Taming A Beka when A Beka’s too much

A Beka's too much | Abeka curriculum | making changes to A Beka | A Beka curriculum | when Abeka's too much

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.

Published by Tracy
Our life is creative chaos, and our homeschool is loud and busy and distracted and challenging and lovely. My name is Tracy, and I homeschool my crew of three kids with ADHD/dyslexia, finding creative ways to use their strengths to teach their weaknesses. As a homeschooled homeschooler, I love customizing curriculum and making adjustments to incorporate fun, hands-on projects for out-of-the-box learners. Stop by growingNgrace.com to find grace for the messes and mistakes, and knowledge to pick up the pieces and make something special. Let’s grow together!

7 thoughts on “Taming A Beka when A Beka’s too much

  1. The JOY of homeschooling and being the TEACHER! A Beka is wonderful and set up for the classroom or dvd homeschool. Love the way you made it work for your family. I applaud you for having your oldest starting 1st grade. My almost 7 year old is nearing the end of 1st grade dvd. And yes, there are times that I would LOVE to hide the Handbook!!!!

    • Post Author Tracy

      You’re right, Lisa. A Beka is perfect for a classroom or for a homeschooler who wants to adhere to a classroom-like schedule. I have several friends and family doing A Beka DVD. The teachers are really good and have such a heart for their students.

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I have high regards for ABeka as I do believe they have a strong phonics program, but
    I really struggle with following the teacher’s guides closely. I try to loosen up and not require my first grader to do every worksheet and then I question myself if he’s getting everything he needs. I am continuing with ABeka phonics/language, spelling, and math for second grade, but we will be doing it along with My Father’s World. We are really excited about MFW, but I have been trying to decide exactly what I need from ABeka so that we are not overwhelmed. I realize and your post helps confirm that it is ok to not do everything and still have a high quality education. Thank you.

    • Post Author Tracy

      I’m so glad you found this helpful. You really are the best judge of whether or not he’s getting what he needs. Enjoy MFW! I’ve heard great things about it. Let the best of both of those curriculums work for your family. Curriculum should be our tool not our taskmaster.

  3. I was homeschooling my son till this year 1st grade. I have put him in a private Christian school that uses a beka. He is getting A’s in everything but handwriting. My hand writing curriculum was Handwriting without tear when we home schooled. He hate writing that part of the reasons I put him in school. He has little hands the size of four year old and his left handed. I want to make him practice at home but I know nothing about a beka handwriting. I used Sonlight, Explode the code and beyond the Code for curriculum. Any suggests would help.

    • Post Author Tracy

      I assume they are teaching cursive for first grade, right? Take a look at A Beka’s website for additional products (scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “writing” or “writing/penmanship.” You might also see if the teacher can suggest a chart with all of the cursive letters on them. Instead of having him write in a book at home, though, I would try some other activities to encourage better writing. Try having him practice on a wipeboard with dry-erase markers. Or, have him practice writing in shaving cream on the table, or write on the mirror with dry-erase markers. Encourage him to write notes to friends and family. Help him find a way to practice that encourages him to change his attitude about it. For instance, if he’s writing a note to grandma, it will be fun for him to write as best as he can. Then, I’d incorporate some kind of a reward for him. If he can earn a happy face on a paper, he can get ___. Talk with his teacher to see what else she might suggest. This site also has a few general tips: http://www.nha-handwriting.org.uk/handwriting/about-handwriting-difficulties Hope that helps! Feel free to email me if you need more ideas or have more questions.

  4. I just wanted to thank you for this! My son was overwhelmed by seatwork etc, as was my daughter and it wasn’t until someone who is a teacher/now homeschooler, gave me the idea to cut out some of the work that I even considered this. It has been a God send!! I still feel the children are getting a full education, and it’s proven by their work and grades, and it cuts so much time and frustration! I love A beka and cannot recommend it highly enough. But it is definitely something that is best when cut down to what the children need, and not just extra repetitive work for the sake of work or time. I can Honestly say that with my seven year old especially, the cutting down of the work has actually improved his performance and he does not dread school anymore, but enjoys his streaming teacher/class and is not overwhelmed by the work. His grades improved almost immedietly when I cut out some of the repetative work! Thank you for writing this, I had a tendancy to feel I was being lazy or cheating the kids in some way, even though I knew that wasn’t really true, I think we homeschoolers have a tendancy to be harder on ourselves than neccesary and this helped me feel better! God Bless!!

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