For years, I have been receiving Veritas Press catalogs in the mail but have never purchased anything from them. I always look through the catalogs, wishing I could afford some of the programs that appeared to be very well constructed and educational. I had the opportunity, as a part of the Schoolhouse Crew, to finally try one of their programs: Self-Paced Omnibus I. This is an online video program that also has a book (or ebook) available. In the catalog, Omnibus I is listed in the seventh grade section. It can be used for children older than seventh grade, however, so the recommended age range is 12 and up.
The way Omnibus I works, students cannot move forward until everything in the video session is heard, games played, and quizzes taken. They can review everything once they are finished but cannot skip ahead. Quiz reports can be printed out. Some quizzes ask questions about material heard in the lectures, while others simply deal with what is in the assigned reading. Most of the information in the assigned reading is not discussed in the videos.
(The two images below are from the book.)
OPINION: I am torn in my opinion about this program. While there is a lot of knowledge shared, I had to listen to everything very closely to be sure what was shared was sound theology. During the session on Genesis, there was a discussion about Michelangelo's painting of the Sistine Chapel. In one scene in the painting, God is surrounded by cherubim, and under his arm, there is a woman. Two different views of who the woman could be—Mary or Eve—were shared. After sharing these views, the speaker, Bruce Etter, shared his own view, that this woman is wisdom—Sophia. When my husband heard this, it raised all sorts of red flags (goddess Sophia), and he didn't want my daughter to listen to any more. From that point on, she didn't believe anything that was said. This opened up a deep discussion about Gnostics and testing everything someone says against Scripture.
We talked about the fact that Mr. Etter never mentioned "goddess" Sophia but explained that the term is Greek for wisdom. I also told her that she needs to learn how to test what anyone says, even Mom and Dad, against Scripture to see if what they are saying is true. She continued with the program, but she had put up a wall and found it hard to believe the rest of what he had to say.
As we continued on, it seemed to me that the topics that were discussed could potentially confuse students. Various theories are discussed; some of these theories I've never even heard of. I was concerned that my daughter would believe some of these theories. They are presented in a way that they sound plausible. Not until the end of the discussion are they contradicted. While it is important to understand other beliefs that are out there, I'm not sure this format is the best way to do that. I'm not sure middle schoolers are capable of differentiating between good theories and bad theories. Much discussion is required to be sure they understand the truth.
I would have liked to have seen more history when discussing Genesis and Exodus and a little less philosophy, a little less "this is what non-Christians think." If I purchase a program that it supposed to teach my child about the Bible and Christian theology, I don't expect to hear about what everyone else thinks. The conversation about predestination and free will was completely over my daughter's head. It is an ages-old debate, and I feel that too much time was spent on it. There was little discussion about the events in Exodus and even less, I feel, on the majesty of God.
During the discussion about the Ten Commandments, I did appreciate how Mr. Etter presented the information. He explained the spirit of the Ten Commandments, how it is not just obeying the letter of the law but obeying it in spirit. For example, the seventh commandment says to not commit adultery. Obviously middle schoolers are not in danger of committing that sin. However, do they obey the spirit of the law? Do they keep themselves pure? Do they pray for their future spouse? I REALLY like the way he presented this information.
As far as the video sessions, I was bored with the on-the-street interviews. I felt they were too long. One of the activities in Genesis had me a bit confused. We were supposed to watch how certain items morphed into something beautiful. I thought we were going to watch a caterpillar become a moth. Instead, we watched pictures of slugs, tornadoes, rotten oranges, and creepy spiders being used to make a photo montage. Not only was it not what we thought it would be, it lasted too long. Also, some of the debates we watched were almost 30 minutes long.
I looked through most of the ebook, though we didn't use it except for some reading at the very beginning of the course. It is put together well and filled with many illustrations. I tend to be on the conservative side of things, so I probably would not feel comfortable using this book. There are many, many paintings, drawings, and pictures of statues that include partially naked men and women. I understand that these pieces of art are classical pieces and many people do not find them offensive, but if I am raising my children to be modest and to not obsess over the human figure as simply an object, then I'm not going to let them look at pictures of naked people even though it is consider to be classical art.
I am glad that I had the chance to review this product. It allowed for some good discussions with my daughter I might not have had otherwise. I was also able to see that not everything that looks like it would work for our family will and that I don't have to be disappointed if I can't afford a more expensive program.
I know that there are people who love this program. Be sure to read some other reviews to see how this worked or not with other families. Just because it didn't work for us, doesn't mean it won't work for you.
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