The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews

With so many products available we often need a little help in making our curriculum choices. The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine family understands because we are in the same boat! Do you need more information on a product before you buy? With over 5,500 products listed in 52 easy-to-use categories, much of the information you need to know is only a click away! Let our reviewer-families help yours.
Do you want to get the word out about your product or service to the homeschool community? Email Jenny Higgins and share a little about what you´d like showcased, and we can help with that!

Breaking the Spanish Barrier Online and Breaking the French Barrier Online Review by Lori Hooten

John Conner
Breaking the Barrier

Language study is something that most high school students need. Breaking the Barrier has brought a multifaceted program that helps immerse the student in the language studied. Breaking the Barrier Online has created an interactive experience for the language student to practice with the language and gain exposure to the culture.

The Breaking the Barrier program consists of the online resource, where most of the work will occur. The homeschool package contains a print copy of the student workbook, a print copy of the answer key, the printed Oasis booklet for the respective language, a print copy of the test program, a print copy of the homeschool pacing guide, a disc of pronunciations, and a code for access to the online program. The online program code gives 12 months of access.

Breaking the Barrier Online is the digital version of the workbook, but it is also much more. Breaking the Barrier Online does cover everything in the workbook. It also adds digital flashcards, audio samples, pronunciations, video clips, and interactive answers. In merging the online with the workbook, Breaking the Barrier Online immerses the student in the language through cultural experiences and images showing the countries that speak that language. This benefits all students with a varied approach to learning. If the student learns best with written lessons, it is included. If the student learns best with audio lessons, it is included. These immersive language lessons help students learn in all manner of instruction.

Both Breaking the French Barrier and Breaking the Spanish Barrier have three levels of instruction - beginner, intermediate, and advanced. The beginner level covers basics in vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. The programs pack the foundational principles into each lesson. Students complete each lesson in one to two weeks. It is easier to focus on the trickier parts of the language, such as verb endings, by spreading it out over two weeks. One level in each language is one year's worth of material when a lesson is covered every two weeks. The pacing guide will help the homeschool family decide how quickly to work through the material.

Both Breaking the French Barrier and Breaking the Spanish Barrier begin First Steps. These exercises gently bring the student into the language and culture and start learning before the more intensive lessons start. Once the studies begin, the lesson includes vocabulary through digital flashcards and videos of instruction in culture. The instructions for the task are in English and can be read to the student. Each exercise is written out for the student to read, and it has a button that to click for it to be read. This allows the student to get experience in both reading and hearing the language. The exercises also have written practice with interactive answers, where the student clicks a cell to see the correct answer. No automatic number grades are assigned or kept within the program. If a student needs a grade for transcripts, the parent must assess and assign as needed.

Breaking the French Barrier has proven to be a tougher language series than our 9th-grade student thought it would be. The vocabulary is not the struggle.  The struggle is in the verb endings and typing the answer, which must be entered with correct accent marks. The program has been particularly good for challenging her understanding of sentences and vocabulary, forcing her to focus on how sentences are constructed. This is part of the immersion into the French language this program provides. She is challenged but finds the challenge to be an enjoyable one as she becomes more confident in her French language.

Breaking the Spanish Barrier has been an enjoyable language experience for my 11th grader. She has found the lessons interesting and can keep up with them quite well. Her understanding is growing through the written, audio, and visual presentation of the lessons and cultural instruction that the online program provides. Spanish is also a complex language to write from the computer keyboard, but she is learning to maneuver that well, and her writing is getting stronger.

It is important to note that the online work is visible only when logging on with the computer on which the work was completed. Each exercise is completed, and save is clicked. That allows the work to be viewed from the computer on which it was completed. The parent cannot log in from a different computer to view the student's completed work. There is also not a comprehensive listing of what the student has completed. The student must remember which lesson and exercise was last completed to know where to begin the next one.

Our family has found Breaking the Barrier Online to be a challenging foreign language program. Both the French and the Spanish lay strong foundational principles and build upon those. Both languages immerse the student in hearing, writing, and understanding the language, resulting in a faster learning experience. Having heard of Breaking the Barrier before this review, I found the program is even stronger than expected. I recommend Breaking the Barrier Online for those looking for a French or Spanish language online instruction program.

-Product review by Lori Hooten, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April 2021