Besides the fact that they start from a Christian point of view, A Beka Book’s philosophy can be gathered from their description of their materials. In the FAQ on curriculum, they refer to phonics, seatwork, penmanship, activities, labs, textbooks, oral review, scope and sequence, tests, and quizzes. These descriptors help us gather that A Beka Books offers a program that combines a variety of approaches to student learning, but one grounded in traditional skills. Memorization is also used.
There are three A Beka options for home schoolers:
- DVD or Internet Video Streaming option with instruction from master teachers at the Pensacola Christian Academy (either accredited, in which A Beka Academy is responsible for report cards and transcripts or non-accredited in which parents keep the records).
- A K-6 Parent-directed program (called “traditional”) that is accredited and (strangely) referred to as “college preparatory” – a term usually reserved for secondary school.
- Textbooks and other educational materials available separately for use in homeschooling.
Complete materials for grades 1-12 cost more than $1000 per year for the Video option, while the traditional program costs $750 per year.
A Beka also offers a graduation ceremony for students who complete the accredited high school program. Students who complete the program in the same year are considered a graduating class, are assigned a class rank based on their grade point average (GPA), and receive a diploma.
To graduate from A Beka’s high school program, the following minimal coverage (from A Beka supplied materials) are required:
- Four credits each in the study of Bible, English, and Math
- Three and a half credits in History, including World, US, American Government, and Economics
- Three credits in science, including two with laboratory components
- One credit each in Spanish, Physical Education, and Practical or Performing Arts
- Two and a half elective credits
Available electives include:
- a second year of Spanish
- Computer Applications
- Family/Consumer Sciences
- Home Economics: sewing (only open to female students)
While the science curriculum clearly touches on recent developments with topics such as “Quantum Theory,” “Light in Modern Technology,” “DNA,” “Genetics,” and “Ecology,” the U.S. History curriculum in eleventh grade seems to end with “The 1990s.” The Language Arts curriculum refers to the Twentieth, but not the Twenty-First century, and despite this, refers almost entirely to authors from the Nineteenth century and earlier, the notable exceptions being Robert Frost and Carl Sandburg.
I’m willing to bet that some of A Beka Book’s materials have not been reviewed for some time. In their sample phonics material, I see two cartoon pictures of Native Americans (labeled “Indians”), which are likely to cause offense to at least some. This is even more striking because the choice of the word Indian, in which one i is short and the other spells a long e sound, is an extremely odd choice for a word to represent a short vowel sound from a pedagogical perspective: I speak from my training as a reading clinician. Ink would have served much better, as well as fit in more appropriately with the length and type of other words used, such as cat for cand dog for d, in which the use of the letter for a particular sound is unmistakable. In addition, this word directly contradicts the instruction given for long vowels that “When here are two vowels in a word, the first vowel says its long sound, and the second vowel is silent.” This is not true for Indian.
Accreditation is a review given by an outside and approved agency to an educational publisher, certifying its material as meeting standards and qualifications. Accreditation is different than a program review, in which an institution decides which (if any) credits from earlier educational instruction it will accept. That is, using an accredited program is not a guarantee of having one’s credits accepted.
A Beka Books offers both accredited and unaccredited versions of its programs. The accredited program is recognized by three agencies:
- The Florida Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (FACCS), which is linked to the National Council for Private School Accreditation (NCPSA) and so, despite its name, offers national accreditation, including certification for the video teachers.
- The Commission on International and Trans-Regional Accreditation (CITA), an international organization that is linked to several of the regional accrediting agencies in the United States (see the article “Best Homeschool Curriculum” for a complete list of these), as well as the National Council for Private School Accreditation and the National Study of School Evaluation.
- The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, one of the six regional accrediting agencies, with which A Beka Books has a specific relationship.
You should always check with your state’s education department before purchasing materials to make sure that they will meet your state’s requirements.
Several complaints have emerged about A Beka in the past year. These are from Internet reviews, and I am only reporting what I have read. One complaint is that the DVD material is too repetitive, boring, and long-winded. The other is that for at least one parent, a large number of the DVDs did not work properly and A Beka did not replace them. Others have indicated that the A Beka material moves too quickly for their children.