Ready for another review? This one is for all parents whether you homeschool or not.
Last month, I shared a post how we as parents are to help cultivate our children's worldview. Whether we realize it or not, every idea we (and our kids) hear is rooted in a basic assumption and slant about life. As parents, our job is to: 1) instill a godly worldview, 2) help our children recognize untruth and 3) equip them to defend their beliefs when necessary and appropriate in a knowledgeable and gracious way.
This month, I also had the opportunity to review a volume in an excellent series for children from Apologia Educational Ministries, Inc. If you are looking for solid, biblical teaching this series is a treasure. We have used the Apologia science programs from elementary through high school and have been very pleased with its strong content and high-quality presentation. When the opportunity to review the worldview series came up, I jumped at the chance. I have not been disappointed.
This is one of those books that I highly recommend for every Christian family, whether you have chosen to homeschool or not. Every child needs to be trained in the basic truths and doctrines of the faith, regardless of your educational decision. Even if you send your children to private Christian school, remember that this type of training is your job, not the job of the teachers at school.
Okay, so here's the scoop!
Company Information: From the company's catalog, I learned in ancient Greek culture that "an apologia meant making a formal speech or giving an explanation to defend one's own position." (Just in case you're wondering!) We first learned about Apologia's ministries when we were searching for a creation-friendly, yet strong science curriculum for our children.
A few years ago, Apologia introduced their What We Believe worldview series. This is in a piece with their original focus: to give our children a strong foundation from which to understand and explain their faith. The first two volumes, Who is God? and Who Am I? cover truths about God and about ourselves. The third volume, Who Is My Neighbor? focuses on what the Bible says about servanthood. A fourth volume, What on Earth Can I Do? (due out later this year) covers principles of biblical stewardship. Each book can stand on its own, but according to the FAQs, it is best to read them in order if possible.
The curriculum is designed to be completed in as quickly as 4 months (if you do it daily). However, I think we're going to take it a little slower and enjoy the journey.
Product Reviewed: We reviewed the third volume in the series. Included in the review are the accompanying Notebooking Journal and Coloring Book.
Price: Text, $39; Notebooking Journal: $24; Coloring Book: $8
Age Recommendation: 6-14 years old
Parental Preparation: I seriously could not wait for this product to arrive! When the package came, I quickly opened it and sighed with happiness. The hardcover book was sturdy and the pages were inviting. Even from a quick glance through the book, I knew it was going to provide my 11-year-old son and I some good discussions together.
If you are the kind who likes to read directions or introductions, there is an introduction that describes each lesson's general structure and a suggestion of how to break down the lessons over a period of 3 weeks. (This is listed in detail in the journal, but the introduction gives you a guide if you do not have it).
The introduction also mentions a House of Truth which we did not utilize. Again, this is optional and they give suggestions for other ways to make the model. It may be useful for those who like a visual reminder.
However, if you do not like to read more than you need to, the one page I would suggest reading is p. xiii of the introduction, "Why Should I Teach Worldview?" In a couple minutes, it will help you set your foundation for purpose and vision as you set out on the journey with your kids, whether it be with this book or the earlier books in the series.
Lastly, if you are giving this book to your child to read and complete on their own (but it is much more effective if you actually take the time to read it with them yourself), the introduction provides a website with book extras. These parent PDFs for each lesson of the book gives lesson overviews, activities, additional Bible references, devotional thoughts, and suggested reading on topics related to the lesson.
How We Used It:
Matthew and I had just finished reading Do Hard Things and were ready for a new book, so this came at a perfect time. Rather than approaching it as a school subject, I looked at this as a part of my one-on-one discipleship time with Matthew. If our other kids were in the recommended age bracket, I would have done it as a family.
Anyways, Matthew had been thinking a lot about what God might be calling him to do, and so I believe the Lord had already started to "prime the pump" for him. Using the suggested schedule outlined in the Notebooking Journal, we dove right in. I did not have to do any preparation, except glance at the suggested schedule (which I don't always follow).
Each chapter is written in a conversational and engaging style, with short stories, comprehension and reflection questions, suggested Scripture to memorize, and very practical applications that kids can understand. In the first chapter entitled, "Does Anyone Really Need Me?" Matthew and I had a great discussion about his special role in the body of Christ and how God had equipped him uniquely. I appreciated the reminder that this is not just about self-esteem, but about service. So much of the emphasis we have on self-esteem nowadays needs to be tempered with purpose. I really appreciated the emphasis on service, not just because we are supposed to do it, but because we are reflecting the servanthood of Jesus.
We found some of the assignments to take about half an hour to read and discuss. Sometimes it took longer if we really got into it! There were times when we did not finish the assignment. I stopped when I sensed that he had just enough to chew on. After each session, I asked him to share one lesson that God impressed on his heart that morning, and then we prayed together over it.
Now Matthew is not big on writing, so when I saw the Notebooking Journal, though it is beautifully done, I knew that it would be wasted on him. However, that didn't mean that we didn't use it. We simply used the questions as discussion points and talked them over instead of writing them down, which I think is better for both of us anyway. We used a transparency for him to do the puzzles in the journal so that I can save it for his younger brother.
However, I was surprised at how much he enjoyed the coloring book. While we were reading, he has enjoyed coloring the pages. I am thinking of doing a simpler variation of the journal by cutting out the pages, putting it in a page protector and then having him write down what the Lord highlighted for him as well as a prayer. This way, he can do a little writing that is meaningful and manageable for him. Little brother was happy with the sample pages we printed out.
What We Liked: We especially enjoyed the stories, particularly the ending story that takes a familiar Bible story and uses it as a base to illustrate the point. We liked the variety, and the questions in the journal were well written and thought provoking. It required Matthew to not only summarize the point but to go a little deeper as well.
What We Would Change: I found the notebooking journal pages a little confusing. I wasn't quite sure what was expected on some of the pages. I also wished that the coloring book pages had copyright permission for the rest of the family. But these are minor issues regarding the supplementary materials and did not detract at all from the content of the book.
We went through the first two chapters for this review, but I am beginning to wonder if I should go back and cover the first two books first. I'm still debating.
Overall Summary: Excellent! I had been drooling over this series for awhile and this review has made the other volumes "must-haves" in our home discipleship program. I wish that my 11th grader was a little younger so we could use the series together as a family. Maybe we will use it for our family devotions in a few years when Jonathan gets old enough, so she can be part of the discussion then!
I think that any family will benefit from the text alone. Homeschooling families may wish to add the other optional books to make it a full course.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of Who is My Neighbor? from Apologia Educational Ministries at no cost in exchange for my honest review. If you'd like to read more reviews on this product, click the banner below!