Monday, July 9, 2018

Bible Study Guide For All Ages

Homeschooling means that we can focus our days on matters that are most important to us. We don't do a lot of structured schooling during the summer months, but this review fits perfectly with those priority learning experiences that we continue all year long.

The kids have their individual studies and interests, but my favorite times are those when we learn together, especially for our Bible lessons. There's just something so special about reading God's Word as a family. Learning those stories that happened so long ago and committing verses to memory in our hearts are things that I want my little ones to remember about our daily Bible times. We've used a handful of resources over the years, but we're currently using the Bible Study Guide For All Ages. And even though the company truly offers guides "for all ages," we're using the Intermediate (3rd & 4th grade) and Beginner (3-K) lessons.

The first Bible Study Guide was published in 1980 when Mary Baker wrote her own curriculum to help both her four children and her church's class learn and understand the Bible. Over the years, the curriculum expanded as it became a family project. Though the guides have developed and improved since that first one decades ago, the core values have not changed. Their goal is to help people of all ages understand the Bible as they apply it to their own lives.

The curriculum spans the entire Bible from the Old Testament to the New. There are 416 lessons that are broken into sets of 26 lessons. The curriculum covers the same material from the little ones on up, so it's simple to use with multiple ages together. Everyone can learn the same lesson at their own level. Also, when a student moves up a grade, he simply continues with the next lesson in the curriculum, but at the higher level.

We've been using the first set of 26 lessons, which cover Joseph, Daniel, and the early life of Jesus. (You can find the full order of study on their website.) I was able to choose which levels I wanted to use with my kids. I could have chosen the appropriate options per their grade levels, but that would have meant I was teaching 4 different levels. Yes, like I said, the curriculum is designed specifically to be compatible all across the board, but there are still differences, and differences mean extra work. Sometimes you just need a little simplicity, especially trying to keep track of a toddler and teach 4 kids who are in summer mode. Ha. All that to say, I chose the Intermediate Level (3rd & 4th grades) for my older kids and the Beginner Level for my kindergartner. Since the guides are flexible enough to use with a broader range of ages, I felt this way would work well for not only my kids, but me, as well.

The student pages guide you through the lessons. The booklets are printed on legal-size paper and are lightly glue-bound for easily tearing out the worksheets. The Beginner lessons follow this format:
  • Learn the Basics -- teaches a simple fact about a person or event from the Bible
  • Sing and Remember -- reiterates memory work, a song, and review questions
  • Get Active -- promotes excitement and introduces the truth taught in the lesson
  • My Bible -- replaces the Get Active portion every 4 lessons and produces familiarity with the Bible
  • Discover the Bible -- teaches the Bible lesson
  • Apply It! -- helps the student apply the lesson to his own life  

The Intermediate Level has a different setup:
  • Remember It? -- reviews important details from previous lessons
  • Memory Workout -- drills general information about the Bible
  • Guess What... -- provides definitions and historical facts that are pertinent to the lesson
  • Discover the Bible -- teaches the Bible lesson
  • Time Line -- helps the student understand the time frame by visually seeing the events in order
  • Maps -- teaches where events take place
  • Get Active -- allows the student to do something fun and challenging while apply the lesson
  • Apply It! -- helps the student apply the lesson to his own life
The front page of the levels vary quite a bit, but the backs are fairly similar. The entire back page is filled with the Discover the Bible section. The various points of the story are divided by boxes and are shown through pictures. The Beginner Level instructs the student to color specific parts, trace portions, circle the correct picture, or draw simple accents. The Intermediate Level also includes those aspects, but incorporates more difficult skills such as filling in missing letters, writing answers, crossing off incorrect answers, connecting matches, and more.

The are teacher keys to accompany each set of lessons. The pages look identical to the student versions, except that the answers are given. The Intermediate Level teacher key (the only level we received) shows the answers in bold black just as though a student filled out the page. Having the key also helps the teacher to guide the lesson easily.

There is an impressive wall map and timeline set that you can purchase, but with the time line over 6 feet long and 2 feet tall along with maps, we opted to use only the smaller versions provided on the student pages. (But how I wish we had the room for them!) However, the Beginner Level includes Time Line Cards that we were able to utilize. Each of the 34 cards shows a picture of a major event or person in the biblical timeline. Under the picture is a question that corresponds with each card and helps to trigger facts that the student has learned.

The Bible Book Summary Cards are another fun aspect of this curriculum. These flash cards teach an important summary of each book of the Bible. The front of the cards shows one or more pictures; the back lists a brief explanation of what is shown. Also on the back side is a list of questions that the teacher can ask to review the highlights. The cards are available in 3 sizes to meet every need. There is one card for each book, so naturally, there are 66 summary cards included.

As a teacher, I have found it very easy to use the Bible Study Guide For All Ages. There's not a lot of prep work, as all the information to lead the lesson is given clearly and is easy to follow. Since we do not have the wall map and timeline set, we simply skip over those portions in the lesson. Also, since we're using this as a family as opposed to a Sunday School class or study group, we have to be a bit flexible with the Get Active sections by either adapting them or skipping them altogether.

Because the Beginner Level and Intermediate Level have different stories in the Apply It! sections, it makes it tricky to balance the two. I have my Beginner sit next to me at the table so I can work through his page with him while the others are filling in things on their pages. We follow the same format on the back Discover the Bible sections, too, because even though the pictures are similar, the students have different expectations. Everything else we do together following the Intermediate Level guide.

The only thing I truly do not like about this curriculum is the actual booklets. The awkwardness of the legal size pages makes it difficult to store. Also, since the booklets are lightly glue-bound for easy tearing, there is no way for the booklet to stay together. My kids enjoy looking through their pages for review, but that is impossible as even the cover tore off by the second lesson. And since the pages are larger, they will not fit into a folder or binder so the kids can keep them. Even my teacher key is falling apart, so it would be very difficult to reuse year after year, either in a homeschool setting or especially in a church.

That issue aside though, we are loving these guides! My kids ask daily if we're doing a Bible lesson. Like I said, for simplicity's sake, I dropped my oldest down a couple levels. He would definitely benefit more from a higher level, because I do think the levels themselves are accurate for the grades.

I personally love that the timeline and map activities are included in every lesson as those things will give the kids a better grasp of the stories. This curriculum really hits all the important aspects. Along with those two things, it includes memory work, application, and details about the books themselves and the individual stories. The Bible Study Guide For All Ages truly is a quality curriculum and a joy to use.  

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You can read more reviews of this Bible curriculum on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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