Saturday, June 28, 2014

Veritas Press Omnibus I - A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

In May we learned that the Schoolhouse Review Crew would be reviewing products by Veritas Press. I looked at the various products we were reviewing, and I let the Crew leadership know that we'd love a chance to review Veritas Press Self-Paced Omnibus I Primary Books.

I was delighted when I learned that we had been selected for the review. We'd been working on the Middle Ages, but had never started at "the beginning" in our history studies. Veritas Press Self-Paced Omnibus I starts at the beginning - creation - Genesis ("The Book of Beginnings").

We received Veritas Press Self-Paced Omnibus I in the form of a digital download of the textbook, combined with on-line access to the self-paced video program.

Veritas Press is a company dedicated to the idea that a classical education is the best education for a child to reach their God-given potential. What is a classical education? Well, this is not a question I can answer here, in a review of limited words, but Veritas describes a classical Christian education within their blog pages, so you can go there to learn more. If you chose not to click the above link, suffice it to say that a classical Christian education is a rigorous education, spanning K through 12 in an age-appropriate manner. A classical education includes Latin and Greek, Logic and the study of the "Great Books", the study af artists and their great art, composers and their great music, and includes the developing of a Biblical worldview throughout your child's education, starting at the very beginning and building year-upon-year until high school graduation.

Classical education divides educational stages into grammar, dialectic and rhetoric, according to the child's developmental stages. This is the way education was taught in the earliest days of education. Then in early American public education, the method and focus of education gradually changed its goal from being education for the purpose of learning to a goal of educating the populace to enable the citizenry to be able to get a job!

I have long had one foot in classical education and one foot in Charlotte Mason style education. Now, if these do not sound like a complete contradiction, I'd have to say that I agree. Nevertheless, my efforts with my son, with the Charlotte Mason approach, have been a much "gentler" approach, not a rigorous approach. Now, with Miner starting 9th grade, I am hoping I can ramp up his educational efforts and encourage him to embrace a more rigorous approach to his education and his preparation for life.

Several years ago I learned of Veritas Press, when I received some Veritas materials from a friend. However, at that time I just didn't "get it", I didn't understand the Veritas program or method. Fortunately digital technology has progressed, and now I can get just about every question I have answered in the form of a video answer! And while that can be time consuming, it makes an amazing difference in enabling a home schooling mom like me to understand and teach in the Classical way.  

So, assuming you now know what a classical Christian education is, a few more definitions. The company name, the word "veritas", comes from the Latin word for "truth". Self-paced means that your students can take the course at the speed that suits them, however there will be a subtle pressure to get through all the lessons of the course during the normal 36 weeks that make up a school year for most families. Next, the issue of Primary books verses Secondary books - I read the definition, but quickly forgot what I had read. I was on the telephone with the kind people at Veritas and they patiently helped me understand. "Primary" source books are books written by individuals alive at the time the event occurred. "Secondary" books are books written about historical events, but written at a later date, by someone who was not alive when the historical event occurred. Omnibus means "all encompassing".

The Omnibus I textbook contains all the material for both the Primary and Secondary book courses (Primary at the front of the textbook and Secondary at the back of the textbook). There is a video course available for both the Primary books and the Secondary books, but I was only given the video course for the Primary books, and that is what this review focuses on.

The books covered in Omnibus are: Genesis, Exodus, Epic of Gilgamesh, Code of Hammurabi, 1st and 2nd Samuel, 1st and 2nd Kings, Odyssey, Histories, Oresteia, Plutarch's Lives, Theban Trilogy, Last Days of Socrates, The Early History of Rome, Luke and Acts, Aeneid, The Twelve Caesars, and Revelation. To me this is a daunting list to get through in a school year, but like I said a classical education is a rigorous education. This is why I thought the Omnibus 1 would be a good fit for my son, even though he is older -- because he has not previously had to follow such a rigorous schedule. He would not be ready for the course normally assigned to 9th graders. 

During our time reviewing Omnibus I, "Miner" and I worked our way through the first two primary books (Genesis and Exodus). I read the assigned Bible readings out loud, and when each assignment was completed we watched the video portion together. There are sections in each video where the student is asked questions, and my son answered these. Some days he did better than others. It is summer, and he was definitely distracted at times.
So, here is where I report to you what we thought, and any praise, criticism and/or suggestions for improvement.

First, the video component: I thought this was amazing! I loved it! I was stunned, though, at the pace at which the course goes through the material. I am so, so accustomed to reading a book the way you might sip a cup of hot tea: you sip, pause, enjoy, swallow, breathe, sip again... And this course goes at a pace more like you are at a pie-eating contest, where you are in a hurry to finish. The reading comes first, and then the video, so I guess my analogy breaks down there. I'll try to think of a different analogy, because it's like I really enjoy the video session, and you have to hurry up and read the assignment before you are to watch the video session, which is your goal. It's fun.

My son, on the other hand, hated the video sessions. This caused me to begin looking at the textbook that I also received (in digital format), but that I wasn't seeing reading assignments for. The textbook is rich! It is beautiful! It is enhanced with related paintings and photos of related architecture and other wonderful items. But there are no reading assignments. So I called the help line to the vendor to get help figuring this out, because aren't we supposed to read the book, too, before watching the video? (And I was also thinking, "Oh my! This is already so much reading each week!")

The vendor got back to me later in writing, answering my question as follows:
1. Although the reading passages are built into the SP Program, most students will also want to keep a copy of the text that they can read even when the computer is off.

2. Although the reading passages are built-in to the SP Program, they are more extensive in the actual text book. Therefore, the student will actually have extended material in the book.

3. For posterity purposes, most students taking this type of course like to reference the textbook from time to time, even after it's over. So, this is a valuable bookshelf item. 

4. Although used for reference and resource information, the web links built inside the textbook are not in the SP Course. The web links are a helpful learning tool outside of class time.
So, my recommendation to Veritas would be, please, for the Mamas that are overloaded and feeling like we don't have time to sit down and figure a single thing out on our own, please, please create a schedule that says, "Lesson 1: Read Genesis 1-13; optional: read Omnibus Text Chapter 1" or whatever. Please.

Now, the opinion of the student. I have a very smart student, but one who is beginning to recognize, let's call it a "weakness" in himself to be distracted by electronic methods of conveying information. Either he doesn't learn well from it, or in various video classes he is less able to concentrate on the information because the teacher has a beard, or is wearing glasses that have a glare from the light, or that has crooked teeth, or whatever. Maybe my son even just doesn't like the particular teacher, I don't know. I'm not sure. He seems to consistently dislike doing video courses. It's not fair to the vendor of any product to say that it is the product's fault that my son doesn't like using the videos, but he doesn't. So, no, he didn't like the video portion.

However, he does love the course. He says we should plan to use this for 9th grade, but he wants to do it from the textbook. ::sigh:: Mom is waving "Good bye!" to the "Easy" button in this home school. But the teacher in this school is telling the student that the 9th Grader needs to take over more of the responsibility for his own schooling this year. There is so much he needs to get done, and it will go faster if he begins to "own" it.  
So now let me go over the product-specific "nitty gritty" with you.
  • Self-Paced Omnibus I Primary Books is designed for students aged 12 and above. It is used, normally, for 7th graders, but the content is rich enough that it would be sufficient to use (in my opinion) to count a credit for high school social studies.
  • Self-Paced Omnibus I Primary Books does not come WITH the "Great Books" content it covers. You can get these Great Books titles on your own, or you can purchase them from Veritas Press.
  • Self-Paced Omnibus I Primary Books costs only $295. After you register for your self-paced course, you will receive a code to get a discounted price for either the hardcover text ($50, normally $75) or the e-book version ($37.50, normally not even available as an option). (I recommend the printed version.)


  1. I'm a visual learner (despite what you would think, visual means I want to read it myself, NOT that I want to watch a video, videos fall in the "auditory" learning category), and I find learning via video PAINFUL! Even just when products have a short video explaining the product, and I have to watch it, I struggle A LOT to pay attention, and spend the entire time muttering under my breath about how much easier it would be if I could just READ ABOUT it on my own. So I suspect, based on your description of your son's reaction, that he, like me, is a visual learner :)

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, LaRee. Yes, you have him totally pegged! He is totally an auditory learner. I know that. And I've spent the last nine years reading EVERYTHING (almost) out loud to him. But, (1) he's starting high school now, and there is so much to read, and reading out loud is so slow, I can no longer get it all read. He will have to start reading it to himself; (2) When he has something that HE wants to learn, he goes to YouTube and learns it by watching a video; and (3) I'm (confession here) at times a basically lazy person, and I would love to be able to hand him his assignment list and send him off and have him do his work, be it reading or watching video. But even watching the video with him, he himself was able to say he needed the book. Honestly, that was real progress.

      So, you have it absolutely pegged. This is a fabulous product, but it is not perfect for every student. I am so glad to have options, though, and I am glad to have had the opportunity to try it so that I don't spend the next four years wishing for something that would not work well for him anyway! Live and learn.