Please Note: A Beka does not sell their materials to Exodus Books. The following overview is meant to help you evaluate A Beka as a curriculum, and give you some other options to consider as well.
A Beka's writing and grammar course is the closest thing we carry to a complete 1-12 grade language arts program. Students are taught handwriting, grammar, reading comprehension, vocabulary, and creative writing/composition through a series of books easily used in a teacher-intensive or student-led situation. (There are also separate, more thorough A Beka handwriting, vocabulary, and reading comprehension courses available.) Though designed for classroom use, this curriculum is easily adapted for homeschool.
The colorful texts are fun without being too distracting. Lessons are of manageable length (one page for grades 1-3, two for grades 4-12), with a good balance of reading and exercises. Content is well-suited for each grade level (first graders aren't learning about participial phrases, twelfth graders aren't still practicing handwriting).
How Do These Work?
At the core of each level is a consumable student worktext and accompanying teacher edition. There is also a test book and key, neither of them essential. Kids read text and complete exercises. The explanatory text is plain enough for students to understand on their own; additional instruction isn't necessary but it can only help. A Beka uses the spiral approach to instruction—concepts are repeatedly reintroduced either for further explanation or simply for review so that students don't learn something and then forget about it because they never have to deal with it again. At the same time, grade-specific instruction thoroughly explores each topic before moving on to another.
Each level is intended for use five days a week throughout a normal 36-week school year. Lessons should take no more than 20-45 minutes from beginning to end, though of course this will vary among both students and parents. Teacher prep time may take awhile if you want your kids to learn more than is contained in their texts, since the teacher editions offer no supplementary or presentational material.
The teacher editions are basically just spiralbound versions of the student texts, except that they include the answers to all exercises. There isn't extra material to aid in presentation, so if you want to supplement you'll have to do the work yourself. In the early grades this shouldn't be too hard, and in the later grades there's a lot more explanation in the student text so students probably won't need as much outside help (if they need any).
Language 1-3 cover the first three grades. These texts deal with the basics—the emphasis is on grammar and reading comprehension / vocabulary, though there are some creative writing assignments. God's Gift of Language A-C for grades 4-6 focus on grammar and sentence construction. There is more to read, and exercises are longer and require more analytical thinking. Grammar and Composition I-IV are for grades 7-10 and continue the themes of God's Gift of Language at a more advanced level; creative, original writing becomes more integral at this stage. Separate texts cover grades 11-12, with the emphasis on composition.
This course moves somewhat slower than others, mainly due to consistent review. The repetition gets old for some (especially if their students are particularly good at English), but for most it's a welcome reprieve from the breakneck speed of other programs. English is one of the most important subjects you can teach your kids, so it's vital they retain what they learn; the slower pace and repetition are designed to make sure they do.
The authors emphasize clear thinking and effective communication as the desired aims of the course. Since a good sentence presents the author's thoughts clearly, the two are inseparable. Students are provided with the tools they need to think and write well, not just giving them tons of rules they may or may not remember (though the rules are here, too).
Our Honest Opinion:
This is a self-contained, easily adaptable course that provides a thorough overview of essential language arts topics. The texts are colorful and engaging, and this doesn't detract from the content. For parents who want to actually present the material, the teacher editions leave something to be desired—they aren't much more than glorified answer keys. Placing your child might be difficult if you're moving from another program to A Beka, since there is a progression from grades 1-12 that may differ from that followed in another course.
Some complain that the material jumps around too much. However, there isn't really a specific order in which a lot of English topics "ought" to be introduced—those that are dependent on others are taught in the proper order (paragraphs aren't covered before sentences or anything weird like that). Overall this is an excellent course—better than many comparable courses, and better than a lot of A Beka's other programs. The limited number of materials for each level make it manageable and affordable, and the self-evident layout makes each text easy for students and teachers.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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