We are total Drive Thru History® fans around here. We discovered Dave Stotts and his awesome video series years ago, and we've watched them enthusiastically ever since. The videos are informative, interesting, and funny, so we jumped quickly at the opportunity to review the newest series: Drive Thru History® – “The Gospels."
And it definitely makes the grade.
Because this new series focuses on the gospels, we opted to make watching it the focus of our Family Home Evening on Sundays.
The timing of our review period was such that we were enjoying the lessons in the weeks leading to Easter.
How cool is that!?!
The series has 18 episodes, beginning with background information about Judea before Christ's birth, exploring the annunciation, His birth, His childhood, all kinds of aspects of His ministry, through His trial, crucifixion, and resurrection, finally ending with a summary of the prophecies and power of His ministry and thought-provoking questions to all of us as His followers (or potential followers).
Dave does it all in his awesome style.
As always, he spends some time talking about his ride:
But that doesn't detract from the overall message. It's just for fun, to catch the attention of those who might otherwise think history videos are boring.
(Dave's videos are NOT boring!)
In every episode, just as the maps and history and archaeology and scripture get overwhelming, there's also some funny little side note that Dave spends a couple of minutes exploring--from exploring the football term "hail mary" to cooking BBQ on his car engine (my kids' favorite side road so far). The subjects are always just a bit off the wall and always just right for catching the attention of any student whose attention might be wandering.
But really, who can stop looking and learning when the videos are full of such beautiful imagery as this:
Sometimes Dave lectures for a bit. His lectures take place at fabulous historical sites, so that there's always something interesting to look at while he talks:
And sometimes, there are even live reenactments of historical scenes to bring the stories to life:
My family was especially captivated by the wedding reenactment as we watched episode 7.
Dave uses maps sometimes to help the viewers get an overarching sense of what's going on where and with whom:
Sometimes when Dave is walking through an archaeological site or a city that still exists, the name of the place will appear on the screen as he lectures, reinforcing where he is and how the place is important:
And he quotes reliable historical sources, often putting the quotes on the screen one line at time while panning across views of the place to which the quotes apply:
The words move gently across the screen, and none of the readers in our household have had a hard time keeping up with reading and listening.
But by far my favorite part of this series has been how closely Dave has stuck to the Biblical account of Christ's life. This series is not named "The Gospels" for nothing. Every episode has included multiple references and quotes to the gospels themselves, and often the scriptures are put onto the screen in much the same manner as other historical references:
Learning can't get much better for a visual learner like me. And the fact that all of the material is presented verbally along with gorgeous background music is an amazing gift to auditory learners.
I wondered how this series would present Christ--As a good guy? As a great political/spiritual leader? As the Son of God, Risen Lord, and Savior of Mankind?
I'm happy to report it is the latter.
And my kids asked, "Why are the pictures of Jesus being baptized all of Him being sprinkled with water?" (We believe in baptism by immersion.) We weren't bothered by the images, we simply used their question as a springboard for discussion and scripture study.
Included with the DVD set is a full-color (with seriously gorgeous images) study guide. The studying part is minimal, but for every one of 18 episodes there is an interesting historical quote (would make good copy work), a summary of what the episode will be about, a set of 5 questions about the episode, Bible references for personal study, and a few paragraphs of information entitled "Side Road"--some facts and thoughts related to the episode.
(Note: The study guide isn't durable. It's part of the DVD case, and the binding broke in half the second time we opened it. It's still usable, but it isn't something you can hand around the family for personal study. It would be great if it were a separate booklet.)
Our family--all 12 kids ages 2-17 and Mom and Dad--gathered each week on Sunday afternoons to watch an episode. First I'd read the summary to get the kids thinking a bit about what was to come, and then I'd read the questions to get us all further prepared to pay attention. We'd settle into watching the show:
After the episode we'd share our favorite parts, answer the study questions, read the "Side Road," and I'd offer the older kids the opportunity to do the Bible reading.
It has been a great experience.
The littlest kids in our family aren't getting a whole lot from the videos because they are really directed to perhaps 5th grade and up, but even my 1st and 2nd graders are absorbing some information because of the imagery of the videos and the family conversation all around them.
Most of the study questions are kind of simple for my teens, but the videos are adding historical and geographical knowledge to the familiar Bible stories, and I'm hearing lots of exclamations from the teens as the videos help them put 2 and 2 together.
I'm thinking that this upcoming Christmas to Easter season, I'm going to count out weeks and plan to watch the series in such a way that we're watching episodes relating to Christ's birth at Christmas-time, following His life through the winter and early spring, and then His crucifixion and resurrection and the summary episode at Easter-time.
It would be such a marvelous link between the two holidays and keep Christ foremost in our thoughts through the darkest of the winter months.
For more reviews of Drive Thru History® – “The Gospels” click here or on the banner below.