Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Veritas Press Self-Paced Omnibus I Review

Veritas Press Review

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.

Veritas Press Review
Each video session contains numerous engaging activities. As each part of the session ends, the video screen "slides" to the next activity. In the upper right corner, the progression can be viewed so that the student knows exactly where he/she is in the lesson. Also, each segment has a bar across the bottom of the screen that displays the time left in each particular video.

There are usually between 10 and 15 different segments per session, including lectures, debates, on-the-street interviews, quizzes, and games. The course begins at Genesis and discusses other books of the Bible, including Exodus, I and II Samuel, I and II Kings, Luke, and Acts throughout. Ancient texts include Gilgamesh, the Code of Hammurabi, Odyssey, Oresteia, the Theban Triology, Aeneid, and Julius Caesar. Not only is history taught in this course, but literature and theology are taught as well.

The self-paced program is $295.00 for the full year; siblings receive a discount of $100 off the price. All of the reading materials required for the program can be purchased through Veritas Press for $151.32. Those who choose to follow the live program will pay $595. The textbook is a 605-page hardcover book that takes the student through the course and provides questions for discussion.

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.)

Veritas Press Review                                     Veritas Press Review

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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#1 Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The first national park we will explore is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is located within the states of North Carolina and Tennessee at the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains and sees more visitors every year than any other national park—9 million.


This region was originally inhabited by the Cherokee people, but they were forced west in the 1830s. This event is known as "The Trail of Tears."

Those European settlers who lived in the area in the late 1800s and early 1900s lived off the land. They built their houses from the trees in the region and hunted for and planted their own food.

When the logging industry came to the area in the early 1900s, it didn't take long before those living there were heavily reliant on things that were manufactured and food bought in grocery stores instead of being self-sufficient. The industry, also, was decimating the forests. In 1934, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established to preserve the remaining woodlands from destruction. Those living here were forced to move. (Does anybody else notice the irony?)

More than 70 structures that were left behind when the inhabitants were evicted have been preserved. Great Smoky Mountains National Park has the largest collection of historic log buildings in the eastern part of the country.

Some of the folks responsible for championing the cause of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park were David Chapman, Ann Davis, Paul Fink, Horace Kephart, George Masa, Ben Morton, Mark Squires, Jim Thompson, and Charles A. Webb.

View some historical photos here.
Learn more about the people responsible here.


The Great Smoky Mountains National Park covers 800 square miles. There have been more than 17,000 documented species, including 66 kinds of mammals, 67 fish species, 39 reptiles, 43 amphibians, 200 types of birds, and 100 native species of trees. One species of mammal present in the park is the American Black Bear. This is actually the symbol of the Smoky Mountains. This area is also home to white-tailed deer, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, bats, deer mice, otters, wolves, shrew, and more.

If you want to find out more about the specific animals and plants that live in this park, visit the National Park animal page.


If you are able to visit the park, there are numerous programs available. However, if a visit is not in the near future, consider participating in one of the distance learning programs. These include learning about current research projects and electronic field trips.

Park visitors can participate in the Junior Ranger program, if they are between the ages of 5 and 12. Booklets can be purchased in person and online. Kids can complete the activities in the book to earn a badge.

Other activities that the whole family can enjoy include touring the park in your car. The visitors' center has inexpensive booklets that help to guide the way, as well as numbered posts and landmarks along the way. You can also purchase them online before your trip. Bicycling is a wonderful activity in the park. There are many trails and roadways that allow for a view of the landscape and historical structures that are present throughout the park. There is a road within the park, Cades Cove Loop Road, that is closed to vehicular traffic on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10 a.m. so that bicycles need to be concerned with cars. There are no trails specific to mountain biking here, however.

If you're looking to spend some time in the park, camping is an option. If your idea of camping is hiking to a remote location and sleeping under the stars and using the nearest tree as the necessary, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has some rules and regulations. Permits are also required. They want to know you are out there, but they don't want to know you've been there. In other words, they want you to leave the park in better shape than what you found it. The same goes for those who choose to pitch a tent or drive their RV to the front country where there are electric hookups and bathrooms with showers available. There are 10 separate campgrounds located within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. View a map to see where they are located in relation to other points of interest within the park. Each campground has a different number of sites, a slightly different elevation, a different season length, and different restrictions on RV length.

Consider fishing, hiking, picnicking, and watching the wildlife. From mid-March through late November, horseback riding is available at four different locations within the park. The guided trail rides last 45 minutes to a few hours and start at a rate of $30 per hour. You can even bring your own horse. Hayrides and wagon rides are available as well.

Besides the beautiful panoramas that are offered throughout the park, visitors can trek inside to view one of the many waterfalls. The park receives an average rainfall of 85 inches per year. That means that this rain flows down the mountainside and fills the rivers and streams, creating an abundant flow of water to spill over the falls. There are a couple of waterfalls that can be reached by car.

The park offers various workshops and classes for grade-school kids through adults. Some of the programs have a fee associated with them. Call the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont at 865-448-6709 or the Smoky Mountain Field School at 865-974-0150 to find out what classes are being offered and how much they cost.

I hope you have enjoyed this look at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The number of activities and beautiful scenery make this a wonderful vacation spot for a weekend, a week, or just a get away for the day.

If there is something else you'd like to see in these national park posts, please let me know. If you have pictures you'd be willing to share, please also let me know that. I haven't been to too many of the parks to share my own photos.


Your Guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park'

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (National Geographic: Trails Illustrated Map #229) (National Geographic Maps: Trails Illustrated)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Thirty Years of American Landscapes

Top Trails: Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Must-Do Hikes for Everyone