We’re about 6 weeks into the school year with the usual hits in rotation: language arts, science, math, history, character/social development, and a foreign language. Although we studied a bit of French during a trip last spring, we opted to focus on Spanish this year. Given our location (San Antonio, Texas), it was a more natural fit.
This means of course that I can no longer say that we’re following a traditional “classical curriculum,” something that I set out to do initially. Although ancient history is a big part of our studies–and we are dabbling in the Greek alphabet, this teacher felt that her pupil needed to learn a more practical second language. We will pick up Latin later. No rush. We’ve got 13 years.
Like a lot of new homeschool educators, I spent a lot of time over several months trying to figure out curriculum options. There are loads of them, some free and some pricey. Ultimately, I decided to cobble together most of our curriculum using primary sources. Yet Spanish, a language that I read much better than I speak, intimidated me. (Math did, too, but that’s another post.)
For Spanish, I figured that we could go with an inexpensive workbook purchased at a teacher supply store. I grabbed one in July and we picked it up in August. Within a week, I knew things weren’t going so well. So I bought three more–all in color–at Target. (The first one was black-and-white.) We tried again. Blech. We were both bored and drowning in a sea of flashcards, something that I’d sworn that we wouldn’t do. Back to the teacher supply store for another book. It wasn’t much better, but it did contain four little, all-color books and a CD.
The CD was a bust. But those little books were golden.
After we read two–and the kid was happy and giggling about Spanish at last–I saw that I needed to change up my game plan. Occasional use of flashcards and workbook pages is fine for review and assessment. What we really need to keep our foreign language mojo going is easy access to a lot of bilingual story books. ¡Hola, San Antonio Public Library! (@mysapl) Like out other subject areas, library books have proven to be our path to enthusiastic exploration of Spanish. Through them, we pick up the vocabulary with minimal effort.
Our favorites so far are a series of books by Ann Whitford Paul featuring four delightful animals named Conejo, Culebra, Tortuga, and Iguana. Here’s what we’ve read so far:
• Mañana Iguana – A retelling of “The Little Red Hen” with a happier ending that fosters positive social skills, too. I have to stop myself from laughing when Culebra says “I’ll help you mañana, Iguana…. When I grow arms.” This is my favorite.
• Tortuga in Trouble – A retelling of Little Red Riding Hood with a Coyote con ojos and dientes grande.
• Count on Culebra – A fun way to learn and review numbers, although some folks have expressed concern online that the math isn’t accurate in this one. (The animals put together numbered groups of kitchen gadgets.) It’s my son’s favorite.
We picked up Fiesta Fiasco yesterday. Haven’t read it, but I anticipate we’ll like it, too.
If you like these books as much as we do and want to bring them into your home or afterschool setting, you also might want to check out the teaching activities provided on the author’s website. For this particular series, the printout includes a list of vocabulary words suitable for printing and keeping in a notebook.
What about you and your kids? Any favorite language-centered books that you’ve enjoyed? Leave a comment porque yo soy todo oídos.
Pamela Price is an award-winning blogger, writer, editor, and homeschooler in San Antonio, Texas. She can stumble through phrases in Spanish and French and is a fan of Google Translate. Pamela can be found on Twitter at @redwhiteandgrew.