We began using Abeka in September 2014 for Abby's first grade year. I've always been somewhat curious to try a boxed curriculum and had looked into several options before ultimately deciding on Abeka. Abeka is a well-known and highly respected program that is also used in local private Christian schools. And, I liked the idea of a complete curriculum delivered right to my door step.
Up until Kindergarten, we had used free or low cost resources online which were fabulous and did exactly what I needed them to do. For her Kindergarten year, we purchased a few things from various companies and they worked well, too. This go around, I wanted something that was "done" if you will. I knew schooling a 6 year old with two younger children would be tricky and my husband's schedule leaves us girls on our own about 90% of the time. In other words, I needed something low maintenance which would allow me to get everything else done in a given day.
I read a lot about Abeka, talked with some people that used it, visited an Abeka booth and I felt good about selecting it. When our kits arrived, I was pretty excited as was Abby.
However, when I opened the lesson plan manuals my head began spinning. I was not sure where to start or how we were going to make sense of all the information. Our Kindergarten day took about 2 hours, which worked perfect during nap time, but first grade was definitely going to take more than 2 hours. Plus, I was attempting to throw in a few extras that looking back on now...I just laugh. For a first timer to Abeka, my excitement turned to worry. Eventually, I was able to wrap my head around what I thought was a great schedule and began planning and organizing.
But then we started...
At the time, we were doing school in our kitchen like most people. I had books, homemade flashcards and manipulatives scattered all over the place. I'm not entirely obsessive about everything being totally neat and organized, but it was just a chaotic mess. And, on top of all the STUFF required for each lesson, there were "optional" items I decided not to purchase that in all actuality were totally necessary. I was irritated, unprepared/unorganized (when I worked for weeks to make sure I was) and trying to hand make the "optional" items was just not working. Our school day was turning into a 6 hour day and I was literally driving myself CRAZY! I'm lucky that Abby is pretty understanding and just rolls with whatever.
Finally, I was over it after about five weeks of chaos and decided to visit a local homeschool consignment bookstore. If you're in the Southern Indiana/Western Kentucky area I highly recommend talking with Pam Dailey of Dailey Bread Book Store. I called her and told her exactly what I needed. She pulled the items I was looking for and I was able to get most of what I needed within a day or so of speaking with her at a discounted price. The items she didn't have on hand, I was able to order directly through Abeka.
Once we received all the items, things began to get better. I wasn't as irritated and we were able to start getting into somewhat of a routine. I ditched the lesson manual idea of a suggested daily schedule because let's face it...it was NOT working and I also stopped looking at the suggested times for each subject. The more familiar I became with each subject and how long it took for us I was able to gauge when to do certain subjects. I like variety so every day we switch it up. I know what subjects we can do with a toddler and baby around and I know which ones I need to save for nap time. I also re-evaluated the seatwork portion of Abby's day. We do maybe half of the recommended tasks.
My point is...it's hard as a new homeschooling parent to get wrapped up in "going by the book" or trying to do what another homeschooling family does. I'm guilty of it. Blogs and Pinterest have a deceiving way of making a homeschool day look perfect and fun. While some days are fun and go rather smooth, some days don't. There are days we get everything done and other days we split one day up into two days. I'm ok with that now.
Abby is doing well with Abeka and enjoys it. I really like the colorful readers and worksheets provided which help keep her attention. Obviously, there are some things I don't like. Will we use Abeka in the future? I don't know. Right now, we will continue to work our way through and re-evaluate closer to summertime as she moves into second grade.