By providing pre-packaged, structured and ready to instruct curricula with material from well known educational providers, Bookshark offers a convenient and high quality solution for parents.
While perhaps not an ideal solution for everyone, for homeschoolers who agree with its approach, Bookshark can be an excellent way of getting a ready-made high quality, literature-based curriculum that we think can not only be a time saver for parents, but can be highly effective as well.
What We Like
But watch out for…
What is Bookshark
Founded in 2013 as a sister company to Sonlight, Bookshark is a provider of literature-based homeschool curriculum packages.
Taking a faith-neutral, Charlotte Mason-inspired approach, Bookshark offers parents complete multi- or single-subject packages that, with pre-selected books, educational material, and step-by-step teaching guides, are designed to make teaching easier and more convenient.
What Grades or Ages does Bookshark cover
Like other homeschool products, Bookshark doesn’t divide itself up by grade or age.
Instead, the company divides its packages up according to Levels, A-J, which cover pre-kindergarten to approximately grade 10.
While perhaps a little less intuitive for parents, we actually like when homeschooling programs like Bookshark use alternatives to grade and age.
Kids tend to learn differently, and they very often may fall outside their peer-range. For example a child might be a gifted learner, a struggling or challenged learner, or in the case of twice exceptional students, both.
If a program strongly broadcasts grade and age level divisions, it can make parents hesitate or become more uncertain as to where they should place their child, particularly with gifted students, and it can even hurt a child’s self esteem, particularly with struggling students.
Bookshark does a pretty good job at helping parents in this regard.
They offer a great amount of detail as to what is inside the curriculum, such that with a little research parents can get a fair idea as to how appropriate each level is to their needs.
They also offer a fair amount of resources on their website to help, such as a selection guide, and give them a rough guideline in terms of age they can work with.
Unfortunately, Bookshark is not a complete K-12 solution. As of writing the program ends at level J, which covers roughly ages 14-16. And, because of the more strict high school curriculum requirements, depending on where parents live it may not provide a complete high school solution, so homeschoolers may need to configure or supplement Bookshark packages further.
How it Works
Bookshark provides ready-made, curated packages of literature-based curricula for homeschoolers.
These curriculum packages are intended to be essentially open-and-go, providing parents with everything they need to teach.
The company provides two types of packages – all-subject and single subject.
All-subject Bookshark curriculum packages offer 36 weeks worth of teaching material in Language Arts, Science, Math, History and Geography at the Kindergarten/Elementary range, and History & Literature, Math and Science at the Middle School/lower High School range.
Single subject packages, on the other hand, offer 36 weeks worth of teaching material in each of the above subjects.
Bookshark can also be used to individually purchase supplementary learning material, such as different phonics programs, grammar programs, spelling programs and more, although this obviously isn’t the main draw of the company.
Overview of Bookshark’s Approach to Teaching
Bookshark is a Charlotte Mason-inspired program that very strongly believes in a literature-based learning method.
This means its curricula use high-quality books and texts to form the core for instruction.
The books it provides are the focal point for instruction for many of its subjects, including Language Arts, History, Geography and even Science, with discussion, exercises and activities flowing somewhat naturally from them.
Bookshark also incorporates a strong hands-on learning component to its curricula.
The math programs it has selected all have some manipulative integration and in terms of Science learning, Bookshark includes various all-in-one science kits with weekly experiments that fully integrate with the science lesson plans.
While it’s not all that unusual for math and science to have significant hands-on learning components, interestingly Bookshark also extends hands-on learning to its Reading with History program, where they complement learning in History, Geography and Reading with optional kits.
Bookshark offers two varieties- Hands on History and Lap Book Kits by Inquisikid.
Levels A B and C tend to have Hands on History Kits, while the rest have the arts and crafts focused Lap Books.
These kits are very high quality, as well.
Each comes in their own little package and are like miniature projects that kids can complete, integrating with specific parts of a lesson plan for added learning.
They’re also pretty fun, especially the little History project kits where young kids can try their hands at building little chariots, make greek vases out of clay or even a tiny yurt they can keep on their desk.
On the downside, however, they must be purchased separately or added-on during checkout, which adds an extra cost.
That said, we are always a fan of hands-on learning as we feel that giving kids an opportunity to engage with learning material by feeling and touching can help kids better understand more abstract ideas, particularly in math and science.
Further, hands-on learning makes learning far more multisensory, activating tactile learning pathways, which can help reinforce and strengthen learning in the long term.
Finally, hands-on activities can also help bring learning to life and make it more meaningful for kids, which is especially important with less popular subjects like history and geography.
Unlike its sister company Sonlight, Bookshark takes a neutral approach to faith and faith-based teaching.
On the one hand it doesn’t include any religious instruction on material in its curricula.
On the other hand, it is not purely secular either and is fairly faith-friendly.
The best demonstration, perhaps, of this neutrality is in its science program.
While the program abstains from teaching evolution, it also does not teach creationism or intelligent design.
Instead, it deliberately leaves such matters to the parents’ discretion and their particular philosophy, to supplement as they so choose.
As a consequence, its science programs can easily fit faith and secular based homeschools with little issue.
Those looking for specific faith-oriented or strictly secular curricula, however, should probably look elsewhere.
What is Included
General Overview of Products
|Reading with History||Various Titles|
|Hands-on History Kits||Inquisikids Hands-on History & Lap Books|
|Science Reading||Various Titles|
|Science Kits||Discover & Do/Sonlight Science Kits|
|Math||Singapore MathOrSaxon MathOrMath U SeeOr Right Start Math|
|Handwriting||Handwriting Without Tears|
|Language Arts||Language Arts Instructors Guide|
Bookshark offers ready lesson plans and instructor’s guides for each of its subjects at each level, which makes its products pretty open and go as far as curriculums are concerned.
Doing so is fairly helpful as it saves parents the time and effort of trying to build their own plans and figuring out how to teach it, which can be particularly helpful for new homeschoolers or those who simply lack time.
Its lesson plans are fairly easy to use and pretty detailed, as well.
In addition to an overall explanation of each guide’s contents, Bookshark’s plans have a basic 4 day lesson schedule that outlines various activities, including page references, suggested activities, a scope and sequence and a list of materials included and suggestions (if any) of things that parents need to buy on their own.
The instructor’s guides, in the meantime, provide pretty much everything a parent would need to teach a subject, including worksheets, relevant maps, charts and diagrams, discussion questions, ideas for skill development and even evaluation guides.
The science guide we looked at, for example, provided a variety of exercises and explanation, as well as directions for conducting experiments, ideas for discovery-based learning and activity sheets to reinforce learning.
Overall, Bookshark’s lesson plans and instructor’s guides are pretty comprehensive. With no other supplementation, we believe they should provide a solid week’s instruction for a parent with no issue.
A big concern with pre-packaged lesson plans is that they can often be too scripted and not allow parents any room for adding their own thoughts and ideas, which tends to annoy parents who got into homeschooling precisely for that level of control and customization.
While Bookshark’s lesson plans and instructor’s guides are detailed and do a good job at being able to carry parents through a course, we don’t feel they are too scripted or micromanaging.
Unlike some other curricula out there, there is no scripted dialogue for discussions, for example, and there is room for customization.
Further, because the activities are not usually incremental, parents can switch them around or substitute them for their own ideas and the guides do, to their credit, encourage parents to make their own adjustments.
Reading with History
Reading with History is Bookshark’s rather unique way of integrating geography, history and reading skill development.
Each level of Bookshark has a rough “theme” or unit study in regards to Reading With History, as we detail below:
|Level A||Intro to the world: cultures|
|Level B||Intro to World History 1|
|Level C||Intro to World History 2|
|Level D||Intro to American History 1|
|Level E||Intro to American History 2|
|Level F||Eastern Hemisphere|
|Level G||World History 1|
|Level H||World History 2|
Note: Levels I and J are more high school level and instead of reading with history have history and literature. In keeping with High School’s more set curriculum expectations, they revolve around American history, American Literature and the History of Science.
Rather than use textbooks or preselected texts and guides and in keeping with its principles of literature-based learning, Bookshark uses a variety of fiction and nonfiction book titles to teach.
Most of the books it provides are strongly linked to historical topics and connect to the overall theme of that level in some fashion.
These books are used as the basis for lessons in Geography and History and serve as readers and read-alouds for reading comprehension and vocabulary, with Bookshark’s lesson plans and instructors guides offering unique lessons and activities for each subject based on these books.
It’s important to note that not all the books Bookshark includes involve historical topics or themes.
Particularly at the younger levels (before Level D) there are general high interest books and familiar titles thrown in to help kids with their reading, read aloud experience and overall literature enjoyment, such as Dr. Seuss, Amelia Bedelia, and so on.
After Level D, however, the books included begin to adhere more closely as a whole to the overall historical theme.
Overall, we think this is a very interesting approach, particularly for those who are already fans of literature based approaches.
History and geography are not always the most intrinsically interesting topics for kids, and teaching through gripping novels with interesting artwork, plenty of action and character development can be a better way to draw kids into the subject matter than with a standard textbook.
That said, while kids may enjoy these titles, they may not be the best option for those who want to teach with the big-C Classics, the Great Books as they’re known.
While Bookshark includes some award-winning classic titles that parents will appreciate, such as Johnny Tremaine, Red Sails to Capri and even the Scarlet Pimpernel, Bookshark’s books tend to be selected to be about history and are not themselves books that made history.
For example, in learning about the Trojan War, students might read out of The Trojan War by Olivia Coolidge from 2001, rather than selections from the Iliad, the Homeric epic from the 8th century.
Similarly, while the books are well-selected, as we mentioned, and designed to capture a student’s attention through gripping plots and action, they may be a little intense for some families.
While we have no issue with Bookshark’s selection ourselves (many of them are true modern classics and our tester’s kids loved them, in fact), parents should look through the lists that bookshark provides on its website for each level and assess their suitability for themselves.
After all, Bookshark does provide a lot of reading material for each level, and the last thing parents want is to be given a lot of books that they don’t want their kids reading.
Interestingly, Bookshark offers parents a choice of math programs they can select from. These are:
- Math U See
- Singapore Math
- Right Start
Taken as a whole, Bookshark offers good variety in the way math is taught and generally represents the breadth of math program types out there.
Both spiral (Saxon, Right Start) and mastery approaches (Math U See, Singapore) to teaching math are represented, as are computationally-focused (learning how to solve problems – Saxon, Math U See) and conceptually-focused programs (learning the whys behind the math to solve problems – Singapore, Right Start).
And the selection offers a good choice between more gentle vs. rigorous math curricula.
In fact, these are all recognized, well-respected math programs for home learning, most of which we’ve reviewed and found to be quite effective methods of teaching math.
Interestingly most of them (except for Saxon after grade 3) are all very hands on, with strong integration of manipulatives, providing a tactile learning solution that we like and think can really help students and that fits nicely with Bookshark’s hands-on approach.
Math can be a particularly tricky subject for homeschoolers to teach.
In addition to the fact that parents are not always comfortable teaching it, as we mentioned in our guide to finding a homeschool math curriculum there is no one best way to teach math. As a language and a way of thinking about the world, it can be taught effectively in many different ways.
Making choosing a program more difficult, kids have their own challenges, strengths and preferences for how they like material presented to them, and any math curriculum therefore needs to fit both the child and the homeschool philosophy.
By offering parents a good variety of choice and variety in math programs, we think Bookshark makes it a lot easier for parents to configure a ready homeschooling solution with a math program that they will want to use and that fits their child’s needs, which makes it a lot more likely to be effective in the long run.
That said, while Bookshark does an excellent job selecting math programs that represent the breadth of program types out there, it obviously doesn’t represent all program types.
Its math options tend to be all traditionally taught, parent-involved programs. There are no self-study offerings, like CTC for example, no gamified digital curricula, or any that integrate professional one on one tutoring options, like Thinkster Math.
So if you’re more interested in one of those programs this may not be the best math solution out there for you.
Reading skills and reading practice is covered in bookshark by a variety of readers and read alouds that it provides as part of its Reading with History section.
At the younger levels (A, B, and C) these tend to be a mix of unit linked books, tying in with the Reading with History theme of culture and world history, and popular general interest titles like Dr. Seuss, Frog and Toad, Captain Nobody, Amelia Bedelia and so on.
From about level D onwards, reading practice and development begins to increasingly integrate with history and geography as part of the Reading with History, and the books subsequently tend to be more history oriented and tie in to the overall unit theme for that level in some way.
When it comes to the mechanics of writing and grammar, Bookshark generally teaches from its own Language Arts Instructor’s Guide.
These guides are fairly comprehensive and directive when it comes to teaching kids mechanics.
Parents receive clear, step by step instructions and exercises to give kids, such as dictation, vocabulary development, writing structure, writing activities, essay formatting and writing and so on, as well as technical sentence construction, with exercises like Sentence Basics (where verbs, adverbs and adjectives are introduced) and The Building Blocks of Sentences (where phrasing, voice and analysis are covered).
In all, we feel Bookshark does a good job at covering the mechanics of English Language Arts.
They offer a lot of different approaches and activities that parents can use to teach, as well as a variety of consumable tools that parents can use to help do so.
Its approach is fairly gentle and natural, and we feel it does a good job at blending traditional and Charlotte Mason approaches to grammar, teaching with copywork and dictation, as well as including more formal and traditional sentence analysis.
Handwriting and Spelling
In addition to its language arts package, Bookshark offers parents some practical and specific tools for handwriting and, starting at level D, spelling.
In particular they include :
- Spelling You See and
- Handwriting without Tears
Both these programs fit well within Bookshark’s general language arts approach.
They are well-known programs known for their gentle and natural way of teaching and generally have a reputation for developing skills in a slow but effective (and drama-minimal way.
Not every parent, however, will want to rely on a company’s own ELA instruction guide or Spelling you See/Handwriting without Tears.
It is helpful, therefore that Bookshark offers parents supplementary programs to help teach, depending on their preference:
- Explode the Code
- Wordly Wise
- MCP Phonics
- Grammar Ace
- Keys to Good Language
- All About Spelling
Unlike the math program where there is ready choice in what to use, however, these are usually bought separately from a package.
That said, Bookshark does helpfully include references of where (and how) you can use these in its instruction guides, highlighted as Optional work.
When it comes to teaching science, Bookshark combines hands-on learning with a literature-based approach, which we found kind of interesting.
Rather than using standard textbooks, Bookshark sends kids living books in science, that is high-interest paperback knowledge books written by experts in their field.
Rather than present a list of facts, these books tend to take a narrative style and try to engage the reader either by presenting the information in a more palatable and less dry way, or with lots of interesting and cool pictures and diagrams, or both.
For example, Science G, which covers Chemistry, Physics and Biology, offers students books like:
Usborne’s Encyclopedia of Planet Earth
A fun and glossy book that intersperses text with full color illustrations and photos of subject matter ranging from volcanoes to rocks and minerals.
What’s Science All About?
Also published by Usborne, this is a conversationally written 3 in 1 book that covers Physics, Chemistry and Biology. It contains some amusing cartoon illustrations and we think conveys a pretty good amount of information in interesting ways that kids will probably understand if they choose to explore it on their own.
Genetics: Breaking the Code of Your DNA
A graphic novel-style illustrated exploration of genetics with a fairly comprehensive glossary and interesting facts in its sidebars.
Some parents may not be huge fans of using these sort of living books for science, feeling that it robs the subject matter of its gravitas and may prefer to take a more direct and serious approach to teaching science, using more formal textbooks written by teams of experts as students might encounter in the future should they study science in college.
And that’s fair.
However, when paired with a structured lesson plan as Bookshark we think these types of books can convey science information quite adequately and, importantly, in a way that’s both interesting and less intimidating to both students and their parents.
In fact, as of 2021, Bookshark’s science curriculum is actually NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) aligned, which means its scope and sequence and learning adheres or even exceeds state standards for science.
In addition to the books, Bookshark sends out a variety of science experiments that kids can do with Bookshark’s science kits.
These kits come in neat boxes of their own and are pretty convenient, containing some 36 weekly experiments to fit the 4 day lesson plan.
They contain everything parent’s need to set up and conduct the science experiments, so there’s no real need to go out and buy anything, which is helpful, and the experiments are kind of cool and high interest for kids as well, with experiments like:
- Building catapults
- Making plastic out of corn
- Making a compass
- Building circuits
- and more
One thing we found handy is that for the earlier grades (to about level E) the company includes a DVD to demonstrate the included experiments, which can be helpful in review and can give parents and students a better idea of what the end result should look like in case things go disastrously wrong.
Teaching Science with Bookshark: A Spiral Approach
One thing we should mention is that Bookshark takes a spiral progression approach to science.
Some parents may be more familiar with the spiral approach in the context of math, but the essential concept is the same.
In Bookshark, students are exposed to a wide variety of science topics and then encounter them again and again, studying them in deeper complexity as they go on,
This is as opposed to a more traditional way of teaching science, for example, where Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Earth Science and other subjects were split apart and taught individually in different years.
There are pros and cons to a spiral approach to science, of course, that we think parents should consider.
On the positive side, a spiral curriculum introduces kids at a young age to a broader range of science topics and concepts than they would otherwise get.
It also makes science learning more interesting to some kids by providing a variety of topics to learn, as they won’t spend numerous weeks stuck on one particular subject, for example.
Finally, a spiral approach also better reinforces previous learning. As kids go along in their education they’ll encounter various topics over and over again, which gives them a lot more opportunity to review, which helps in retaining information.
Finally this spiral approach can give students a better holistic understanding of science, better understanding how the different subjects interact.
On the downside it’s not always right for every student. Some students dislike seeing the same topics repeat, and get bored or frustrated especially if there is too much review and similarly, some students like focusing on a single topic and getting a good idea of what its about, getting confused and frustrated if they are left without “the whole picture.”
Does Bookshark teach evolution?
Bookshark’s science program does not teach evolution. On the other hand, it also doesn’t teach creationism or intelligent design, steering largely away from the topic and leaving it to the parent to teach as they see fit
Bookshark does allow some customization of both their all-subject and single subject packaged curricula.
Before checking out parents can, for example:
- Add supplements
- Select which math program they would like
- Whether they would like an advanced (an extra 8 books) or regular reading level
- And whether they would like to go up (or down) a level in Science and Handwriting
This level of customization allows parents to better tune their Bookshark package, changing some of the learning material and adjusting the difficulty of certain subjects, which can be particularly useful for parents of students with jagged learning profiles, i.e. those advanced in some subjects but on-grade or below in others.
It also allows parents on a budget a little more price control, as they can choose not to receive certain items (Handwriting, for example) and save some money by using their own material.
That said, some of these customization options can cost money, as well, so parents need to do some thinking before modifying their packages.
Pros & Cons of Bookshark
Things We Like about Bookshark
Highly convenient, fully planned homeschool solution
Whether they choose the all in one kits or the individual subjects areas, Bookshark provides parents with more or less everything you need to teach in the kit, which makes it truly open and go and highly convenient.
High quality and engaging literature choices
Part of the idea of making a literature-based learning model work is in using high quality, living books or other highly engaging literature that will pique student curiosity and interest enough to teach through.
We found Booshark’s mix of classic and contemporary book choices to be very high quality overall, many of its choices are award winners with gripping plots and often a good mix of action and story telling that we believe should keep kids fairly interested.
Uses well known and well-respected homeschooling material
Whether its Explode the Code, All About Spelling, Handwriting Without Tears or its various math options, when it comes to more formal homeschooling programs to teach math, grammar and more, Bookshark uses pretty well known and respected programs.
These tend not only to be high quality and effective for what they teach, but also have enough support online from the homeschooling community that implementing them shouldn’t be an issue as it might be with lesser known programs.
NGSS aligned science kits
Recently, Bookshark has aligned its science teaching to NGSS standards.
By aligning with NGSS (not common core, mind you), they ensure that the science education they provide will be enough to meet any state standards and overall should alleviate any concerns that parents have regarding the applicability and rigor of its literature-based approach.
Multiple, high quality math options available
Bookshark offers four math curricula as options. These are all highly respected and as hands-on as math can be.
More than that, these options cover a variety of different approaches to teaching math. There are both mastery and spiral approaches offered, as well computational and conceptual approaches, and even more and less rigorous math options to choose from.
Taken as a whole, Bookshark does a pretty good job, although not totally comprehensive, at giving parents choices in math that cover the breadth of math learning that’s out there.
Flexible purchasing options: all in one or a la carte
With Bookshark parents can buy an all in one package, individual subjects as they need them, or even individual teaching products if they so choose.
This allows Bookshark to be used as an option for those who are simply looking for a convenient open and go yearly curriculum for their kids, as well as a solution for parents looking to supplement their own curriculum.
With its customization options, Bookshark also makes it quite easy to adjust the level of difficulty in several subjects and skills, which makes it quite easy to adjust to a jagged learning profile.
Very detailed and easy to follow lesson plans
Bookshark includes highly detailed and scripted lesson plans that make it quite easy for parents to structure their lessons.
Combined with the instructor’s guides, Bookshark does a good job at walking parents though all its material and how it should be used, as well as explaining concepts and providing related activities in a clear and step by step manner.
Yet despite their scripted nature, these lesson plans and guides do leave ample room for parents to add and customize learning, which is something we appreciate.
Provides a lot of educational material
Being a literature-based learning curriculum, whether you purchase one of their all in one homeschool kits, a subject kit or Bookshark provides a lot of learning material for families to use.
Science and Reading with History, for example, contain tons of books, activities, paper packets and hands-on learning, as well as maps, timelines and other relevant extras that give kids a lot to work with over the year.
For a relatively small fee, Parents can even request an advanced reading curriculum, which will add another 8 books for kids to read.
One of the things we appreciate about Bookshark is that despite taking a literature-based learning approach, they also involve quite a few mini projects and hands-on learning in its subjects, either included or as an option.
Whether through hands-on history, math or science, hands-on learning can really help kids get a clearer idea of abstract or complex topics.
It also serves to make learning far more multisensory and fun, which can help kids better absorb information and make learning more meaningful in the long run.
Things to Watch Out For
In an absolute sense it can be expensive
Bookshark has a lot of advantages.
It’s highly convenient, providing everything parents need to homeschool for a year, or to teach a specific subject.
It provides a ton of learning material and content to work with, and it uses highly regarded and effective educational programs to do so.
What it is not, however, is cheap…in an absolute sense.
By this we mean that although it does potentially provide great value as a complete year’s learning in a box, all-subject packages can run up to a thousand dollars or more and single subject packages can be a few hundred dollars each.
When all is said and done, this means the packages themselves represent a significant investment for most families.
Choices are inherently limited
The very nature of a pre-planned, pre-configured ready-to-go curriculum means that there can’t be a lot of choice for parents when it comes to how they would like their kids to learn.
Bookshark covers a lot of subjects using a variety of curricula and tools and while they are all high quality in our opinion, parents may have an issue with one or two choices.
And, especially if you want an all-subject package, they will need to make the decision of whether they can come to terms with these offerings, especially given the price.
While there is some curriculum choice and customization that parents can choose from, for practical reasons these tend to be limited, they can affect the overall price, and the choices aren’t totally representative of all the different homeschool options out there that parents might be interested in.
Some parents may find it to be very parent-intensive and time consuming
On top of the normal lesson plans there are reading assignments and read alouds, hands-on activities and crafts, Bookshark can create a jam packed schedule.
While this might be fine for most homeschools, some parents may find a bit too much and want a slower paced or even more self-taught curriculum.
Who Do We Think Bookshark Is Best For?
New homeschoolers and those who lack the time to create their own curricula
One of the key selling points of Bookshark is the fact that it is an all-in-one teaching solution for homeschoolers.
The company’s all-subject and subject level kits contain more or less everything parents need to teach a year’s curriculum in either one specific subject or math, science, history, language arts, and geography.
It does so with well-regarded and effective programs and a pretty well-designed instructors guide that shows them how to implement the program in a step by step manner.
This makes it a great solution for parents new to homeschooling who may lack experience creating and implementing their own curriculum, as well as homeschoolers who, perhaps due to the needs of multiple children or even working part time, may not have the time to build out their own curriculum and gather supplies.
Fans of literature-based teaching
At its core, Bookshark is a literature-based learning program. It provides students with a ton of high interest and classic books to work with and extends its literature-based approach to science teaching, as well.
Those who appreciate a hands-on approach to learning
Despite taking a literature-based learning approach, Bookshark does a good job at integrating hands-on learning and small projects into most of its subjects.
From history to science to math. the programs and materials included allow kids to interact and physically explore the learning material, which is great for tactile learners and can deepen learning and help students get a better understanding overall.
Those who would like a strong history component to their learning
A large component of Bookshark is that its reading, history and geography components are rooted in historical study.
These subjects are taught in an integrative approach that connects these subjects to broader history theme and uses historically-linked fiction and nonfiction texts to learn with.
Homeschoolers who hold the study of history in higher regard or who feel that the best way to prepare for the future is to study the past, will very much appreciate Booksharks approach to learning.
Those looking for a faith-neutral curriculum that still adheres to Science standards
There are many homeschoolers out there who are looking for a faith-friendly or neutral curriculum that also offers a fairly rigorous science curriculum.
Bookshark’s Science curriculum now aligns with Next Generation Science Standards and should hold up to any state standards for teaching science while still leaving teaching of intelligent design, creationism or evolution to the parent and their own beliefs.
Who is it not ideal for?
People who don’t want to use literature-based teaching
Some parents prefer an alternate approach to teaching, such as a more inquiry and discovery based curriculum for science.
Others may want to teach with textbooks and more formal material, rather than living literature.
These parents may not find Bookshark and it’s literature-based approach appropriate to their particular needs and preferences.
Secular homeschoolers looking for a stricter secular approach to Science/ faith based homeschoolers looking for a stricter faith-based approach
Bookshark takes a neutral approach to questions of faith, leaving questions of religion to parents.
While its curriculum can be used by both faith-based and secular homeschoolers, some homeschools have solid ideas of what they want out of their curriculum.
Those looking for a strict secular curriculum, or a strong faith based one, will probably need to look elsewhere.
Homeschools who want a lot of flexibility and choice
Bookshark is really designed as an open and go curriculum.
Its overall value is, we think, in providing ready and complete solutions for homeschooling, a full homeschool solution in a box if you will.
Bookshark offers detailed, scripted lesson plans and guides as well as pre-selected books and teaching material.
While there is some choice and some customization possibilities, we don’t think those who really want to dig in and spend a lot of time getting involved building and teaching their own curriculum will see as much value in Bookshark as those who lack the experience or time to do it properly themselves.
Those who place a primacy on learning from the Great Books
While Bookshark does place a strong importance on history as it pertains to literature-based learning, and does offer a variety of classic books for kids to learn from, it does not teach from the Great Books.
Parents will not see much in the way of the Iliad, The Song of Roland or the Federalist Papers, for example.
In other words it does a good job at teaching with books about history but not always books that made history.
There’s no getting around it, Bookshark offers a lot of educational material and activities and a fairly structured plan for implementing it.
In the end its products can take up a fair amount of time (and more than likely a lot of space), and it more or less leads parents fairly clearly through subject matter and activities with fairly detailed pre-printed lesson plans and guides.
While very convenient overall, this approach really does not fit a minimalist homeschooling approach.
Note: Prices correct at time of writing, all prices are in USD.
All-subject packages include Reading with History (History, Read-Alouds and Readers), Handwriting and Language Arts, Science and Math.
As we mentioned, parents can select the math option they would like and can purchase additional supplements in language arts for spelling, phonics and more.
Subject packages typically provide everything a parent needs to get started teaching that subject.
They include an instructor’s guide with lesson plans, a variety of course material and Required Resources, i.e. binders, maps and other material to help organize and make learning more interesting.
Reading and History – range from about $482 to about $625, depending on level
Science – Range from about $153 to about $275, depending on level
Math – Price is subject to the particular math program, but can generally range from about $1-300
Overall, we think Bookshark offers a fair amount of flexibility in terms of pricing for a pre-made curriculum solution.
Parents can either purchase a full-suite package containing everything they need to teach a course for a year (with some ability to customize) or choose a single subject package to teach either that subject or mix and match depending on student needs or budget.
Parents can also choose to only purchase items like individual math packages and a variety of language arts supplements directly from Bookshark.
While the quality of material is certainly there, we really feel the value overall is really in the packages and convenience that Bookshark offers.
It’s important to note that Bookshark often runs various sales and discounts, so it’s worth checking out their site for any savings.
Is Bookshark worth the price?
There’s no getting around it – Bookshark is certainly not cheap.
Not in an absolute manner, anyway.
It does, however, provide a lot of value for money.
For the right parent, Bookshark provides a valuable solution – a full year’s curriculum in a box that they can pretty well open and use.
The company also provides detailed instructor’s guides, lesson plans and various activities to go along with it, making teaching from the program quite painless and easy.
In addition to convenience, we feel Bookshark offers a good deal of quality to what they offer.
The programs they use to help teach (Singapore Math, Math U See, Explode the Code, Handwriting Without Tears, to name a few) are fairly well-regarded in the homeschool community and tend to have a history of helping students achieve significant results in learning.
Adding to this, their Science curriculum is now NGSS standards aligned, while still giving parents the freedom to align it to their personal educational needs, and there are a wide variety of hands-on activities and projects that will keep kids learning.
Finally, there is just the sheer amount of material in each package.
Designed to teach a full 36 weeks on a 4 day a week schedule, parents will receive a large amount of books, worksheets, maps, timelines and more that can, quite literally, fill a good chunk of a living room when unpacked.
Taking your child’s education in your hands can be a stressful endeavor. Finding, researching and building a curriculum and schedule for your child can be a daunting and time consuming task, particularly for larger families and those new to homeschooling.
By providing pre-packaged, structured and ready to instruct curricula with material from well known educational providers, Bookshark offers a convenient and high quality solution.
While perhaps not an ideal solution for everyone, for homeschoolers who agree with its approach, Bookshark can be an excellent way of getting a ready-made high quality, literature-based curriculum that we think can not only be a time saver for parents, but can be highly effective as well.
Jennifer Keenes is a writer and a new mom living in Florida. She studied education and, prior to becoming a freelance writer, worked as a substitute teacher at the elementary and middle school level. She is a big fan of the beach, working out and homeschooling her two daughters.
About the Author
Anne Miller is the editor of The Smarter Learning Guide and is a passionate advocate for education and educational technology. A mom of two, she majored in English Language and Literature and worked as a substitute teacher and tutor for several years. When not writing she continues to root for the Yankees and the Giants.