Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What on Earth Can I Do? (Schoolhouse Review)

Apologia Review 
 
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Apologia Educational Ministries’  What We Believe series was written to introduce children to the basic truths of the Christian faith. It is one of the few products I’ve seen especially designed to teach a Christian worldview to elementary-aged children. What on Earth Can I Do?, the fourth book in the series, teaches children what it means to be a “good and faithful servant” of God. The set, suitable for students aged 6-14, includes these components:

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? Junior Notebooking Journal   $24.00
What on Earth Can I Do? Coloring Book                           $8.00

Each of the 8 lessons (chapters) in What on Earth Can I Do? includes a variety of readings and questions that help students learn about Biblical stewardship.

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  • Each chapter begins with the big idea that introduces the theme (You are part of God’s story; God owns everything; you are God’s steward, etc.).
  • The “big idea” is followed by a continuing story that helps to illustrate the theme. The first four chapters focus on a family living in Great Britain during World War II. The last four chapters tell the story of an African farm family.
  • Interspersed throughout each chapter are pages highlighting famous people in history and scientific and cultural concepts, including Corrie Ten Boom, Winston Churchill, Maria Von Trapp, Victory Gardens, Fabric, and the Little Ice Age.
  • Additional features such as “What Should I Do?” explain and elaborate further on the theme of each chapter, helping children relate the ideas to their own lives.
  • Bible memory verses, vocabulary, and questions further enhance the learning experience.

The course consists of a hardback text, and three additional optional components, a Notebooking Journal, a Junior Notebooking Journal, and a Coloring Book. Because the additional components are geared for different ages, the program is perfect for use in families with children in the first grade through middle school, allowing each child to be given assignments at his or her own level.  Emily used the regular Notebooking Journal since she’s in eighth grade, and at the older end of the suggested age range .

Although the text is wonderful all by itself, we found the Notebooking Journal to be a huge asset to the course. This beautiful, full-color, spiral-bound book includes questions about the reading assignments, word searches, crossword puzzles, lapbook components, and drawing and journaling opportunities. These allow the student to think about and process the concepts more fully as he or she writes, draws, and recalls information from the text.

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The Junior Notebooking Journal, ideal for younger elementary students, is simpler, with word searches, coloring pages, mini-books, and short fill-in-the-blank summaries of chapter concepts.

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The Coloring Book includes 64 pages of line drawings illustrating scenes and stories from the text, each with a simple caption. It would be perfect for preschoolers who want to feel included, or for any child who enjoys coloring.

The Notebooking Journals include suggested schedules for completing the readings and notebooking assignments. Following this schedule would provide 48 days of assignments, so What On Earth Can I Do?  could be finished in a semester or less, or spread out over a full school year, depending on how many days a week it is used. The schedule is totally optional, so families are free to move at their own pace. In my opinion, the suggested pace is good for a middle schooler, but would be ambitious for a younger student.

Emily has been using the program independently, although we are discussing some of the stories and concepts as she progresses. I am expecting her to complete all of the comprehension and application questions in the Notebooking Journal, as well as the memory verses and vocabulary. I letting her decide whether she completes the other activities, such as the lapbooking components, word searches, and drawings. She has chosen to do most of the pages, but there are a lot of activities in each chapter, so I don’t mind if she skips a few. I want her to learn and enjoy the course, instead of feeling pressured to do every single activity. She’s also outgrown her interest in lapbooking activities. While many children love these, she’d rather just write than include the cutting and pasting activities. She has chosen to do some of the lapbook activities, though. We’ve had some good discussions about stewardship, prisoners of war, life during World War II, Maria von Trapp, and more. This is a very rich course! 

I just can’t overemphasize how much we love these books! The book and the notebooking journals are beautiful, loaded with color pictures and attractive formatting. The fictional stories are very interesting, while still packed with historical and cultural information and practical illustrations of the main idea of each chapter. The Bible stories are fictionalized (by adding additional information and minor characters) but are still true to the original scripture passages. I especially love the sidebars with biographical profiles—several per chapter. I felt that Emily learned a lot of history as she studied the meaning of stewardship and how to view herself as a steward of God’s creation.

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