I tried a new homeschooling method this year by enrolling my kids in A Beka Academy; a distance learning program. Here is what we thought. The good, the bad and the ugly.
When I was a kid I was blessed to be able to attend private schools for a time. In the fourth grade, I went from sub-par LA County public education to college prep material. The curriculum I was introduced to was called A Beka Books, produced by Pensacola Bible College. It was so challenging that for the first semester I floundered and failed at everything. However, because the curriculum is blessedly repetitive I was able to hike up my boots and catch up with the class. I eventually became a top student and was extremely well prepared once I went to high school. I am really thankful for the quality education my dad was able to give me.
I have been homeschooling for about five years now (if you want to count pre-school). I knew from the beginning that I wanted to teach my children by using literature based learning. Not Charlotte Mason, as that really excludes many fiction stories that I find too wonderful to leave behind. But a learning through the use of delicious books that capture the heart and imagination of the reader and gives context to the things they are supposed to be learning. I began creating my own curriculum and teacher guide to try to make this happened. This worked for about a year but soon I was too swamped to continue. I began to search around for help. It was then that a dear friend of mine mentioned Sonlight Curriculum. I looked into it and was instantly sure that this was exactly the way I was trying to educate my sons. I have been using Sonlight ever since.
BUT baby number four came at the beginning of a new school year (not to mention the move from trailer living to our little house). I knew I couldn’t muster the gumption I needed to use the Sonlight curriculum while healing from birth and unpacking boxes. So we enrolled our older boys in A Beka Academy. It is a distance learning school which incorporates the use of DVDs of recordings taken from an actual classroom and books and materials to follow along with that class. I knew going into it that this program was much more testing and memorization oriented than I liked but that it would serve its purpose for one year.
Now it is the end of that year. And here is what I thought. I am so glad we were able to do this curriculum. Both boys can write in stunning cursive and have a fantastic foundation in phonics and math. I am so pleased with their performance and do not regret this year at all. If your child is an auditory learner this is a great program. If your child is calm and able to sit still for hours at a time. Again, great. But if you have two very imaginative, precocious boys with an eternal supply of ants in their pants this is something I would maybe not consider. The amount of rote repetitions, busy work and homework was so overwhelming that there were many days that we started school at 9 and didn’t finish until 5 or 6 or even bedtime. Sitting still and staying on task is such a challenge for most boys. I was really sad to have to force them to sit still and focus when it was all they could do to not burst into tears of frustration.
Another concern I had were the doctrinal memorization and the Bible lessons. There were times when the heavily conservative Baptist doctrine was so drilled and memorized that I felt that the kids had no space for questions or doubts. In fact, my oldest son, told me that he thinks he is a terrible kid because sometimes he wonders if God is real or not. I quickly nipped that in the bud and told him that I was proud of him for thinking things through and that he should ask questions and test what he believes. I don’t want my children to be Christian robots who know all of the correct answers but have no faith of their own.
I am endlessly impressed with the quality of education the A Beka Academy is producing and, again, feel no remorse over using it. That said, this school year showed me that I am, perhaps, much more of an un-schooler, then I realized. and that I missed those magical moments that can happen in home school when you are able to explore a subject and stray from curriculum to feed hungry curiosity. The kids and I used to learn wonderful things together but with the DVD learning, I was the mean old school marm policing them and making sure they stay on task.
Summary: A Beka Academy; great stuff, not for me. Sonlight wins again.
Rigorous and competitive
Provides grades for submitted material
solid foundation laid for phonics and language
too little time to move and wriggle
Bible time is not heart probing but memorization based
Math is very quick and speed oriented
the text books can be boring
way too many tests and quizzes
not enough space to stop and explore a topic of interest
How about you? Have you had success/concerns with A Beka? I would love to create some dialogue on this.
Blessings to you and yours.