Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review of Apologia's iWitness Books

Apologia Review
If there are rock stars in the world of homeschool curriculum, Apologia Educational Ministries, would sell out any stadium, and I would be one of their biggest fans. In fact, when I scan my bookshelves, I have almost one whole shelf that is nothing but Apologia. One of the neatest things about Apologia is the fact that the company continually comes out with new products - not just new science textbooks, but entirely new and different curricula. They never rest on their laurels. This time around, the books are so completely up my alley that I couldn't believe how right it felt that I got to review them.

iWitness Biblical Archaeology, New Testament iWitness, and Old Testament iWitness are three nifty little (about 6" x 9") books! At only $14.00 each, they are a must for your homeschool library. They are aimed at ages 11+, but you can definitely read them to younger children (and I think that younger kids would be fascinated by the graphics-heavy presentation).

So what are these iWitness books all about?

All of the books were written by Doug Powell who has a Master's Degree in Christian apologetics. You can read an interview with him in which he explains why he wrote these books here. Essentially, he wrote the books he wanted to read himself. In my world, there is no higher recommendation! Basically, he turns his subjects into a treasure hunt or detective story so the reader can follow the clues and put the answers together themselves. My kids love this kind of format, so I knew that they would love these books. Here's an idea of what the pages of all three of these books look like:

I have a couple of kids that really enjoy straight-up reading, but all four of my kids love looking at graphically-intense books like this. Nothing about them says "school" or "learn me." Everything about them says, "fun."

iWitness Biblical Archaeology 

Apologia Review

In this book, Mr. Powell reveals archaeological evidence that demonstrates that the events in the Bible actually happened. He is careful not to fall into the trap of saying, "See! This proves the Bible is true," because, as he states in the interview I linked above, there are many things in the Bible that simply can't be proven archaeologically or otherwise. There are, however, many events in the Bible that can be correlated with other history books and with archaeological evidence (the best example of this being the existence of flood narratives in so many cultures, along with plenty of geological evidence for a massive flood). This book puts the student in the driver's seat and lets them make these discoveries.

Apologia Review

Old Testament iWitness does two things, primarily: it differentiates between what we call the Old Testament and what Jews call their Bible and it explains how the books that we call the OT came to be included in the canon. This book examines who wrote the Old Testament books of the Bible and reveals so many little tidbits that I have to admit I didn't know. Given that I had so many theology classes in college (including an entire semester on the Old Testament), I really thought my kids would be the only ones to learn from these books. I had forgotten about many of the traditions surrounding the Hebrew scriptures, though, such as the need to bury a damaged copy when it was being replaced with a new one. These are the kinds of things I reveled in learning about in college - I am so happy that my kids don't have to wait that long!
Apologia Review

New Testament iWitness is a neat book. When one studies the process of the canonization of the Bible, one typically starts at the beginning (at least, that is how I learned it in college). Mr. Powell starts at the end, though, and works his way backwards. I found this technique refreshing and quite interesting! I always get happy when I see old friends like Athanasius and Eusebius mentioned in Protestant-published books (if you want to read the best explication of the Holy Trinity ever conceived and surely inspired by the Holy Spirit, check out the Athanasian Creed). They need to get more play. In any case NT iWitness explains, through its document presentation process, how and why a particular book was considered canonical. Of *course* there were tons of books and epistles that were floating around at the time of apostles that were not granted canonical status. Learning about the criteria the Church used for compiling the canon was one of my most rewarding experiences in college and, again, I am thrilled that my kids get to experience that now, for themselves. Which brings me to...

How We Used the Books

At first I thought I might read these books to the kids (13, 11, 9, and 9), but the format was such that it just made sense to give them to them each individually. I made them available and let them know that they had a few weeks during which time the books would need to be read. When I knew that everyone had read the books, we got together to talk about them. The kids' reactions were universally favorable. They loved all three books. The format was a huge hit, as was the content. The kids were happy that they had some background in the subject (I'll admit, I drone on about the canon with some frequency), but they were also excited to tell me things that they had learned). Like me, they were excited to see Athanasius (I'm telling you, seeing a favorite saint pop up is like meeting an old friend unexpectedly). I know they will continue to go back to these books again and again.

Overall, these books are huge winners from Apologia. The scrapbook-style is so much fun, but there is still a ton of great information packed into them. My kids loved them, and we are all excited that there are still two more to come in the series. To see what other Crew members thought, be sure to click the banner below.

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