Digital Interactive Foreign Language Courses: A Review

Middlebury Interactive Languages

This year has been difficult for us to get into a solid rhythm as there have been life changing events for us over the last few months. Fortunately, Bookworm Beauty enjoys self-study and has been keeping herself on task; programs like High School Spanish II by Middlebury Interactive Languages keeps her foreign language studies easy for her as well.

Bookworm Beauty is an average sixth grader. She is fairly consistent at working at her grade level or a little above, with the exception of Spanish. She spent both 2nd and 3rd grade in a Spanish Language Immersion program and went from knowing little more than how to count to 10 in Spanish to being able to fumble herself through simple conversations. Fourth grade was our first year homeschooling and we joined a homeschooling co-op where the kids attended one day a week and offered a high school level Spanish class. She not only loved that class, she excelled and really enjoyed being surrounded by high schoolers.

At the end of her fourth grade year we moved to the prairie and her options for continuing Spanish became minimal. It has been an on-going priority for me to find a quality homeschooling Spanish curriculum that would challenge her to continue to improve her communication ability. Fortunately, as often seems to be the case, the opportunity found us with the Middlebury review.

We were both excited about this review. Before beginning, I contacted Middlebury directly to find out what level would best suit her. I did not tell them that I was selected to review the program, instead I acted like a regular customer researching the product before purchase. This is important to note because it allowed me the opportunity to see how their service is for their customers, not just for their reviewers.

I was thrilled to have a live person answer the phone and spend ample time listening to our specific and unique needs. The customer service representative asked multiple questions to ensure that he understood what I was looking for. He offered me advice regarding placement and then informed me that if we determined that it was not a proper fit for her, we could change her program within the first 30 days. I was really impressed. I felt heard. I felt supported. I had peace of mind. This was an important detail because we have a homeschooling budget and I oftentimes find it difficult to make decisions on a program.

Middlebury Interactive Languages offers courses in German, Spanish, Chinese and French. All languages have classes from Kindergarten through High School (with the exception of German, there is not a K-2 program at this time). They also offer AP High School courses in both French and Spanish. These online digital classes offer 12 months of access to complete the program and range from $119 per semester without teacher support to $538 for 2 semesters with teacher support (depending upon the grade).

menu-screenshotOnce a student has logged in, they enter their online class portal. From the dashboard the student can navigate easily to their Gradebook, Calendar, Notifications and Table of Contents.

The Table of Contents has proven most helpful for Bookworm Beauty as it allows her to easily find where she has left off.

She has found the course both a good fit yet still challenging. Her biggest challenge is the workload and pace of a high school course. She is not on target to complete the semester in it’s normal time frame but still plans to complete it.

The course provides a nicely interactive format. There seems to be a nice balance between both reading and listening to the lessons. There are assignments for each lesson that include things such as multiple choice, written work, and speaking phrases (a microphone is required on the computer).

I am pleased that the system keeps the grades in a nice and easy to view format. You can view the gradebook as a quick progress report type summary, show scores by each unit or show grades for each individual assignments.grade-report



The grading options are a nice feature for me. Honestly, I know very little Spanish and I can not imagine trying to grade her work or figure out if she is pronouncing things correctly or not. This program takes care of all of those details for me. I only have one thing to worry about and that is ensuring that she logs in and does her lesson for the day. If I want to check in on her work, I simply log in to the gradebook and look over her work. At this time, Bookworm Beauty has a 79% in her Spanish class. I think that is pretty good for an 11 year old sixth grader in a High School level class.

I am absolutely pleased with Middlebury Interactive Languages. I do not know what the future holds for us but I do know that I would like for Bookworm Beauty to complete the full course within our allotted time. I will then consider having her complete the High School Spanish II Fluency and then possibly the High School Spanish III class. I am not sure about AP Spanish Language and Culture, at least not before High School. However, I have two other students to think about. I guess I should be considering the Elementary Spanish I course.

School Sports and Homeschooling?

A few years ago, Bookworm Beauty was bitten by the sports bug.

Her first experience with organized sports was roller hockey. It was interesting, to say the least. To begin with, she could hardly walk on the roller blades that came with the enrollment. By the end of the 6 week season she was at least skating and learning the hockey skills. We let her participate for three seasons before deciding to put up the hockey stick – so to speak.

The team experience itself was lacking. We wanted her to have the opportunity to experience being part of a team and although she was, there was no cohesive team spirit in roller hockey. I can not speak for other locations, but at our location there was nothing to encourage that kind of team cohesiveness. For example, the kids did not even know each others names, except the names of the few “good” players; there was no real team practice to assist in that either as practice was for all teams at once. To top it off, at the end of the season, the team party was held at the same time for all of the teams (10 or so) during a regular open-skate public session. It was fun for her nonetheless, but we really wanted her to have an opportunity to be part of a team not just a group of kids getting together.

Then last year rolled around… one of her 5th grade friends gave her a flyer for the local youth basketball team. She showed a bit of interest and we found ourselves on our way to town to buy her a pair of court shoes.

The team experience was everything we had desired for her. She was part of something and felt important. Even more important, she got to know most of the kids on the team.

staco-volleyballNow Bookworm Beauty is in 6th grade and this changes everything. Where we live, 6th grade is when students can start participating in school sports. Suddenly it is as if the sky has parted upon Bookworm Beauty and the angels are singing.

Many homeschoolers are not aware that their students can participate in the local school programs – a la carte. We love our local school (I know… we are lucky), we love it so much that I would not be worried if I sent my kids there at some point. In the meantime we are enjoying what we can utilize their programs and Bookworm Beauty has been playing volleyball with many of her friends.

Volleyball was a great experience for her. She is excited though as she is now trading her volleyball for her basketball and in the spring she is considering running in track. It has been a joy to watch her actively participate in these sports.

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