I love many things about A Beka curriculum: their colorful workbooks and activities, their readers, the thoroughness. But I also totally get when a family says that A Beka is a lot of work. As a matter of fact, even for us sometimes A Beka’s too much work. Sometimes, I have to tame it down—and trim and cut and splice—until it fits our family. I thought I’d give you a little peek at what that looks like.
2 simple changes when A Beka’s too much.
1. Choose only the workbooks you need
Evaluate what you want to cover with your child using formal curriculum, workbooks, and lesson plans. Are there topics that you feel you can cover with hands-on lessons, crafts, an online game, or free printables that you would like to use to add more variety? Are there areas that your child needs more help with? Are there topics you think you can cover without making them an entire subject?
When I took a good look at first grade for my son, I honestly couldn’t believe everything required just for Language Arts: phonics, reading, spelling, handwriting, and grammar! Too much? Maybe not, but it is definitely more workbook pages than I care to assign. So I cut the Language Arts book; I didn’t even order it. From the curriculum, it seemed that I could definitely tackle this subject on my own. Teaching syllables, prefix/suffixes (in the context of the phonics sounds), and alphabetical order were concepts I felt I could point out and instruct along the way without making it an additional subject. I considered holding off on spelling until after he had completed the phonics book, but my son loves spelling, and I figured I could tackle it in roughly 5-10 minutes a day.
Reading is again much less formal for us. For one, though I own a number of the readers, they are all older editions that do not fit the lesson plans. Rather than try to manipulate them to fit the curriculum, I decided to just read them aloud at our own pace. My son is a voracious reader, and I have no concerns that he will get enough practice. And we just do the readers—no Handbook for Reading (gasp! I know, but I hated that as a kid, and I still hate it as a parent. I’d rather teach the words as they come up in his reading than subject ourselves to that torture. Perhaps, if he were struggling with reading I’d feel differently. But as I said, I made these adjustments to fit our family.)
As for handwriting, I have assigned those at my discretion for awhile now. There seems to me to be enough handwriting practice on the worksheet pages themselves, and with our notebooking he’s getting practice with writing complete sentences and some copywork exercises. He enjoys the pages more if I space them out and only assign one or two a week.
In summary, we’ll be doing two workbooks for Phonics/Reading/Spelling/Language Arts: Letters and Sounds 1 (phonics) and Spelling 1.
2. Simplify the plans
Each of us has our own unique teaching style, and for those just starting out, A Beka’s scripted plans can be very helpful. But for some of us, the notes seem much more appropriate for classroom instruction than a conversation with our child at the dining room table. Know what you need, and don’t be afraid to skip what isn’t helpful for you.
Over the last couple of years of homeschooling, I’ve found that I am no good at looking at a scripted plan everyday. But I also don’t want to miss important aspects to the plans. In the past, I’ve nearly re-written the plans into my lesson planners to be sure that I actually see what I need to see. It was a ton of work, much more than it needed to be.
So, I’m experimenting with a new system this summer. I’ve actually written some “plans” at the bottom of the workbook pages themselves. I marked “TEST” at the bottom of the last workbook page before a test is assigned. I also marked the language arts (LA) concepts as they came up. When I come to a lesson with an “LA” note at the bottom, I’ll know to look at the curriculum. It took me roughly 20 minutes to go through his workbook and make these notes, as opposed to the hours I was spending plotting out lessons.
By making adjustments, I feel like I get the best of both worlds—a quality curriculum with colorful activity books plus a schedule that allows for more than an endless line-up of worksheets. Sometimes too much can be a good thing by allowing you a plethora of options to choose from. When A Beka’s too much, tame it until it fits your family and your needs.