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.
"If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." We think it's time to ignore the old adage on one topic. Since 1998, we've declined to buy the A Beka Bible curriculum. Naturally, we're often asked why. Here's our defense of that decision:
This review deals primarily with the middle and high school courses as the elementary grade materials were unavailable.
A Beka offers a full Bible course for grades K4-12. The K-6 materials are mostly comprised of "flash-a-card" pictures from various Bible stories, along with small overview books, song CD, and Bible memory aids. The flash-a-card packets, sometimes recycled from grade-to-grade, come in two sizes: the classroom/Sunday school versions are about 12"x15" (sometimes slightly smaller); home school editions are usually 8.5"x11". (Since these are largely just pictures, and could be aids to any Bible teacher, we do accept these as donations.)
Theology and doctrine are included throughout the course, but the emphasis is Bible knowledge and personal application. The doctrinal background is baptistic, Arminian, and Dispensational, though none of these are emphasized too much (except in grades 11-12), the authors maintaining a fairly nonsectarian attitude.
How Do These Work?
For grades 7-12 each level is divided into two semesters centered around a student text. For each of grades 7-10 one semester covers an Old Testament period and another covers a New Testament period (except in grade 9 when both semesters cover Old Testament topics); in grades 11-12 the focus is more broad, including church history, personal lifestyle, and doctrine. A semester pack usually includes a student text, teacher's manual, and test book with answer key, though some also include a large fold-out map. The elementary texts provide a chronological survey of the Bible, with special emphasis on personal salvation.
This course can be student- or teacher-directed. The teacher manuals provide supplementary information and lesson plans/outlines, but they aren't necessary. Student books are plain text with black-and-white pictures. Tests and quizzes include matching, multiple choice and essay questions. For grades 7-10, the maps are an essential feature, as many of the test and quiz questions relate directly. Each semester follows an 18-week program to coincide with a normal 36-week school year.
Unlike much of A Beka's curricula, the Bible course doesn't follow a "spiral" approach. There isn't much repetition; due to the amount of material to cover there isn't room for it. There is a unifying theme, however—an emphasis on personal salvation and piety. Even when relating spiritually and theologically significant stories, the authors' questions challenge students to ponder how this relates to their own life, and to judge the situation in moralistic good/bad terms. While this can be important to help kids understand the importance of holy living, it doesn't help them much in the way of creative, independent thinking, or in understanding the theological and intellectual aspects of their faith.
Our Honest Opinion:
As mentioned before, A Beka's Bible curriculum is written from a distinctly baptistic, Arminian, Dispensational/premillenial platform with an emphasis on holiness doctrine. The authors are decidedly fundamentalist and ultra-conservative, and do little to hide this attitude. While most of the material in the course (excluding grades 11-12) is fairly universal Christian teaching, the constant moralizing will frustrate many. Also, in the later books other possible positions or interpretations are not even presented, so that students without much outside background will end up with a very one-sided knowledge and understanding.
When teaching the Bible to young people it is important to provide them a firm foundation for that knowledge, not just an unsteady framework of information and rules. A Beka's approach is decidedly unfounded, so that many of the assertions they make and attitudes they maintain are done so in a context-less vacuum. It is dogmatism without first establishing the parameters and basis of that dogmatism. So while your kids might become familiar with the general chronological flow of Biblical events and stories, the deeply significant aspects of the overall narrative will likely remain lost on them.
Some of our general concerns with the course are included in this article. For in-depth reviews of particularly problematic texts, see our reviews of Bible Doctrines for Today, Book of the Revelation, Life Management Under God, and Sex, Love & Romance. If you want to understand our doctrinal perspectives, there's a lot to read, but we'd recommend our Books for Edification article as a starting point. While you may not have the same concerns we do, these reviews should serve as an apology for our policy of not buying used A Beka Bible curriculum.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and 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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