Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Review: The Amazing Bible Timeline

Note: Presence of a review on this blog does not mean I endorse a product. I try to provide enough information for the reader to discern whether or not a product will be a fit in their home, in addition to providing my personal opinion of the product.

If there is one learning tool that homeschoolers love, it's timelines. Whether made from scratch, purchased premade, hung along the perimeter of the room, or contained in a binder, timelines are often used to supplement history learning. It is even more interesting is when multiple timelines are combined in one resource for a broader view of what was going on concurrently around the world.

The Crew was sent the Amazing Bible World Timeline for review. This timeline, which traces the origins of each nation to Adam and Eve, includes over 1000 references from the Bible and world history from the start of time to 2000 AD. A Creationist perspective is taken on this timeline.

I have to confess that my attempts to implement timelines into our homeschool have never been very successful. I've purchased materials for the kids to make their own timelines as well as premade timelines for reference. It isn't that I don't see the value of them. I do. The larger issue is that we are often a bit, well..., sporadic, in our history studies. With one child needing extra time in the 3Rs and the other with some heavy duty coursework in other subjects, history studies end up being more enrichment. While some history-loving homeschoolers can't imagine such an approach, such is the case in our household.

Now that you know my dirty little secret about our history studies, I can share our experience with this particular timeline. The first thing I noticed was this timeline is absolutely huge. At 37" x 45", it doesn't fit on any surface in our school area. It barely fits on our dining room table, which is where it first landed when pulled it out of the shipping container. Unlike typical horizontal timelines that either fold or run the perimeter of your school area (or down the hallway), this timeline is presented in a circular fashion. Blue, pink and yellow color-coding help with tracking families, nations and related events. Christ is presented bottom center, splitting the timeline in half with B.C. on the right and A.D. on the left. Basic information on sources and how to use the outline is located in the upper left corner and both the right and left lower corners contain the index.

The size, unique display, and sheer volume of information of this timeline was initially impressive. I found it an interesting product and I, the sporadic history teacher, started looking over the information. Even though I'm rather limited in my history knowledge, within a couple of minutes, I found some information that seemed questionable and commented to my husband about my curiosity of the sources used.

I soon found out the variety of resources that make up the information on the Amazing Bible Timeline. The information that originally caught my eye was from the Book of Mormon. While a variety of resources will need to be used for a product as detailed as this, I find this particular resource troubling. I further discovered that the producers of The Amazing Bible Timeline also have a LDS version of the timeline available on a separate website. There is no cross reference between the two sites. I've found three different sites for the non-LDS version of the Amazing Bible Timeline and am including them here as they have differing supplemental information.

The list of resources for the two versions of timelines is essentially the same.

Crew version
LDS version

The creators of the timeline have stated that the LDS references on the timeline the Crew received, which was created from the LDS version, were left on the timeline in error. Given the amount of time this timeline has been circulated, that fact brought about questions for me on the accuracy of the rest of the content. A follow-up communication was sent to the Crew after questions of the sources and doctrine were raised by some of the Crew members. You can read an explanation here.

While I am not opposed to using multiple resources as tools for learning, even those with which I may disagree, I only do so in those areas that serve educational purpose, are well-defined, and allow clear explanation of various viewpoints to my children. The Amazing Bible Timeline does not meet this criteria. I'm sure there is plenty of solid information to be gleaned from this timeline, as it was created from many resources. However, with my limited knowledge on the content of the timeline, I do not feel that I would be able to appropriately discern what might be questionable among the volumes of information with this particular product.

There are several layers to my concern that are beyond a few questionable resources, but do revolve around the discovery itself. In fact, I feel a little misled as there is no reference to a LDS version or sources on the website, though to give credit the sources are listed on the timeline with the entries. Because my own faith is very different from the teachings of Mormonism, in combination with history not being my strong suit, this isn't a product that I'm comfortable using in my home. This is especially the case with other similar resources readily available. If you are Mormon, indifferent to Mormon references, or a history buff, it may be more appropriate for you.

Outside of the content, I did have my kids look at the timeline in terms of visual appeal and readability. The text is quite tiny in order to fit everything in the space. Younger kids especially will have difficulty with the text size. My kids are more familiar with a horizontal timelines and at first didn't understand how to read it, though they caught on rather quickly. My daughter mentioned that the addition of pictures would be an improvement. However, the inclusion of pictures would have further added to the one feature that was the biggest obstacle to using this timeline – its size (pun intended). Finding a place that was both large enough and accessible for display would be no easy task. The dining room table may be an option for those doing school there. Otherwise, you would need to find a low space on an empty wall accessible to your students. See the picture below for an idea of the mammoth size of this timeline.
The Amazing Bible Timeline is not a product my family would purchase, both on content and usability. If you would like to explore this resource more to see if it may be a fit for your family, please visit the Amazing Bible Timeline website. The timeline can be purchased for $29.97 plus $6 shipping and comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee. Purchase includes two download products, Interactive Maps of the Holy Land and Digital Amazing Bible Timeline.

Disclaimer: This review was provided as a result in my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew, a team of 100+ homeschooling parents. While the product was provided at no expense to me in order to provide this review, I have not received any other compensation. Furthermore, receipt of the product does not guarantee a positive review. I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to read reviews of other Crew members and research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool.


Charla said...

As always, you give an excellent overview of the product. You gave the best explanation I have seen so far as to why you would not use this timeline. I love reading your reviews!

CookieMonster said...

Heidi, your review was excellent! I wish I had explained things as clearly and thoroughly as you did. You definitely hit the mark.

Anonymous said...

I am on the hunt for a timeline for our homeschool purposes. Thank you for being candid, it will make my search a bit easier.Thank you!

LauraW said...

Can i suggest the panorama pictorial timelines available through Oak Knoll Publishing? We have a copy of all four of these bible timelines... But the best and most used is book 1: the plan of the ages... Also available as a large wall chart. (looking into getting one for the church hall!)

Anonymous said...

Thank God, I read your insightful review on this! I was so close to completing the purchase. The LDS source is definitely the deal breaker!