Tuesday, April 29, 2008

It's that time of year again!

No, not taxes, that's over! I am talking about "Back to School" time. For those of us homeschooling, now is the time to start thinking about what curriculum to use come fall, and to start gathering those materials.

Recently, I have been asked by several different ladies what my recommendations in this area are, and have decided to put the information on here for everyone. I am certainly not an "expert" on homeschool materials and methods, but I will tell you what I do.

This year will be my 5th year of teaching our children, with our 6 year old (almost 7) going into 3rd grade, the 5 year old into 1st, and the 3yr old starting K4 or K5 (I haven't decided on that yet - maybe I will have him start K4 at double speed and have him finish in K5 by school year's end).

There are several curricula that I can recommend, but all of them have their drawbacks and I do not use the same publisher for all subjects.

- Landmark Baptist Freedom Curriculum (LFBC): Put out by a local, independent, fundamental Baptist church. advantages: KJV only, inexpensive, easy to follow, can be very well self-taught by student, not too time intensive, teaches reading well in Kindergarten; disadvantages: not very colorful or engaging to younger children, hard to find used on ebay etc., can be not enough challenging for advanced/lazy students, all books are consumables

I used this publisher in K4, K5, and 1st grade for our oldest, but am not currently using it at all.

- A Beka: I am talking about their book materials, not the DVDs. advantages: KJV only, mostly conservative appearance (i.e. clothing), very well prepared and colorful, especially engaging for younger students, great teacher materials, can easily be found used (making it much cheaper), some books are not consumable and can be used again and again, materials can be previewed in person at materials' displays; disadvantages: expensive if bought new, a little complicated to figure out what you need because of the vast selection, not easily self-taught in lower grades, can be very time consuming for parent

- Bob Jones University Press: Again, I am only talking about their books. advantages: KJV only,
conservative appearance in certain subjects, very well prepared and colorful, great teacher support materials, can easily be found used; disadvantages: much more "liberal" approach in certain subjects, expensive

So far, these are the only publishers I have used. I would never use a curriculum that does not use KJV verses only, even if my kids know that other versions are wrong. On the other hand, there are KJV only curriculums like "Rod and Staff" that I would not use because they are put out by Mennonites etc. who believe in Lordship salvation and do not believe in eternal security. So even though this is a very conservative, old-fashioned curriculum I would never expose my children to that kind of false doctrine. I know a lot of people also like to use ACE School of Tomorrow, but I have not yet used any of their materials for homeschooling and thus don't have an opinion on it.

Also, I do not recommend using any computer/DVD/satellite based programs, especially for young students. For one, that's not really me teaching the children. Although I am very much in favor of self-study, these courses are not self taught as much as taught by another adult on the screen. Second, I would never set my kids in front of something that I have not personally previewed, so it wouldn't even save any time at all. Thirdly, the cost is mostly astronomical.

Next, I will list you my favorite publisher for each subject. This is what I used last year, and will be using again this year with only minor changes.

- Bible: No bought curriculum. Even the one from LFBC had doctrinal mistakes in the 1st grade book. Instead, I read the Bible to the kids each day at a rate of reading it through once per year. I have a "One Year Bible" that has an OT portion, a NT portion, a Psalm and a passage from Proverbs for each day of the year, which I find very helpful in staying on track. In addition, the kids listen to preaching CDs from my husband every day, and also all work on Bible memory. For better retention, I recommend memorizing passages rather than individual verses. Solomon is also reading through the NT on his own for the first time this year. He started Jan. 1st and is up to date and on track. When I looked over his Bible today, I was thrilled to see that the pages from Matthew 1 - Luke 22 are very worn and show many highlighted, underlined, and otherwise marked verses.

- Math: I used LFBC in the past, which was great, but moved a little too slow. I found the same to be true with A Beka, and I didn't like the "crazy" appearance of the Bob Jones Math curriculum. I have since switched all kids to "Harcourt Math", which is a secular publisher but that does not come into play in a subject like math. They have really enjoyed those materials. I bought them used on Amazon because the publisher only sells them to schools.

- Science: I like both A Beka (starts in K) and Bob Jones (starts in 1st grade), and usually do both in each given grade since they each only have about 60 lessons per year.

- English/Phonics/Reading: I like the A Beka Kindergarten reading program, which would be very well suited to teach children at different levels at the same time. The extra materials like flashcards, charts, etc. are pretty expensive, but can be found used online or made yourself. In higher grades, I find that the grammar is too repetitive and moves forward too little, so this year I will switch our 3rd grader to the Bob Jones English which seems much more advanced. Our 1st grader will stay in A Beka. You would have to be very selective with any reader in any program, since they may contain stories that you don't approve of.

- History (starting in 1st grade): I love the Bob Jones history curriculum - it is the best I have found so far hands down. Again, you could teach more than one child at the same time very easily.

- Spelling (starting in 1st grade): A Beka

- Writing/Penmanship (starting in K4) - A Beka

- Health, Safety, Manners (starting in 1st grade): A Beka - This is really more of a fun subject, and can be expanded to include P.E. The kids love it!

- Art (starting in K) - A Beka - Again, it's more for fun than academics. I have tons of craft and art books for kids, but I like to buy the A beka books because they "jump start" the activity. I can make a different craft with all three of the kids simultaneously in 30 minutes or less. Before, art would be one of those subjects that usually fell by the wayside because of time constraints, materials, organization, etc.

- Music: Our oldest does weekly piano lessons with his dad, and is learning very well. We might start the 5 year old on lessons soon since he is also showing an interest. I will also start teaching both of them music theory in a weekly music lesson starting this fall using the piano theory books by Bastien.

In addition, the kids also learn German from me, and I try to involve them in a lot of housework/cooking/cleaning so that they will know how to do these as an adult. Every parent has unique talents and abilities such as gardening, sewing, woodworking etc. that they can and should pass down to their kids "on the side".

There may be a homeschool convention in your area each year that has displays from dozens if not hundreds of publishers. I plan on going to one for the first time this summer. You can check out the website of Home School Legal Defense Association to see if there are any conventions in your area, as well as look up the specific laws pertaining to homeschooling in your state.

Another thing I would like to mention are home school support groups that probably exist in your area. I personally do not belong to any such group, and would not recommend joining one unless it is organized and headed by your local church, with only church members in the group. Anything else would lead to you taking field trips, participating in group sports, and other such activities with others who calls themselves "Christian", but may be anything from Mormon to Lutheran and the like. As our church grows, I would like to start such a group for families in our church. I have also started gathering teaching materials for a homeschool lending library of books that could be used by members of our church to help cut down on their costs.

Don't let anyone discourage you about homeschooling. It is the only right choice. My husband, who went to Christian schools (seven different ones), public schools, and was homeschooled for one year, says that the Christian schools were by far the worst and most corrupt. When we were first married, I helped out in our church's Christian school for a year. I saw first hand how the worst kids will seek out the nicest, most "sheltered" students and try hard to corrupt them. I have heard similar accounts from other former Christian school teachers. There is always a push for more enrollments because that means more money coming in, and more control over the families in the church whose kids are enrolled.

I don't think homeschooling is a better or safer option, I think it is the only Biblical approach to educating children. There is a clear mandate in the Bible that we are to teach our children ourselves. "Thou" in the Bible is always talking to ONE person, as opposed to "you" which is addressing more than one person.

Deu 6:7 "And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."

Deu 11:19 "And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."


  1. Hi. I'm a Mennonite and just read your comments about your objections to eternal security and to "Lordship salvation." I'm not sure what you mean by "Lordship salvation." Could you explain that?

  2. Great post! I added a link to your curriculum reviews to my website.

  3. Dave,

    "Lordship salvation" means that in order to be saved, a person must make Jesus the "Lord of their life", i.e. be willing to live for Him. This usually also requires "repentance from sins" as a prerequisite for being saved.

    We believe that salvation is by grace through faith only, and that no good works need to accompany or follow this. We also believe in the eternal security of believers.

  4. Zsuzsanna,

    Thanks for responding to my email.
    I had looked a Landmark and A Beka
    and I am leaning more towards A Beka.
    I like how colorful their books are and I know for a fact I can get my hands on them used.

    God Bless,

  5. My dad is a Christian school administrator, and I know they sell a good bit of extra Abeka and BJU curriculum on ebay. That's a good place to look if you're trying to be wise with dollars.

    I attended the college run by the Abeka folks, and while their intentions are good, my experience with the school and the whole "ministry" during my time there (1995-1999) was that the "ministry" as a whole was quite corrupt.

    However, I will say (and please don't take this personally) that it seems a bit hypocritical to say the curriculum from a school is worth using, but that the school itself is corrupt. (Maybe that's just my opinion...maybe I misunderstood you.)

    That said, there are some Christian schools that are doing a good job, teaching what is right, and training children properly. Your husband's limited experience with Christian education shouldn't be blindly accepted as an all-inclusive sampling of institutions of Christian education. They're not all corrupt.

    Finally, I'd just like to commend you for doing what you believe is right for your children. I think that you're wrong about homeschooling being the only real option, but there's something to be said for parents who do what they believe, even though homeschooling is probably more challenging and stressful than my day job could ever be. Kudos to you guys for that.

  6. Ron,

    Thanks for your comment. I'm not sure I specifically mentioned that any of the named schools (Pensacola, BJU, etc.) are corrupt, but you are right in that I do not condone Bible colleges in general, and particularly take issue with those.

    As far as affecting the curriculum, I pick and choose between publishers because some are right on in certain subjects and not in others. None of them are "perfect", but other than writing my own materials I feel these differences are negligible. For example, I dropped the LFBC Bible curriculum because of their strong stand on "repentance from sin". Another example is that sometimes A Beka will show pictures of Jesus, but I simply have my kids skip those pages. BJU is the most liberal of the listed curricula but has very conservative materials for science and history, both of which I have found unobjectionable. I think as the children grow older it will be harder to find good materials.

    You are certainly right about home schooling being stressful and challenging at times. But then, I'd probably be stressed sitting at home worrying about what my kids were exposed to at school. As a mother I am also benefiting by learning such things as patience.

    Of course, our kids have lots of the right kind of outside influence by interacting with people in our church.

  7. Zsuzsanna,

    I used ACE School of Tomorrow with my three kids when I home-schooled them. It is good. It is very similar to Alpha Omega, in that the kids write directly in the work books. My kids are all in their 20's now, but we are looking at curriculum for our 1 1/2 year old granddaughter for when she is old enough to start school. Then it will be her brother, who is only 6 weeks old now. By the way, I would like prayer for the baby as he has to have surgery on Monday morning to have a cyst removed from off of his navel. We spent all of yesterday at a Children's hospital here in town to have see a surgeon, the to have an ultra-sound done to make sure that the bladder was not connected from the inside, which it is not, so it will be removed, which right now is good. We have to go the next size in diapers,and we can't until that is taken off.

  8. And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Luke 5: 31 & 32


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