Sunday, February 26, 2012

Integrated Worldview

One of BJU's strong points is how integrated their curriculum is. Their classes sometimes cover the same theme at the same time, history tidbits are described in English class, science is mentioned in reading, Bible study is incorporated into most classes, and so on. Due to this, if you use all their classes together, your student will get more than the sum of the parts: extra cultural information is shared throughout their day, classes reinforce each other, and a broad spectrum of knowledge is imparted. It's like your student is attending a school where all the teachers are working together to provide a cohesive and complete learning experience throughout the whole year.

However, this is only wonderful primarily if you share the same worldview as BJU. With their worldview scattered throughout every class, your student will encounter those beliefs everywhere. I had known from the start that I disagreed with BJU in a few key points (young-earth beliefs being the primary one), but thought that if I just skipped the science classes and some of the history classes, I could avoid that belief. I'm finding more and more that this is not going to be the case. I've previewed some of the books for later grades at our local Mardel's store, and have seen young-earth aspects in 4th grade handwriting, 5th grade reading, etc. With the videos, I can never be sure if the teachers might mention something else I disagree with, without having to prescreen all the videos, which I don't have the time or inclination to do. I have been reading more and more issues that others have with BJU (race relationships, disapproval of Catholics, etc.), and find that I have some of these other issues too.

For many people, a few young-earth comments isn't a big deal, but it is to me. It's just like those who don't want their child to be taught that evolution is true (or fill in the blank with any other hot topic you think is wrong), especially in their early years. That's one of the reasons we homeschool instead of sending our children to an outside teacher, whose daily comments (as well as those of the other students) are out of our control and even knowledge. Of course, you can always use it as a teaching experience, discussing with your child why you don't agree with that teaching, but with the BJU videos, these year-long teachers are becoming very close to your student (even if the relationship is one-sided). They look up to these teachers, enjoy them, and trust that they are teaching them the truth. To have to say later that, yes, your teacher said that, but she was wrong - well, that just undermines that teacher's authority and your student may never trust them again (or might even side with the teacher and say that you - the parent - are wrong!). With a textbook or workbook, or a one-time teacher who has not created a relationship with your student, it is much easier to contradict it/them without any detrimental effects.

Now if you do agree with BJU's worldview, then their distance learning classes really are wonderful. I wish there were a company producing such high quality material where everything did agree with my own worldview! But alas, there isn't.

I will continue using the videos for the rest of 1st grade, pre-screening as we go and skipping a few things here and there, but after that, we will try something different, something more eclectic. I have thought of teaching the BJU material myself, just eliminating any aspects that I disagree with, but as I have noted earlier, their material is very teacher-intensive, and I need a more independent curriculum.

I struggled a lot with my oldest daughter for kindergarten and early 1st grade, as that is a time that needs a high level of teacher interaction. BJU 1st grade videos were a lifesaver for us at that time. But now that she can read so much better (BJU did do a wonderful job of teaching her to read - and I know she will just get better in the remaining months we have with 1st grade), we have many more options for independent learning. I think that was what made the biggest difference in her attitude - being able to do school on her own more, without me hovering over her continually. So I will look for material that will allow her to be somewhat independent for at least some of her classes - such as CLE for English, and Math Mammoth for math, perhaps adding in videos from Discovery Education to add interest and some of the "extra-curricular tidbits of interest" that we got from the BJU videos.

For my younger ones, I'm not sure what I'll do, since I do now have the teacher's manuals for BJU K5 and 1st grade. Maybe I'll just use them (we're still doing K5 videos with my middle child now), maybe we'll do a combination of things. I'll have to wait and see what their learning styles are like, I guess.

More to come later, on our continuing saga of curriculum choices!

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