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 has been writing and publishing Christian curriculum for several decades now. Designed for use by Christian schools, the texts are easily adaptable by home school families. They are clearly written, and their colorful, well-designed layout has made them a popular textbook choice. Their science curriculum is written from a strong fundamentalist Christian perspective with an emphasis on creationism throughout.
Unlike other programs designed specifically for classroom use, A Beka's student texts are mostly self-contained. Parents might want the teacher's guides/lesson plans to guide experiments, but they don't need to spend a lot of time instructing, and if they prefer, they can purchase inexpensive answer keys to grade written work. Students can read the text on their own and learn (for the most part) what they need to know. At the same time, the text itself isn't all that engaging, and kids may get bored or burned out on a dry presentation of facts. While considerable teacher involvement is not necessary, it may be needed to get kids to actually enjoy science.
How Do These Work?
Grades K-2 are simple: A Beka publishes a student worktext and an optional teacher guide. Subsequent levels are more complicated. Other than the textbook, three additional consumable books are recommended for reinforcing material: a test book, quiz book, and student activity book (or lab manual). Each of these has a seperate answer key. The teacher editions for grades 3-8 include the entire textbook, along with the answer key and a few sample lessons. However, an answer key and a full "curriculum" (or lesson planner) is also available. The teacher's guides for high school are a combination answer key/lesson planner. (Cheaper answer keys for grades 4-10 are also available from Christian Liberty Press.)
Grades K-6 are consumable worktexts and very general in scope; 7-8 remain general but are no longer consumable; 9-12 are non-consumable textbooks focusing on specific subjects like biology and chemistry. To complete the courses, students read the texts and answer vocabulary, comprehension, and occasional thought questions. Additional memory reinforcement is provided in the quizzes and tests. Activity books (available for most grades 4-8) provide diagrams to label, crossword puzzles, ideas for collecting specimens, etc. The high school lab manuals provide instructions for experiments and forms for recording observations. While the activity books are very accessible to home school families, the lab manuals assume the student has accesss to an equipped science lab.
A Beka publishes supplementary material for most grade levels, including audio CDs (reminiscent of the Lyrical Learning), flash cards, and DVD lab demonstrations. This is a self-contained curriculum; everything you need is in the basic materials, and you could even get away with using just the student text and teacher's edition if you didn't want to spend the extra money or have a bunch of different items laying around. CLP publishes inexpensive teacher's guides/answer keys for the 4th-9th grade science texts. These include brief elaborations of the information found in the student texts in addition to answers for the in-text questions.
Our Honest Opinion:
Sometimes a curriculum comes around that we can't stop being excited about. This one isn't it, but we don't hate it either. It's a good standard curriculum that will introduce your kids to the basics of science and help them think scientifically. While a lot of parents really like it, we don't see it as particularly unique. A common complaint from parents is that it isn't dynamic enough for their kids. While this may be a legitimate frustration, we find many parents who say they can't or won't take the time to supplement the material.
Kids good at memorizing will probably benefit from the straightforward approach. The curriculum doesn't try to appeal to kids on more than a basic intellectual level, but students who apply themselves will learn a lot. Even those who don't try will learn something, but there's a good chance they won't develop a strong interest in science.
The CLP answer keys are a good option for those who don't want to spend a lot of money and who want their kids to learn on their own. A Beka approaches science from a distinctly Christian angle, and the examples aren't weird or offensive. For a Christian science program, this one is among the more thorough and easiest adapted to home school/self-learning.
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.