Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Who Is My Neighbor?

Last year we were given the opportunity to review Who Am I?, book two in Apologia's "What We Believe" series of Bible study materials geared towards ages 6-14. This Bible study, an in depth look into how God sees you, how He made you, and why, was a huge hit at our house. My Amigos (ages 3-8) truly enjoyed the lessons, and got a lot out of them. We had many insightful and meaningful discussions about the materials, and I noticed that on the days when we listened to the accompanying audios (stories and other study materials on mp3), our days went more smoothly...the children tended to be more thoughtful of their actions and more considerate of each other.

Recently, we were given the opportunity to review book three in the series, Who Is My Neighbor? This particular study is about the people around us and our relationship with them. Instead of focusing on the individual, it focuses on the body of Christ...His people...and how we interact with each other.

I thought, rather than tell you again, how much my children enjoyed this product (since they did, and their reactions this time are pretty much the same as last can read my previous review here), that I might sort of take you on a quick "tour" of the first chapter of the book. I will share some excerpts from the text, and some of the supplementary materials, so you can see for yourself why this is such a rich and valuable resource.


The following passages are excerpts from Lesson One, Does Anyone Really Need Me?, of the textbook Who Is My Neighbor? published by Apologia Ministries.

"Two are better than one...if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!"  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

The Big Idea

"Can you imagine living completely alone? Not just alone in an apartment or house, but alone in the world? Everyone enjoys being alone sometimes, but you couldn't live long in a world without other people. That's because god created you and everyone else to live in relationship with one another. He made us to need each other, to love each other, to share our joys and sorrows with each other, and to help each other. Why do people have such a strong need for companionship? It's because we were created in God's image. Remember, God has never been alone. Before the world and before time, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit lived together in perfect harmony as the one true God. And so when God made people in His own image, He intended that we, too, should live in harmonious relationships with one another..."

Red Sun Rising
Next is a brief biography of Mao Tse-tung (which will tie in to the fictional story presented later in the chapter).

  • You will learn that God wants each of us to depend on one another.
  • You will recognize your calling to serve others and Jesus served.
  • You will learn to serve others in confidence, trusting that God will be with you.
Dangerous Journey

"As darkness fell over the Yuan River Valley, the villagers of Kam Tin all closed their window shutters in an attempts to make their homes invisible to enemy planes. Chang Ting carefully closed the shutters of her family's old, gray stone house, hoping to block out the turmoil of the outside world. Then she lit two candles, one for the kitchen and one for the children's bedroom...."

This is the beginning of the first part of a story about a Chinese family who must leave their homeland to escape oppression under Mao Tse-tung (this particular portion of the story is ten pages long). The Chang family flees to America, and each chapter covers another portion of their physical and spiritual journey.

THINK ABOUT IT (questions and space for answering them are also available in the notebooking journal):
  • In China, a person's surname, or family name, is said first. Why do you think the Chinese follow this custom? Who is honored when the surname is said first?
  • Why must the Chang family leave China, their homeland?
  • Why do you think Fong Gui gives the family a Bible to take on their voyage?
  • Can you remember all the people who serve the Chang family in the story" WHy would so many members of the fong family help people who are not Christians to escape China?
  • What kind of future do you think awaits the Chang family in America? Why?
Shipping Out! (a brief description of freighters to tie in with the story with a picture).

WORDS YOU NEED TO KNOW (vocabulary word with definitions are available in the text, words to define and space to define them available in the notebooking journal): Social, Triune, Interdependence, Servanthood, Trusting God.

HIDE IT IN YOUR HEART (memory verses...two pages for completing this copywork are available in the notebooking journal)

  •     "Serve one another in love." Galatians 5:13
  •     "Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart's desire." Psalm 37:3-4
We Were Made for Each Other: "God made people to be social, meaning we need and enjoy the companionship of other people...We are happier and healthier when we are surrounded by people who know us and take an interest in us, and actively participate in our lives. An abundance of these kind of relationships gives us sense of security--they make us feel safe, knowing there's always someone to turn to in times of difficulty...The fact is that we are better together than we are apart. A family, a neighborhood, a church, or a country is more than just a collection of what each person brings to the group. Together, we enrich each other's lives through our individual interests, gifts, and talents. And only when we live and work and play together can we become the kinds of healthy, balanced, purpose-filled people God created us to be...You see, people were made to live and work and play together because we were made in the image of a triune god. Therefore, the more we learn about what it's like to live in a relationship, the better we will understand God's nature."

Make a Note of It: (a factoid and a question leading back to the discussed with an illustration and a place to answer the question is available in the notebooking journal) What kind of animal would you like to have for a friend? Why do you think Adam's ideal helper could not be found among the animals?

The Buddy System: (inset about the "buddy system") "Have you ever heard the saying that "two heads are better than one?" That's the idea behind the buddy system, in which two people function together as one, encouraging each other, helping each other, and keeping each other out of trouble...The buddy system is a Biblical principle we see implemented throughtout the scriptures (examples given)...As children of God, we could all use a "spiritual buddy," someone we can count on in times of need..."

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO OFFER? (several pages discussing how individual parts contribute to a group) "Like the parts of an engine, God made us to depend on each other. This is called interdependence. An interdepedent relationship is one in which two or more people help one another and depend on one another for help...Within a family, a church, a nation...every member brings a unique set of talents, skills, and experiences to the mixture that enrich the group and make up for what may be missing among the other order for the group or organization to function at its best, every member must contribute to the best of his or her ability while working toward a goal agreed upon with the other members....As a child of have been made new in Christ Jesus to do good works He planned for you long, long ago...He has already equipped you with the tools and skills you  need to see (your mission) through to completion. Form the time you were born, God has provided you with a special set of gifts---your talents, your personality, your experiences---which no one else possesses...God has been placing you in specific situations and introducing you to specific people who need your help."

Make a Note of It: (a thought-provoking suggestion...this one is about identifying someone you know who might be feeling lonely and purposing to talk to them...a notebooking page to answer this query is included in the notebooking journal).

YOU ARE HERE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE: "You are called to die to selfishness and "do good to all people" whenever you have the opportunity (Galatians 6:10). In this way, people will see the Father's love in action and perhaps they will be drawn to God's grace and come to know the hoy and peace and life you have. That's what servanthood is all about: building relationships of harmony with others by showing them God's love..."

WHAT SHOULD I DO? "Trusting God means having complete confidence that He will always do everything He prmises. God promises that He will be glorified by your obedience to serve others rather than be served (Matthew 5:16)..."

Make a Note of It--GROUP THINK: Draw a picture or write about a group you want to be a part of someday. Do you ever worry about being rejected by a group? Why?

A Prayer (a brief prayer to wrap up the lessons main idea): "Dear God, thank you for the relationships in my life. Thank you for all of my family and friends..."

ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS--The Wedding Feast: a fictionalized account of the Wedding at Cana, featuring a young woman named Miriam (nine pages long).

Take a Closer Look (thoughts and questions about the reading passage, such as "How did Jesus serve this young bride?").

The Notebooking Journal also includes: 
  • I SPY! page where your child can record (by writing, drawing, or both) a place he or she has seen God working during the study period. 
  • Two Are Better Than One minibook to make and attach to the page.
  • Making a Difference word search puzzle
  • My Prayer page to record your own prayers.
  • Praise Report page to record how God is answering your prayers and working in the lives of others during your study.

The Coloring Book includes six pages coordinated with the content of this section for your children to color. They go with different parts of the text, such as the story about the Chang family, the allusion to race cars working together as a team, and the final story about the wedding at Cana.


As you can see, the lessons are very extensive, thorough, thought-provoking, and will definitely enrich your children's walk with the Lord. In fact, these lessons will impact the lives of anyone participating in this study...including you and older/younger siblings who might just be listening on the periphery. 

The one difference between this study and the Who Am I? study we reviewed previously is that the MP3 audio recordings of all of the content were not available at the time of our review. This definitely impacted our use of the program. Previously, it had been our habit to listen to the audio tracks while the children were eating their breakfast, after they got dressed and completed their morning chores. This was an opportunity for them to sit and listen and focus, while I was able to finish up the dishes in the next room, but still hear the audios so we could discuss them later. 

Usually, I would provide each of the younger children a coloring page (they took turns using the coloring book, alternating with their Bible study notebooks with blank pages they could color on), and Ladybug, age 8, would do something in the Notebooking Journal (which she loved, since she was singled out by having the priviledge of using the journal). They would color or draw while we listened about twice, sometimes three times a week, often listening to the same stories and content more than once. At least once a week, Tex would sit with them, so he'd hear the excellent content, while not having to complete any written work.

Since the audios were not available at the time of our review, I had to read the content myself, which made it much less convenient. I found myself more prone to skip around and edit for time, and the kids were more likely to interrupt and fuss. They are good listeners when it comes to our usual read alouds, but my voice is not as soothing as the previous readers' voices, and honestly, I don't speak with as much authority and assurance as the readers did when covering this content.

I spoke with the Apologia folks at our state convention, and they said that they audios are scheduled to come out around August.  If you plan to purchase this curriculum for next school year, I HIGHLY recommend that you do so when the audios are released. In my opinion, you will do fine (if you need to cut costs) with just the Notebooking Journal ($24), the audio, and the Coloring Book($8). It is nice having the hardcover text ($39), but honestly, if I had to choose between the text or the audio, I'd definitely choose the audio, no contest. 

HOWEVER, if you have an older, independently reading, non-auditory student, the text is great, and is full of quality pictures and classical art pieces that supplement and enrich the content, and I think your student will like it just as well as an auditory learner will like the audios (assuming they are as good as the previous lesson's set). The Notebooking Journal ($24) is convenient and well put together, but it is not can use your own Bible notebook and have a similar experience with the content. If you have smaller children who will be following along, the small investment for the coloring book ($8) is a great idea. You can see more about ordering these products at the Apologia site.

But don't take my word for it; read what others have to say about this exceptional Bible study course at the TOS Homeschool Review Crew blog.


Check out the other studies in the What We Believe series. They are all wonderfully well done!!


Disclaimer: I received complimentary copies of the Notebooking Journal, hardcover Text, and Coloring Book for Apologia's Who is My Neighbor? Bible study for the purposes of offering my personal opinion and experiences about it here on my blog. What you read here is our honest impression of the product. No other compensation was received.

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