One of the most common questions I’m asked when someone finds out we homeschool is, “What curriculum do you use?” At this point – having one child who just graduated and one getting ready to be a junior – we have used a hodgepodge of different curriculum – especially for high school. But A Beka was what we used all the way through elementary school (for the most part) so I thought I’d give a review of it. I’ve actually written about it before but this will be a little more in depth.
We used it for many years and we really liked it for elementary but I wasn’t as pleased with it for middle school and high school. The subjects that we studied through A Beka were: math, spelling & vocabulary, language (grammar), history and geography, health, reading, phonics, handwriting, and science. This curriculum is Christian based and uses Bible stories and Scripture in most, if not all, of its books. It is also a pretty challenging curriculum and I’ve been told that it’s up to a grade or two ahead of what a “normal” public school classroom would use. I don’t know if that’s an accurate statement but that’s what I’ve heard from more than one person. One of the reasons I liked this curriculum when my kids were younger was that it was workbook based and the books that the students use are very colorful and fun for the kids to look at. Another reason I really like this curriculum is that each subject has it’s own lesson plans that tell the teacher what needs to be completed each day. That way you’re not having to go through the book and figure out what needs to be completed each day in order to finish within a school year.
To break it down by subject…
I think A Beka does a great job of teaching history but they do an especially good job of teaching geography. My kids have learned more about world geography than I ever remember learning in school! I think my favorite grades were 5th and 6th – those two years worth of curriculum were really good. The 7th grade history program we didn’t care for and we actually ended up doing something else and never completed it. We went back to it for 8th grade and it was pretty decent but for high school we ended up using other things.
The language program is very good and teaches each concept extremely well. I have used A Beka grammar all the way up through high school and my kids have done very well with grammar as a result. This is actually the only subject that I really liked enough to stick with it all the way through high school. My daughter scored very high on her ACT in this area too so I know it’s good!
The spelling and vocabulary program also does a good job of introducing words that are great words for the kids to be learning. They are challenging and encourage a good vocabulary. We used this through 6th grade if I remember right. It’s been awhile! haha!
The handwriting program is good for younger kids still needing practice writing in print as well as in cursive. It’s obviously something that you can do without a curriculum and something very easily done another way but we stuck with it for awhile.
My kids differed in their opinions of the reading program. My son really enjoyed the readers that A Beka uses but my daughter didn’t care for them as much. Each grade level has several readers that the child reads throughout the year and some books are a compilation of short stories and some are one story per book. They are great stories about history, character, patriotism, and things like that. We were pleased with them in elementary but for middle school we have switched to following Sonlight‘s reading list.
My kids like to joke about some of the things that the health program teaches because they are kind of old-fashioned in some of the things they teach but this curriculum does a great job of teaching about the human body in each grade. I have been very impressed each year with the material learned. We used the health all the way to 8th grade.
I was also very pleased with A Beka’s math program in elementary school. It does a very good job of introducing new concepts as well as being repetitive enough to make sure the concepts are understood. One thing I’ve been impressed with is the amount of time devoted to teaching the metric system, Roman numerals, and weights and measurements. I don’t remember learning a lot of that when I was in a school and I had to learn this right along with my children! In fact, they know much more than I do in some of these areas! The only thing I didn’t care for with their math program is that the lessons seem to be long and have a lot of “busy work” in them (which seems to be popular in classrooms but unnecessary for homeschoolers). There are also quite a few review lessons which can get very repetitive if the child comprehends the work with no problem. We just ended up skipping a lot of the problems on the lessons and only doing a few problems here and there on some of the review lessons. We used the math program through 7th grade. The high school Algebra program didn’t work for us at all. It didn’t do a good job of explaining the lesson to the student and the teacher’s books didn’t give much more help than the student book did. We switched to Teaching Textbooks for middle school and high school math.
I think one test of how much you like something or how successful it was is asking yourself if you would do it the same way if you could do it all over again. I have to say that for science I would not. If I had it do over again I would not use a curriculum for science for early elementary. For later elementary and on into middle school and high school I like Apologia. There are so many ways to learn about science without using a textbook. My kids got bored with A Beka’s science books and I wish I would have done something different sooner. Library books, videos, shows on the Discovery channel, and things like that are all good ways to learn about science. The first year of homeschooling my daughter we did it this way and I can look back now and see that we had the most fun with science that year and it was the most memorable. Why I thought I needed a packaged curriculum is beyond me! haha!
My daughter’s biggest complaint of A Beka curriculum is that, even though it is a Christian curriculum, it doesn’t do a good job of explaining why we believe what we believe (this applies mostly to the science program). She doesn’t doubt Scripture and she doesn’t doubt what she believes as a Christian but she has said she wants it explained to her why she should believe it – not just have it “shoved down her throat.” Now, that sounds kind of harsh but after she started sharing this with me I could see where she was coming from. How can a person defend her faith if she isn’t able to explain why she believes the way she does? This is one main reasons we switched to Apologia and it does a fabulous job of explaining things and showing how to defend what you believe.
I hope this helps you get a better idea of what A Beka is like. There is probably so much more I could say but hopefully this is a good overview for you. Of course, this is only my opinion and that of my family so take it for what it’s worth. If your child does well with workbooks and textbooks, if you like a curriculum that has lesson plans already laid out for you, if your child needs challenging work, then you probably would not be disappointed with this curriculum.