"Jamie, I'm wondering why you switch from ABeka Language to Bob Jones English in third grade?"
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.*
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The Short AnswerBoth 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.
*No birds were harmed in the making of this post.