I recently had a friend ask me about Apologia’s What We Believe series that I use with my daughters. She was considering it for her family with kids ranging from 4 to 15. While I tried to sum up my thoughts in a few words as we talked, today’s episode is actually a more complete response to her inquiry, and one I hope will help you as well if you are considering Apologia’s What We Believe series.
If you are not already familiar with this series, it is a four-volume family-style biblical worldview curriculum geared towards introducing younger students to important foundations of the Christian faith. It is one of Cathy Duffy’s top picks and is recommended by Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship, Andy Stanley of North Point Ministries, Dr. Scott Turansky of the National Center for Biblical Parenting, Susan Olasky of World Magazine, Thomas Gilson of Campus Crusade for Christ, and many more.
So yes, this curriculum is highly thought of, and definitely worth your consideration. Let’s see what else you might want to know before beginning Apologia’s What We Believe series.
Consider What Apologia’s What We Believe Series is NOT
Although this is a biblical worldview curriculum, this is NOT a Bible devotion or a Bible study course. While scripture is incorporated and worldview concepts are considered from a biblical perspective, the purpose of scripture in this series is to support the concepts presented, not the other way around.
That said, I think that the Apologia’s What We Believe series is definitely worth using in conjunction with a personal Bible study time as it provides a foundation every Christian needs to understand as they study the scripture and live in this world. Each lesson includes fictional stories centered around kids with different worldviews. In addition, it includes non-fiction stories and biographies, discussion questions, journaling ideas, famous quotes, vocabulary definitions, scripture memory verses, and a sample prayer for each lesson. The variety keeps students engaged and gives students a more tangible understanding of the concepts being presented.
Consider Your Child’s Readiness to Handle Some “Hot Topics”
While Apologia recommends this series for ages 6 to 14, I personally consider that age range to be a little young as some of the content discussed in these books is hefty for younger children. My four-year old daughter does sometimes listen to the fictional worldview stories, but, overall, I’d recommend using this curriculum with mostly older elementary or early middle school children. Could this be used in a family school setting? Absolutely, but just be aware that students on the opposite ends of the age timeline may lose interest sooner.
Exactly what “hot topics” are covered in each volume?
Volume 1 asks the question, “Who is God and can I really know Him?” The 10 lessons in this book discuss the foundation of the existence of God, God as creator, the Trinity, sin, salvation, and our purpose as followers of Jesus. As these topics are presented, other worldviews such as Judaism and Islam are also discussed and compared.
Volume 2 asks the question, “Who am I and what am I doing here?” The 8 lessons in this book discuss more of the attributes of God, what it means to be made in the image of God, spiritual gifts, fruits of the spirit, feelings, and the making of wise decisions. Again, Christianity is compared with other religions and cultures including Islam, Mormonism, atheism, Hinduism, communism, and even New Ages beliefs.
Volume 3 asks the question, “Who is my neighbor and why does he need me?” The 8 lessons in this book discuss the importance of serving others whether that is in the home, the neighborhood, our country or our church. We happened to read this book during the COVID pandemic, and I can attest to the timeliness of it. So much was relevant to what we were experiencing right then.
Volume 4 asks the question, “What on earth can I do?” The 8 lessons in this book talk about humbly serving God with your time, talents, and possessions. There is also a special focus on the parables of Jesus in this book as they relate to stewardship. Because this volume covers some topics brought to light in World War II and later, I recommend reserving this volume for upper elementary students and older.
Consider Pairing Apologia’s What We Believe Series with Your History Cycle
While these books can stand-alone, if you are completing a 4-year world history cycle, these books pair well as each book focuses on biographies from each of those different time periods.
Volume 4 includes short bios of Charlie Chaplin, Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchhill, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Teddy Roosevelt.
Volume 3 includes Harriet Beecher Stowe, Stonewall Jackson, Frederick Douglass, and Robert E. Lee.
Volume 2 includes the Hundred Years’ War, Saint George and the Dragon, the history of bows and arrows, and knights of the Middle Ages.
And volume 1 takes a historical look at several locations including Mount St. Helens, the sea of Galilee, and the Great Pyramid of Giza.
We found these volumes paired wonderfully with Mystery of Historyduring the older elementary years.
Consider Your Schedule and Homeschool Expectations
So the next question I’m often asked is do these books need to be completed in order? In short, yes. I’d recommend it as they tend to build on each other, and the content of the upper volumes is definitely weightier than the content of the early volumes.
However, you could potentially complete all four books in one or two years if you were motivated. While Apologia recommends one book a year via a 3-day a week schedule, this curriculum is definitely adaptable. We recently completed one of the books in 90 days, reading no more than 10 pages a day and usually only 2 or 3 page, 4-days a week.
Consider What You Need to Buy
Multiple components to these books are available–audio CDs are available for those that would prefer someone else do the reading, notebooking journals are available for older students, and junior notebooking journals are available for younger students.
Personally, we didn’t find the additional components worth it, because most of the questions for discussion are included in the regular hardback books, and any journaling I desired the girls to do could easily be done in a plain spiral notebook for a fraction of the cost. The junior notebooking journals include several coloring pages and word searches which my children found to be busy work.
The one exception to the regular notebooking journals that I did appreciate was the “Find Out More” pages. I wish Apologia would include these pages in the regular hardback books and not the student notebooks because they are really a teacher resource more than a student resource. On these pages Apologia lists several activities you can do to reinforce the concepts being taught (crafts, research projects, service projects, etc.). They also include a list of books divided by age group and another list for relevant songs to listen too.
Even so, after our experience using these journals, we opted to just purchase the hardback volumes and discuss all questions aurally as I feel like my girls have to write in so many other subjects. Talking aloud about the topics also tended to lead to deeper discussions and helps clear up any confusion or misunderstandings.
So there you have it—5 things to consider before beginning Apologia’s What We Believe curriculum. I hope you have found this review helpful. I was in no way paid or endorsed to share this review (although I may receive an affiliate stipend should you purchase from a link I provide). This is just our personal experience with this outstanding biblical worldview curriculum.