With two of the children now in university, I often times find myself thinking through the kind of spiritual nourishment we provided within our four walls for these two and continue to do so for the three still with us.
For the past couple of years I’ve seen how daughters no longer under our roof continue to work out their salvation with fear and trembling because it is the Lord who is at work in them as they pursue a life of hearing from the Lord through His Word, courageously proclaiming Him, as well as obeying and serving Him in shared lives with others in the university setting.
And truly in my heart, I can say with Paul, to these children who are now miles away,”I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:3-6)
As I look back, one aspect (definitely not the only one) in nourishing the spiritual growth of the children that stands out is the time we invested in God’s Word. Hebrews 4:12 says,
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
So with this truth, I set out to ensure that in our homeschool or in our home, the Bible will have its rightful place. I figured that it was best to guide my children how to find out for themselves who God is, what He requires, and how they are to live. I trusted that as I prayed for fertile hearts, His Spirit would do the work of growing the Word sowed in their young lives.
So as soon as a child unlocked the mystery of decoding phonograms, I offered them a Bible version. The Rhyme Bible Storybook was the first book my oldest child read through while, for my youngest child who struggled to read, The Beginners Bible was the first book that engaged him so that he began to enjoy reading. I wrote more here about how exposing children to easier versions of the written word, including the Bible, developed in the them the stamina to read. Honestly, a lot of times I wonder how one is made to read chunks of the Bible when technology today has reduced our attention span to only take in a few sentences at a time or has grabbed our attention to engage only in receiving information passively.
Sonlight Curriculum played a big part in the initial years of our homeschool. Thus, our first exposure to a Bible program is the one that the company offered around 16 years ago. I recall how the Sing the Word CDs included in the earlier Cores were a fun and helpful way to encourage us to memorise Scripture (we have since then found Seeds Family Worship). Sonlight also scheduled Bible readings and interesting Bible read-alouds/devotionals in their Instructor’s Guide. We have the fondest memories reading through some of the titles in the Christian Heroes Then and Now Series (Gladys Aylward, our favourite), along with other missionary stories such as And the Word Came with Power (Joanne Shetler to the Philippines) and Window on the World, which opened our eyes to praying for missions around the globe. Indeed, our first glimpses of “making disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28: 19-20).
As the kids grew older and more capable, I longed to study the Bible with them in the same way that we studied math or grammar or history. If we used a curricula to study these subjects, why not the Bible? Research brought me to Bible Study Guide for All Ages (BSGFAA) which seemed to fit the bill. Their site describes the program as follows:
The Bible Study Guide is a Bible curriculum that takes all ages through the Bible at the same time, studying some Old Testament and some New Testament each year.
Students learn the “big picture” of the story of the Bible, detailed knowledge of the Bible and, best of all, how to apply it to their lives.
And so from school year 2008-09 with the kids ages 12, 10, 6, 4 (and getting ready for 5th child to join us), we undertook the journey beginning with Unit 1 of BSGFAA. We plodded along with each child working on their appropriate levels (advanced, intermediate or beginner) until school year 2012-13 when the kids were 17, 15, 11, and 9. Youngest joined us that fifth year of using the program as a Kindergartener.
The built-in review as the lessons progressed as well as the engaging activity sheets that included a timeline and map work were some of the elements of the program that we truly appreciated.
I wouldn’t say we enjoyed those Bible lessons each and every time we had them, but the program was definitely doable and we persevered. There was a point when just seeing the unit binder brought about some resistance in the older children (mostly due to the amount of time we ended up spending on each session so I had to adjust). But we did learn. And when we reminisce about those times, the same older children tell me they’re thankful we endured. It took us those 5 years to finish only until Unit 3 of the order of study. Thereafter, we were just ready for a change.
And that came at the right time as the older children were going to work on a second round of Tapestry of Grace Year 1 (Ancients) which included a Bible survey for worldview lessons. That year, we studied the Bible with the backdrop of the study of the early civilisations of Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Persia and Rome. The following school year (2014-15), we continued with church history lessons in the context of the middle ages and the Reformation in Tapestry of Grace Year 2 (TOG Y2).
Towards the end of last school year, a friend happened to mention Bible Road Trip to me. Since I could download the lessons for free, I tried it out with the younger kids ages 13, 11, and 7. It was a bonus that we had some of the extra book resources that we needed and for those that we didn’t, we managed to substitute with ones on our shelves. Like BSGFAA, Bible Road Trip can be used with children of differing ages so there are daily Bible reading assignments, memory verses, extra resource readings and activities that correspond to a certain age group. It is a 3-year Bible survey that unlike BSGFAA goes through the Bible chronologically.
We are currently in Year 1 Week 30 studying the book of Ezra, reading about the return of Israel to Jerusalem from 70 years of exile. It’s amazing to learn how God touched the hearts of Persian kings like Cyrus and Artaxerxes as He continued through His plan of redemption! The memory verses included give us mental pegs upon which to remember what each book of the Bible is about.
Bible Road Trip goes through the Bible as follows:
Year 1, Weeks 1-11 : Books of the Law (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
Year 1, Weeks 12-32: Books of History (Joshua through Esther)
Year 2, Weeks 1-11: Books of Poetry (Job through Song of Solomon)
Year 2, Weeks 12-32: Books of the Prophets (Isaiah through Malachi)
Year 3, Weeks 1-32: New Testament (Matthew through Revelations)
In the next couple of weeks, we look forward to finishing Year 1 and beginning Year 2 just before the school year ends.
I realise that if we sincerely desire to make disciples in our homes, we need to bring our children to a point where they will have to choose whom they will serve, make that decision in repentance, and commit to live a life of drawing close to Jesus and allowing Him to be Lord of their lives, even as they grow in their understanding of His unfathomable love. With this comes reverence for God (through knowing Him in His Word) as well as understanding of His truth (again, dwelling on His Word). For instance, they need to know the whole redemption story – why was there a need for the Law, why was there a need for a Saviour, what is the mystery plan for all Gentiles revealed (Ephesians 3: 1-13), what does it mean to work out our salvation in fear and trembling because it is He who is at work in us (Philippians 2: 12-13)? Why else would Jesus say, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” (John 15: 3-4)
May it not be said of them, who have decided to embrace our faith, as we release them from our homes where we undertake to educate and/or parent them (yes, we are called to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord),
Concerning him (Jesus) we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Hebrews 5: 11-14)