Welcome!  
I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my daily digest via email or RSS feed. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Friday, March 28, 2014

ABeka vs. BJU Language: Why I Switch Mid-Stream

ABeka vs. BJU Language: Why I Switch Mid-Stream {The Unlikely Homeschool}

With mommas diligently planning curriculum choices for next year, my in-box has been jammed with questions regarding MY particular curriculum selections. Curious readers have wanted to know WHY I have chosen certain programs over others. Without a doubt, the #1, most-asked question I have received the last few months has been some version of the following...

"Jamie, I'm wondering why you switch from ABeka Language to Bob Jones English in third grade?"

Great question!  
I can see why my madness would raise questions about by method.  

So, in an attempt to kill several dozen birds with one stone, I'm gonna do my best to satisfy the curious, today.*


ABeka vs. BJU Language: Why I Switch Mid-Stream {The Unlikely Homeschool}


The Short Answer

Both ABeka Language and BJU English are great programs. In many ways, they are very similar. They, both, subscribe to the spiral approach of learning the concrete rules of grammar. They, both, emphasize a traditional style (workbook/textbook) of teaching. And, they, both, were originally designed for classroom use and have been slightly modified to be used in a homeschool setting. Because of this, they, both, can get a bit redundant at times for the fast-learner, but quite helpful for the learner who needs additional review.

Since I, myself, learned grammar from the ABeka program, worked in the homeschooling division of their company for nearly four years, and taught from their resources in a traditional classroom setting, I KNOW that ABeka Language works well and I KNOW how to teach it.  

That being said...

The Long Answer

I start all of my children in ABeka's K-4 phonics program because I feel that it's a comprehensive, phonetical approach to teaching reading.  Having used it now for thirteen years...in various forms of teaching...I am COMPLETELY comfortable with and confident in it.  That being said, the Language program that goes along with those formative grades (first and second grade), is really just an extension of the phonics lessons.  It emphasizes PHONICS rather than GRAMMAR..as it should be at that level!

By third grade, most quality language programs will begin to focus less on phonics and more on the grammar/mechanics of writing.  While ABeka Language (third grade and beyond) does do an exceptional job of teaching grammar skills, I think that its emphasis of the BIG PICTURE of language is slightly off balance. 

And here's why...

The Longer Answer

What is the point of learning the mechanics of grammar?  Is it to be able to diagram subjects and verbs correctly?  Is it to be able to recognize dangling modifiers quicker than anyone else?  Is it to be able to accurately identify the difference between the past tense and the past-participle tense of a verb?

Of course not.

The point of learning grammar...the BIG PICTURE of it all...is to learn to communicate the written word more clearly, accurately, and effectively.  While diagramming sentences is one TOOL that can be used to reach that goal, I believe that MORE writing experience is equally as important.  

Both the ABeka Language and BJU English programs teach grammar/mechanics WELL!  But, ABeka approaches writing as a completely separate subject throughout the elementary grades.  It does not infuse writing and grammar as one cohesive whole.  In other words, their language program from third grade until around ninth grade simply lacks a suitable writing component and does not afford a child the natural practice needed to become an effective writer.

BJU, on the other hand, treats grammar and writing as an extension of each other.  A grammar skill is taught in one unit, reviewed for several days, and then emphasized in a week-long (or several lessons-long) writing unit that follows.  In addition, students are taught many different forms and styles of writing...from technical writing such as business letters and short research papers to fictional writing such as tall tales and narrative fiction stories.  The writing process is broken down into tangible, smaller increments in order to make the entire endeavor more do-able for a novice writer.  

As a side note, I appreciate how BJU English texts always include sample student work and a grading matrix for every type/style of writing being taught.  Although I don't ever "grade" my kids' writing, I do like to provide constructive and skill-appropriate feedback.  As a mom teaching only one child per grade, it is sometimes difficult to know what is age/grade appropriate for writing success because I don't have any other work to compare my child's writing to.  The sample work not only gives my child a great example to pattern his/her work after, it also provides me with some objective benchmarks with which to assess a very subjective subject.

The Long Story, Short

By the time my kids each reach third grade, I plan to switch them all over to the BJU English program.  Because while I want them to build a firm foundation of grammar/mechanics (something that I think is seriously lacking in our spell-check/grammar-check society), I recognize that knowing a rule is only good if you ALSO know how to implement that rule in daily life.  Since BJU emphasizes grammar and writing equally, I feel like my kids are getting the best of both worlds and will have a much better chance of becoming an effective communicator...a skill that will be necessary for them to have no matter what vocation God calls them to.  

Although this did not play into my decision of purchasing one curriculum over another, it is worth noting that BJU teachers' materials are much more user-friendly than ABeka's.  The BJU English Teacher's Edition is an all-inclusive resource providing both the answer key to the student book, as well as the lesson plans and teacher's notes.  ABeka's program, however, is divided into two different parent books.  The lesson plans and teacher's notes are included in one resource, while the answer key to the student book is found in another.  

I should also mention, that I do not give my children tests.  So, although I utilized the ABeka Language testing materials back in my classroom days, I have never used any of those resources for homeschooling purposes and therefore have no valuable opinions of either the ABeka Language or the BJU English tests or test keys.  

(I am not affiliated with ABeka Book or BJU Press.  The opinions expressed here are solely my own and are given for informational purposes only.  I stand to benefit NOTHING from your purchase or lack-of-purchase of either of these curriculums.  Your experiences may vary.)

*No birds were harmed in the making of this post.  

31 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this! Just a quick question: I just purchasedhe Abeka curriculum for my 1st & 3rd grader, and I was wondering what you would suggest I do for creative writing for my 3rd grader?
    LOVE your blog!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Patti,
      Are you thinking just creative writing...writing where the kids create fiction stories that don't necessarily get critiqued for grammar? Or are you wanting ideas for something more formal to learn the proper elements of writing?

      Delete
  2. Hi! We are so encouraged by your blog, thank you! Quick question, since BJU is now aligned with the National Common Core Standards, how does their curriculum also change? Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I actually have not noticed a change in their English program at all, to be honest.

      Delete
    2. https://www.bjupress.com/resources/common-core-standards/

      It is my understanding that BJU did not change to become common core aligned according to the above article put out by BJU.

      Delete
    3. I agree with you Jen, as far as I understand BJU is NOT common core aligned.

      Delete
    4. No, I agree it's not! However, some things may line up with CC. Ask a public school teacher how their CC report cards have to be filled out with standards (at least in our state) and you'll see the big difference.

      Delete
  3. Interesting. I did BJU 1 year and my dd and I both HATED it! I love ABEKA for Phonics. Both have a bunch of busy work. We now are in a Classical Conversations group where grammar is taught well, and a paper is written most every week. I have to say though that I disagree with one thing you said. I think knowing your grammar is essential to writing good papers. Anyone can be creative. But you need to learn the framework in which to be creative.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please don't misunderstand what I am saying. I DO think grammar skills are essential to good writing. That's why I support both of these programs. But, grammar without real-world practice is just grammar. It's not writing.

      Yes, I would agree that both programs have some elements of "busy" work, as I mentioned the "redundancy". They were designed for classroom use and classroom teachers NEED busy work in order to keep faster workers occupied while others finish and to provide enough review for those who need extra.

      Delete
  4. Jaime, thank you for taking the time to share. You mentioned that you don't give your children tests, is that only in grammar or all subjects. I find that the only tests I give consistently is spelling (I have a 4th and 2nd) but that is more due to busyness with 4 children versus just not finding it necessary.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do not give any tests, Tamara, because I don't think they are necessary...at least not until the older grades. A test is usually given in a traditional school setting in order to provide the school district and the parent with a tangible assessment of the child's progress. As a homeschool mom, I KNOW how my child is doing DAILY. I know what he/she gets, and what he doesn't...what he/she struggles with and what he/she has mastered.

      We use a spelling program that doesn't require the memorization of a list of words each week, so I don't give spelling tests. If I did use a more traditional program, I might consider it.

      My daughter does have an occasional math quiz, but as she does a computer-based math program, I have no control over the sequence of lessons. Plus, since I am not as involved with her math as other areas of her learning, the quiz is helpful for me to see how she is doing. I can use it as a guide for her learning and decide whether she needs more review or can keep progressing in the program.

      Long story short, I just don't think, in MOST scenarios, tests are necessary for elementary-aged homeschoolers.

      Delete
    2. I agree! We know our children's strengths and weaknesses, because we work with them daily. I choose to do math tests simply because I want them to get practice taking tests (our state requires them), but I don't even do that until the standardized tests are required...3rd grade. I'm (selfishly) glad to hear another mom agree. :) We're at 8th grade and we'll be doing all subject grading in 9th grade.

      Delete
  5. I am currently using Abeka workbooks in a freelance style. I tried to follow the teacher plan for the full curriculum and just couldn't keep up on all of it for my 1st and 2nd grade boys. I was homeschooled using Abeka and HATED the emphasis on diagramming (although I now have a BA in English haha). I might check out the BJ English curriculum because I do wish they offered more writing practice with the Abeka even though I am completely satisfied with their grammar and phonics emphasis. I do have a question to you though - what do you do about cursive? My boys were in public school prior to this current year (pre-k through 1st grade) and there was little emphasis on hand writing so they have been working hard on legible printing and had meltdowns when I tried to introduce cursive. Any suggestions? I like cursive and I hate to see it become a "lost art," but cannot think of a time as an adult or college student when it was actually useful other than signing my name or writing on decorated cakes. As a former educator do you feel that cursive is an important aspect of writing and penmanship that should be taught at the expense of time/energy spent on other subjects? I'm just curious as I've done research on both and it really just seems to be a matter of personal preference depending on who is or is not teaching it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do feel like cursive is still an important art to learn. I have witnessed teenagers not be able to read certain things that were written in cursive simply because they were never taught.

      We use A Reason for Handwriting because I like how it transitions from one letter to the next. In other words, if a child can learn to make a cursive "e", the next logical step would be to learn to make an "l". I don't buy any of the teacher's materials for the program. Just the student workbook.

      Delete
  6. What spelling curriculum are you currently using? I used only Abeka for 1st & 2nd grades. This year for third grade I mixed in some Rod & Staff for English & changed to All About Spelling.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I keep the ABeka Language, but when the Writing with Phonics books stop after third grade I add different writing books. Different books have worked for different kids.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I used BJU 2nd & 4th grade this year. It was our first time with them. One of my favorite parts was that the chapters mirror each other. It made it easier for me to teach on one topic at a time. I have a question about testing though. My kids were in public school and faced some anxiety over testing. Because testing is part of life, with college, work, drivers tests, etc., I have chosen to test and grade my kids to prepare them for the future. It seems to have helped ease their anxieties and has given me SEVERAL teachable moments. One of my children believes that performance excellence is the end all be all in life and thinks he will die if he isn't perfect. My husband and I have talked him off the ledge, so to speak, many times. As this year progressed, he has finally started to see that his best effort is all we expect and all he should expect of himself. We are seeing that start to reflect in his day to day life with sports, hobbies and his expectations of others (which is pretty high and difficult for him that he can't control them to). So my question is, since you are from the world of classroom teaching, what made you decide to not grade and test your children? I'm wondering what aspect I'm missing in my logic. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great question. I actually get this one a lot and should consider writing a post about it.
      Personally, I feel that the purpose of a test (at the elementary level) is to have valid proof of how a child is doing...in order to assign a "grade" and keep accurate records for a school district. A test simply shows WHAT/HOW much a child knows about a particular topic. As a homeschool mom, I teach my child and evaluate them every day. I know exactly what they know and what they don't. I don't need a test to tell me that. It is kind of redundant, in my opinion. And really only needed in a school setting where a parent and school administrator would need physical proof of what was or was not mastered.

      I do agree, however, that the skill of being able to take a test is a a valuable one that most kids should have experience in. That is one of the benefits of taking a standardized test each year. Our math program, Teaching Textbooks, has built in quizzes that help to introduce the concept of testing, as well.

      Delete
  9. For third grade spelling we used the Rod & Staff workbooks with the All About Spelling curriculum. For reading we used the Abeka readers & the read & think skill sheets. Grammar was a blend of second grade R &S text with Abeka language workbook. Math was R&S. The rest (writing, science, history & manners was Abeka.). Now the question is what for next year??? I plan on staying with the R&S text for grammar & their spelling workbooks to compliment the All About Spelling. My dilemma is what to use for reading & writing. I want a reading curriculum that tests not only simple comprehension but inference... I would like a writing curriculum that is not just creative writing & penmanship. We started homeschooling three years ago with just Abeka. I have found myself looking for a more thought provoking curriculum and haven't found one yet. I have begun to pick & choose a variety to serve that purpose. I would love a curriculum that does more than just incorporate rote memorization. I am not opposed to memorization. I believe that it is necessary & goes along with the child's cognitive development during the grammar years. But sometimes with Abeka I feel like I am just pouring facts into bucket when my hearts desire is to light a fire for the love of learning! Especially with the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. I also am struggling with keeping R&S for math for next year. Can anyone help me out with what has worked for them?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Just wanted to add that I love Abeka phonics, too. However, after teaching 7th and 8th grade students in a Christian school, I knew I didn't like the writing program one bit. So for this reason, we also switched to BJU about the same time. My first child would get so upset when she saw that blank page that said to write a report of Abe Lincoln. BJU first asked them to list three animals. Then they were asked to narrow down to one. A flowing progress of outlines, diagrams, and webs resulted in a painlessly written paper. Yay! Switched to IEW in middle school.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm curious to know if you think the teachers manual is necessary when purchasing? I can never decide if I need it or not.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always recommend the teachers manual for both ABeka and BJU. The workbooks for ABeka are only designed to reinforce the teaching that is given through the manual.

      Delete
  12. Hello Jamie,

    Thanks for your article on comparing BJU vs. A Beka. It was helpful.

    I do have some other questions that maybe you could help me with?

    I'm a homeschool dad who is struggling a bit with knowing what Language Arts curriculum to now go with for my kids. I have two boys who will be in grades 3 and 6. They have both completed the Hooked on Phonics material and are excellent readers. The past two years, however, I used a piece-meal approach to teaching them Grammar and Spelling via some free material I found online (McGraw-Hill Treasure series - money was tight). Both boys are coming along well overall with the series but this year my wife and I wanted to start them on a dedicated kit/curriculum instead. Additionally, both of my boys have not had any Cursive exposure yet.

    So with all that said, what curriculum would you favor? My concern is, since we have not been methodically teaching them in one of these kits prior, that if I, say, put them through BJU Grade 3 and Grade 6, then would they struggle a bit? Maybe I should put my oldest (who's generally a bit slower of a learner) in the Grade 5 BJU Language Arts (I guess they call it English) Kit to ensure it's at the right level for him?

    Those are my main worries. I wish BJU or A Beka would offer a few samples to know for sure whether the age level is appropriate for the child. I don't want it to be too easy or a grade too hard for either of them.

    I hope those questions make sense. Thanks for your time!
    J

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great question. The good thing to remember is that English can be learned at any age. Some homeschoolers recommend NOT teaching formal grammar/mechanics until jr. high or high school. I, myself, did not learn any of it until 7th grade. It was difficult at first, but once I caught on, it was smooth sailing.

      I think your third grader would do just fine jumping in at the third grade level of either BJU or ABeka or whatever program you decide to go with. Third grade is when grammar is introduced formally in most curriculums. Regarding your sixth grader, I would recommend starting with the fifth grade material and setting your own pace. Slow down when needed and speed up when you can.

      Hope that helps.

      Delete
  13. Yes, I am just starting out with homeschooling my two childern, 5 and 4? I was wondering if you would suggest any curriculum to go by starting out that would draw their eye and make them interested in learning. I am looking into the bju k4 curriculum but am a little confused as to what I'm getting and how it may help me teach my childern to the best.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thank you for your post. I am curious to know your thoughts on Abeka vs BJUpress for 1st grade. My daughter has had quite a bit of review with phonics, she is reading at a 3rd/4th grade level. However I have never done grammar/english/language arts/phonics program-curriculum with her.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't honestly give you an opinion as I have never used BJU 1st grade. I always start my kids out in ABeka because I really like their phonics program.

      Delete
  15. Thank you for your helpful article! I have one question if you don't mind. Which parts of the BJU Press curriculum do you use in elementary once you make the switch from Abeka? Do you use all four parts: English (Writing/Grammar), Reading, Spelling, and Handwriting? If not, which parts do you use? I'm also curious if you use any other subjects in the BJU Press curriculum. Thanks in advance!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I only use the English (Grammar/Writing). I also order my annual achievement tests from BJU. This coming year, my oldest will be using their science program.

      Delete
    2. Thank you for your response! I was thinking of doing that also, but then I saw in their scope and sequence that they over quite a bit of their English content in their Reading course and some in their Spelling course also. Do you use a different curriculum to cover those topics?

      Delete
    3. I use ABeka to teach reading, but I don't do an organized reading program that has my kids reading from curriculum readers. For spelling, I use All About Spelling.

      Delete

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...