There have been many different Bible programs and studies we have done over the years. Some have fallen flat and been a disappointment, a waste of money and time. I won’t focus on those here. I want to share some of the very best resources we’ve found because they are so captivating and have helped me build a foundation of truth for the children. Those of you who have asked me what we do for Bible, here you go!
Sometimes, when parents start out looking into homeschooling, they feel overwhelmed at all the choices for curriculum. One place that can be a good start is to narrow down Bible choices first. It’s a wonderful freedom bestowed by the choice to homeschool that we as parents get to choose how to direct our children’s lives in ways that go far beyond education. Spiritual training directs all the way into eternity! We believe Bible should be the cornerstone of our homeschool and that’s why I’m writing a whole blog post devoted just to Bible resources. Not all of these will work for every family, and we certainly don’t do all of them in any given year. Instead, I have purposed to let Holy Spirit guide us to training that will work for any given season we walk into so we are equipped for Kingdom work. Some of the best of what we’ve tried has ended up in this post.
Of course, Scripture is woven throughout all of our school material (history, science, mathematics, literature, etc.) but here we focus on specifically learning and living out God’s Word. While there are many, many options for spiritual development out there, this post will mainly look at curriculum that can be adapted to homeschooling for Bible credit and/or family devotions, not to programs and tools for things like chore-training and character attributes (which are important too, just different from the purposes outlined here). Perhaps some of these choices will help you begin to build a curriculum to train up your children. Even if you make the decision to pursue more traditional schooling options for your kiddos, these resources can be an invaluable resource for devotional life.
Hands-down, the very best Bible memory CDs we’ve ever used are produced by the Steve and Annie Harrow. We were first introduced to their music through Sonlight Bible cores, which we’ve used regularly since the beginning of our homeschool journey. The songs are very simple and well-done without being cheesy and annoying. In fact, Steve and Annie’s Harrow’s music is pleasant enough that I could have it playing in the background while we work on other subjects. I can’t say that for most of the children’s Scriptural music I’ve come across. All the tracks have an accompanying instrumental track for when the children have memorized the words to the verses. The only downside I see to their music is that most of the verse references are not included in the songs themselves. When I was a little girl, I remember listening to GT and the Halo Express, which had the Bible references actually sung along with the Scripture. To this day, the verses I learned back then are burned into my memory WITH the references. However, even considering this, I still prefer Harrow family productions as they are so beautiful. It’s not too much extra work to memorize the references separately. We currently have five of their seven CDs.
This is the first year we are using the Westminster Shorter Catechism in our biblical studies. There are many reasons to include catechism in our daily lessons even though we are not orthodox. The main reason is that children need to internalize the basics of Scriptural understanding. These truths are the bricks with which we build a House of Truth. The little ones cannot understand complex, abstract doctrines, but by memorizing questions and answers such as they are presented in the catechism, they will be able to build well into the future as their understanding develops. I do not believe catechism should be held above memorization of the Word itself, but it is important to be able to give an answer for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15) and put concise words to exactly WHAT we believe. We are using Holly Dutton’s Westminster Shorter Catechism songs. There are four CDs in all, and they cover all 107 questions and answers of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Both the questions and answers are included in each song, making it easier for the kids to have memory pegs for some of the main doctrinal points of our faith. There are several questions we will not memorize as they differ fundamentally with what we believe (i.e. infant baptism being a sacrament, the first day of the week being the God-ordained Sabbath after Christ’s resurrection, etc.). However, since the majority of the questions and answers are so eloquent and the music is so beautiful and simple, I did not want to forego the learning opportunity provided by the catechism.
Kay Arthur’s book How to Study Your Bible revolutionized my life. I visited this book when I was in Bible college and again while part of a leadership training program in my young adult years. Kay’s method of delving into the text is so straightforward, and I really like the questions that are laid out at the beginning of a study. They can be used for any passages, anywhere in the Word. While I do not use her method for my devotional reading, those times when I just want the truth of God’s Word to wash over my spirit but I am not doing a particular exegesis, I have yet to find a better way of organizing study. A few years ago, I discovered that Kay Arthur’s Precepts Ministries International publishes a series of Bible study books for kids called Discover 4 Yourself. They have a version of How to Study Your Bible for children as well as several workbooks that students can use to go through different topics in both the Old and New Testaments. The workbooks are fabulous. They are interesting and written with an engaging narrative style that ties the adventure of Bible study with the reality that one can actually possess a deep understanding of God’s Word no matter her age. There are games, puzzles, and questions that force kids to really dig into the text. Jaelah and Selah have done several of the workbooks but are now growing out of them and are ready for the next phase of Bible study. Chavah recently finished the book for Jonah and I can’t even express the joy I feel as I look through her workbook and see her handwriting and colorful notes all over the text, displaying how she has dug into the meat of the Word. It is nice that most of the referenced Scripture is included IN the workbooks so that any mistakes made with the colorful symbols that are used in study won’t be a permanent part of the children’s personal Bibles. The material is broken up into very manageable chunks that don’t take more than about 20-30 minutes to complete per day. The teacher editions are nice but not completely necessary if a parent has an understanding of Kay Arthur’s study methods and can do the work along with the children. So far, Lord, Teach Me to Pray has been my favorite – an entire book breaking down the Lord’s Prayer.
PictureSmart Bible has been on my backburner for several years now. I have not yet delved into the program because I wanted to be able to use it with all of the kids at the same time. Just recently, PictureSmart Bible has come out with a K-3 curriculum, so very soon we will be able to use the Grade 4-Adult curriculum for the older kids and the K-3 for the younger kids. If you want to go through the entire Bible and get the main theme from each book summarized in one picture that you color in as you go, this is the program for you. Not only do you go through and study every single book of the Bible, God’s plan of salvation is emphasized in each and every book. I don’t know of many programs, especially for young children, that take the minor prophets of the Old Testament and reveal how redemption is woven through the entire text.
Veritas Press Bible is a program we are using for the first time this homeschooling year. Now that I am teaching 6 students, any subjects we can combine and easily adapt for levels of ability save a lot of time for me. A fan of the idea of “memory pegs” on which children can place knowledge as they grow, I have found VP Bible to be an excellent program for review and understanding. There are five sets of flash cards, each set made up of 32 of the most important events and people of a particular part of the Bible. On the front of each 5 ½ x 8 ½ card is an illustration or famous artwork depicting a person or event. On the back is a short summary of the event as well as Scriptural reference, dates (if applicable), as well as a list of cross-reference materials that can be used for further study (books such as the Children’s Illustrated Bible, or Journey Through the Bible, etc.). Each of the five sets has a memory song to go with it and will go through all 32 events as well as the setting and Bible reference referenced by the cards themselves. Currently, we are making our way through the Genesis to Joshua song. While not the most incredible work of musicianship I’ve ever heard, the details ARE being retained by the kids. My goal is not for them to memorize the whole memory song, but rather to get very familiar with the order of Biblical history and the important events. A teacher guide is included with each CD with printable worksheets and tests related to each flash card in the set. I use these to go through the cards, but the review portions tend to get a little redundant in my opinion after awhile, so I do not emphasize them more than on the first time or two we are looking through a particular flash card. Memory work is a foundational aspect of classical education, but I find that the time I am spending with the kids on these cards is enough for familiarity to be established, which is my ultimate goal (not word-perfect memorization of song lyrics). Especially considering all the other Bible resources we are using concurrently, I feel that we are getting enough out of this program to justify the cost of the flash cards. The five sets consist of Genesis to Joshua, Judges to Kings, Chronicles to Malachi, The Gospels, and Acts to Revelation. The bonus is that these cards DO correspond to the Veritas Press history cards, which has really helped the older two girls to place biblical events alongside ancient world history.
Worldview & Apologetics
We use Apologia Worldview curriculum as the basis of our family devotions. We took a year just to go through the first book, letting the conversational bunny trails get lively and knowing that interruptions abound. After all, you can only get through so much serious discussion with a toddler and a preschooler contributing around the dinner table. This curriculum has been a family favorite thus far and we have not even gotten more than halfway through the second book. The stories, dialogue, Scripture, and beautiful illustrations and photography have added a great depth to conversation for our family. I particularly appreciate the importance placed on developing a solidly Christian worldview and acknowledging the fact that Scriptural truth simply MUST be the foundation upon which we build our entire lives. The simplicity of the gospel is laid out consistently and centrally in each book. These books do not delve into doctrinal specifics that vary greatly across congregations, denominations, and families (i.e. topics like the gifts of the Holy Spirit for believers today, or the role of women in the church, etc.) None of what we have studied has been from a divisive perspective but one that majors on some of the most important parts of what we believe. Apologia curriculum is excellent for those who like the notebooking journal style of learning. We used the Junior notebooking journals for the first level. It has lots of space for notes, activities, Scripture study, and even writing out prayers. However, we always end up going back to using the coloring books that are included with each level. Though I am sure they were intended for the younger audience, our oldest two daughters love to get out the colored pencils and color while Daddy reads aloud. The great thing about this worldview curriculum is the ability to draw in a broad range of ages without anyone feeling left out.
Many will agree with my opinion that one of the best Torah resources for children is Children’s Torah Club, published by First Fruits of Zion ministries. Our children have used parts of this program in Shabbat classes since they were quite small. We have never gone through the entire program as a family, but this is another one of the back-burner programs I may use with the younger crew during the next Torah reading cycle. Activities, readings, puzzles, and the like are included in each lesson. Review can be incorporated as well, but it is not a strong point in this program considering most Messianic families go through the Torah portions every single year. Each Torah portion has its own 8 page packet. One of my favorite aspects of the program is that basic Hebrew is taught alongside each lesson. It should be noted that while there are gospel portions and haftarah portions included in FFOZ Torah reading schedules available each year, the additional readings are NOT a part of the curriculum of this Torah Club program. Parents would have to add in other readings and activities even though TC is written from a Messianic perspective. FFOZ states the recommended age level of Children’s Torah Club is 6-10 years old, but I think the age is a fair amount younger – perhaps 5-8, and my almost-4-year old would be easily able to work through many of the activities with my help. By the time my kids are 9 or 10, I believe they can and should be delving into deeper truths without the need for so many activities to hold their attention, but that is only based on what I have seen in our family.
Jaelah is working through the Walk! Torah devotional studies during the Torah cycle this year. This is definitely a more mature program, at least at the high school level. I like it enough to consider using it for all the kids as they prepare for bar and bat mitzvah. There is a significant amount of reading, both in Scripture and through the commentary, but it pulls a great deal out of the text. It teaches some basic Hebrew and is Messianic in perspective. Jaelah is not ready for the level of the chumash yet, but I believe she will be well-prepared for it when she is done with the Walk! books, that is, if she wants to delve into the chumash on her own. An even more in-depth study on the Torah portions, one I was turned on to over 6 years ago and my own personal favorite is written by the Rabbi’s Son. I love his perspective, language, and inspiration, but since we aren’t yet using it for homeschooling study, that is a blog post for another day! These books DO include the Haftarah and B’rit Chadashah readings.
Through the relationships we’ve developed at The Church at Ellerslie, we discovered a recently-launched project called Heroic Life Discipleship. It’s a curriculum aimed at training up children in a solid foundation of the Word that they might mature fully in Christ. The curriculum will ultimately cover all Scripture from Genesis to Revelation (in 8 semester sections) but for now only the first (Foundations), seventh (Our Sure Salvation), and eighth (The Exchanged Life) semesters are available with new semesters being rolled out over the next few years. Activity guides are provided along with the leader guide for each semester, and a student book for two separate age levels (age 4-7 and age 8-13) are available for each level as well. This means another great way for me to combine multiple age levels without having to add any hours to an already busy day. I am thrilled about this program because we have seen such an abundance of fruit from the training we’ve received at Ellerslie just by being a part of the body there. I know this curriculum will grow us in many ways as a family. We are starting with Foundations. I cannot comment on ease of use through the entire program, but from the samples I’ve read of the newly-released material, it will dovetail very nicely with Apologia’s worldview studies.
One of the aspects of Heroic Life Discipleship that excites me the most is the call to intercession for young ones in a practical way. Though we pray as a family, it has been a practice that has moved along in a clunky and sometimes uninspiring way – mainly because Pete and I had not developed from a young age the practice of praying in groups (or even individually) and collectively calling the promises and realities of Heaven down to earth. It is hard to pass on a discipline to children as parents when we ourselves have struggled to create a resilient habit. If the children can start young, however, I know that they will thrive in the truth that Yeshua dwells within them and they can develop a powerful prayer life in connecting with Him at all times. The other aspect of Heroic Life that I’m very excited about is that mighty men and women of the faith will be featured throughout the semesters. We utilize biographies in all areas of our homeschool study, but I cannot wait to delve into some of the lives of incredible people who build our faith through their testimony and encouragement. This format promises to highlight some true heroes whose stories I pray will burn in our children’s hearts.