pipes – the whole nine yards! And the level was fresh from his own imagination. I was blown away because he created an engaging, challenging world that I would enjoy playing. I have been sending him to his room at 9:30, at which time he does something quiet, so he has been drawing. Then at 10:30, he can either read for an hour or go to bed. He’s been reading, and that makes me happy. 🙂

Python. We have been learning the Python programming language together using a book that I found at a computer store. The program allows you to make small changes to the MineCraft code and alter the game in fun ways. We are having a blast! I have been wanting to teach Python to Ian for a couple of years now, but the first time we tried it, it was above his head. (It was okay until we got into integers.) But now is the perfect time for teaching him, especially since we can use MineCraft as a starting point!

Well, those are a few of the things we are doing. We don’t do them all everyday. Our everyday subjects are reading, Bible, guitar, drums, dictation, typing, and Memrise (Spanish and multiplication). If you would like to read some ideas for language arts or science, you can find those in previous posts.

I hope you find some of these subjects and ideas helpful as you explore your own adventure in homeschooling!

Spanish-Learning Update

I have finally settled into a routine as far as my Spanish learning goes. If you are interested in acquiring a new language, check out these resources for your language:

Duo-Lingo – a really fun and FREE language-learning app and website that has taught me more in the last 6 weeks than everything else I have ever learned combined, including a high school class, 1 semester of college-level Spanish, and cramming for the CLEP. I cannot believe this program is free. I am making way better progress here than I did with Rosetta Stone, although the programs are similar. After soaring through the first 14 levels (out of pure excitement and addiction), I am now continuing to learn and reinforce at a much slower pace, but I am still satisfied with my continual progress. This program mostly teaches you new vocabulary and how to translate back and forth between English (or some other language) and Spanish (or some other language, lol). In addition, you have the option to use the microphone and/or the speakers to practice speaking and listening skills. There is also an immersion aspect, but I haven’t checked it out. I spend about 30-40 minutes with this program each morning before my son gets out of bed.

Memrise – this free program is open to so many possibilities! I have brainstormed several ways to use this spaced-repetition flashcard website and app for my own self improvement and homeschooling ideas. I have been using it for nearly 4 weeks now, and have not lost interest. The flashcard deck I have chosen has nearly every word recorded by several different native speakers, and the program randomly chooses one to play each time you encounter the word. It’s great for improving vocabulary, and it keeps track of the words you miss the most often and reviews them frequently. I spend about 10 or 15 minutes a day on this program, ideally right after finishing Duo-Lingo.

Anki – this is another spaced-repetition flashcard system that has tons of user-created flashcard decks available for download to your computer, phone, tablet, etc. I have been using this one for about 4 weeks as well. In contrast to the Memrise and Duo-Lingo programs, I have not figured out if you are able to share your progress across different platforms, so I have a core set of decks that I study seriously from my laptop, and a few fun ones that I study from my phone if I get bored when I’m out and about. The great thing about Anki is that you can download flashcards with pictures on them, so you get used to associating a Spanish word with what it actually represents, instead of merely translating in your head from English to Spanish or vice versa. I think some of the decks contain audio as well, but I don’t personally have any of those downloaded. I spend anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour studying the flashcards with this program, later in the day while Ian is working independently. It’s fun and I always look forward to it!Headset

Tunein – this is a fun radio station and podcast listening website and app that has tons of programs in other languages, some of which are designed specifically for the language-learner. My husband introduced this program to me about a week ago. In addition to talk channels, you can also listen to music in your favorite language – complete with commercials, which are not so annoying when you are hanging on every word trying to understand what they’re selling, lol. For instance, I’ve been listening through the News In Slow Spanish channel. I’m covering one or two episodes a day, and although I try pretty hard to listen attentively, sometimes I find myself tuning out and getting distracted. That’s ok! I am acclimating myself to the sounds, even when I’m not actively listening. I usually turn on Tunein while I am exercising, which I have always had trouble making time to do anyway, so now I’m killing two birds with one stone. It’s also fun to listen to while cooking or engaging in any other quiet activity. If you are a homeschooler, you could listen while your children work on an art project, etc.

A Laid-Back Approach to Language Learning

Laid BackWhile I have been tackling Spanish head on, I am taking a more laid-back approach with Ian. He has been watching tons of Spanish cartoons so that he can become accustomed to the way Spanish sounds. In all actuality, if he knew as many words as I did, I suspect that he would be able to comprehend the spoken language much better than I can at this point because he has spent so much time listening to it. To encourage us to start speaking Spanish in the home, I went to Babelfish and typed in several phrases that I commonly say to Ian over the course of a day or a week. (And by several, I mean four pages worth!) O.0

Yesterday, I started incorporating these phrases into our daily conversations, following up with the meaning of each phrase in English. It’s simple and easy, but very educational and fun! We are already speaking Spanish to one another, and I hope to increase the frequency of using these phrases slowly over time, as our knowledge increases.

To give you an idea of how to incorporate a second language into your daily activities, here is a list of just a few of the phrases I looked up:

I love you!

Good morning!

May I come in?

Let’s do your math.

Have you eaten anything?

Eat some spinach.

Do you want some hot chocolate?

Drink some water.

Write your outline.

Do you want me to read to you?

Let’s go to the library.

Let’s have lunch.

Read your Bible.

Play your instruments.

Let’s write a paragraph.

Watch something in Spanish.

Did you use your metronome today?

Let’s ride our bikes.

Let’s play a game.

Clean up your toys.

Do you want to invite a friend over?

Brush your teeth.

Get ready for bed.


Have fun learning!

An Unexpected Leap in Reading

Ian reads for thirty minutes every day. Every once in a while, I sneak a peak at what he’s reading to see how much ground he can cover in a half hour. I am used to being discouraged and finding that he only reads eight or nine pages in that amount of time (from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, which has a ton of pictures). He has been a good reader for a long time now, but not a very fast one.

I never told him that I spThe Readery on him, until yesterday. He accidentally read for an extra five or ten minutes because he didn’t hear the timer beep. Out of curiosity, and because it’s been a few weeks, I checked to see how much ground he covered. Thirty-two pages!!

At first, I thought I must have been mistaken. I was sure the bookmark had been on page 129 when he started, but maybe not. So I checked with Ian. “Where did you start reading today?” He showed me, and I still almost didn’t believe it.

In the last month, he has more than doubled his reading speed, so of course I began to ask myself why. Nothing much has changed, except the fact that I have been spending a ton of time reading to him. And then it hit me…Spanish!

Last month, Ian and I watched several movies in Spanish over the course of a couple of days. I blogged about it, so some of you may remember that we used subtitles, but Ian couldn’t read them fast enough. Well, he has been watching cartoons in Spanish almost every day since the last time I posted about it, which was almost a month ago. He ran out of movies that he was super-familiar with and has been watching a cartoon series, which he has watched all the way through once before.

He has been using subtitles the entire time, and has learned to read them fast enough to understand what’s going on!

I have been a musician for some time now, but my sight-reading skills never developed until I was placed in a setting where I had to read music under pressure – which I did by playing in church all the time and going to jazz band rehearsals. I knew this concept worked with music, but it never occurred to me that it would work with reading words. I wonder if it will work with anything? If so, how can I create an environment that puts pressure on him to remember his math facts faster, for instance? Any ideas?

Life Lately

Well, I have pretty much settled into a routine of work, homeschool, Spanish. When I am not working or schooling Ian, I am studying! Throw in some church, homeschool choir, and family time, and that’s my life right now.

I am really enjoying this school year with Ian – more than any year previously. I’m not sure what the difference is except for the fact that I can tell he is really absorbing everything he is learning; that is so satisfying for me to observe and be a part of. We have been trying to study a few things from lots of different angles. For instance, he has some textbooks that cover chemistry, and we are reading a book about the development of the periodic table. He is also watching a lot of YouTube videos to support what he is learning, and I would like to do some experiments as well. I am thinking about ordering all of the lab equipment and ingredients he would need to do all of the  experiments in his curriculum, but it’s going to cost quite a bit, so I need to save up. One of the nicest things about homeschooling: we can do all of our studying upfront, and end the year with a bang! – or, the experimental aspect, rather.

The greatest overall improvement in Ian’s schooling this year is in mathematics. We are still going through the entire multiplication deck once every week or so, and working on any trouble spots throughout the days in between. His understanding of the math has always been fantastic, so now that he has a better grasp on his facts, things are just swimming along in that department.

Also, thanks to a writing project (the Minecraft book, as I mentioned in an earlier post) and the curriculum from Institute for Excellence in Writing (also covered in an earlier post), I really feel like I am doing a better job as Ian’s teacher in making sure he is prepared for writing in college or in life.

Reading. We are reading a ton this year. I have always avoided Sonlight’s curriculum because I figured it wasn’t right for us, but after this semester, I am beginning to wonder if I am not tailoring Ian’s homeschool in exactly the same manner. It’s a miracle to me that we are enjoying it so much, but I like the way it’s turning out. He has been reading a lot more on his own as well, although almost never for pleasure still – mostly for required reading. But I do try to choose books that will be entertaining for him. (And I allow him to choose some as well.)

Work is cool – I’m really liking it still. Not much to say, although working with large volumes of people really does try one’s patience. I have to keep reminding myself that anyone could be having a bad day at any time.

MexicanSpanish is a lot of fun, although it’s hard to gauge how much progress I’m making. I’m working and reading from several different books, just trying to grasp the language as a whole. Depending on the topic and the verb tense, my understanding can be as high as 90% or as low as 50%. I am still enjoying it though, so I will keep plugging along.

More Spanish Learning Ideas

Spanish textI picked up a couple of books in Spanish the other day – one for Ian and one for me. I chose The Hobbit* for me because I have read it over and over, and I can always catch the gist of the story even when I don’t understand all of the words. A lot of times, I can figure out the meaning based on my memory of the story, context, or similarity to a word I know in English (or in Spanish). And I bought Biscuit for Ian (the one about the blonde puppy) for the same reasons. I am having so much fun learning, but I wonder if it’s possible to overdo it? My brain is fried, lol.

*Update on 1/11/2017 Upon further consideration and study of the scriptures, I have decided not to read or watch anything associated with the dark arts. I have enough things to fill my time, and I can certainly live without it. However, I am leaving this post up because it’s still a good idea to learn Spanish this way.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” – Philippians 4:8

Spanish Language Learning for Fun

Baby with BallIan and I have been on a Spanish kick lately. We have watched Disney* cartoon after Disney cartoon on Netflix. All of them that we have looked at so far have Spanish audio, and we have been turning on the English subtitles too. We have only been watching the ones that Ian is already very familiar with so he always knows what’s going on, even if he can’t read the subtitles fast enough. I figure this is the way babies learn. Slowly, bit by bit, infants learn what’s going on, and then they begin to recognize words and patterns. Every time someone points to a ball, the child hears the word ball and begins to form connotations between the object and the word. I figure we can learn a second language the same way, and we are having a blast at the same time! We might get serious about it someday, but for now, we will at least get used to hearing the rhythms and learn a few words in the meantime.

*Update on 1/11/2017. I no longer watch Disney movies. When Maleficent came out, I watched it and loved it. A few weeks later, I bumped into a guy who was caught up in all kinds of Jewish mysticism. He was convinced his beliefs were true (aren’t we all), and I made a deal with him that I would go home and look up a character named Lilith if he would agree to read his Bible. I might write more about it someday, but suffice it to say that Disney has been sneaking demonic things into our children’s classics, and I was totally unaware. So, yeah, no more Disney. I realize that to the pure all things are pure, but I don’t like the idea of consuming movie after movie produced by people who are willing to spend that much time researching the dark things of this world.