Thursday, May 29, 2014

Apologia What on Earth Can I Do? - TOS Review

Apologia Educational Ministries

We recently had the opportunity to review the fourth in a series of Apologia's World View program, What on Earth Can I Do? We are decade+ long users of Apologia texts and fell in love with the elementary science  MP3's last. I've heard great things about this curriculum, so I was very interested in having the chance to look at it myself. 
Apologia Review
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Fore this review we received:
What on Earth Can I Do? (hardback book) -$39.00
What on Earth Can I Do? (notebooking journal) - $24.00
What on Earth Can I Do? (coloring book) - $8.00
What on Earth Can I Do?  (Junior notebooking journal) - $24.00
The suggested age range for this is 1st-6th grade, or ages 6 to 14. 

Chapters/ Lessons are titled:
    1. Your Story or God’s Story?
    2. Who Put You In Charge?
    3. Will You Be Found faithful?
    4. Where is Your Treasure?
    5. Where Does Your Time Go?
    6. Whose Life Is It Anyway?
    7. Why Isn’t It Easy Being Green?
    8. What will Happen When the Master Returns?
Each lesson also incorporates several key components: 
The Big Idea* What You Will Do * Short Story * Think About It * Words You Need to Know *  Hide It In Your Heart * Integrated Learning * What Should I Do* Prayer *Parables of Jesus * Going Deeper * House of Truth *

The Student Journal includes: 
Blank Note-Taking pages * "Think About It" Questions * Words to Know * Hide it in my Heart * Make a Note of It * Word Puzzles * Mini Books * My Prayers * Praise Reports * "I Spy!"* Living Out Loud * Do You Remember? * Find Out More *
The Jr. Note taking Journal is just as comprehensive as the older, just a simplified version. 

There is an enclosed lesson plan that suggests a 3 week format, with two days of reading/activities per week. For instance. 
Week One: 
Day 1 - Read, "The Big Idea" and "What You Will Do." Read the Short Story and discuss. Discuss the questions in "Think about it." 
Day 2- Study, "words you need to know." Memorize the "Hide it in your heart" verses. Read and discuss the first third of the main lesson. Write or draw in the notebook about what was studied. 

What's to love?
The text, journals, and coloring book are the exceptionally high quality material that you've come to expect from Apologia. The text is hardback, with full color throughout, lots of explanation and helps to use the material, and visually stimulating, while not be overwhelming. 
The student journals are comb-bound and full color as well, with tons of activities to do together or alone, thought provoking questions, and excellent game type activities to solidify the lessons being taught. 
The text is chock full of information, biographical sketches, historical vignettes, Biblical references and more. 

How We Used It:
Flower, 11, Cub, 14 and I started reading this out-loud together. Flower wanted to stop every 2 minutes to ask clarifying historical questions, both kids wanted to debate some of the historicity presented and Cub was frustrated by the seemingly randomness of the text. I decided that they were at such varying levels that I gave up doing this together. Cub read the entire text over a couple week time period. Cub is not and never has been my activity guide lover. He generally loathes activity (journal) and literature guides and considers them torture. I showed him the beautiful journal and he begged off.  Give him the text, get out of his way and leave him to it. He has excellent comprehensive and retention skills, and is more than happy to narrate the day long. So, that is what we did. At first he was reluctant to read the book. I had to remind him for the first couple of days. After that, he would grab it on his own. He finished it two days ago and declared it, "Pretty Good." (High praise from my man-child of few words.).

Flower and I continued to read it together. She loves activity guides and coloring books and anything journal-like and loved the beautiful journal that came with. 

My thoughts: 
The suggessted age range for this is 6 to 14. Personally, I think 6, in fact, younger than 10,  is far too young to start this program. For one, I believe that Apologetics are best left until Jr. or Sr. High. My belief is that the early years are best spent reading and assimilating Bible stories, memorizing a Biblical time-line, dates, books of the Bible, Scripture passages, etc. In other words, laying  firm Biblical Foundation, as younger kids are learning the grammar (foundations) of their faith. Apologetics, by definition, is "giving a defense" of one's faith. This is a higher level thinking skill. I'm all about slow, steady and depth of learning. In the same way that I wouldn't introduce Algebraic concepts to my second grader because we are focusing on math basics, I think it's confusing to younger kids to introduce Apologetics.

Secondly, some of the content might be disturbing for younger kids. From the get-go, there is a discussion about Adolf Hitler. While I agree that he is one of those historic figures not to be overlooked in one's studies, I hold off on introducing evil despots to my kids until they are older (i.e. Jr. and Sr. High). Introducing them to younger kids has the tendency to frighten the kids or diminish  the the tyranny of the villain.

Anecdotally, Cub has already read some serious apologetics books on his own, such as, "When Socrates Meet Jesus,." He had many, many questions and comments as a result, talked about it for weeks and went on to read the Space Trilogy by Lewis. I was curious how What on Earth Can I Do? would effect him. At first he was very confused about the book. He asked me on more than one occasion, "What is this book about? Is it a history book, or a Bible study, or what?" He found it interesting, and read it through to the end. His final comment was that it caused him to  consider some issues in a new light and caused him to be more thoughtful about others.

As far as helping him develop a defense of his faith? Well, the What on Earth Can I Do? volume focuses on Stewardship; in other words who owns what; time life, treasure and how does one manage that? This has been an important discussion in our house as Cub moves from Jr. to Sr. High. Reading this books further cemented many of the concepts that we've been discussing regarding time management, responsibilities to family and others. On his own, Cub determined to tithe a portion of his first pay check (he works for a landscaping company, so believe me, every penny is hard earned).

Flower and I continued to read it together. The chapters were overwhelmingly long for her, she found some of the stories bizarre and confusing. She felt that there were too many "side-tracks" she couldn't really understand the focus of the super long chapters, crammed full of detail. She did enjoy many of the journaling pages, and frankly, I think they are integral part of the program, tying everything together in a cohesive manner.

The vignettes included did spur my kids on to delve further into looking up people and places that they were interested in: Flower jumped right into an extensive study of Narnia, Cub did further research on Maria Von Trapp. The journals do focus the reading and define bite sized chunks of information for the student to focus on.

This is a beautiful product, and in keeping with the high quality materials one expects from Apologia. 

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