Family Bible Studies: The Cornerstone of Our Homeschool Curriculum
In our classical Christian homeschool, studying Scripture took priority over all other subjects or activities. First place. Why is that? Are we “Bible-thumpers” who learn Scripture so that they can correct others? No, we want to drink deeply of Scripture because we find that the Lord regularly reveals His character through His Word, and we want to know Him better! We also find that He uses regular time in His Word to transform our minds and hearts so that we look and act more like Jesus. We wanted to raise kids with head and heart.
In our family, we view Scripture as a love letter from the Living God to men and women. It’s a narrative compiled over many centuries by men who have been awed by the supernatural nature and character of God. From Genesis to Revelation, the primary message of Scripture is love for the immortal God and love for mortal humans.
The Protestant Reformers knew this truth, and if you’ve ever heard the Latin term sola Scriptura (trans. by Scripture alone) you are probably familiar with the assertions that (1) the Bible authenticates and interprets itself, (2) the Bible is clear to the average reader, and (3) the Bible is sufficient to be the final authority for Christian doctrine. You may recall that the Protestant Reformers were pushing against the idea that experts (ordained clergy) were necessary to reveal and interpret God’s Word; they also opposed the idea that man’s traditions could determine doctrine.
Anyway, in our homeschool, we considered the Bible central to all teaching and learning. God’s Word is the lens through which we see the Lord, ourselves, and the world.
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6 Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7, NRSV)
Why Read the Bible in Community?
In a classical education, we (1) observe, (2) interpret, and (3) apply. So we read the Bible together in community, discuss the observations that we all have, interpret the meaning of the passage with the Holy Spirit’s inspiration and in context of the rest of Scripture, then we apply what we’ve learned to our own lives. The more one digs into Scripture, the more one sees.
Every morning before the kids did any other homeschooling assignments, we gathered around the kitchen table, and we read the Word together over breakfast. We took turns selecting the book we read, and everyone was expected to read out loud. David didn’t tell us what the text meant; rather, he asked leading questions (like Socrates) so that we came to understanding in community, and it was amazing how the Lord gave us fresh insights that we may not have had if we’d have been reading alone. We cherished our daily time together at table in the Word, and it kept us all on the same path. It also shaped our worldview so that when we encountered ideas in our classical education we could evaluate them for truth and meaning.
Why Read the Bible Alone?
When you’re friends with someone, you want to spend time with them, getting to know them intimately. Nothing is more precious and essential to spiritual transformation than having “quiet time” with the Lord everyday. In our marriage, David and I preferred a morning ritual; when we woke, we would each find our own special place for quiet reflection, prayer, and Bible study with the Lord. This spiritual, mental, and physical discipline centered us on His priorities first thing in the morning so that we were surrendered to receiving whatever circumstances and people He brought in the course of the day. It’s truly miraculous how this simple discipline can bring peace and compassion to a household.
And all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the temple. (Luke 21:38)
Our adult quiet time always happened before the kids woke up, but they knew that we did it every morning like brushing teeth. We talked about what we were studying and what we learned, so that when they were ready for their own quiet time, it was not unfamiliar.
When Should Kids Start Having Quiet Time?
When our kids were around 12 years old, we felt it was time to introduce them to their own private quiet time with the Lord. After all, the Gospels say that Jesus was teaching his elders in the Temple at the age of twelve. In the beginning, we modeled quiet time for them by meeting with them to show them how it was done. We taught them how to be still and come before the Lord with confession, praise, and an open, teachable spirit. David met with Connor, and I met with Meredith until we felt they were ready to do it without us. They each retired their picture Bibles to the closet and received a “real grownup” Bible.
We shepherded them in making time with their Lord the first priority of their morning so that when they came to table, they were already in conversation with Him. The format for quiet time was flexible: we encouraged reading of Scripture, prayer, journaling, taking a solo walk, or just getting away to a quiet spot for retreat time. The important condition for quiet time was allowing their spirit to grow still so they could listen to His Spirit speak.
What Books of the Bible Should You Study?
Of course, I believe your kids need to read every single book of the Bible, but I think it helps to have a strategic teaching plan for reading the Bible so that they don’t come away thinking it’s just a collection of 66 unrelated books, but instead one book with a cohesive, unified message. The easiest entry points for young kids would be the narrative stories of the Old and New Testament with relatable characters like Abraham, Joseph, Ruth, Daniel, and Esther.
Or just pick a book and start reading; when my kids were elementary school age (1st grade-5th grade), we read line-by-line through Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. Every day we’d read a section then go to the table to illustrate the story and write a few lines. Over the years, we’ve got notebooks full of illustrated (by the kids) Bible stories which warm my mama’s heart. [Get a free copy of my narration template]
When we read I & II Kings, I created some paper doll kings, and we created a wall chart so that every time we read about a new king of Israel or Judah, we put a new paper doll in the “Good King” or “Bad King” columns. By the time we finished those two books of the Bible, we all a had pretty good visual understanding of how poorly most kings turned out!
You could also let them color in their own children’s Bibles like Kay Arthur teaches in her inductive Bible studies. You don’t need a prepackaged homeschool curriculum for Bible studies; get a good Bible Atlas, some colored pencils, and a sketchpad so that the kids can color, circle words, or draw as they listen to you read. Take turns reading the verses, and when you’re done with a book of the Bible, let the kids pick the next one. Taking turns will foster ownership of the entire Bible Study; your kids will look forward to their turn to choose the next book you read together.
Teens are ready for serious Bible Study, so think about tackling the major books by category: Pentateuch, Prophets, Wisdom Lit, Gospels, and Letters. That’s five categories (3 from Old Testament + 2 from New Testament) which you could run through over the last five years of homeschool (8th-12th grades). For example, study the first five books of the Bible (Pentateuch) when your oldest is in 8th grade, and the NT Letters when he’s a senior. You could assign your teens independent reading (example: each ’tween and teen reads the book of Romans in March/April during quiet time), then when you come together as a family at table, study the book together.
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Does studying Scripture have first place in your homeschool? There are so many riches to discover together which will not only transform each of you, but will also knit your hearts and minds together in Christian love and fellowship. Plus don’t forget the promise of Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go; when he is old, he will not depart from it.” You want to do all that you can now to equip your child so that when he faces the big, bad world as a college freshman, he’s prepared to stand firm.
How has your family incorporated Bible study in your homeschool planning? Leave a comment below about your own teaching strategies…let’s get a conversation going to sharpen each other!
P.S. I’m sure you’ve heard of Courtney’s Bible studies over at Women Living Well (“Good Morning Girls” ages 10+), but guess what? There are clues in her recent posts that she might just be working on a younger children’s Bible study..can’t wait! 🙂
FREE Study Guide: How to Teach Church History
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