I went ahead and splurged and got the BJU Distance Learning program for 1st grade (for Rebekah) and kindergarten (for Reanna). The boxes came in the mail this past week, and I have to say, I am extremely impressed. Yes, it is expensive, but it really does cover an incredible amount! It looks well done, intriguing, thorough, and amazing. I've listened to a few of the orientation sessions, am going over organizational ideas and material lists, and gathering things together. It may take a little while to learn how to use everything, but it looks like it will be simple once we get going.
And, above all, I am impressed with the teaching provided. These teachers (or assistants - as the parent still can direct the teaching as much as desired, choose what to include, what parts to do themselves, etc.) offer the student patience, thorough explanations, encouragement, well-ordered lessons, well-prepared lessons, exciting field trips, interesting informational snippets on a wide variety of topics, entertaining (yet educational) skits and puppets, and many different guests (adults and children). BJU is like a banquet compared to the workbook "snacks" we had been trying out before.
Of course, it's not perfect for everyone, but for someone who doesn't really like teaching everything themselves, it's wonderful. And I don't really see how I could do nearly as good a job myself, not having the years of experience each teacher has had with their respective subject matter and grade level. It takes a long time to come up with so many neat tricks and ideas for teaching a particular subject/grade, and by the time I would figure it out, my kids would be ready for the next level! Many other curricula offer wonderful teacher helps, of course, and those homeschoolers who are teachers themselves, either by vocation or aptitude or desire, could do just as good a job, but I do not count myself in that group!
Items of note that could be either pros or cons depending on your situation/beliefs:
- God is mentioned a lot, in all the subjects
- Students will be watching a screen (TV/DVD player/computer, etc.) mostly independently for about half of their lessons
- Colorful worksheets & activities make up the other half of their lessons
- A school day may be long, especially in upper grades (not as long as public school, but longer than many homeschoolers like)
- Curriculum is very college-prep
- Grade levels are fairly specific to each grade/age (harder to do joint classes)
- K5 and 1st grade seem to need a lot of supplies for activities!
- Strong proponents of "young-earth" creationism, at least in science classes
- Expensive (though much, much less than private school or outside homeschooler classes/academies)
One final comment for today, about why I got K5 for my almost 4-year-old daughter instead of K4. I looked over the scope and sequence for K4, and everything seemed to be stuff she's already done, and has done for a while. Reanna was quick to pick up things when she was still in an outside preschool, and has been following along with her big sister since I have kept them all home. She is ready to read now. She has known all her letters and letter sounds for over a year, can count to 20, understands number concepts up to 10, has known all her colors and shapes for over a year, etc. I think she will do just fine with K5. I got the online version for her, which is good until December of 2012, so we have plenty of time to do the courses. I tend to think she will go through them fairly quickly and we'll be done way before December 2012, but we'll see.