How Does Master Books Compare – My #1 Most Asked Question
If you are stopping by here from my YouTube channel – welcome! I hope you find this post helpful and are blessed by it. As I mentioned in the introductory video, this post is not sponsored by Master Books. It was completely my idea to develop this list and offer comparisons due to the numerous requests from my viewers and readers. Also, as stated in the video, I do not use Master Books curriculum exclusively. I own and love several other publishers’ homeschool materials and continue to promote them as another wonderful option. However, I am asked the most about Master Books materials and felt this style of comprehensive-style overview would benefit a majority of my subscribers. (Note: this is going to be an informational/list type of post without my usual “action” pictures of me and my kiddos.)
So let’s hop into the twelve areas of discussion to help you all get to know Master Books and figure out if their materials may meet the needs of your homeschool family. The following are not listed in any particular order.
- What is the educational delivery method (philosophy) that MB follows? How is different from other options out there?
By their own description, MB is a Charlotte Mason-inspired curriculum. They do not intend to follow the CM method strictly, but rather have decided to take the ideas from that style that they feel best serve homeschool families.
When I discuss this question with other moms, I actually provide a different answer based on my personal experience. I describe MB as a relationship-focused publisher. I feel that there is a distinct, three-tiered focus that comes through clearly in MB curriculum. They aim to develop 1) a relationship with the Lord, 2) a relationship with family/homeschool parent and 3) a relationship with learning.
My take on their method may not be a “real” educational philosophy, but I would rather understand what a publisher/curriculum is truly seeking to do rather than focus on ideological labels. I think describing MB in this way helps a homeschool mom really get a feel for the flavor she’ll experience in the daily lessons.
When considering how MB compares with other publishers’ style, I would say it is not as strictly Charlotte Mason as many other options, nor is it as strong of a didactic choice as other long-standing traditional options.
- Who is the intended audience for Master Books curriculum and does it even matter to consider that?
Master Books writes materials directly to the homeschool parent and child. Other Christian curriculum publishers that I’ve used are written for the Christian school setting. This difference in audience yields multiple others differences you’ll see below.
MB aims to have a personal impact by presenting material directly to an individual versus a class. I am by no means saying that other programs do not share this aim, but it is more pronounced and intentional in method with MB than others.
By way of comparison, let’s talk about how MB uses Scripture throughout a lesson versus just at the opening or closing of one. It is so much more meaningful to have Scripture weaved throughout instead of mentioned after the “real content” of the lesson is presented. I personally feel that the latter approach does more harm than good, making Scripture seem trivial and not presently applicable. Again, I don’t mean to say all other Christian homeschool publishers never offer meaningful, nature application of God’s Word. Yet, as a whole, I feel MB does it more consistently in a conversational flow of the lessons. It just feels more like Deut. 6.
- Is Master Books really that much more affordable than other Christian homeschool options?
Simply put, oh yeah it is!! I admit, at first I was skeptical. I thought I must be forgetting necessary parts of the curriculum that I didn’t readily see on the website. But, truth be told, MB is hands-down the most affordable Biblical-worldview homeschool curriculum on the market. (Please note my worldview specification before you light up the comments with your exceptions 😉 . I know there are less expensive options….even free! But the worldview is key for my comparisons.)
Because the homeschool family is the intended audience, MB’s curriculum is produced with a one-income family in mind. This means that MB knows that the ability to use materials with multiple children is essential for some families. That is why they offer PDF ebooks for nearly every course they produce. This allows families to purchase one digital copy of a workbook and print out copies for all the student in one household. (Please visit MB’s website to review their copyright information.)
- What are the daily lessons like in MB courses?
Again, the intended audience makes a difference here, as well. The MB lessons are shorter in length with fewer student exercises to complete during assignments. This is an effective approach because it takes into account two key factors: 1) individualized lessons require fewer examples/teaching time to gauge understanding and 2) shorter lesson content allows the busy homeschool mom to more effectively manage her time between teaching and home management.
A curriculum written for the Christian school classroom provides content for 25+ students for 7+ hours daily. We simply do not need that much as homeschoolers to reach the same end. I am not saying that every child in a homeschool setting will always understand a concept on the first example, negating the need for more. However, with one-on-one teaching and feedback from the student, lessons just naturally take less time for the majority of homeschool families. Therefore, the intended audience of a publisher really does impact the length of the daily lessons.
One thing that MB is now offering to meet varying needs of families is extra practice packs in math. For families who have a struggling learner who does indeed need more examples and written exercises, these new packs are a genuinely helpful and necessary addition to the MB product line. However, I would wait on purchasing them until you determine your child need. They are optional and not necessary unless your child lacks mastery or a concept or overall math confidence.
One thing that perhaps could be considering as “missing” from MB daily lessons is accelerated/enrichment content. I personally feel that you could meet the needs of an accelerated learner by simply doubling up on lessons until you reach a point in the course where the rigor satiates/challenges your student. However, if there is one (albeit small and debatable) weak point in the lessons, this could be it. Some of the MB science courses do offer some enrichment opportunities, but I have not personally found much in the other subject areas for a learner who craves depth and challenge.
- How is MB customer service and support before and after purchase?
I have been able to communicate with MB staff and authors directly through their app, Facebook group and website contact page. Typically, there is a customer service department that handles customer questions in a timely manner. But have you ever had the opportunity to speak directly with authors and nearly always get a same-day or next-day reply?! I feel this is truly unprecedented direct access to a publishing company. I have received fantastic customer service from many homeschool publishers. I’ve always received an answer to my question and have been able to speak directly with content providers at other companies. Yet, the level of access and speed of communication is just top-notch at Master Books.
- What kind of personal support and help can I expect as a homeschool parent? What if I just need encouragement and perspective during this homeschool adventure?
There are multiple, truly helpful resources to help encourage and uplift a homeschool mom. Every year, there are many online webinars and such with speakers, free printables and personal testimonies from veteran homeschool moms. While I love them, these types of events often take place over a week’s time and pop up about once a quarter. I don’t know about you, but I often need that type of uplifting on a weekly basis.
Many publishers do invest in the lives of their customers with emails and video chats. However, I’m not aware of any company that seeks to build up the spiritual health of homeschool moms as consistently and frequently as Master Books does. You can tune in to two weekly videos directly from the publisher via the Master Books app, Facebook page or YouTube channel. The final option is a recording, but the first two you can watch live and leave questions in the comments to be answered right away. While some of the video topics are product-related, a great number of them are focused on spiritual focus and encouragement. I personally benefit from these reminders to focus on relationships and the big picture. Furthermore, I often need the encouragement when things aren’t going smoothly around here.
By way of comparison (in frequency), no publisher offers this type of mom support.
- Are there placement tests available for Master Books course?
Yes! Other homeschool publishers that I have used simply offer a scope and sequence to assist with placement. I appreciate the detail contained in those documents, but as I’m trying to figure out what level to select, a S&S is overwhelming to me. I would much rather have an objective assessment that’s short and simple to administer. Placement tests give me much more confidence that I can choose the correct course for my child. I am very thankful that Master Books does provide placement tests for math and a placement chart for language arts. This is one area of comparison that is often overlooked and, in my mind, is a very clear benefit of choosing Master Books.
One very important thing to know is how to interpret the results of the math placement tests. If your child passes level 3 test, for example, you should give him level 4 test. If he does not pass level 4, he is placed in Math Lessons for A Living Education level 3. The placement tests tell you if a child is ready for that level of math. It is not an assessment to determine if the child has already master the content of that level. When in doubt, feel free to reach out to Master Books if you are unsure of what the tests results mean for your student.
- How does Master Books compare in the area of hands-on activities? How involved are the experiments and lessons?
Master Books is neither the most jam-packed nor the most scarce option for hands-on homeschool learning. After a few years using their curriculum, I can say I feel it is just the right amount with a few important distinctives. First, in comparison with other materials we’ve used, Master Books’ activities actually use things from around the house. Have you come across the phrase, “things from your pantry” as you preview of a list of supplies needed? I walk away from reading those lists feeling like I have a broken pantry. I never had the items “already on hand.” Thankfully, my experience with Master Books’ material lists has been different. My pantry is vindicated, lol.
Another comparison I’ll make is that there aren’t any expensive manipulatives or experiment sets with Master Books courses. Alot of the other publishers incorporate expensive, custom manipulatives as “required” items. I have often thought that a kit would be nice, but it has proven to be cost-prohibitive for us. Master Books has stated that they don’t want to create a kit that families think is necessary for the course and needlessly spend money for things they have at home. And all the frugal homeschool mamas say – THANK YOU! 🙂
- How do the books compare with other options in the areas quality and look? Are there color pictures throughout? Do the books hold up over time to use with other students?
The latter part of the question is a bit hard for me to answer because I have only been using MB for a few years. So, I’ll do my best to share what I know from my experience. First, the majority of MB’s student texts are soft-bound. I was a bit surprised to see that, coming from public school and hard cover textbooks. So far, the difference hasn’t really manifested any pros or cons because I am the main person reading/handling the books. When my kids become more independent in the coursework, it may perhaps become an issue with durability. The majority of main texts are in full color, however, the student worksheets are black and white. The pages in the core curriculum books are non-glossy, newsprint style. I am sure this choice is driven by cost and the desire to keep the materials affordable. The all-one-courses like MLFLE, My Story and LLFLE do have colored assignment pages. (You can see inside the books by clicking the links to my YouTube videos that I provided.)
I do miss the full color worksheets for my kids. They seem to enjoy doing assignments that have bright graphics and such. However, I’m sure the shorter, more varied activities will cause us to miss the color less and less.
One final area of comparison that I’ll touch on deals with lessons organization. When you look at the table of contents in most traditional curriculum options, you’ll see arranged by topic. The intent is to cover all the nouns lessons in this chapter and all the verb lessons in the another chapter, for instance. I know mastery style learners love that approach. I have come across several MB courses that do not follow that approach. I am not sure how to describe their organization of lessons, but it has been problematic for us from time to time. (You can watch my solution to that dilemma here.) Just be sure to look for more than colored pictures and the amount of text per lesson if you have a mastery learner like I do. We seem to do better with a “lesson by topic” format.
- How teacher-intensive are the Master Books courses compared to other curriculum options? Is it open-and-go? Can my child do lessons independently?
This is another area where the intended audience manifests a clear difference. Materials written with the Christian school in mind clearly assume a teacher is present providing full instruction. Since MB is targeted for a homeschool setting, the lessons are written to the student so that, if the parent chooses, he/she may independently complete them. The homeschool parent always has the option to read/teach lessons, also. Each course has a section in the front matter containing teaching tips for the parent. However, daily teaching scripts, notes, etc are not necessary because it is all contained within the lesson text.
In addition, one wonderful difference I noticed when switching some subjects to MB is that there is zero lesson prep for most courses. If there is a science experiment, I like to get materials out ahead of time, but that is about all I have to do for MB lessons. I just open the book and start reading. Yay!
One other thing about MB course that I don’t find in other options I’ve used
- Can I use one course to teach multiple different age groups (i.e. family subjects)?
There are several MB courses that are expressly intended for family-style learning, and even more that I have found lend themselves to multi-level teaching. I feel that overall, MB courses are extremely adaptable. Even if the course doesn’t state “Grades 3-8” on the cover, you may find that you are able to incorporate many kiddos in one course. In contrast, many of the grade-level based programs I’ve used in the past really only allowed me to tweak material within one year/grade either way. My kids are 4 years apart so that doesn’t really work here.
With an extensive selection of supplemental home library options, Master Books can offer many choices for older kids to dig deeper as well as books for your littles to enjoy quietly (hopefully!) and still be included. There aren’t many other companies that have the publishing library that Master Books does, especially for reference material.
- How does Master Book compare academically? Is it behind? Is it ahead?
Here it is…the infamous “Is it enough?” question. I’m not going to spend too much time on this because I feel that is something each parent has to gauge for themselves. Are standardized tests going to be your metric? Is your child’s love for learning and noted progress in personal work habits going to be your gauge? The means of assessment matters when asking if a curriculum is “enough” or asking someone to compare it to another program.
Are some math topics covered in other programs at a more accelerated pace than MB? Yes. However, there are some life skill topics taught in MB that aren’t in those other programs….at all. Do other curriculum choices require more writing, reading and projects? Sure. Just be sure you as a parent evaluate why all those extra assignments are needed. What benefit is those activities providing? What is the purpose of sheets and sheets of work in a homeschool setting versus a classroom? Think on it.
Will your child feel like the work is easy and get done in a somewhat short amount of time? Perhaps. I know my son was thrilled at how fast and easily he completed his language arts lesson with LLFLE. I would, however, caution you not to equate lesson length and rigor with academic quality. I could speak a whole bunch on this, but I won’t here. This post is already a novella. Just know that home education is not a race and a curriculum’s academic worth is not merely judged by when multiplication is introduced nor by how many research papers it requires your 3rd grader to write. Also, think on this: why is a happy, confident child at lesson’s end perceived as a “bad” thing?
If you need more discussion on this question, I’m happy to chat in the comments. There is just so much I could say but am forcing myself to be done here to prevent rambling, lol.
Phew! I told you I was going to try to be as comprehensive as possible. How did I do? Do you still have questions about Master Books homeschool curriculum? It’s completely ok if you do and I’m happy to answer them. Just leave me a note below in the comments and I’ll get back to you with a reply as soon as I can.