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Which Omnibus Path is Right For You? | Live Online vs. Self-Paced Courses

Written by Ty Fischer
Which Omnibus Path is Right For You? | Live Online vs. Self-Paced Courses

Are you new to Veritas and plan to have your student take Omnibus? Are you wondering if self-paced vs. online classes are a better fit? Here are some thoughts to help you decide what will work best for your family.

First, the practical advice.

There are a couple of routes you could take, either of which would be beneficial:

1. If you plan to do only Self-Paced and not incorporate any live courses in the upper grades, begin with Self-Paced Omnibus I Primary & Secondary and work your way through each of the Self-Paced courses until you end with Omnibus III.

2. If you intend to later have your student take Omnibus in a live course with the upper-grade levels, start them with Self-Paced Omnibus III and then continue to IV, V, and VI in the live courses.

The great thing about Omnibus is that no matter what level your student takes, it will never feel like the course is "talking down" to them if you choose to have them do Omnibus I and II, even though our website reflects that it starts in 7th grade. Also, due to how it is structured, I - III are a full rotation through Ancient, Middle Ages, and Modern history, and then IV, V, and VI are another rotation through the same time periods (but with different books and authors to emphasize other perspectives of the era).

Second, the philosophical advice.

Choosing an Omnibus Path: 1 Overarching Principle and 3 Key Considerations

As the poet did not say, “I chose the path less traveled by and in that lonely trail I was eaten by a bear.” Were Frost had said this, perhaps people would think twice before sledding in bear-country, and many moms would be anxious any time their sons looked at that horse-drawn sleigh.

Sometimes anxiety is the natural result of considering a new direction, choosing a new education method, or changing curriculum. Often, I get to talk with parents and schools of all shapes and sizes who have chosen to start Omnibus and are worried about how to start or how many levels to start or, particularly in a homeschool setting, how many levels of Omnibus to do with 7th-grader, her 9th-grade brother, and her 11th-grade sister. Yikes. How much can a homeschool mom or dad, or even if you add in grandparents, read?

It is best to start with an overarching principle and then work toward the more practical. Here is something that Jesus did not say, but I am confident He would agree with this principle: the Omnibus was made for man, not man for the Omnibus. You can do what you can do, and in different circumstances with different children or classes or with more knowledge as a teacher, you might be able to do it better next year. You have to be alive next year so that you can get a chance to do Omnibus again. So, let's start by clinging to this overarching principle reminding us that the Omnibus is a servant, not your master, as we delve into 3 Key Considerations for the right Omnibus Path for you.

Key Consideration 1: Make a Plan for the Future

When we were starting Omnibus, our classes were very small. In my first number of years teaching Omnibus, I had 5 rather brilliant students that I taught. When the first three graduated, I think that their SAT average was 1420 out of 1600. Five students is wonderful, but at a school, it is not economically sustainable. We needed to combine classes, but we wanted to make sure that everyone got the Omnibus that they needed. Therefore, I made the Omnibus Schedule Spreadsheet. It looked 10-12 years into the future with a plan for what each grade would be doing in order to ensure we were offering the right classes and hiring the right teachers. I revised this spreadsheet each year as class numbers changed, but I had a plan to start with. If you are in a homeschool setting, I think this plan is critically important. You can’t fight every battle. You must decide when you are going to combine and when you might need to do an asynchronous course to make sure that every child gets at least one run through Ancient, Medieval, and Modern.

Key Consideration 2: Understand Your Essentials and Stick to Them

When you start Omnibus, you might not be able to get through all of the books, but each year you need to know what you are, come heck or high water, going to cover. We designed Omnibus to give you as much content as you could need. Some years and in some formats, you might cover everything, but if you need to slow down for reason of interest or exhaustion, know what you are your sine qua non (without which not). Each year we give teachers flexibility within bounds. They must cover the books on the Essentials List. They have flexibility and accountability outside of that. Flexibility to pause on things that students might be struggling with or to take more time when you hit a topic that the students are fascinated by. In my early years at Veritas, I remember that a teacher was teaching Exodus. He came to the passage about the Hebrew midwives who saved the children by lying (in my opinion) to Pharoah and saying that the babies just popped out before they ever arrived. They were charged with killing the male children. So was it wrong to lie, or was it ok to lie when a government was asking you to kill. The class erupted into debate and split into factions. The teacher asked me what to do. I advised pausing and taking more time to think through and debate this topic. The class had a blast, but, of course, this squeezed some other book and its time.

Key Consideration 3: Check the Love/Engagement-Meter Regularly

The objective of Omnibus is not to read everything so that you never have to read anything ever again after you graduate. Omnibus is not about completion; it is about fostering and ordering loves. Recently, I was talking with two new alumni, and I asked them what they were learning. It is always an encouragement to me when my students are reading and learning when there is no “whip” at their backs. They are learning because learning is good and enjoyable.

When you start doing Omnibus, check the Love-Meter often. If you are overwhelming the student or yourself, slow down. Make sure that you are hitting the “sweet spot” of loving engagement. This “Love/Engagement-Meter” should be checked in the following manner:

  • With 10th through 12th graders, ask them how they are liking the books. (Easy)

  • With 7th through 9th graders, ignore what they say. They hate everything. Judge their love by whether they are engaged in class and in the reading. If they are, you are winning.

The signs of a good Omnibus path are students loving learning and learning to love the books that they are reading.

I am guessing that this post might raise as many questions as it answers. Remember this, Omnibus means to make you tired at the end of the year. It is hard work, but it runs (like all true education) on love. You can put the needle down on the record at any point, but you need to have a plan, know your essentials, and keep checking to see if the reading is accomplishing the core goals of Omnibus—loving and engaging the books that we are reading.