Disclosure: We worked in partnership with Panda Tree to bring you this information. All opinions are our own.
written by Christa Jimenez, of Pura Vida Moms
One of the most common questions that I receive as a bilingual parent and former bilingual teacher is: how do I teach my children to become bilingual? There are so many answers to that question– and it really depends on the culture of language of the family. I’ve yet to find a truly good one-size-fits all language learning option for busy parents…until now!
I had the opportunity to test PandaTree online foreign language lessons for preschool age kids with my youngest daughter, and I am thrilled with the program. I’ve already recommended it to more than 5 of my friends in just two weeks– and I can’t wait to share more about the program with Imagination Soup readers too!
What Is Panda Tree?
PandaTree is a paid online platform that offers foreign language lessons for kids. The program uses live tutors to teach Mandarin Chinese or Spanish to children who either want to learn a second language, or (as in our case) who need to reinforce language they are learning from school or home.
The founder of PandaTree, Kristina Klausen, was looking for a way for her kids to reinforce the Mandarin Chinese they were learning at school- but she didn’t speak the language. After using a tutor via Skype from Beijing, the idea for PandaTree foreign language lessons was born.
What Is A Typical PandaTree Lesson Like?
You can choose between a 25- or 55-minute lesson in Mandarin or Spanish. We chose Spanish because my younger daughter is getting ready to start a preschool immersion program and I’ve been lax on the Spanish this summer. I wanted her to be prepared, so we chose a native Spanish speaking tutor named Ana for the lesson.
Ana starts the lesson with some conversation to get to know our daughter, asking her about her day and her favorite things. Then she reviews the previous lesson’s vocabulary through song and creative props, and introduces the new vocabulary. I LOVE the songs that she uses– my daughter loves to sing along and doesn’t even realize how much Spanish she is speaking when she sings.
Ana then practices the new vocabulary in a very simple and repetitive manner, eliciting responses from my daughter who is three. The tutor is SOOO positive and fun that my daughter is smiling during the whole lesson. One of my favorite parts about PandaTree is that the songs and practice exercises are available for practice use between lessons.
How Do I Sign Up For A PandaTree Lesson?
Signing up is super simple– you just go to the PandaTree website and hit the sign up button. You will be prompted to create a user profile, and then can choose your language. After that, you can indicate your child’s level of language, and choose your lesson by tutor or schedule. Each tutor has a photo and a great bio, and I was impressed with the language experience of all of the tutors.
You will then be sent a confirmation and a login for your child. Your child will be on screen with a tutor, so there is a release form that you will accept before the tutor can view your child. With the student login, you will also allow access to the practice exercises that are available between lessons.
I would caution you to plan a bit ahead for scheduling the lessons. There are lots of availability for the tutors, but I did notice that I couldn’t schedule with the tutor that I wanted with less than about 36 hours advance notice. Which is completely reasonable. (But I am so bad at scheduling ahead!)
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that I love PandaTree and so does my daughter! She is highly engaged and happy during the lessons and afterward, feels proud of her accomplishments. She constantly asks if it’s Spanish Lesson day because she loves PandaTree so much. It’s geared for students entering immersion programs, beginning students, and homeschoolers looking to add language to their programs. I’m a former Spanish teacher, and I WISH I had had this resource for parents who asked how to avoid the summer slide in Spanish.
I will say that because of our family’s unique situation– Spanish is our home language and we use this for reinforcement– the tutor could have definitely pushed my daughter a bit outside of the curriculum. For example, they practiced numbers 1-5 in Spanish even though she can count to 17. Again, we have a unique situation and the benefits of having a native Spanish speaker tutoring our daughter a few times a week absolutely outweighs the “cost” in this situation!
The program comes with a recap email of your child’s lesson. Watch if you are unable to be there during the lesson. Also, your child can practice in their child hub, a separate login for them. And I love that there’s even a downloadable parent’s guide showing exactly what their child is learning.
Overall, PandaTree has this former teacher and bilingual parent’s stamp of approval!