TalkBox Review: Our Family’s Honest Experience

So waaaaay back in May, my husband and I took a little jaunt to our first-ever homeschool convention. My biggest goal was to network with some publisher’s I’ve worked with in the past and meet some new people. At the very first booth we stopped, I met this vibrant, energetic gal name Adelaide. This was the first time I was introduced to TalkBox, a foreign language learning system for your whole family. She’s a homeschooling mama just like us and has an incredible vision for families learning together for the most meaningful foreign language immersion experience. 

I didn’t have the greatest experience with learning Spanish in high school or college. My husband will tell you he and his sister were in the same Spanish class in high school and they succeeded by making friends with the native Spanish speaking gal in their class. I’ve been soooo hesitant to begin any kind of foreign language at home in a formal way, and, I’ll be honest, I almost didn’t even stop, but I’m so very glad I did! 
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As we chatted with Adelaide we began to understand this was no ordinary foreign language course. No grammar, no textbooks, no tests…the longer we talked, the more sure I was that this was something I could get on board with. I knew when my husband piped up as we walked away and said, “We should definitely look into this…” there was something special about TalkBox and we were excited to talk to our kids when we got home about it! 

The folks at TalkBox have graciously given us the opportunity to review both the Use French at Home start-up book, and the first French Talkbox: The Snacks & Kitchen Box. After the conference we gathered the girls together, and chatted about which language we might like to try. They all wanted to try different languages so we put it to a vote. Our decision to learn French was also largely influenced by a state-side mission trip my husband and I took to Clarkston, GA. We worked with refugees officially recognized and vetted through a several year-long process. Many were Christians feeling persecution in their native countries and quite a number of those were African nations which spoke French. We worshiped with a French African congregation which such an amazing experience! 

So how did we feel when we first opened that box? Pretty much like this…
We have been so excited to learn through this method, so let me give you some highlights of what you can expect when learning a language the TalkBox way. 

1. We started with the phrase book. I took about 45 minutes going through the book and marking the phrases I knew we already used. That really isn’t that long. I then used sticky tabs to mark the first phrases we would learn. Here are the ones I choose initially. 

~ It’s time to read the Bible!
~Good morning & Good night
~ I love you!
~ Let’s get in the car! 
~ Good bye
~ Please & Thank you
~Very good! 

We learned these in the first couple of nights. Well, my kids picked it up super fast! It took me a little more time, especially with the longer sentences, but I can absolutely whip those out with no problem now. Our adult brains take a little more time for recall, but your kids will love that you are learning along with them and will encourage you! 

All of the phrases are recorded by native speakers and accessible either online or download to your computer or phone. We downloaded them to a file and did that initially on my phone, but then realized that the website was much more user friendly. 

This is how the website looks on my phone! So easy to use! 

Great news! There is an app coming VERY soon which will make it even easier!!!!
The biggest reason this excites me is the girls will be able to access the phrases we are learning on there own whenever they want on their own tablets! I’m just over-the-moon about this! 

2. Consistency is the key to learning this way! So we choose bedtime as a part of our routine. We have our family Bible time (one reason we chose that first phrase!) and the study French together. We quiz each other on the ones we’ve learned, and by we, I mean the kids are asking my husband and I as well as us asking them. Throughout the day we use our phrases with each other. Even when we don’t say everything in French we may still say a word or two. If my kids ask a question my almost automatic response now is, “Oui,” or, “Non.” 

3. The book is on the beginning! Your boxes are really fun to “unbox!” For our next one I’m going to post a video of the girls unboxing it because they just had so much fun looking through it all! Each box has a different topic so you are focusing heavily on one area. The first box for every language is the snack and kitchen box. What a great one to begin with! I posted the gorgeous pages on the refrigerator, the wall behind our table, and the pantry so we have easy access. I realized through this that I was beginning to pick up on French pronunciations just by hearing other words. So I can sort of get the gist of how to pronounce simple words even if I haven’t heard them yet.

The charts are so easy to use and very well organized. I love that we can all just walk up to the chart to refresh our memories of how to say, “I would like an apple, please.” 

There are also these awesome small cards which we posted all about the kitchen with appliances, furniture, tableware, and more along with phrases you would normally say with those things, such as, “Set the table.” I tried to stick them in logical places. Sometimes my kids disagreed and moved them…and that is fine! If it helps them learn better, then great! 

4. The best part is THE BOXES KEEP COMING!!!! You are not done learning after this. You can subscribe to get the boxes every month, every two months, or every three months. We are option for every three months. While I love to think we could go faster, it just won’t be possible at the moment. I also like that this gives us plenty of time to practice, practice, practice before moving on to a new subject area. One box is equivalent to 600 private tutoring hours. Wowza…that’s incredible! 

5. There is an online community! The community facebook group for those who are a part of the TalkBox family is so encouraging! I love popping in to ask questions, share stories, or read about other’s experiences. You can also ask about translating specific words or phrases you may want to use. I asked how to translate “ice pack” because I wrote up our chore list in French and one of the reminders is to put away these little rice packs we keep in the freezer and they use at night when going to bed. So cool! 

6. Unexpected Smiles…There have been many times when things came up that I didn’t expect as a fun part of this experience. One of our dear friends from church speaks fluent French and we found out because she heard me talking about how much fun we were having! So she has been helping us some and conversing a bit along the way with our family. 

I went away to a retreat last weekend and the girls and I texted a bit in French. Our spelling was ridiculous, and I had to look some things up I had forgotten, but that is okay! It’s all about enjoying the process and learning together. My husband and I will sometimes text one another in French. He’s having a great time with this. It’s been incredible having dad in on this particular learning process because so much of homeschooling is directed towards the student, not the family. My husband is a ginormous supporter of homeschooling, but this is the first time that either he or I have had a chance to really learn alongside the girls. 

So is your interest peaked???? I certainly hope it is! 
You can get start on the TalkBox blog with a free challenge in whichever of the languages you want to try!


Use this code to get $15 off your first TalkBox! You will not regret this investment at all. 

Language Options

The hardest part is choosing which language to immerse your family in! Just click on the language above to go right to that page and check it out.

Which language would you like to learn?

Disclaimer: In exchange for my honest review I received Use French at Home and the Snack and Kitchen Talkbox. I am not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own. 

French Essentials: Review

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My girls are always asking how to say things in another my response is typically, “Ummmm….let’s look it up a little later!” Foreign language is not one of my strong-suits. I did take a few years of a foreign language in high school, but it became very clear my freshman year of college I didn’t retain very much! Needless to day, foreign language hasn’t really been on my radar for homeschooling yet…until now!

French Essentials uses a combination of downloadable pdf files and online content to explore the French language and culture in a unique blend of interactive and pencil-to-paper instructional activities. The available assessments are a wonderful way to check and gauge the students progress. You can choose either to purchase a full set with access to all modules and downloads or to purchase modules individually. Each module can be purchased for $69.95 (available for 90 days) and the full-package will all modules (available for 1 year) is $149.95. We were given the Full Access Online Program for review. 

My girls really enjoyed getting to hear the letters, words, and phrases pronounced correctly. As I said before my foray into foreign languages wasn’t all that fabulous and my pronunciation is simply dreadful! Native French speakers teach correct pronunciation and the entire program was created by experienced French teachers. I appreciated how grammar is incorporated so as the students learn the language they also learn how to put the parts of speech in the correct order. Another nice feature are the audio files embedded into the pdf files so there is no need to open multiple programs. 

I loved the very first activity in the first module. In order to help student learn to identify the correctly pronounced French alphabet a native French speaker calls out letters which will spell English words. This unique activity really resonated with Rose. She quickly picked up on the different vowel sounds and I really think the connection to English helped her do this more rapidly. Beth also liked the activity although it was harder for her. 

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This program is ideally used with students 3rd through eighth grade, but it can be used with students who are younger because of the extensive amount of oral practice and older if they are interested. The worksheet portions are best suited for students with a 3rd grade reading level or higher. 

French Essentials culture area photo frenchessentials4_zpsa088c965.jpgAs I mentioned before many aspects of the French culture are included which provide a nice balance and a fuller picture of what the language is all about. This is a really fun portion which I think would also encourage students to be open to more cultures as they learn.
Although the girls did enjoy using this, I learned something very important. None of us is ready for language study this extensive or in depth yet! The program is excellent, but it will take more time than we have right now to add it in daily as I would want. With that in mind, when we are ready for a full foreign language curriculum, this is definitely something we will revisit. I highly recommend this for anyone looking for a full-course language curriculum as it is high quality and seems to thoroughly explore the language. 
Click here to see what else my Crewmates had to say!

If You Were Me… from Away We Go Media: Review

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Our girls have always loved learning about other places. We frequently have missionaries in our church and what my daughters are most curious when they visit is what the country where they are from is like. They want to know about the food, the people, the music, the clothes…just everything! I’m always on the lookout for resources to encourage their curiosity. 
Carole P. Roman and Away We Go Media has created a wonderful set of resources for children to explore other cultures. They are beautifully illustrated and give children an idea of what life is like for other kids all around the world. So far If You Were Me and Lived in… South Korea, If You Were Me and Lived in… Mexico, If You Were Me and Lived in… France, and If You Were Me and Lived in… Norway (link coming soon!) are included in the series. The first three books in this series are available for purchase on Amazon in two formats: Kindle ($.99 each) and Paperback ($8.99 each). If You Were Me and Lived in…Norway is $1.99 (Kindle) or $10.79 (Paperback). They can also be purchased at Barnes and Noble for $9.99 each with the exception of If You Were Me and Lived in…Norway which can be purchased for $8.63. They are geared toward preschoolers through 8-year-old children. My girls thoroughly enjoyed each of the four and enjoyed taking turns reading them!
AAEach book contains information about the language, customs, heritage, and  lifestyle. I loved the inclusion of various tourist sites as well as what children would do at every age. The girls snuggled up on the couch and took turns reaching through each title in one sitting! 
Something I liked about the cover was that the location of each country was shown on a globe. Many other books on other countries I have seen show the country’s shape or in the context of its neighbors, but I have never seen it shown on a globe. This world-wide view gives them a wonderful big-picture sense of location.
Beth’s favorite was If You Were Me and Lived in South Korea. She really liked learning about the variety of food. She also really liked the picture of the baby, which is why I think she most enjoyed this one! 
Rose and I really liked If You Were Me and Lived in Norway. We have good friends and neighbors who moved their a couple of years ago. It was a lot of fun to think about what our friends might be doing, eating, or seeing! 
I also enjoyed the inclusion of words from other languages. The girls are forever asking me what other words mean in different languages. I’m not very good at knowing those things, but these books gently introduce new languages and give children an opportunity to use context clues to decipher what they mean. 
While I haven’t had a chance to do this yet, I also plan on using the books in this series with our children at church during our missions meetings. We meet once a month and I have the opportunity to teach the children more about missions. I love how easily these will fit into the other activities I already have planned!
Take a minute to watch this preview of If You Were Me and Lived in Mexico!
Check out what my Crewmates had to say!

Little Linguists Spanish and Wake Up Class Bible from Gallopade International: Review and Giveaway!

(Don’t forget to read through to the bottom for the giveaway!) 

One of the fun things about homeschooling is supplementing our regular curriculum. Many homeschoolers have a core curriculum they love, but no one curriculum covers every subject exhaustively. Dipping our toes into a variety of subjects has given me insights into my girls’ individuality as well as inspire us to dig further into areas I hadn’t considered before. No matter what subject you are looking to explore further, Gallopade has something for you! 

I’m not looking to start a full-blown language curriculum within our homeschool yet, but I do like the idea of introducing a variety of languages early. Gallopade International’s series, Little Linguists, provides a wonderful way to toe-dip into 10 different languages! This is not a full-course curriculum, but it works beautifully as an introduction or supplement to what you are already doing.

This series sounds fun before you even open the books. Titles like Do you Speak Spaghetti? (Italian), Of all the Gaul! (Latin), and Say WHAT when you sneeze?” (German) invite students to have fun as soon as they see it. These reproducible (Yay for reproducible!) books help children learn other languages through context clues, language similarities, and fun activities. Also included is cultural and geographical information which tie the language to its country of origin.
My girls constantly ask me how to say all varieties of words in different languages. Although I was in the Spanish Honor Society in high school, I must confess I remember very little and usually have to look things up. I can still translate minimally, but recalling words was never my strong point. Uh, Oh, Amigo! was so much fun for my girls! Although school happens all together, we rarely do lessons where we are learning the same thing at the same time due to their varied levels of learning. 
 Because this is not a full curriculum you do not have to go in order in the workbook. I plan to continue to do one page a week when our school year begins to give them consistent exposure to foreign languages. The activities include everything from matching, to bubbles, to fill-in-the-blank. They can be used alone or as a follow-up to a language lesson. Their uses are really unlimited. 
Beth was so surprised and excited she could understand Spanish in just the first sentence she read! One of the first pages we used has sentences written in English and only one word replaced in Spanish. I wasn’t sure how they would like this, but they were delighted! Now Beth consistently talks about living in a casa. I didn’t formally teach her casa is house in Spanish, but the format of the activity led her to logically figure it out. 
We will also be using From Russia With Love both at home and at church as we partner with a family currently in Russia serving God. I have come to really love this series and plan to purchase more in the future! 
Another new product from Gallopade International is a series called Wake Up the Class. These themed cards provide questions to engage children academically as soon as formal learning time begins with fun questions. There are nine different subject sets including history, critical thinking, writing, critical thinking, and Bible. We had the chance to review the set of Bible cards.
Each set is color coded so if you purchase multiple sets you can easily keep them organized. The content of the Bible cards would prohibit them from being used in most public school classrooms, but these would be a fun addition to a private school class, Sunday school class, or how we use them, in homeschooling. 
My girls tend to be morning people and we don’t typically have a hard time getting started on our lessons each day. I like to use these kinds of activities as a break from the routine or in between subjects.
The questions are a fun jumping off point for discussions as well. For kids with a solid biblical knowledge base some of the questions will be more like review, but in addition to the answer the reverse side of the cards also have an activity or discussion jump-off for further exploration. These questions have been well-thought out and will certainly engage your kids! 
For anyone in Tennessee and Georgia stop and say, “Hi!” at the Gallopade booth at the CSTHEA Homeschool Show in Chattanooga and the Southeast Homeschool Show in Atlanta. Don’t forget to tell them I sent you!
Now for the giveaway! 
There are two prizes to win and two separate winners! Make sure to share with your friends for extra entries.