Friday, September 7, 2012

Rosetta Stone: there's the lesson and then there's THE LESSON.

One of the things we loved about Liam's "real" school was the Spanish program. Half an hour of foreign language every day at public school is pretty unreal. He loved learning another language and often said it was his favorite part of the day. We knew we'd definitely have to keep it up once we brought him home.

Unfortunately I am nowhere near bilingual. Even though I took a year of high school Spanish, two years of high school French, two semesters of French in college AND two semesters of Spanish (the last and final foreign language requirement for graduation earned me a big fat D MINUS - the D was well deserved for my shoddy grasp of the language, the minus just felt like an F you...), I am shockingly ill equipped to teach a foreign language.

Enter outsourcing!

This has been the best discovery about homeschooling so far. Instead of feeling like I am now Liam's one and only source of education in this world (gee, no pressure there), I realize I am just the person who is here to help him get in touch with what he needs. It's not so much home school as it is home directed education. A little of this, a little of that...it's awesome.

Anyway, for Spanish we decided to go with Rosetta Stone. Actually, I was sort of mid-way through my research, reading user reviews, letting Liam do free trials, comparing prices and checking out eBay, when I got called away to a swimming party at my neighbors. When we got home several hours (and margaritas...) later, I hastily popped open my computer, saw the Rosetta Stone site pulled up, and quickly purchased the five disc box set (on sale but still $400...gulp).

Maybe I should always shop drunk. It sure makes pulling the trigger a whole lot easier.

Fortunately we really like the program. It's easy to use and a great fit for Liam. When I gave him the choice between reading, playing with his brother, helping me make dinner and doing Spanish one night, he happily chose Spanish. He goes into the office so he can do his work uninterrupted but I can still hear him well enough to know his accent is becoming quite adorable.



It wasn't always this bueno though. When we first got the program, the voice recognition feature wasn't working properly (more to do with the computer or Internet connection than the actual program). Because of this, no matter how perfectly Liam would say, "Me gustaria jugo," or "El hombre bebe agua," he would get it wrong. Wrong. Which is like a really big deal for him. And as if being wrong wasn't bad enough, the computer would also make a bummed out sound that was like fingernails on a chalkboard to my little guy. A chalkboard covered in floor to ceiling letters: "LIAM YOU ARE WRONG!!!"

It killed him.

You could watch him struggle from clear across the room. His whole body reacted to the failure. He squirmed, inched away from the computer and had to fight not to cry. It was really sad. But also really good. Because trying is one of the big things I want to help him learn to do. Not succeeding, trying. Trying something new, trying something challenging, trying something he may not have mastered yet, trying something me may never master. I want him to learn to fail so he can learn how to truly succeed.

So I sat with him and helped him be wrong time after time after time. I laughed when the computer said he was wrong and said, "Dude, this computer is loco. You sounded great to me!" Pretty soon he was laughing too. Nervous laughter at first, but soon his body began to relax as he realized he wasn't necessarily wrong. He was doing the work the best he knew how and, actually, he was doing a pretty good job!

We decided that until we got the glitch worked out he would just repeat whatever he needed to repeat once to see if the computer was working, then once again for good measure. Then he'd simply skip to the next question. When his score came back at the end of the lesson telling him he had failed, he didn't flinch or panic or cry. Because it's not a grade that is going to teach him Spanish, it's the effort he's putting into it.

The change in his attitude happened so fast it was incredible. But it was how far reaching it was that left me truly impressed.

Yesterday he walked into the kitchen after finishing up his math assignment (another successful outsource!) and I asked him how it went.

"It was great. Still pretty easy though. I got two wrong."

"You did? Why? I mean, if you know how to do it, why did you get two wrong?"

"I wanted to hear what it sounded like when I got one wrong. You know how it makes all those funny sounds when I get things right? I just wanted to see what it would do when I got some wrong."

I burst out laughing. "Do you want me to email your teacher so he knows you didn't really get them wrong? You know, so he can make sure to keep challenging you?"

"Mama, it's just two questions. I'm sure my teacher knows it's no big deal to get things wrong. I mean,  two wrong answers? Who cares?!"

No one I know...

Making mistakes, moving forward, doing his best...now that's success!

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