1st Grade: Abeka vs. Timberdoodle.

abeka vs timberdoodle

Who will win?

What would happen if you put a 1st-grade Abeka curriculum kit next to a Timberdoodle kit? What if you got your research narrowed down to these 2 selections and you don’t know which one you should pick?

Abeka and Timberdoodle curriculums’ Pros and Cons.

I taught 1st-grade twice, my first time using an Abeka parent led curriculum kit, and 2 years later using a Complete Custom Timberdoodle kit. Both of these curriculums are excellent picks providing a solid foundation for a child’s education, however, their methods are very different and subjects covered vary between the two.

Abeka is more Language Arts based and strong, where Timberdoodle is more pointed towards Stem/Critical Thinking. Here are the Pros 😊 and Cons ☹ to consider and what made a difference for us on making our decision.

  • Abeka (1st-grade Parent led)


  1. Guided daily lesson plans.                                                                                         
  2. A renown curriculum used in Private Christian Schools.                                     
  3. Solid Phonics Program. 😍
  4. Affordable. (Compared to other comprehensive curriculums).
  5. Free Shipping on anything.


  1. Heavy on bookwork and seatwork.
  2. Requires a great amount of teaching involvement.             
  3. Lack of Critical Thinking skills teaching. 
  4. No STEM.       
  5. Customer Service.🙁     

Abeka is a renown homeschool curriculum that has been used by many over the years. As a first-time homeschooler, it provides the structure and guidance that everyone thinks they need to be able to successfully homeschool without any prior experience. Although I can relate to that feeling, since it’s the very same one that pushed me to choose it for our first couple of years of school, I do want to give out some warnings.

Language Arts😊🙁

Abeka is a curriculum used in private Christian schools and it comes with lots of bookwork/seatwork that is meant to keep a classroom busy throughout a traditional school day (busy work). One of the main complaints from homeschoolers who use this program in the early years (including me), is the number of workbooks kids need to get through each day in Language Arts.

Between the workbook sheets, seatwork, test, quizzes, papers and the teaching involved each day, many parents and kids are left feeling overwhelmed. Many seasoned homeschooling parents advise to cut down on seatwork, and I too highly recommend doing so if Abeka is the curriculum you choose.

From our personal experience, following the teacher’s lessons plan to the “T” during our first 2 years of K5 & 1st-grade left my child and I feeling completely burnt out by the end of each day, and that’s not what I wanted for our family.

At the end of the day my son was so exhausted, the last thing he wanted to look at was a book during his time off, and needless to say, this didn’t help him develop a love for reading during his early homeschooling years.😢 With all of that said, Abeka being heavy on bookwork/seatwork was not the make or break decision for me, but the lack of critical thinking skills being taught absolutely was.


I’m personally not a big fan of Abeka’s Math. I strongly believe it is very important for math to be taught from the early years by teaching kids Analytical & Critical thinking together with Problem-solving skills.

Although I appreciated Abeka’s straightforward method of teaching some concepts (Place value being one of them), I felt Abeka’s focus was more on memorizing math facts rather than on understanding the hows and whys. Word problems suddenly appear in the Arithmetic 1 book but with no teaching strategies to solve them.

Many 1st-graders are still learning how to read with confidence and understand what they read. They are now expected to read a word problem and find the data they need to solve it, all without teaching them any solving strategies beforehand. That’s a Lot to ask of them! Sure there are some kids who are naturally good at sorting out info even as beginner readers, but that wasn’t our case so Abeka Math wasn’t a winner for us.

History/Geography/Health & Science😍

To my surprise Abeka’s 1st-grade History/Geography/Health & Science readers are nice and light, giving just enough information that these little pupils can manage to retain at such a young age. I’ve actually continued using the Abeka History and Health readers even after stopping using their curriculum in our later grades. I found these to be very age appropriate, full of simple engaging information that we all enjoy.

  • Timberdoodle (1st grade – Complete Custom Kit)


  1. Flexible Weekly Checklist.
  2. Critical Thinking & STEM.😍
  3. Hands-on.
  4. Promotes Independence.🙌
  5. Kits can be customized to fit each family needs.
  6. Superb Customer Service.😇


  1. Price. (The Complete and Elite kits can add up to a pretty penny).🤑
  2. Very few readers provided with the kit.
  3. Free Shipping only offered with the purchase of any kit or equivalent to.

For those who are unfamiliar with Timberdoodle, they have been a homeschool curriculum distributor since 1985 who do not create their own curriculum but piece together some of the best homeschooling resources making their very own curriculum kits.

They are very on point keeping their curriculums up to date by every year re-evaluating and if necessary substituting anything they feel can be done better. The owner is an engineer which explains their rich STEM and Critical Thinking selections.

Each kit has 3 options Basic, Complete and Elite, where you will find all the beautiful bells and whistles that make Timberdoodle so much fun and hands on. You can also customize by picking and choosing things you like from each of these or even substituting parts, to help make the curriculum fit your family needs. Their customer service is superb.

Timberdoodle’s Weekly Checklist 😍

One of the things that made me nervous about switching to a Timberdoodle kit was the lack of a daily schedule that came with it. Coming from Abeka where each day was already planned for you, I felt without it, I would be overly relaxed.

What I didn’t expect was absolutely falling in love with their genius idea of a weekly checklist instead! Their weekly checklist vs. Abeka’s strict daily schedule, helped us understand how being flexible doesn’t necessarily mean slacking off. For this alone Timberdoodle has been a Blessing to our family.

Language Arts😐

After hearing about Timberdoodle and thoroughly researching it, it took me over a year to finally find the courage to take a leap of faith and make the switch.

Back then, Timberdoodle didn’t have “All About Reading” as their phonics curriculum. The one they did offer, I felt lacked the structure, guidance, and resources this rookie mama needed to help my child excel in reading. For this reason, I chose to use the Abeka phonics curriculum again with my 2nd born. If “All About Reading” was available at my time, I would of without a doubt, switched to Timberdoodle sooner.

As for a formal Writing curriculum, Timberdoodle wasn’t a winner for us either. Their pick of “Daily 6-Trait Writing 1” is definitely light as it should be for this grade but their sequence and way to go about things didn’t make sense for my child and me. I ended up donating that book and using “Essentials in Writing 1”  (here is a link to my review of Essentials in Writing lev 1-3) instead and it has been a match made in heaven for both my kids who are in different grades.

For how much my elder son and I loved Spelling you see and the philosophy behind it, this program didn’t work for us at later grades and it won’t be a keeper. However, I do like the 1st-grade Jack & Jill Book 1. We are currently using this with great results with younger brother, but once finished with “Book 1” will be switching to “All About Spelling”. 😍 (Here is a link to my review of Spelling-You-See vs. All About Spelling).

Timberdoodle doesn’t include any Handwriting curriculum in their kits. I was told by one of their representatives it’s because Spelling-You-See has already a lot of handwriting in it, however, keep in mind Spelling-You-See recommends not to use their program as a handwriting curriculum. SUS doesn’t want kids focusing on their handwriting form, as in doing so, it would take away from focusing on recalling how spelled words look like.

I personally still use Abeka’s Handwriting with Phonics workbook, at this age kids still need to refine their handwriting skills with practice, practice, practice.

Overall Timberdoodle’s Language Arts choices weren’t a winner for us, but keep in mind the reading curriculum they now offer is different from when we switched over.


Just in case my emoji weren’t clear enough, we don’t just like Timberdoodle’s math selection we are crazy about it!! Math-You-See has been our Saving Grace for math. Everything we were missing from the Abeka Arithmetic we got it with MUS and even more!

A simple, straightforward, hands-on, mastery DVD program that makes learning math concept easy. Whether a child is an auditory, visual or tactile learner, I can see this program could easily cater to all. It gives these young learners a great foundation explaining all the WHYs and HOWs that we desperately needed to SEE! 🧐

Thinking Skills & STEM😍⚙

All Timberdoodle kits include Critical Thinking workbooks and games, which are a must for our school curriculum just as much as Language Arts and Math. I’m personally not a fan of their 1st-grade STEM selections, however, that doesn’t stop me from drooling all over the other ones and adjusting them to the grades of my liking!😉 (Here is a link to 10 of our current favorite STEM/Thinking Skills picks).

Thanks to Timberdoodle, STEM has become a staple subject in our household and a very important one too, considering STEM is everywhere around us and will be for years to come. 🔮

History & Geography😏&😊

Love both of their geography curriculum picks (here is a link to review for both “Daily Geography & Geography Skill Sharpener) over the last few years. Light and fun but still full of very interesting info and skills to learn. Both my kids, 3rd and 1st grader, can easily read a map now. We have not tried their History program and not planning to anytime soon. From my research, it just seems to be too long and drawn out and we are more interested in following a traditional History course rather than “The Story of the World” sequence and method.


Apologia is a full immersion science curriculum and this year Timberdoodle decided to go with something different,😑 however, I chose not to follow their lead.

I love how Apologia being a full immersion program, gives the little ones a great understanding and love for God’s world from God’s perspective, whether we do the experiments or not (and we don’t). Their text-rich books and many notebook assignments can seem very intimidating and maybe time-consuming, however, that hasn’t been the case for us. We absolutely love it!

Since Apologia also offers Audiobooks for each of their Textbooks (except for Botany), we took advantage of the chance to have someone else for once read a book to the kids.😉  These Audiobooks have made it for an easy and pleasant learning experience for our young kids and us parents!

As per the Jr Notebook, we mainly complete the Minibooks and Crosswords in them, which helps to solidify the concepts learned while listening to the Audiobook. Occasionally we use some of the copywork as extra cursive practice.


For me, Timberdoodle’s 1st-grade Art picks weren’t either yay or nay but I must also say Art is not my thing. 🤷‍♀️

🎉Overall, the clear winner for us was our Custom Timberdoodle kit!🎉

Although I’ll be forever grateful to the Abeka’s Phonics program for giving my children a very solid reading foundation, Timberdoodle has my heart. Together with all the wonderful curriculums it offers, it has also Blessed us with the understanding of Flexibility and the Love for learning by introducing all those “Cool Things” we couldn’t find in a Traditional homeschool curriculum. Here is a link to my post “1st-grade Just Right the Second Time Around” where I explain into detail how we were able to make it a success!

Isaiah 30:21

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”


Juno. 🌊⛵