Our family has been using Abeka Arithmetic since my oldest son (now in 8th grade math) was in 1st grade. I started with Singapore math, on the recommendation of Sonlight curriculum, but on the advice of several teachers, we decided to switch to Abeka. This is truly one decision I have never regretted!
I have always been a fan of Ruth Beechick, and her book The Three R’s explains in practical ways how to teach math to our children at home. (I highly recommend it!)
But when I first looked at Abeka’s arithmetic curriculum, I couldn’t see how I could agree with Ruth Beechick but use such structured, “school-at-home” curriculum. Happily, I have been able to use her advice AND Abeka, and the result is that my kids seem to really do well at math.
Note: So far, four of my six children are old enough to be in school, and they certainly have four unique personalities. I’m pleased that Abeka seems to be working well with each of them.
I like that Abeka is so thorough. Many people complain that it gives TOO much work, too much review, too many problems to work each day. However, I disagree. Everytime I’ve cut back and allowed my kids to do only a few of the problems each day, they start to regress. However, when I stick to the plan and require the work, they seem to really “know their stuff.”
I was worried that my children would only be doing book work and not really understanding concepts. However, I have found the opposite to be the case. Abeka is known for being about one year above grade level (public school standards), so many are afraid it will be too difficult. I kept this in mind when I originally switched to it (mid-year, first grade), and I started my son way back at the beginning of the year. Abeka is so thorough in its review, he never had any trouble with the pace. If I were switching an older child to Abeka, I’d be more cautious and probably go back an entire grade level. It has not slowed us down ultimately. My oldest son skipped an entire year, 7th grade, because he has such an excellent grasp of math. (He wants a career in a science field, so this has been a blessing to him, as he’ll now have more years to study advanced math.)
This oldest son originally fought me on the amount of math he had to do each day. He despises handwriting and busy work. Abeka requires a student to show all of his work, yet he could do the work in his head. However, because he hates to write, he often made careless mistakes. Amidst occasional tears, we required him to do it “Abeka’s way,” encouraging him to learn to be careful. “If you wanted to be an engineer someday,” we told him, “Someone’s life may depend on how carefully you work.” Now that he is older, I can look back and see what a benefit Abeka’s “nit-picky-ness” has been to him.
My second child, a daughter, has a completely different personality from my oldest son. She really enjoys workbooks, so she likes Abeka. She never complains about the amount of work, but she doesn’t picture math in her head like her brother. She didn’t just “know” multiplication facts. She has had to memorize them. She understands the concept, but cannot work a large problem in her head. With her, I learned that the teacher’s manuals are truly not optional. They should be required. As a mother, it is my responsibility to quiz her each day, even though I don’t enjoy flashcards and games. (I’d rather be online, blogging with you!) But when I have carefully followed the advice of the teacher’s manual, my daughter has blossomed in her mental math ability. In fact, one summer, after feeling like I’d betrayed Ruth Beechick’s concepts, I was thrilled to re-read her book and discover that Abeka follows her advice as well, as long as I do what the teacher’s manual suggests. In other words, Ruth Beechick has now been planned out for me.
With my third and fourth children, I have learned that the younger children can be taught by their older siblings. This helps me greatly, as my days get busier and busier. It’s also an excellent review for the older children.
In my opinion, third grade is the most important level of Abeka Arithmetic. It is essential that I work with my child daily, learning self-discipline as a mother in the same way that my child is learning self-discipline and carefulness in his work.
Finally, fourth grade is the year that I go ahead and purchase answer keys. This saves me an immense amount of time in grading. Speaking of grading, I do recommend the tests, quizzes and speed drills. They help me as mom to “catch” areas of weakness that don’t always show up on the daily work. Because tests and quizzes are given weekly, my child doesn’t have a chance to get confused because I’m continually monitoring his progress.
I hope you enjoyed this review of Abeka Arithmetic. I know that other high-quality math programs exist, but I wanted to put in a good word for this often-criticized program. It has been a blessing to us!