Saturday, October 23

True North Homeschool Academy Mandarin {Review}

Our son is something of a language collector....he has taught himself bits and pieces of several different languages, and gone as far as to create his own language (to accompany the novel he is writing - a la Tolkien). After four years of Latin, he wanted to try Mandarin, which was not a language I was in any way prepared to teach!

Enter True North Homeschool Academy, which caters to all ages of homeschoolers and every subject. We registered him for Mandarin I, a high school level course that meets once weekly for an hour.  There is a required textbook (not included with course), and there are ten unit lessons in this textbook.  Each unit lesson comprises text, reading, speaking, words and phrases, sentence making, and a unit story.

The course is designed to prepare students for understanding this critical language and beginning to understand the ancient Chinese culture.  This includes learning basic elements of phonetics of Chinese characters: Pinyin, tones, and rhythm; learning basic strokes and the order of the strokes to recognize the structures of Chinese characters; learning to read and speak Chinese from the situational texts with scenario pictures to enhance understanding; and becoming familiar with Chinese culture through topics in each unit lesson.

Lessons include folk tales, Chinese history, moral fables, poetry, and Chinese culture.  At the back of the textbook, there is an English translation of the unit stories for all lessons as well as a vocabulary chart with English translation. Besides the textbook, the workbook is also required for this course. For families who need traditional grades, there are two mid-term exams and two final exams.

Similar to the language arts and history courses we offer at Sparks Academy, this is a full year course that is teacher-led and teacher-graded.  Each Thursday afternoon, he logs into the classroom platform for an hour of live instruction.  Getting started on the platform was probably our biggest hassle so far, as there were a lot of moving parts to get the account set up and working.  The teacher - a native Mandarin speaker - leads this small class of five or six students through some pronunciation exercises.  Each week, every student is required to greet and exit the class, verbally, which reinforces basic salutations and gives her a chance to work on tones / pronunciation.

He takes notes each week, then works on the workbook throughout the week.  There are some oral exercises that they must record and submit via the platform.  Workbook work is completed on an honor system -- they submit their scores and tell her it has been finished.  We are coupling this course with regular practice from TalkBox.Mom, so it's hard to say how much each is accomplishing on its own, and he uses their app to do extra practice each week.  We do a lot of student-directed learning here - as evidenced by our eclectic collection of unit studies! - and since he's really into Asia right now, he is doing several different Asia-related courses for school this year.  This high school course of study includes:
Interested in Mandarin for your homeschool?  Check out the High School Mandarin Level 1 course from True North!

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