First, let me apologize for the lack of involvement on the part of myself with the blogosphere. Life has been very, very busy. I am still alive, and I hope to write more often now that things seem to have simmered down.
As you may have read, I had been reviewing and practicing Olive Branch Books’ Telling God’s Story: Teaching Your Children the Bible shaped by scholar Peter Enns. My wife and I spent time by going through seven of the lessons (one lesson per week, as designed) with my three year old daughter. I read the Parent’s Guide, and we have done multiple activities surrounding the seven lessons. I am convinced that this curriculum is the best I’ve encountered for a number of reasons, not least, the ones listed below. I highly recommend that you pick up all three parts of the curriculum and begin walking through the Bible with your children. Let’s start with the negative then move to the positive–
What I Didn’t Like:
- Materials: for some of the crafts, the materials aren’t things I have at home. I don’t have mustard seeds so I either had to skip the mustard mashed potatoes craft or go buy some. I chose to buy some. I don’t mind buying some of the items, but, for a curriculum designed to be used for the home, it wasn’t always easy pulling off the crafts.
- Coloring pages: The pictures on the pages are great. The verse reference is at the bottom, but that doesn’t help me remember the “point” of the story. If the story is about when Jesus calmed the storm, and if the point is “Jesus has God’s power to control creation,” then perhaps it would be better to put the “point” at the bottom, instead of, the verse reference.
- For young children only: at this point, the curriculum has been developed for 1-5 graders. If you want something for your middle schooler, you may have to go elsewhere. However, you never know. A middle schooler could enjoy this.
What I Loved:
- It starts with Jesus. I know this sounds like an obvious statement, but most Bible curricula begin with the Old Testament (e.g., Adam and Eve naked in the Garden of Eden talking to snake) and move to the New Testament over time. The problem with this method is, first, the NT authors read the OT in light of Jesus so starting with the OT stands outside of this tradition. Second, the stories of the OT become perceived as “childish”–a snake talking? We know snakes don’t talk, Dad. A flood and a boat–that’s cute. A shepherd boy kills a giant–reminds me of Jack and the Beanstalk. Third, some of the stories in the OT are not “Mom-approved,” in that, Mom probably doesn’t want little Johnny to be learning about Judah and Tamar. There will be a time for that, but not before bedtime.
- The activities were fun and multi-dimensional. During my time with the books, my daughter has colored pictures, made mustard mashed potatoes (i.e., faith like a mustard seed), learned the first five books of the NT, and made numerous crafts. The activities aren’t all crafts or all coloring pages, but they are multi-dimensional, which should suit many different learning styles.
- You don’t need to be a scholar to teach from the lesson. The books are written in such a way that the average lay person can communicate the material. Also, each lesson starts with a word to the parents, which provides the parent with a brief understanding of the point of the stories.
- You don’t need a flannelgraph. ‘Nuff said. Talk about things you don’t have at home.
- It sets up children with the proper tools to begin to study Scripture. I know this sounds strange, but, from what I gather, our children learn cute stories about the Bible, learn a few verses, grow up and go to high school and college, and are rather ill-equipped for serious Bible study. I’ve dealt with this on a number of occasions when a student goes to State school, takes a Bible as Literature course, and are blown away when they read the Epic of Gilgamesh. However, the plan for this curriculum is to develop over the years to provide children and their parents with resources to give them the proper tools for study as they mature.
- It can be used at home and church: I personally believe that it is my wife and my responsibility to teach our children about Jesus. However, we are often stuck on where to begin. This curriculum provides us with great resources and fun activities. Also, it’s partially the responsibility of the church to teach my children the way of Jesus so to have a curriculum that can be used at church on Sunday and then home throughout the week is worth its weight in gold (so to speak).
I don’t like to say, “Parents, go out and buy this,” but go out and buy this curriculum. It’s a great place to start. It offers excellent resources. The interpretations, for one, aren’t simplistic–understandable, yes; simplistic, no. Olive Branch Books should be proud of this resource, and I, personally, will be continuing to use this with my children.