French Essentials ~ A Review

*This post contains a product review*

Becoming fluent in a second language can be of great benefit in career and ministry. While Spanish is more common as a second language in our area, we were happy with the opportunity to study and learn French. French Essentials offers an online French course that provides a comprehensive study of the language for grades 3 – 12. We  have been using French Essentials Full Access Online Program.

French Essentials offers these basic guidelines to aid in placement:

Grades 4/5 – 7/8 – Module 1-5

Middle School ~ Grades 8-9 – Modules  5 & 6

High School ~ Grades 10-11 – Modules 7 – 10


What is French Essentials?

French Essentials is a complete French curriculum that you download to your computer. There are online aspects such as culture, online quizzes, test and other exercises. The course is broken down into modules. Modules 1 – 5 are currently available and Modules 6 -10 will be available soon. Each module is broken down into lessons.

There are a few basic computer requirements such as Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash player. You can read more details about these requirements at French Essentials FAQ page..

How Do I Use French Essentials?

One you have purchased the program, it is very simple and straight forward to use. If you are not sure of your student’s abilities, there is a placement test available. The first step is to go the appropriate module and begin with lesson one. The lessons need to be downloaded to your computer. The lessons have links within them that provide audio and video. Written exercises are available that need to be printed.

Throughout the modules there are tests and online exercises. The online exercises are flashcards. French on one side and English translation on the other. There are options on how to use the flashcards such as different games and speeds. The tests are a combination of fill in the blank and multiple choice. The test is taken online.

One other aspect of French Essentials is the Culture section. The Culture section shares pictures and information about the French speaking areas. This section provides very simple and basic information. If older students are using this course, you may find that additional culturally study may be needed.

Pricing and Purchasing Information

There are two options for purchasing French Essentials.

The first option is to purchase one module at a time. Individual modules are $69.95. You have 90 days to download the lessons and written exercises.

Full Access to modules 1-5 for one year is $149.95. You have a full year to download the lessons and written exercises.

You can view and listen to samples online to get a feel for the program.

Our Thoughts on French Essentials

I have had two different groups of children using this program. My 4th and 6th grade students have been working with me in module one. We have been taking it slowly and steadily. They were initially excited about learning a new language but the excitement didn’t last. After several lessons, my students were not engaged. Often the audio was difficult for them to hear/understand. They didn’t find the content interesting. This approach to learning a second language doesn’t seem to work well for this set of children.

I also have my two oldest using French Essentials. They are 8th and 9th grade. Since they had no exposure to French, they began at Module 1. Due to their age and abilities, they used this program independently. Here are their thoughts:

Mary (8th) – I enjoyed the flashcards and you could change the settings to make them more challenging. It was nice that you could click on words and hear the pronunciations. That was helpful. The lessons were really easy.

Bekah (9th) – The lessons were easy which isn’t surprising since they were for lower grades. The instructors were okay although a little boring. The videos just showed the instructors talking to the camera. I think it would have been better for them to talk to each other so you could see how they spoke to each other. There wasn’t really a way to make sure you understood the language . The exercises and test make sure you can write but not speak it. I don’t feel like I really learned much. I can write some but I definitely can’t speak it.

One aspect that I find tedious about this course is the downloading of the lessons. I appreciate that we can download the lessons and exercises for future use. However, each lesson was downloaded individually and became a hassle.

I agree with my oldest daughter on the video portions of this course. I didn’t find the videos to be engaging or interesting. I think this definitely would affect the success of younger students in using this program. While I’m not a song and dance fan, I do think this course needs to be more lively for younger students.

My final thought is to spend some time at French Essentials and look around. They provide plenty of information on how to use the program, module content and FAQ. Reading other reviews from the Crew might be helpful as well.



Song School Spanish

“a, be, ce, che, de, e, efe, ge…..” or perhaps, “If you are feliz and you know it, clap your hands”….these are just two songs that are being sung by my little ones (and an older one or two). Classical Academic Press sent us a wonderful product, Song School Spanish designed for grades K-3.  We have used a few products by Classical Academic Press in the past and I couldn’t wait to introduce my young learners to Song School Spanish!

elementary spanish

Song School Spanish is a fun, energetic and interactive curriculum that will introduce your young student to Spanish and give them a vocabulary of over 100 Spanish words. We have been using three Song School Spanish items: Song School Spanish Teacher Guide, the Song School Spanish Student book and the Song CD that comes with the student text.  These books cover 30 weeks of lessons (plus review lessons).  Lessons cover topics such as Greeting Words, Family, The Body, Time to Eat, Manners and more! Also included at the beginning of the book is a pronunciation guide, scheduling tips and more.


Song School Spanish Student text provides opportunities for the child to see the Spanish words as they are singing and saying them.  While this is designed to be an introductory course, it is very thorough in its simple instruction. Small bits of grammar are included such as how Spanish is written with upside-down exclamation points or question marks. When to use “el” or “la”, stories like The Three Little Pigs with Spanish vocabulary and matching pictures to the Spanish word are examples of more learning.  The writing required is not too strenuous. It provides just enough practice for copying or writing the language without being overwhelming.

young writers

Review lessons are included in the Song School Spanish student book. The student reviews the vocabulary learned, reviews the songs and are encouraged to put on a play showing what they know.

The text and pictures are in black and white and not “busy” at all. For the child who can easily be distracted, this simple layout is great. At the back of the book are cut outs to be used in various lessons. Hands on activities like making puppets really help to reinforce what they are hearing, saying, singing and writing.

learnign spanish

Included with the student book is a Song CD containing 42 songs that help build vocabulary. Songs use both English and Spanish to help build a connection between the words.  Some of the music utilizes songs your children already know well like If You are Happy and You Know It, and incorporate Spanish into it (If You are Feliz and You Know It). The CD can quickly build that vocabulary! I find myself singing the songs!

Finally we have the Song School Spanish Teacher’s Guide. The teacher guide includes, at a smaller scale, the student pages with answers. This allows you to easily guide your student through his activities and songs. At the back of the book, there are extra review pages for each lesson. While they are great for extra practice, my daughter just enjoyed the pages for  the extra fun.


How Did Song School Spanish Work for Us?

Once I have my older students busy at independent work, I grab Hannah, 7, and Sarah, 5, and we find a spot on the floor and dive into Spanish.  Sometimes Sam, 3, will join in for a bit but I let his interest lead his participation. It is recommended to do 3 to 4 short lessons a week and that works out well for us.  We start our time by listening to the song CD. The songs are fun and we love clapping and singing along. The Alphabet Chant gets practiced often; it is quite interesting with our southern drawls.


Once we sing the songs and go over the chapter lesson, Hannah does a bit of the workbook. I don’t require Sarah to do any workbook writing but she does enjoy coloring while listening to the lesson. We generally spend about 15-20 min singing, talking, writing and coloring. I really like that, because of the workbook, Hannah is learning to read the Spanish. We are enjoying our Song School Spanish time very much! Both Hannah and Sarah ask me when we are going to do Spanish during the week. This fact speaks volumes about Song School Spanish.


Song School Spanish Student Book w/ audio CD: $24.95

Song School Spanish Teacher Book: $24.95

Samples are available! It is so helpful to be able to “see” a product. Make sure to take a few moments and take a peek: Song School Spanish Student Text, Song School Spanish Teacher’s Guide, and samples of the songs are in a zip file you can download.

Other Resources and Helps:

Classical Academic Press has other items to help or enhance your young student’s time with Spanish. You can purchase Spanish Amigo Match ($26.95) which are vocabulary cards that can be used to play games for retention and review. (Amigo Match was not a reviewed item.)

Free resources:

Helpful for me is the Spanish Pronunciation Files that can be downloaded from Classical Academic Press. It can be challenging at times to say a word just right so to be able to hear it over and over is lovely.

Coloring pages for each chapter of Song School Spanish are available for free. You just download and print as many copies as you need. (A favorite of Sarah’s.)  At, students can play an online game called FlashDash that reviews vocabulary.

There are extras songs available for download as well. For those parents who may need clarification or help, they can “Ask the Magister” at and get help from Spanish teachers.

So many great things from Classical Academic Press!

Other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew had Song School Spanish or Bible curricula on the Old Testament. Take a peek at how others used these products in their homes!

**Disclaimer: As a member of TOS Review Crew, I received a complimentary copy of these products. No compensation was made. The thoughts/opinions expressed in this post are my own.


Visual Latin ~ Worth Taking a Peek!

Recently, we had the opportunity to review Visual Latin. When I informed the children that a new Latin program was on the way, there was a bit of groaning. We were (sporadically) using a different Latin program. It seemed to be working well and we were all a bit hesitant to work with something new.

What a delight to find that Visual Latin is an outstanding foreign language program that truly engages the student and is enjoyable to learn! Dwane Thomas does a wonderful job of presenting the information to the student. He speaks to the student, adds a bit of humor and is very down to earth. His excitement and enjoyment of the Latin language is clear to see from the beginning.

Visual Latin is simple to use. So simple that you might be fooled into thinking that real learning could not be happening. I think the short lessons and the method of presentation are two of the things that make this program so effective.

Here is how a lesson is presented:

First is Grammar. Dwane presents one or two grammatical concepts; clearly and simply.  He explains the concepts and gives plenty of examples to reinforce it for the student. After viewing the grammar lesson, a worksheet is given that reviews the material.

Once Grammar has been covered, the second part of the lesson is Sentences. In this section of the lesson, Dwane takes what was learned in Grammar and breaks it down. It really aids in the understanding of Latin. This section also has a worksheet that helps reinforce what was covered.

The finally part of the lesson is Reading. When my girls first saw this part they were a bit freaked out. Now they love it! In this section of the lesson, Dwane actually reads Latin text. As Dwane reads, the student is to repeat the text in Latin. When Dwane is finished, the student has a worksheet with the Latin text and the student has to translate it. So the student is seeing, hearing, speaking and writing Latin. What an effective way to learn the language!

What Latin text is Dwane reading? Dwane used the Latin Vulgate Bible so the children are familiar with the accounts that are read.  Having this background knowledge aids in the speed of learning Latin.

Visual Latin has been a huge success in our home. My girls are learning and enjoying a foreign language that will build a foundation to make other languages easier to learn. And it is independent. They do not need me at all for this course.  With Visual Latin, Latin has become an everyday thing in our home. During some free time, when the girls were entertaining my younger ones, they gave Latin names to them.  They are constantly sharing with their dad what different Latin words mean. I love that they are retaining so much and enjoying it in the process!


Intrigued? Want to take a little peek? Visual Latin provides a wonderful opportunity for you to sample the course for free!

Interested in viewing a sample lesson? Just go here.

Want to really put it to the test? You can download the first six lessons here. Yes! For free!

Ready to make a purchase? There are two ways you can bring Visual Latin into your home. You can purchase Visual Latin DVDS or chose to Download the lessons to your computer. The PDF worksheets for the course are contained on the DVDs/Download.

There are 30 lesson for Latin 1. You can choose to purchase them all at once or Visual Latin gives you the option to buy 10 lessons at a time.  Pricing ranges from $25 for Download of Lesson 1-10 to $80 for all 30 lessons on DVD. With these options, you can easily work Visual Latin into your home education budget!

Make sure you head over to the Crew and see what other families thought of Visual Latin!


Disclaimer: As a member of TOS Review Crew, I received a complimentary copy of this product for review. No compensation was made. The thoughts/opinions expressed in this post are my own.