Finding a way to do Bible Studies

Finding a way to do our Bible studies has been a constant study for me.  I like the Heart of Wisdom concept of reading through the Bible, beginning to end.  I like the Charlotte Mason concept of not presenting twaddle as a lesson but let the children narrate though I also believe in instructing my children.  I like the idea of integrating our language arts and research into any subject – including Bible.  With each of these educational concepts comes a tension with the next. 


Over the years there have been times when we have stopped Bible Study as a part of our morning lesson time as it was becoming too educational – too much head knowledge and not enough heart.  But I want my kids to learn the Bible, I want them to create a Bible Notebook – where is the balance?


We’ve stumbled over being consistent with a study time because we seem to be just doing Sunday school lessons, of which my older ones already knew anyway. These times really did seem like my lesson plans were twaddle and that my children, even my youngest, was able to understand God’s Word deeper than this.


I’ve baulked at doing “Bible” together as a family because the oldest wants to discuss really deep stuff and my youngest is just getting to know God.  If I don’t encourage the deep conversation I am not doing the best for Josh but when I encourage his rabbit trails I loose the other kids’ attention. 


My own heart for my Christian relationships is to be able to chat the Bible – can my family do that?  I want the Bible to be seen as accessible as I want any book to be seen by my children.  Which is why I enjoy the Narrated Chronological Bible for this situation – it reads like a story.  The Bible has become one of our read alouds.


With all these jumbling thoughts I am arriving at a place where our family has a time for Bible Study.  We also have a time for Devotions and for Character studies.  We don’t necessarily do Bible Study every day – for example, when we are introducing a new Character trait we don’t do Bible Study for that week.  We often do a Devotional before we begin our Bible Study and these Devotionals deal with our own hearts a little more directly than the Bible Study often does.


In balancing all those thoughts, we are starting to establish a routine where Bible Study is a priority, and it actually happens in our life, rather than just in my plans!  We are reading through the Bible, at our own pace, stopping to discuss anyone’s thoughts – including my own as we go.  I often pose a question to see where the children’s thinking is.   This is the chatting aspect that I want to encourage.  We go on rabbit trails.  If it is going deeper than I think the whole group can handle I take a note and Josh and I (and sometimes Jess) get back there later on.  


Afterwards I expect a narration from Daniel and then from Naomi, sometimes this generates a question or subject that warrants a Notebook page as an “output”.    Often we pull out Bible reference books to check out a map, a custom, or to answer a question.  Josh and Jess write something about the day’s reading generally about 2-3 times a week, often this requires further research on their behalf as well.  They enjoy doodling or sketching through the reading time and this often leads to a Notebook page in itself.  These activities are the children’s language arts and research for the day.  All of the children have other opportunities to read, write and research throughout most days.  I can be confident that if that is all we get done for the day they have covered their basics.

But it is about more than covering the basics – it is about instilling the Word of God in their hearts, it is about introducing God and His character to my children, it is about developing a habit of reading God’s Word, of thinking about the world from His perspective.  These skills are far more reaching than “language arts”.


Some of the other things that have helped me come to a functioning place have been as I have found the balance between making lesson plans (because I believe in intentionally instructing my children in the things of God) and going with their narrations (because I believe they are capable of thinking great thoughts especially if I don’t present them with twaddle!)  The older two children need instruction – they are well read when it comes to the Bible, especially the Old Testament and I want them to start to think more, I want them to start making connections, especially with the New Testament.


I have found a Bible Study guide/overview and I am using this as my reference base.  We are dividing the Bible Story (story in the sense that is God’s Story) into different sections, different eras.  At the end of each era we are taking a Notebooking week.  This is particularly for Josh and Jess to do further study and recording.  During this week, with the younger children, I review some of the Bible Stories that I want them to remember, or maybe ones I feel we glossed over a bit in the reading aloud of the Bible.  Once I am happy the younger two have a grip on the stories from that era we work on a character issue, or devotional issue, such as “Love one another”, “Asking for Forgiveness”, “Getting your heart right” etc.


During this Notebooking week Josh and Jess have set assignments where they are to research and record their thoughts.  These are guided questions, and don’t require long answers.  They work together and I often hear them discussing things and sharing their answers with each other.  They don’t always do the same questions so their talking is a great opportunity to learn from each other.


Just this week I have stumbled on another technique that is helping a great deal.  In fact, I believe it has lifted the “enjoyment” factor as well.  Since I am treating our Bible Reading like a Read Aloud the children are just soaking it up, they cry for more when I close the book and they want to colour in or doodle as we go.  Initially I was giving the youngest two a colouring in sheet connected to the story that the bulk of the reading covered for that day.  Daniel in particular has a limited endurance with colouring in sheets so that was only working for some days.  This has now changed.


At the beginning of our time together I hand out an activity sheet.  This can be anything from a cutting/gluing activity, a craft-y activity, a colouring sheet, a mini-fold book etc.  But the bulk of it needs to be able to be completed independently.  When we sit down, I hand out the activity sheet and I ask for a review of what happened yesterday in our story.  I start with Daniel and go up through the ages; this often fills in the details, whereas, when I start with the oldest, Daniel is left with nothing to say as everyone else has already expressed it.


I then explain what they are to do with their activity sheet and ask them, “I wonder what happens next?”  It is a rhetorical question because though they may already know the story I really want them just to listen!


I then read the next section, discussing it as a thought arises.  I have disregarded the Reading Plan and we are just reading, enjoying it as we go.  I read for as long as our day gives us time for, or for as much content as I believe the children can soak in.


Though I have always had in my head that Bible Study was a priority in reality in our day it often got squeezed out.  One reason for this (excuse maybe!) was the conflicts of how to do it that were raging in my head.  I have come to a place where I believe our time in the Word of God is a fruitful and purposeful time.   It is actually a time that we enjoy and we come together with enthusiasm.  So now I can confidently say that our time of Bible Study is a priority both in my head and in our days.

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