Along with good organization, good instruction is the other element that makes a course easy to use. If the course has a textbook, look through it. Are the descriptions clear? When you look at the description of an exercise, is it easy to understand what the student will be doing? Is the course designed so that a student can work through it on his or her own? These are important considerations, and you should add your own requirements as well. There may be certain elements that you consider necessary for your family and your method of study.

3. A multimedia approach

A good language course should address all the aspects of a language, including verbal fluency, written fluency, and oral comprehension. To really grasp a language and make it their own, students should develop their skills in these three areas: speaking, writing, and understanding. Finding a course that satisfies these requirements is particularly important for homeschoolers, who, in the absence of a parent who speaks the language, will be studying the language without a teacher or other students to communicate with. An appropriate solution is to find a course that uses a multimedia approach, combining a textbook, audio components, and perhaps videos. A strong audio component in a course will ensure that your student never has to guess about pronunciation and can develop his comprehension skills by hearing the language spoken. A video component can add further instruction and greater variety to daily study, as well as allow the student to see how words are formed when the language is being spoken.

Although learning the written form of a language is always beneficial, an exception may be made in the case of languages with very difficult written forms, such as Mandarin Chinese or Arabic. If the goal of your student is to learn how to speak a language with a difficult written form, they may be better off simply focusing on the spoken language at first, which will give them a base to develop the written form later on if they care to do so.

4. Grammar

There are some programs on the market these days that teach grammar in unconventional ways or simply count on the students to pick it up themselves as they progress. Unfortunately, it seems that these methods leave the student without a solid grasp of grammar—or knowing just enough to be thoroughly confused. This is unfortunate, because grammar is the foundation on which knowledge of a language is built. Learning a language without a solid grasp of the grammar is like working at a library with no filing system. Imagine for a moment that you are working at such a library. Books keep coming in, but since there’s no filing system, you have to put them in random spots on random shelves. Each of these books represents a new piece of knowledge you have acquired about a foreign language. With no filing system, are you going to be able to organize this knowledge? Or find it again down the road? Probably not! I have studied foreign languages for many years, and I still don’t think there is a substitute for a clear, concise presentation of grammar. The word “grammar” sometimes brings to mind dusty, drab looking books and stuffy teachers frozen in endless repetition, but taught in the right way, grammar is interesting and even fun!

Adding a foreign language to your homeschooling curriculum can prove to be an exciting and thoroughly enriching experience. Foreign language study develops a child’s mind, broadens his horizons, and gives him invaluable insight into the world in which he lives. By keeping in mind the points that were mentioned in this article and creating a list of your own goals for language study, you can navigate through the abundance of materials available and find a language, and language program, that will be a welcome addition to your daily curriculum.


Peter Groth was homeschooled K-12 by his parents, and is the creator of Adventure Languages, which produces foreign language programs designed specifically for homeschoolers. You can check out Adventure Languages at www.adventurefrench.com, and read more of Peter's writings at www.homeschooledanddangerous.blogspot.com

This article was originally published in the Mar/Apr ’08 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. For more information, visit http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com