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 History is a comprehensive K-12 curriculum which uses the spiral approach to explore the global events that shaped our current situation. (In history, the spiral approach simply means that important topics are brought up again and again, each time in more depth.)The focus is United States history and social studies, with a strong patriotic zeal undergirding each text. Students are taught to view history from a providential perspective, to see God at work throughout the story of mankind.
The publishers emphasize that their approach is not Hegelian or Marxian, in which history is seen as an endless series of conflicts and resolutions. Instead, their approach is positive, seeing the progress of God's plan. The United States is seen as a nation built on Christian principles which needs desperately to be brought back to those principles. A Beka stresses that their history course is strenuously conservative and Christian in approach.
How Do These Work?
Student texts are all filled with colorful illustrations and straightforward text. Each grade is typically supplemented by answer keys, tests, quizzes, map-related activities, civics workbooks and lesson/curriculum planners. While these extra materials reinforce the material, you only need the student text (consumable through grade 4)and answer key. Teacher guides provide suggestions for presentation, background information, and ideas for group activities, though again this course is intended to be student-guided.
Grades K-4 focus on United States history and social studies. Kids learn how our country was founded, its government and legal systems, basic rules for public life, and geography. Other countries are covered in passing. There's a lot of discussion in the first books about the flag and its significance. Grade 3 is unique, containing a seemingly haphazard collection of biographies of important Americans (Billy Sunday is in, Patrick Henry is out).
Grades 5-8 are standard history texts, alternating between Old and New World history and geography. These years lay a foundation for high school by familiarizing kids with key events and figures in a chronological sequence. Teachers are encouraged to have students memorize the facts, names and dates of history, which can be pretty daunting to a youngster staring at a page of unfamiliar information. Still, if they internalize what they learn in these years, high school study will be much easier.
Grade 9 is world geography, concentrating on the physical and demographic characteristics of the earth, both now and in the past. Grades 10-11 are world and U.S. history, with a focus on ideologies and philosophies rather than events and people (though both are covered). There are two texts for grade 12, one for each semester,the first covering American government and the second dealing with economics (domestic, public and international).
Throughout the series, the authors self-consciously maintain strict conservatism. Government is portrayed, not as an end or cure to mankind's problems, but as ordained by God for the dispensation of justice. Free-market economy is unapologetically held up as the standard, the dangers of Communism, socialism and liberalism consistently held up in contrast. Students are encouraged to be "intelligent" in their patriotism, but nevertheless to be devoted to their country.
Our Honest Opinion:
This is a solidly Christian course; whether it's solid history is debatable. Kids will get a good introduction to events and movements, but may not understand the context and subtleties of what they learn. For instance, in the world history texts the British Empire of Queen Victoria is consistently represented as the bringer of Christianity to the world—while glossing over the abuses and terrors the British Army inflicted on various native peoples. Likewise, as mentioned above, the 3rd grade text includes a biography of Christian revivalist Billy Sunday, but not of patriots Paul Revere or Patrick Henry.
To be fair, Revere and Henry are both discussed in later texts, and if you stick with the whole program your kids will get a decent understanding of the basic flow of history. However, if you're detail-oriented and concerned with a full, unbiased presentation of the truth, you will probably be dissatisfied with A Beka's selective presentation.
The attempt to interpret everything according to biblical principles is also a bit contrived. We should compare all things to Scripture, but there's a point in history education where you just need to present the facts, and A Beka seems to have difficulty distinguishing that line. Again, your child could certainly gain a reasonably good grasp on history from this curriculum (especially the later books), but if you stick with A Beka history we recommend you supplement with other, less biased material.
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.
Did you find this review helpful?