Telling God's Story, Year One: Instructor Text and Teaching Guide
As Christian parents we yearn to pass our faith on to our children and know instinctively that this is one of the most significant challenges that we face. Taking our "job" seriously, we often turn to well-known curriculum options which tend to fall into one of several camps - the Bible story approach, the character study approach, the book-by-book approach, or an apologetic approach - failing to realize that by doing so we may miss the glorious "big picture." Besides just asking our children "How does this apply to you?" we need to be asking the much more important question - "What does this tell us about God?"
We are on a journey - a growing-in-faith journey - and we have the privilege of providing the love and care our children need as they begin a similar journey. The Bible is not a book primarily devoted to what we should or should not do. Rather, it is devoted to telling us who we are and how our behavior should reflect that reality. The single most important biblical concept for living the Christian life is wisdom. In their daily decision-making (just as in ours), our children will need to be able to call upon the wisdom they have been accumulating over the years - wisdom based on the whole of scripture and not on a random verse from here or there.
Telling God's Story provides a roadmap for teaching the Bible - thoughtfully and thoroughly - to our children. The Parent's Guide outlines this approach and could stand on its own as that roadmap, but it also serves as an introduction to what will ultimately become a fully developed curriculum - complete with scripted lessons, activities, and lessons plans. The Parent's Guide describes three stages of teaching the Bible. The primary emphasis of the elementary stage (grades 1-4) should be on Jesus. Teaching children about the life and message of Jesus builds a foundation that allows better understanding of the broader biblical story. So what is covered at this level? Jesus' numerous acts of mercy and compassion, the major episodes of Jesus' life, and what it means to be His follower. The middle grades (5th - 8th) are the perfect time to place Jesus within the larger context of Scripture and to look at the grand narrative as a whole. The third stage (grades 9-12) involves interacting with the Bible within its historical context. If this sounds a little like a classical pattern, you would be correct. Telling God's Story provides a thorough grounding in the Gospel Message during the grammar stage, encourages critical thought and analysis as it investigates the biblical narrative during the logic stage, and gives rhetoric-stage students the opportunity to understand both the history and implications of the biblical story.
Part Two of the Parent's Guide provides an introduction to the narrative pattern of the Bible - that larger historical context previously mentioned. The author calls the biblical narrative the "Five Acts of the Bible." These are Creation and the Fall, Abraham and Moses, David and the Problem of Kingship, The Return from Babylon, and, finally, Jesus: His birth, life, death, resurrection, and the story of His first followers.
We expect the complete K-12 scope and sequence of this Bible curriculum to be fleshed out over the coming years. Currently, Years 1-3 are available. While Year 1 is designated a first grade curriculum, it seems meaty enough to use anytime during grades 1-4 during this interim period of curriculum development. In the meantime, we're assuming that (at least) the first four years will follow the pattern we see in Year 1: Meeting Jesus by having two components. The Instructor Text & Teaching Guide (125 pgs, pb) provides the textual lesson content for 36 lessons divided into 8 units - Stories Jesus Told, Miracles Jesus Did, Teachings of Jesus, Sermon on the Mount, Jesus' Early Life, Jesus' Disciples, Opposition to Jesus, and End of Jesus' Life. Three supplemental lessons tell The Rest of the Story - the King on Trial, Crucifixion, and Jesus is Alive! Each lesson (2-3 pgs each) provides background information (orienting the parent to the biblical passage) and scripted lesson material which includes reading and discussing a scripture passage. The Student Guide and Activity Pages (405 pgs, pb) include a list of possible activities to reinforce the text lesson. A wide variety with a different selection for each lesson is provided. Among the possibilities are art history (b/w art reproductions included), music, crafts, history, memory work, science, cooking and games. For each project there is a list of materials needed, easy-to-follow directions, and illustrations where applicable. All patterns or worksheets (well-done, by the way) are provided and reproducible (for families). Coloring pages (also well-done and reproducible) are provided for each lesson with the assumption that the student will be coloring while the parent/teacher is reading through the scripted lesson. Teacher prep is very minimal - just become familiar with the information and gather a few household-type supplies. [There are master lists of materials needed for all projects in the beginning of the Guide.] Since the lesson material is designed to be covered over a week's time, lesson plans are simple - read the lesson on the first day and complete projects on the second and third days. Since there are at least 4-5 projects for each lesson, instruction could be spread over 4-5 days if preferred. This material could be easily adapted to a classroom setting since there are both group and one-on-one projects provided.
Each day includes a reading for the parent to read through ahead of time, a Bible passage (included in the text) and an explanation of the text for the kids. It probably takes less than 10 minutes to read, but the lessons are thoughtful and spur good discussions.
The activity guide contains a coloring page for each lesson, plus assorted activities. There are usually a few options for each lesson, and they may include games, worksheets, group activities, cooking projects, service ideas memory work and art/craft projects. I highly recommend the activity guide along with the text, to help the kids really remember the lessons.
The material is solid with nothing questionable. It's all appropriate and relevant for the age level, and the parent notes include lots of interesting material--I always learn something. If the passage they're highlighting has anything questionable in it (for instance, a reference to a prostitute), the author warns the parent in advance and gives a suggestion for how to skip that part for now, or simply rephrase it in a way that doesn't change the meaning. Of course, parents are left to their own discretion--they can always read the full passage.
-I adore the approach of learning about Jesus' life, ministry and teaching, rather than tackling the super-tough Old Testament topics (my kids ask a lot of questions that are hard to answer, even for adults, about the Old Testament). The kids always "get it" right away and apply to lessons to everyday life.
-We love the story-like, conversational approach. It feels much more natural than filling out a worksheet, which I think is important for this subject matter.
-The activities are usually fun and memorable. We don't always do an activity, but when we do we enjoy it.
-It's easy enough that I never hesitate to actually do it.
-It's not really enough material for a week--we only spend one day on each lesson, although you could do more, and there are some extra lessons included. This works for us, because we also like to do our own memory work independently of this study, and sometimes we take a break around Christmas to do an advent study. But if you want more of a 4- or 5-day curriculum, this probably won't cover that unless you supplement with some of your own material.
Overall, a solid, enjoyable curriculum that builds our relationship with each other and has really fostered a love of Jesus in my kids!