Evaluation of Complete Homeschool Curricula, Part One

Check out the Homeschool Reviews website. They have information and opinions on many more curricula than we cover here.

http://www.homeschoolreviews.com/

Bob Jones University Press

Bob Jones is a private, non-denominational, independent, fundamental University and also has a K-12 education system. They use the King James Bible as a standard for consistency but do not hold to the King James Only philosophy. The Press has been producing curriculum for decades, drawing writers from the Elementary, Academy and University faculty. All the curriculum is written by experienced teachers in the appropriate field and test-taught in the Elementary School or Academy. They also have many novels and nonfiction books, including a few titles available on Kindle, any of which can be used as supplementary reading material.

You can buy individual student copy books on any subject, all the way up to a complete years’ curriculum, videos of teachers teaching, assessments in the online version, and quite a bit of flexibility for students who are at different grade levels in different subjects within a complete year’s program. The complete curriculum comes in online, hard disc, and CD versions, basically the same material, but apparently assessments are only available in the online version. You must have a high speed internet connection to use the online version. This is the highest quality and the best material available. Mary worked at BJU Press as an editor. The content is distinctively biblical, not just surface Christian or morally positive, and it is kept updated. Skilled graphic artists and painters have created colorful, interesting layouts and illustrated content. Instead of completely leaving out secular worldviews or tacking on moral and Christian applications, the curriculum teaches how to judge what is true and false, good and evil, to strengthen convictions and give ammunition to fight the enemy. It is also one of the most expensive, costing over $900 per course. If you can afford it, this is the way to go. If you have three elementary age children, the complete curriculum plus musical instruction will be more than $3000 per year. High school will be more.

Several people have complained that there is too much detail, or that it includes too much material, and does not provide the highly structured lesson plans some curricula do. This is because it gives parents/teachers the option of eliminating material they choose not to cover. One complaint by people is that it is “college level” or “too difficult.” This is designed for a thorough education in a complete Christian worldview, not just basic, get-by schooling. It does require some knowledge on the parent’s part to make choices and plan what to teach and when.

History combines Biographies of Christians and Christian perspectives on historical events, Culture Studies and Geography, with timelines, in Elementary and secondary levels.

The Math program is a unit approach, not an incremental approach like Saxon, but it does use more review than a traditional unit approach. Problem solving and critical thinking skills are included. Teachers are encouraged to emphasize this aspect.

Science Is divided into Physical Science, Life Science, Earth Science, Biology, Physics and Chemistry. They are high quality, well-prepared, and regularly updated.

Sonlight

Sonlight’s founders follow the Reformed Church. They say their curriculum is literature-rich, meaning they sell you colorful readers, fiction for various ages, many award-winning books and controlled-vocabulary readers, and provide instructor’s guidebooks which have comprehension questions. Their philosophy is the “look for teachable moments” school and they do not have written tests or answer keys in their program. A complete curriculum for a year can cost over $1000 dollars. It is one of the most expensive programs out there.

They use outside sources for Science and Math, Saxon, Singapore, Apologia (see review below). Saxon is a good program and we recommend it. Singapore seems to be similar in using the Incremental approach. Neither of these are Christian, but Sonlight has teachers’ guides that may include that. Apologia seems to be  a Christian, education and Missions-minded organization, but they don’t say what they believe on their website. Nothing at all about it. And it should be noted that when companies offer curriculum they have not written they should at least be well-versed in the subject areas to be able to understand how the curriculum works. There is a section on Sonlight’s website stating that they have tried all the Science experiments and modified teachers’ guides to explain any misleading statements or unexpected outcomes. This is not the same as knowing Science and understanding the material  in the texts.

Many homeschooling parents said at first they tried to follow the program completely, but began to pick and choose parts, dropped back a level in some areas, or got reading books from the library instead of buying from Sonlight.  Most said they wanted to get the written catalog to know what books were needed so they could find them from other sources instead of paying for new/full price copies from Sonlight.

Calvert Schools

Calvert has K-8 curriculum only. It has both a physical school in Baltimore, MD, and other schools throughout the country which use their materials. Homeschoolers can teach the materials themselves, buying individual subjects. Calvert promotes a complete grade level package, however. Calvert allows all parents to call or contact them online to ask questions and get specific help.

This level starts at about $850 per year and varies somewhat according to grade level for the complete curriculum. Individual courses are $30 to $40. A second level with an advisory teacher assigned to you includes phone, online chat, and email communication with a Calvert teacher and periodic tests they grade, plus the teacher’s reports of the student’s progress and suggestions if improvement is needed. This level also provides transcripts on request. They also have two levels of instruction, a faster pace covering more material and a slower pace covering less material. (this second option is not available in the complete online school). Books and teacher guides must be returned at the end of the year.

Calvert advertises itself as being non-sectarian and provide no Bible curriculum. Homeschooling parents say it is very secular, presents some evolutionary concepts, “even in math,” and while it provides very complete structure, lesson planning, and makes the task easier for a very busy parent situation (one person who commented was working, going to school, and teaching her child), some insisted on a more Christian emphasis in History and Science. Complete grade programs range from $850 to $1250 for the “Classic” and “Classic” with an advisory teacher and periodic graded tests. They also sell “enrichment” and “school spirit” materials. The full online course was new in 2010, included videos and online communication and forum access, grading and progress assessment, plus optional “clubs” for photography, Science and gifted. Prices for this version exceed $2500 per year, varying by grade level.

Covenant Home Curriculum

This was developed by a Presbyterian Minister. He states that it follows Reformed Theology and that it is based on Classic literature and traditional Classical Education. He specifically states that he limits the use of Classical Literature (Greek) because of its ungodly worldview. The curriculum includes English Grammar and Composition materials which they have created and correlated with Classic literature selections. The publisher states that his materials guide users toward godly, Christian worldviews. He gives multiple choices of texts that can be used for Bible, Science and Math courses. Most curricula do not. Among his recommendations are Saxon for Math and Bob Jones University Press for Science. He also includes Latin for language study. Users say it is very structured. Most users liked the structure, goals, and Christian emphasis. One user said a learning-disabled student who began using it three years before graduation and was able to overcome serious reading and math deficiencies to the point of being accepted for college. Many people appreciated the “patient and thorough” telephone, message board and e-mail support CHC gives to its customers. Prices vary greatly, anywhere from $550 and up for lower grades to $850 for upper grades. These could be higher depending on your choices for textbooks.

5 Comments

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5 responses to “Evaluation of Complete Homeschool Curricula, Part One

  1. Pingback: List of Blog Entries by Subject (The same blog post may appear under multiple categories) | Elk Jerky for the Soul

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