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Homeschooling Thru High School
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Join us at our upcoming speaking engagements:

January 13, 2018: Family Homeschool Connections (Richmond, VA)—Diane Kummer

January 13, 2018: CHEC High School and Beyond (Castle Rock, CO)—Carol Becker

January 27, 2018: Forsyth Home Educators (Winston-Salem, NC)—Carol Becker

April 12-14, 2018: MACHE (Rochester, MN)—Diane Kummer

April 19-21, 2018: CAPE (Albuquerque, NM)—Diane Kummer

April 27-28, 2018: NCHEA (NE)—Carol Becker

Don’t miss our informative new e-books, now available from the HSLDA Store!

Develop a Plan for High School is the first in a three-book series by Carol Becker and Diane Kummer, HSLDA High School Consultants. This e-book covers how to choose courses, assign high school credits, evaluate coursework, and improve time management for you and your high school student.

Simplify Your Recordkeeping and Transcript is the second in a three-book series by Carol Becker and Diane Kummer, HSLDA High School Consultants. This e-book covers in-depth details on both recordkeeping and transcripts.

Recorded events

Not able to attend one of Carol or Diane’s high school events? HSLDA’s recorded event High School at Home: Turning Possibility into Reality features sessions on developing a high school plan, creating transcripts, charting a course for post-high school plans, and more—with lots of encouragement! Purchase it at the HSLDA Store.

HSLDA student art contest now accepting entries

High School Foreign Language Study: Just the Facts, S'il Vous Plaît

Dear Friends, March 2, 2017

When it comes to learning a foreign language, your teen may be hesitant, pragmatic, or enthusiastic. When it comes to teaching a foreign language, you may be resistant, resigned, or gung-ho.

Whatever your collective interest level, we encourage you to consider offering a foreign language course to help your teen appreciate, understand, or show respect for other cultures and people. If your ancestors spoke a foreign language, your teens can benefit from that heritage. Let’s discuss foreign language options to see where your teen’s needs line up with your resources and abilities.

Choosing a Language

Graduates interested in entering the workforce will benefit from taking one or two years of Spanish—especially those interested in agriculture, banking, construction, customer service, healthcare, hospitality, landscaping, law enforcement, manufacturing, retail, sales, or social work. Many employers seek out bilingual employees and pay them a higher hourly wage.

College-bound teens usually take two or more years of the same foreign language. Some colleges stipulate that applicants choose between Spanish, French, or German, while other colleges have no preference. Be sure to check the admission requirements noted on a prospective college’s website.

If your family is considering Latin because of its heritage as a contributor to English and grammar instruction, realize that German is an excellent alternative. Through its Saxon roots, German is closely related to English and includes declension of nouns and adjectives, and uses four grammatical cases. Furthermore, German has the added bonus of being a spoken language.

Then again, learning French—the language spoken on the other side of the Maginot Line—will open your student’s eyes to how this rich language has contributed to English vocabulary because of the Norman Conquest in the 11th century. Learning a modern language such as Spanish, German, or French could motivate and inspire an amazing senior trip.

If your teen is passionate about foreign language, consider the U.S. State Department’s National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y), which offers merit-based scholarships to high school students studying the following languages: Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Korean, Hindi, Russian, Persian (Tajiki), or Turkish. NSLI-Y offers immersion language and cultural instruction in locations around the world.

College-bound students who plan to study languages and cultures important to our country’s interests can apply for sizeable scholarships to study Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Swahili, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Hindi, Punjabi, Russian, Turkish, or Urdu.

Teaching Options

As you consider the many ways to learn a foreign language, we encourage you to invest in one that makes the most sense for your homeschool and your student’s aspirations.

Parent-taught courses: If you speak a foreign language or retain some knowledge from high school, college, or upbringing, you may be a good candidate to purchase curriculum and teach your teen. You can choose from large publishers, specialty publishers, Latin publishers, and American Sign Language publishers.

Invest in curriculum that instructs in all aspects of the language: reading, writing, speaking, vocabulary, verb conjugation, and grammar. Many publishers offer recordings of native speakers to help with pronunciation and memorization.  However, Latin has no conversational element to it.

Computer software, online games, and translation resources are all quite useful, but for modern languages, nothing works better than having your student converse regularly with a knowledgeable speaker. Without this practice, many a teen will flounder and quit.

Hearing a language spoken is more challenging than reading it. Students need to develop new speech patterns, which necessitates overcoming a natural fear of embarrassing oneself. The best way to deal with these challenges is to have your teen engage in regular sessions to develop conversational ability. Get involved in church ministry or community service where your teen can meet people who speak a foreign language under consideration as they understand the difficulty of learning a new language. They can encourage and relate to your teen.

If you do not have the time to teach, are unable or unwilling to attempt speaking a foreign language, or cannot provide someone to fulfill this crucial role, there are other options.

Private tutoring: Although this can be expensive, spreading the cost over everyone in the family who can benefit from learning a foreign language makes this a practical option, so don’t miss this opportunity to brush up your own skills.

Each family can utilize a tutor in different ways.  The tutor may have her own program, which she expects your teen to use, or she may request that you purchase a specific curriculum, a set of workbooks, or an electronic resource. The tutor can provide feedback on student’s work and conversational sessions, or you can ask the tutor to tackle the full teaching load. Discuss with the tutor who will assess your teen’s work.  

Language immersion: Alternatively, invest in a  summer program, a homeschool foreign exchange program, or trips abroad (mission trips, cultural trips, Habitat for Humanity, etc.). Select opportunities where teens must learn the language to communicate and have minimal digital or other access to the English-speaking world. Then your teen’s natural desire to socialize will fuel his motivation to communicate in the target language.

Co-op classes: Generally, parents teach these classes although some co-ops pay outside instructors to teach foreign languages. Classes generally meet once a week.

As a starting point, browse HSLDA’s website list of homeschool organizations in your state. You can also ask homeschooling families to suggest nearby co-ops. Don’t forget to investigate course offerings, costs, and member responsibilities.

Before you pay the registration fee, ask whether the co-op teacher grades assignments, quizzes, and exams, so you know who handles these responsibilities. If you are responsible for grading, you may want to consider online courses instead.

For any co-op class, you should supervise your teen’s homework schedule and make sure he is ready for each class session. This can be the impetus for your teen to work on both study skills and time management skills.

Online courses: These provide experienced instructors to teach and grade challenging material. Instructors set deadlines for assignments and weekly class sessions when students must be online. Teens need practical study and time management skills to manage their workload.

We encourage you to investigate online course providers such as HSLDA Online Academy. The cost is certainly worth the peace of mind this option gives you.

Dual enrollment: Students can enroll in a community college or online four-year college to take foreign language courses, which count toward earning both college credit and high school credit. Each 3–5 credit college course translates to a one-year high school course on your teen’s high school transcript. We recommend that students take a one-year high school foreign language course prior to enrolling in faster-paced college courses. Study and time management skills are crucial for success.

Additional Resources

Memorization is valuable for developing quick recall. Students can memorize Scripture verses, poetry, prose, or conversation. For fun, begin with cartoons because they offer plenty of action and minimal vocabulary. Next, consider movies your teen knows well in English. Many DVDs have been dubbed in some foreign languages—French and Spanish are common. Watching with subtitles is another option. Use either the dubbed language track or subtitles but not both simultaneously because they often don’t match, which can be confusing.

Music is another asset for learning phrases. Browse YouTube for popular songs translated into another language. (Be sure to search for songs by songwriter because the translated song titles are different.) Check out YouTube France, YouTube Deutschland, and YouTube Español. You can also purchase resources in French, German, and Spanish.

Consider employing games to practice or review vocabulary, verb conjugations, or grammar concepts. When students and parents play together, this stimulates lightheartedness, excites learning, and builds relationships. To get you started, here are game ideas for French, German, and Spanish.

The Pimsleur method specializes in improving oral skills, which many students find challenging. These foreign language lab conversations build a teen’s confidence in his ability to understand and speak in one of 50 languages offered. Try a free lesson online. Although Pimsleur CDs won’t replace curriculum or a class, they are a phenomenal supplemental tool. Students should begin with Level 1 and work up to their comprehension level.

For more online foreign language resource recommendations, click here.


The College Board offers SAT Subject Tests in Spanish, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and Latin. Many colleges use these test scores to place incoming freshmen in 100-, 200-, or 300-level foreign language courses. Students should take this exam when they have their greatest fluency in the language. Carol’s daughter took her SAT Subject test in French in the spring of 12th grade, and she placed into 300-level French classes as an incoming freshman. For foreign language majors or minors, this is an opportunity to skip lower level courses. For any college that might question your choice of foreign language curriculum, SAT Subject Tests offer independent confirmation of a student’s ability.

The College Board offers AP® tests in French, German, Spanish, Latin, Italian, Japanese, and Chinese. A student must find a local testing center that plans to offer a particular AP® exam and then take the exam in May. Students can only take AP® courses from a College Board–approved provider. AP® courses offer weighted GPA benefits.

We hope this information is helpful as you decide which foreign language option to pursue for your teen.

Join us next month as we look at college scholarships.

Adios, Ciao, and Au revoir,

Carol Becker and Diane Kummer
HSLDA High School Consultants