Omnibus is many things. It is a history course. A literature program. A philosophy survey. A theology class. But what it is primarily is a Classical six-year building-a-Christian-worldview-boot camp. Combining all these different aspects, Omnibus explores the thoughts and philosophies from Ancient times to the present while teaching you to analyze them by the light of God’s word. You can’t enter the battle unless you’ve been properly trained, and Omnibus is high-quality training ground. Designed for junior high through high school, Omnibus is a refreshingly challenging and rigorous curriculum that will blow every other mediocre approach to high school education out of the water.
How Does This Work?
Omnibus is comprised of six one-year courses. Starting with Ancient history in seventh grade, continuing with Medieval the second year and Modern the third year, Omnibus then repeats the process with years four through six for a more in-depth recap of history. Since Omnibus is a Classical education program and uses the three stage method (Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric), it assumes you’ve had a basic Grammar foundation in history, and covers the Logic stage in the first three years and the Rhetoric stage in the last three. Omnibus is intended to build off the Veritas Press history program, though any basic world history overview should be a sufficient foundation. (Also available: two transition guides help students who are coming from other programs and need to fill out their base of knowledge.) In the first three Logic years, Omnibus focuses on why things happened the way they happened and the reason behind the events of history. The latter years take what you’ve learned and help you to form your own thoughts.
Each volume is divided into two semesters and the core of the curriculum (the literature) is divided into Primary and Secondary material. The Primary books are usually the “great books,” those everyone ought to read, like The Odyssey and Dante’s Divine Comedy. The Secondary books are more complimentary and usually on the easier side, including books like Narnia, Lord of the Rings and Animal Farm, but also some excellent Christian books like Sproul’s Chosen by God or Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Live?
Each title is prefaced by an essay, giving some background about the author and the time period he wrote in, and summarizing the ideas and giving a basic Christian response to them. Following the essay are a series of sessions for the student to work through. There are several different types of sessions: Discussion, Recitation, Analysis, Writing, and (in the last three years) Student-led discussion. The Discussion session, which is the most-used session, is a series of questions on a topic brought up in the book. Pointed questions are asked from the perspectives of the text, our culture, the Bible, and the student. At the end of the session there is an essay topic. Other Sessions include writing assignments, art analysis, debates, factual recitation, and other activities that focus on growing your understanding of important concepts and teaching you to reason and discuss them eloquently. It should be noted that the authors of these essays are usually writing from a Protestant, often Reformed, perspective. Though it does not force-feed any specific ideas, be aware that Omnibus promotes that perspective in both the sessions and the essays.
Though Omnibus is a stand-alone guide and is great for a student to go through on his own, part of the purpose of Omnibus is to spark discussion. The more people involved in the discussions sparked by the sessions, the more differing opinions and the longer you talk about it, the better. A big part of Omnibus’ goal having you read all these books and answer all these questions is so that you can talk about the ideas brought up in them eloquently and winsomely. If you’re going through Omnibus by yourself, don’t gloss over this important part of the course. Parents should talk over the answers with their students. Involve siblings. Start a discussion group.
Our Honest Opinion:
Parents should be aware that Omnibus, even Volume I, dives right into mature topics including sex, violence, and other issues. Omnibus assumes your seventh grader is mature enough to deal with these issues, but the fact is some kids are at different stages than others. We shouldn’t have any qualms about discussing anything the Bible does, but you may decide that your child is simply not mature enough yet.
Something else to take note of is Omnibus’ lack of factual history. Omnibus assumes that you have had an education in the chronological events of history in the Grammar stage, and is now building on that. If you’re looking primarily for a history course that will have all the facts and events laid out, this is not the curriculum for you. However, if you need a little brushing up, Omnibus recommends Western Civilization by Jackson Spielvogel to supplement your studies, though Streams of Civilization 1 and 2 would be adequate as well.
Omnibus is content-heavy, and it is probably too much for many homeschoolers to handle on their own. It's not absolutely necessary to do every single session, and you may benefit from going through Omnibus at a slower pace. For instance, you could study one volume over two years and just do the first three, or you could simply start the program a little later. Another option for over-loaded homeschoolers would be to start a co-op or study Omnibus in a group. The closest other nation-wide alternative we've seen is Classical Conversations (similar in some ways to Omnibus, though with significantly lighter reading content).
In a culture that derides Christianity and daily bombards us with lies and false information, it has never been more important that we make sure our children have a strong Christian worldview that will enable them to discern the lies of the world around us from the truths of God. This is the purpose of Omnibus – to equip the next generation of Christians with the knowledge and skill to refute the lies of the world and to fight for the Kingdom of Christ. Omnibus is no joke. If you take the task of educating the next generation seriously, you want nothing but the best. Omnibus is a vigorous endeavor, but that’s what makes it great. It confronts you with ideas and questions that other curriculum water down or don’t address at all. It presents challenging activities and projects that areat a level other programs do not attain to. It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you give Omnibus your all, what you get is not only a thorough understanding of the thoughts and philosophies of times past and present, but also a well-developed Christian worldview that will help you analyze those philosophies and prepare you to face the world with eyes focused on Christ.
Omnibus I includes a chapter on The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius; students read the complete text along with commentary by Brent Harken, and complete extensive written exercises. The version used was translated by Robert Graves and edited by James B. Rives; Rives softened some of the more graphic content. Even so, it's still graphic content—chapters on Caligula, Nero, and Domitian include descriptions of bestiality, pedophilia, incest, and more. While Harken is clear that this is wicked behaviour, having 7th graders read content like this (The Twelve Caesars is one of the primary texts for year-one second-semester) seems to us inadvisable, at least in many cases. Also, Harken's interpretation of the text is a bit odd. Proceed with caution, and if necessary skip this text altogether.
Sample from Omnibus I: Genesis
Sample from Omnibus I: Genesis TE