I'm on my fifth day of my June, 2015 Italian Language Challenge and I wanted to give an update now because some of my parameters have changed since my original post (surprise, surprise). First off, I have not been using Magari like I expected but I've found two other resources that are a little better for someone who is self-studying. The first is called Parola a Te! It covers each of Italy's ragioni and discusses aspects of history, literiture, and culture that are important to each ragione. I also has both audio and video companions that can be found on the book's web site. The other book is Il Rifugio Segreto: Letture Semplificate. This also comes with a CD but what I like most about it is that it matches my reading and listening level really well and includes explanations of vocabulary from the texts in Italian.
The biggest change, though, has been working with my iTalki tutor Laura. She's been kind enough to take on some daily tasks and lesson prep work for the cost of a couple of extra hours of lessons. Every night I send her a report of what I have done that day and she corrects any exercises for which I don't have the answer key as well as correcting any writing that I have done. It's a huge commitment because I don't take days off. There might be days when I can't do as much as I want to, but I make an effort to get some Italian study in every single day. So far, just knowing that she has an expectation of me is helping to keep my on task and I feel like I have made more progress in the past 5 days than I did in all of May. That's not to say I didn't make any progress in May, I did. I was just kind of aimless and a lack of focus always leads to less progress than learning with a clear goal.
Two of my three big complaints about my learning process have been addressed with this arrangement: I'm writing more and I'm prepping for my lessons. The final one is really up to me, though. I really believe in doing learning retrospectives to take new vocabulary and structures from your online lessons and add them to Anki or Memrise or whatever spaced-repetition system you use. Without doing this so much learning slips through your fingers because you are so focused on the act of participating in the conversation there is no chance you will remember which grammatical structures you got wrong or which vocabulary words you are mispronouncing. If I can maintain this level and quality of work, I am really sure that I can make it to B2 by the end of August, 2015.