One fun thing about homeschooling is “fixing” aspects of our own education we didn’t like. Think coding should be a school subject? Add it! Believe students should spend more time outside? Get out there!
I knew when we started homeschooling that I wanted to add a second language right away. You may have noticed that I am a “brain geek,” meaning that I can geek out about the human brain anytime, anyplace. And the brain benefits of learning a second language are awesome!
Last year we did the Dino Lingo French program (affiliate link. Disclosures.), but we finished it and didn’t know where to go from there. We ended up hiring a tutor for this year, and downloaded the free Duolingo app (not an affiliate) on our phones around the same time. At first, the kids kind of struggled with it because they were new readers, and reading really is essential. But now we all love it! Here’s why:
- The interface is simply beautiful, and it also makes you want to keep going. It essentially feels like a game in which you can keep earning points. Who wants to stop getting points? Nobody, that’s who. By measuring “streaks,” it also provides incentive for daily practice, rather than going nuts with it on rare occasions.
- The immersion style gets you listening to sentences right away, and gets your brain and your ears set for the language you want to learn.
- It gets creates fluency faster than other methods, according to this study. That makes it a lot of fun! For my kids, also having a French tutor, it helps solidify what they’re learning.
- The diverse ways of “playing with” the vocabulary really help solidify words, concepts, and pronunciations in your mind. Approaching it from multiple angles really works!
- The clubs! Oh, the clubs! The clubs are a new feature that’s recently been added (and is unfortunately not yet available in the desktop or Windows versions). These clubs have changed everything for us. I can go in and write encouragement to the kids when they complete points or a level, and I can keep track of what they’re doing so I can see if they’ve practiced on a given day. The kids can also encourage each other! The clubs are closed so no strangers can communicate with your kids, but we joke that it’s like “our own personal French Facebook.”
- The bots. Who knew that chatting with bots could be this fun? Apparently Duolingo did. It’s a great way to practice the language and the app helps you answer, so it isn’t too hard for the littles. Sweet Pea likes it because she pretends shes texting and it makes her feel grown up.
- The competition! The cute little clubs also have leaderboards, so you can see who is practicing the most. It starts over each week so everybody has a fair shot, and it’s really fun and motivating.
- And, oh yeah, it’s FREE. This is my favorite part of Duolingo. (Although I will admit I’ve paid to repair a good streak!)
We think Duolingo is fantastic, and it’s a must-have for homeschoolers with devices. If you can learn a language for free, and have fun doing it, why not??? Your brain will thank you!