Monday, November 26, 2012

Breaking It Down- Bible/ early Language Arts

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. Psalms 119:105

So, how do you teach such an important subject as the Bible?

You should use the highest quality, most accurate curriculum available. My favorite is called “The Bible.” After all what could more accurately portray God’s Word than God’s Word?

How I teach this has evolved over the years beginning with reading a story from a story book Bible everyday to my oldest (then five), to our current course. I expect it will continue to change as my children age and my “school” grows and then shrinks in number. 

I don’t advise you to start with the whole thing I am doing now. Pick one thing to do. After a while add something else if you want to and it fits your family. Keep adding one thing at a time until you are satisfied.

The cornerstone of my “school” is Bible study. As you will see, it is the foundation everything else is built on. There is no more important subject. Even reading is taught for the main purpose of enabling my children to read the Bible for themselves.

I read them a story from a chronological Bible (about a chapters worth) each day. You need to preview ahead to make sure the day’s selection is appropriate to the ages of children you have (some places tell about rape and murder, though the murder stories seem to be most kids favorites. Use your best judgment. We don’t want the Bible giving nightmares. And face it; the “begats” are just too boring when read out loud.) 

Each child draws a picture to go with the story and gives it a title (This varies from a portrait style picture to cartoons to stick people “story boards”.) This helps them to put the events in the Bible into historical order, learn to transfer thoughts into writing, and encourages drawing skills, besides, of course, getting them familiar with the Bible itself, the most important goal.

All of our doctrinal beliefs will be taught eventually this way (If a doctrinal belief is not in the Bible, it should not be a doctrinal belief). If you have an older child that would prefer to rewrite the story in his own words instead of drawing a picture, that is o.k. also. Or let him use an animation program on the internet and make a movie. Or set up a camera and let them act the story out, even posting it on Youtube.

Around age four, I begin having my children trace a short Bible verse everyday. Then as they get older, I have them copy the verse. By the time they start third grade, I dictate (read it out loud while they write down) the verse to them. I am using Proverbs right now. You can use memory verses from other places or even interesting sentences from other books if you would rather. I like not having to pick something different out everyday. I just go in order.

This exercise gives them practice in concentration, penmanship, spelling, and punctuation while getting them in the habit of writing beautiful language besides becoming familiar with the Wisdom of Solomon. I read the verse through once in normal voice and then re-read it slowly, two or three syllables at a time. I try not to read any part of it a third time to help them learn to pay attention. I do help them spell hard words.

A typical reading might sound like this; “Take your delight (Jennifer, give me the marker) d-e-l-i-g-h-t… in the Lord (Jessie, leave the cat alone) and He will… (Don’t rip the book Jackie) direct your (what? Oh. d-i-r-e-c-t) your path.” My older children have learned to concentrate in the most extraordinary circumstances. Valuable skill.

Now that my oldest is thirteen, I have begun having her write her Proverbs in her own words. This is helping her analyze the real meaning of the passage, as well as developing her composition skills. I may occasionally have her rewrite it in rhyme. This will also help her vocabulary, grammar, composition, and creativity skills.

Memloc is an excellent program for memorization. It is a set of 700 cards, each with a memory verse on one side and a picture clue on the other. It works well for learning a large number of verses quickly. I have used it on occasion.

What I use most of the time, however, is to simply have each child memorizing a different verse or selection from my own list of important things to know:
  1. The books of the Bible in order
  2. The names of the disciples
  3. The names of the tribes of Israel
  4. John 3:16,17
  5. John 1:1-4
  6. Matthew 5 (The Beatitudes)
  7. Isaiah 9:6
  8. Ephesians 6:10-18 (The Armor of God)
  9. Timothy 3:16
  10. Titus 2
  11. The 23 Psalm,
  12. Matthew 6:9-15 (The Lord’s Prayer)
  13. I Corinthians 13 (The Love Chapter)
  14. The first chapter of Genesis
  15. The 100th Psalm (any Psalm, in fact)
  16. Hebrews 11 (The Faith Chapter)
Check the back of your Bible, Google or your church for a list of possibilities or you could always buy my book They Word Have I Hidden, a list of memory verses, at least one from each book of the Bible, and a catechism. 

By having each child (and me too!) learning something different and practicing in the morning while we are all together, each child hears each other child’s verse everyday. They are all memorizing all of the verses at once, (Shhh! Don’t tell!)

Don’t be afraid to have little ones memorize more than one verse. My six year old just quoted John 3:16 and 17 in church followed by my seven year old quoting Psalms 100 (all five verses). If you act like it is no big deal they will too, and when they discover how impressed other adults in church are, you may have to talk to them about the impoliteness of showing off (What a wonderful problem! “Now dear, I know you know all 13 verses in 1 Corinthians 13, but it is not polite to corner every person you meet to make them listen to you do it!”)

I read two or three words from a younger child’s verse and let them repeat after me. Then I read the next two or three, and so on. Older children read it for themselves, out loud, followed by writing one line in their notebook.

I teach them a Sunday School song in sign language (The Americans with Disability Act makes it federal law for sign language to be counted as a foreign language. This means preferential treatment and sometimes higher pay for anyone that knows it when applying for a job) and read a page from a Bible trivia book. This is a good way to begin to teach music as well as begin the day with praise to God. Wee Sing has a good book of Sunday School songs, as do many Bible book stores and YouTube. You could also use a hymnal from your church. 

Update: we are at this time practicing a song to sing as a family special in church on Sunday morning instead of the sign language. Also, I have found that there are apps for smart phones that not only have the words and music for hymns, but will play the music also. That or playlists from Youtube will give the musical accompaniment many need. 

Don’t worry if you don’t think you sing very well. The Bible says to “Make a Joyful noise unto the Lord," Psalms 100:1, not necessarily a good noise. God thinks our singing is beautiful no matter how it sounds to us. And small children will think it is beautiful and join in wholeheartedly, getting all the benefits, even if you sound like a cat with its tail caught in a blender.

Sign language is a second language that is understood, at least in part, all over the world (Quick, if someone points at you and then puts their thumb on their ear and their pinky on their mouth with their other fingers curled up in their palm, what are they telling you? You have a phone call!) Sign Language can help later on with oratory skills, even if they never meet a deaf person. It helps you to be comfortable in using your hands for expression. I have been known to use it to communicate across a crowded room or during a church service in an emergency also.

My children enjoy trying to guess the answers to the trivia questions and it sharpens their recall skills that can be used in any subject and helps facts to be in the habit of sticking. You should be able to get a quiz book from your church or bookstore. Sign language books can often be found at the library as well as book stores and of course Amazon. There are also many Youtube vidoes of people signing.

Our trivia books have a joke section in the back. I read one per day, one of our favorite times of the day.

I have each child put all of the Bible work into their own Bible notebook (three ring binders). They have dividers for sections named Proverbs, Stories, and Memory verses. You could add a section on important people, or dates if you wish. This keeps their work all in one place and lets them kind of write their own Bible story book.

I also advise you get a Strong’s Concordance. They run $15.00 for a paper back, more for a hardback, or they are available on the internet for free any a number of places. 

This is a list of every word in the Bible in alphabetical order. For each word, it shows where it is found, and has a numerical reference to either the original Hebrew or Greek word. You then turn to the appropriate number in the Hebrew or Greek dictionary in the back and it tells you the original word, how to pronounce it, and its definition. This can be invaluable for really understanding what the Word says.

If this feels too confusing to put together, you can buy The Bible Study Guide For All Ages. This was originally written for a Family Integrated Sunday School. It has 104 lessons per year for four years, so you cover the entire Bible three times in each child’s education. They give you step-by-step directions to cover every chapter in the Bible, memorize important information, learn songs, pray, dictation, and drawing pictures, plus they add map studies and timeline information. They sell a CD with all the songs they use and resources for the memorization, maps, timelines and offer age appropriate activity pages for each lesson. I have used this occasionally and enjoy it.

My main objection is that the lessons are given in typical Sunday School order, not chronological or canonical order (Joseph, then Jesus’ early life, Daniel and Paul). I don’t like the jumping around, but it’s a minor complaint.

A few notes on Bible study; I make a point of answering all questions, especially Biblical ones whenever they are asked even if it means skipping another subject for the day. I explain as well as I can or say “I don’t know. Let’s find out.” Then look the answer up.

I read my own Bible every morning, striving to read through the whole thing every year. My children see me do this and I encourage them to set up their own reading schedule as soon as they can read well enough. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding." Proverbs 9:10

We don’t send our children to church. I don’t think it does any good. 

We TAKE them to church. Big difference.

Our church doesn’t have a Sunday School. We keep our children with us throughout worship. We do have a children’s sermon just before the main sermon (mainly for new adult converts that would be embarrassed to admit they didn’t know the “Sunday School” stories). 

You may be surprised how young a child can understand the main sermon when given the chance. I have seen children as young as five laugh at a joke cracked in a sermon, and I know from personal experience and the experience of my children that five year olds can understand and be moved by the sermons also (My seven year old’s favorite doll recently gave his heart to the Lord after a particularly moving service and I remember understanding what my father was preaching as young as age four).

We live according to God’s Word the best we can, even when it is inconvenient.

These are probably the most important aspects of teaching Bible. The Bible you live will be remembered and believed much more than the Bible you read.

Summary: We…

  • Read the real Bible to our children, 1-2 chapters per day.
  • Have them draw and title a picture to go with the reading.
  • Dictate a verse in Proverbs (younger ones copy.)
  • Sing a hymn and/or Sunday school song in English and Sign Language.
  • Practice memory verses
  • Read a Bible trivia book, one question per child per day (plus a joke).
  • Keep a list of important people and dates.
  • Answer all their questions.
  • Set the best example we can.
  • Are active in our local church.

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