Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Is the Curriculum-in-a-box a bargain?

"Curriculum-in-a-box" or CIAB by my own definition its "a curriculum on the market that supposedly supplies ALL your homeschool needs.  Language Arts, Math, History and Geography and Science; they have it.  Including the videos, visual aids and other things that you just HAVE TO HAVE.   Some even offer electives such as foreign languages, health, etc. "  There are tons of CIABs out there:  A Beka, Alpha Omega, BJU, Sonlight.  The list goes on and on. 
Believe me homeschool moms all have their own opinions about CIABs.  They either love them or hate them.  I personally was an unlucky pupil of a CIAB.  I say unlucky because it just didn't fit within my learning style.  But in my mother's defense, there wasn't alot on the market when I was a homeschool student and you just used what you thought would be best.  Fast forward 15 years and I still don't prefer a CIAB.  It's not my teaching style.  All-in-all, it just doesn't fit me at all.  One brand will have an excellent history and geography curriculum, another is strong in science and yet another meets your child's needs in math (can you sense that I'm eclectic?).   My point is, if it doesn't suit your child's needs or learning style then it's not worth it. 

Now let's get down to the money issue of CIABs. These "academic wonders" truly provide everything you need for the entire school year.  All you have to do is shell out the big money.  Thats right, its not cheap, but is it worth its money?  I am familiar with A Beka so I'll use this particular curriculum as an example.   A Beka offers different packages for your convenience.  A Teacher's package that offers all the teacher's manuals for that specific grade.  Keep in mind its for the three R's (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic).  Science and History and Geography can be purchased separately.  Then there is the student's package (again only the three R's) with all the workbooks and readers that you need for the year.  THEN..... You have to buy everything else outside of the three R's PLUS the visual ads that they "highly recommend".  This can truly be an expensive venture.  And for a book lover like me, I buy more school books throughout the year so I'm not really finished for the year.  It's true, you can reuse the visual aids and the teacher's manuals for one child to another but the workbooks alone can range up to $150.00 every year, per child. Let's not forget that even then you're not done for the year.  There are co-op fees, field trips, library fines, museum memberships and other neat homeschool expenses for the year.

Before you invest in a CIAB figure out whether it fits in with your needs and budget.  If it takes more time to prepare than you can afford then it's only going to cause frustration and lead to burnout.  If it doesn't fit within your school budget then you'll have to cut other fun stuff out.  Believe me when school money gets cut to the bare bones, it can be a negative experience for all. Yes, CIABs can be expensive but there are cost cutting ways to make it work.  You can buy the visual aids and teacher's manuals used either at used curriculum sales or online.  My favorite place to go is homeschoolclassifieds.com for used curriculum.  Sometimes you can find what you need up to 50% off what it would cost new. 

I can't really answer whether this is a bargain or not.  It all depends on your family's needs and budget.  Research and pray about it.  The Lord will guide you with your homeschool decisions.  He formed your children while they were still in your womb, so you can trust Him.  He knows best.

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