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Homeschool curriculum review: Bob Jones University Press-what you won't find in the catalog

Bob Jones University Press (BJUP) has been a long time supplier of curriculum for Christian schools. Over the last decade they have been revising their materials specifically to suit the homeschooler's needs. In order to get all the ins and outs of BJUP homeschooling materials you can easily access their website or view a catalog. This will give you the costs, scope and sequence of all grades and subjects, and variety of program options. In this article I would like to use my ten years experience as an independent curriculum seller and eleven years as a homeschool mom to give you an objective evaluation of their textbook program by subject, the good and the bad.

Math

The math program begins with K5 and continues through to 12th with additional electives in high school math. K5-4th have workbooks for the student to write in, a great option for children whose motor skills may not be equal with their math skills. Especially boys can be slowed down by the need to copy problems over on to a sheet of paper, interfering with their progression through math concepts.

In elementary math the chapters are laid out clearly by topic and the presentations are straightforward and brightly colored giving them great eye appeal. I recommend the Teacher Edition not just for an answer key, but also as a well written guide to teaching the lesson and coordinating the concept review and mental math skills which are not built into the workbook.

In addition to the student workbook/book and TE, BJUP makes available a student materials packet. This is basically manipulatives on heavy card stock in bright colors. They are pretty and fun but they can easily be made by hand or created with objects around the house. Here is an original concept- use real money to teach "money" instead of punch out coins and bills! They also have a flipchart which is a series of charts that you prop up for your child to see a concept. This item is really a hold-over from the public school style of teaching and most find it unnecessary. It could be helpful for a child that really needs visual input for learning, but the TE supplies enough information for the teacher to create these on her own.

Finally, BJUP offers tests and test keys at each grade level. There is a nearly identical Cumulative Review at the end of each chapter that you could easily use as your test to evaluate progress. But the other is available if so desired. BJUP math is a well designed curriculum appropriate for most children. It is not as accelerated as Abeka or Horizons but is solidly on-level.

At the secondary level of math, the scope and sequence follows a typical public school pattern of subjects. BJUP also offers Consumer Math, Business Math, Analytic Geometry and Calculus for electives. There is less difference at this level between BJUP and other secondary maths.

Science and History

Both science and history at the elementary level are a reader style program. The child reads his chapter and can then do an activity page to reinforce the reading. Tests and test keys are available in both subjects along with a Teacher Edition. In my experience people use these two programs in a variety of different ways, often in addition with other programs that are more hands-on.

The biggest gripe about the history is that it is not presented chronologically and over-emphasizes the importance of American history in the larger scheme of the history of the world. Many prefer to do a chronological history that puts America more into the context of "current events." The most common complaint for the science is the lack of mastery of any single topic. Other curriculums have been developed that emphasize the process of learning science as opposed to the "fact stuffing" typical to programs like BJUP.

Like the math, secondary level science and history have a very typical sequence of subjects that would be found in most schools. These programs are well done and sufficiently challenging for most students. Parents often decide to band together with another family or join a co-op to handle the lab part of the science curriculum because they find it overwhelming. Both the history and science are clearly presented from a Christian worldview with creationism as the cornerstone of the science.

Language Arts

BJUP's language arts program is divided into four categories. For elementary there is English (writing and grammar), spelling, handwriting and reading. The English program is rigorous on the grammar and lacking on the writing. At the end of each grammar chapter a single writing assignment is given. The assignment at the earliest levels may ask for an essay. The problem is they have not lead you up to this point - first with creative sentences, then paragraphs etc. I found it necessary to implement a completely different writing program with my child who was not a natural writer.

Spelling is a typical week long cycle with a list of words- a standard format for spelling programs. The first day is the pre-test, then several days of practicing with the words, the last day is the final test. Two extra features BJUP gives is a journal entry starter topic each week and the history of the development of a word- both good additions. This program will work with kids who learn spelling words well in the one week format. There seems to be a portion of kids who do not, though, and they will need a program like Spelling Power where they must repeat the word until it is mastered, often incorporating a variety of methods to remember the words (tactile, auditory, etc.)

BJUP Handwriting is the D'Nealian method. The difference between this and the Palmer (ball and stick) most of us learned growing up, is that the D'Nealian print alphabet is pre-cursive. In order to learn cursive the child just needs to learn the connecting strokes, as opposed to Palmer, where the child must essentially learn two different alphabets for print and cursive. I have found this to be purely a matter of preference- neither seems to produce a superior handwriter over the other.

Reading is used in 1st through 6th grade and Literature in 7th-12th. Both are anthologies, that is, excerpts from whole books, often classics. The elementary level offers a comprehension workbook that is colorful and includes phonics lessons, too. There is a TE for both the book and the workbook. Due to expense many opt out of the book TE. Most homeschoolers don't teach reading as a class which is how the TE is designed. Another option BJUP offers is BookLinks. The child reads a complete book that has an activity packet designed to go with it.

At the secondary level, Language Arts includes Writing & Grammar, Vocabulary and Literature. The W&G is a continuation of the earlier program; it is very thorough in grammar, some think too much, and not as well done in writing. The Vocabulary is only a partial year course with fifteen lessons and is well done, including word roots to help with SAT preparation. The secondary Literature has excellent selections and includes a TE, test and test key, all of which may be useful for the homeschooler.

In addition to the core curriculum, Bob Jones offers numerous electives including Bible, French, Spanish, Latin, Speech and others. All of BJUP curriculum is generally solid academically and user friendly to the homeschooler. One drawback is the price if all the parts of each subject are purchased. However, it is possible to pick and choose the pieces you want allowing you to save a great deal on items you may not even use. I highly recommend BJUP to my customers with the few caveats listed here that may require supplementing. It is a well written Christian curriculum.

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