The A2 Homeschool Curriculum consists primarily of many texts and books with most files in html, text, or pdf formats on a single CD-ROM. A2 describes its philosophy in this simple statement: “There are three subjects, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. Everything else can be learned in the reading materials” (“How to Home School”).A Major goal of the program is to help children become self-educators who learn to read and glean information without detailed instruction.
Most of the books in A2 are from the 1800s and early 1900s and are in the public domain. You could locate and use the books through the internet yourself. But it would take a lot of time to find them, and many of the books you find would not be formatted for easy printing. The value lies in having all of this at your fingertips, set up and ready to go along with a sequential plan for their use with no internet connection required.
You will likely want to print out many of the books. Some very practical suggestions for printing and binding are included.
A2 lays out a sequence of texts and books to be used (almost all resources you will use are included on the CD). The trickiest part is figuring out where to start in each subject area, but the sequence is predetermined and easy to follow once you know where to begin. The curriculum is organized by grade level and by subject. While you can click on what should be your child’s expected grade level, you still might need to shift backwards or forwards (perhaps even up or down a few grade levels) in each subject. They recommend starting at the beginning with grammar and history if you are transferring children from a public school to begin homeschooling, but this will really depend upon whether or not they have been taught grammar or history to any extent.
Of course, it is easiest to figure out your starting place with preschoolers and kindergartners. A2 encourages teaching children to read as young as three years of age. It depends upon the individual child whether or not this is appropriate. A2 builds in a phonics and reading program with brief instructions, picture cards (with letters and/or key sound illustrations), phonogram and word cards that are used for learning activities and games, sentence building cards, McGuffey Readers, and four “One-Syllable Word” readers that are history-based. (For all of the cards, there are pages to be printed out on card stock and cut into cards.) This assortment of resources does leave it up to the parent to figure out teaching strategies part of the time, but it might suffice for some parents. The program suggests classic literature be used as read-alouds, although some titles such as Pinocchio for kindergarten and Alice in Wonderland for first grade might be too advanced for some children. They also recommend that you read Dr. Seuss books and nursery rhymes which are not included on the CD.
Many literary works are included on the CD. You can use those recommended under each grade level or access the entire category through the “Explore CD” button on the home page. Works are listed under juvenile books, American literature, and British literature; the latter two categories are presented again with works broken down into time periods. This allows you to select your own literature to use as part of a chronological study of history.
For composition, children begin with copywork. More than 1000 quotes have been formatted, one per page, with blank lines on which children may write. Over 300 quotes are from scripture, and the rest are from philosophers, authors, and famous people; all are arranged into categories. They vary in length and difficulty, so parents will need to pre-select those that are appropriate for each student. I spotted a few punctuation errors such as missing periods, so check for correct punctuation and spelling before assigning copywork.
Since there is no formal handwriting (print or cursive) taught before third grade (when the Palmer method of cursive is taught), parents need to figure out how to teach either manuscript or cursive to younger children. Of course, you might try teaching Palmer method cursive to students in grade K through 2.
Students use textbooks such as Graded Lessons in English (grammar), Higher Lessons in English (grammar and composition), and Word Lessons (spelling and vocabulary) for language arts.
The CD includes A2’s own unique math program. It consists of Steps to Mastering Arithmetic (a 91-page teacher’s manual) and a worksheet generation program. The guide explains the strategies for each area of arithmetic such as how to multiply numbers with two-digit multipliers, how to accomplish long division, and how to reduce fractions. It covers addition and subtraction up through the order of operations, algebraic expressions, powers, and roots—the essentials of math for grades 1-8. The program emphasizes counting as the primary math activity for kindergarten level, but some kindergartners will be ready to move into addition and subtraction. The worksheet generator doesn’t show up on the kindergarten outline, but you can access it from outlines for first grade and above. (I went through the installation process for the worksheet generator as directed, and it appeared that I installed it correctly, but it would not come up automatically from the links on my computer. I had to find and run it from my program files.) The worksheet generator presents arithmetic problems on a single topic at a time. Some customization is allowed within each topic, but there is no way to generate problems on mixed topics. While a parent can teach from the guide then create the appropriate worksheet pages for practice, this combination lacks many important features included in most math programs: lesson presentation suggestions or steps, mixed problems in exercises, review problems, quizzes and tests, and answer keys. For most families, I expect they might use the worksheet generator as a supplement rather than trying to use this as your core math program. Saxon Math is recommended for seventh grade and above.
Science is not really covered in this program. For grades K through 8, general instructions are given for science: “The Science and Health portion of the program is a typical course of study of what is generally taught in each grade level. Your child may progress and further study each listing as you desire. We suggest using a set of encyclopedias or your local library to research each topic. You may choose to have your child write essays, book reports, compete in county fair projects, or create a learning notebook for these subjects.” This is followed by a list of topics. While this is a great way to study science, I suspect most families will want more structure and direction in their program. High school science is not covered at all in A2.
For history, an assortment of older texts and books are included. History books are included beginning in third grade with the introduction of a story-based approach to U.S. History. Fifth grade adds A Child’s History of England by Charles Dickens along with stories of Davy Crockett and Abraham Lincoln. Fifth through eighth grades continue with U.S. History, adding Famous Men of the Middle Ages to the sixth grade lineup. The selection is light on world history through the elementary grades.
World history finally receives primary attention in ninth grade with H.G. Wells’ A Short History of The World. Wells’ views seem to be humanist and utopian, so it would be very helpful to read a world history written from another perspective for balance. The Chronicles of America series is introduced in tenth grade. The publisher of A2’s preface to this book warns of evolutionary content but does not adequately, in my opinion, address potential content issues. For example, The Red Man’s Continent (from the Chronicles of America series) presents an evolutionary viewpoint that includes a comparison of races that judges mental capacity by measurements of brain capacity. The publisher encourages us to help our children learn how to read and think--to understand the ideas people hold that might be in conflict with ours. However, I am concerned that busy parents might not have the time to read and identify points of conflict, then adequately prepare to discuss these or direct students to resources for further study. So while I like the idea of using real books for history, I would prefer to see a mix of titles presented in these instances that provide more balance and correction for inaccurate information.
For economics, A2 includes Bastiat’s The Law and Social Fallacies(Economic Sophisms) plus Andrew Dickson White’s Fiat Money Inflation in France in ninth grade, and The Wealth of Nations in tenth. In eleventh grade, students move further into the great books, reading works by Plato, Aristotle, and Machiavelli. In twelfth grade, Kellogg’s Rhetoric deals with grammar, composition, and speech.
I mentioned that high school science is not included. Also missing are foreign languages, state history, religion/Bible, the fine arts, physical education, and a U.S. Government course. It is important that you check requirements for your state to know what must be taught. High school students also must check entry requirements for potential colleges to ensure that they complete appropriate course work.
Note than an LDS version is also available, but I haven't investigated it.)
Overall, this is an eclectic collection of resources that might well be suitable for a substantial part of your homeschooling. Much depends upon individual families and children and how well this style of learning works for them. The cost for the CD is only $99, so even if you choose to supplement with other resources, you still have an excellent investment. Free support is available through the publisher and a users’ group.