I often get questions about Bible curriculum for homeschooling, and my response usually isn’t what everyone is looking for. But stay with me. There are lots of curricula out there, and I’ve tried a few. They weren’t horrible, but they weren’t what I really wanted for my kids. My philosophy, as a mom, is this: teaching the Bible to your children is not just something on your school curriculum list. For Christian parents, it should be top priority in every day.
A thorough knowledge of the Bible is the foundation of all clear views of religion. He that is well grounded in it will not generally waiver; he will not be carried about by every wind of new doctrine. Any system of training that does not make knowledge of Scripture its priority is unsafe and unsound.
If you love your children, let the simple Bible be everything in the training of their souls and let all other books take second place. (J.C. Ryle, The Duties of Parents)
Too often I hear of parents who use only “Bible videos” or devotionals and call it their curriculum. I beg you, use those as an extra tool, not the main tool. A Bible curriculum should begin with the Bible itself, and should make use of study helps along the way.
So I have a formula for teaching the Bible, and it can be accomplished with different resources. I’ll explain each one in order, and several ways to accomplish it. The first steps will apply to beginners (of any age), so if your child has already completed one step, move on to the next. These steps could also apply to parents who have never made a habit of regular Bible study.
Memorize the Books of the Bible
This seems simple and maybe unimportant, but knowing how to find scriptures quickly is extremely beneficial to all the rest of Bible study. We simply teach memorization through repetition. I’ll start with the first five books of the Old Testament, and then add the next three, and then the “first and seconds” of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, and so on. Breaking it up into little sections makes it easier.
You could use a song that teaches children to sing the books of the Bible in order, but I learned through my husband’s experience that singing (or rapping!) may be the only way your child will remember. That’s up to you!
For projects like this, we promise the kids a fun reward when they accomplish it, like an ice-cream outing or something.
Once your kids have memorized the order of the books, let them practice with Bible drills. Call out scripture references and let everyone race to be the first to find — and read aloud — the verse. Explain that each book is divided up into chapters, and the chapters are divided into verses. This is for easy reading and reference.
Younger kids will be a bit slower, but give them time to learn the scripture reference system. Conduct drills for a few minutes several times a week until they understand and become quicker.
Understanding The Bible
Now it’s time to give your children an overview of the Bible — how it’s arranged, the different types of books (law, poetry, prophecy, etc.) and how it all tells God’s story.
My favorite resource for this is the Picture Smart Bible! It’s a fun way to introduce each book of the Bible by explaining what the book is about through pictures. It’s great for all ages; I’ve used it from preschool to high school, because there are ways to tailor it to older and younger children.
How it Works
Each book of the Bible has a one-page illustration for the child to fill in. The pictures provide a way to remember key elements of that book. Additionally, there is a set of instructions for teaching each book.
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How We Use It
As I said, this program works for all ages, and I have always done this in a group setting with all of my children. For the older kids, I give them the “outline illustration” to do the drawing and writing themselves. The younger kids (if they are too young to accurately “draw” or write) will get the worksheet with bold lines, and they just color it like a coloring page.
I have used two Bibles: a regular study Bible (we love the James MacArthur NKJV study Bible) as well as the Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos. The Child’s StoryBible flows so perfectly with Picture Smart, and even highlights many of the same important themes throughout. And I love that it’s a gentle story/paraphrase of the Bible, sometimes quoting scripture verse for verse.
Using the parent study guide, I walk my kids through each section of the illustration, reading the Bible and telling them which parts to draw and what to write. The “hands-on” activity is so helpful in reinforcing what they learn. I will also ask the kids to look up scriptures in their Bibles. At the end, I like to quiz them on each book by asking them to narrate the book based on the illustrations.
The Picture Smart Study Bible program also includes various maps, plus other graphics for further study, like a Books of the Bible page, illustrations of the temple, a study of the years in between the Old and New Testaments, and more.
Learning Basic Theology
After kids have an understanding of the people, places, and events of the Bible, they are ready for basic theology. One of the best ways to teach this is with a catechism. We like to use the Westminster Shorter Catechism. It is a wonderful walk through what we believe and where those beliefs are found in Scripture.
“Christian children mainly need to be taught the doctrines, precepts, and life of the gospel; they require divine truth to be put before them clearly and forcibly. Why should the higher doctrines, the doctrines of grace, be kept back from them? These doctrines are not merely structural bones; or if they are, they are full of marrow and covered with fatness.
Our responsibility is to make doctrine simple; this is a main part of our work. Teach the little ones the whole truth and nothing but the truth, for instruction is the great desire of the child’s nature.” (Charles Spurgeon, Come Ye Children)
You can purchase the catechism in many formats, such as books and eBooks, or even complete Bible studies. I simply printed this free copy for my kids. Each child was given a spiral notebook with their copy, and they study it by copying down the questions and answers, along with scripture proofs. Their instructions are to memorize the questions and answers by saying them a few times each day, and to copy down the scripture proofs with their references.
This solidifies the basic theology of the church by reading, writing, and saying it. It’s simple and yet very deep.
I believe this is one of the most vital ways to shape your worldview because it’s lasting. When we memorize anything, it’s rarely forgotten. In the case of scriptures, you may memorize and then move on with your life, but at some point those sacred words will come back to you in an hour of need. I know this from my own experience.
My mom began teaching me to memorize chapters or long sections of Scripture when I was about 11 or 12. We did a new section each month: Psalms, the Christmas story in Luke 2, sections of New Testament letters, etc. These have been invaluable to me my entire adulthood; and in an age where so many Christians are so easily led astray by trends and popular speakers, I can say that Scripture memory has given me a solid foundation to avoid falling for false teachings.
Your word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against You. (Psalm 119:11)
You can start small and simple. Download my list of 25 easy scriptures to memorize. From there, you can do a couple of different things: let your children choose their next memorization from their own reading or catechism, or begin to search out longer sections from the Old and New Testaments.
The process is pretty simple: read, repeat, read, repeat, read, repeat. There are many more elaborate ideas and programs on the web, but the reality is you just need to see and say it repeatedly to memorize. With my children, I’ll say a sentence or phrase once or twice, ask them to repeat it back to me, and then do it again. As they memorize two or three sections, we’ll put them all together and practice that. If they can read, I print a copy of the Scripture for them to hang up in their bedroom to look at daily.
Encourage Independent Bible Study
When you have proficient readers, they can begin to read the Bible on their own. Some kids will want to start at the beginning and read all the way through. Don’t discourage them! It’s a worthy goal and you can assist them. Other kids may want to start with something easy, or maybe with a particular favorite story or topic. That’s okay, too. Encourage them to start and to be consistent. Their reading level with determine how much they read each day: maybe a few verses or maybe 2-3 chapters.
Consider supplying them with a few goodies to make it special, like Bible highlighters, colored pens for underlining, or a journal to write down notes or favorite verses. Show them how to make it personal.
Lead the Way
In every part of training your children, be their leader. Teach them how to read the Bible and model it for them by letting them see you reading your Bible. Be prepared to answer their questions, even if that means saying, “I don’t know, but let’s find the answer together.”
One of my favorite books on this is Expository Parenting by Josh Niemi. He explains the beauty of teaching our children the Bible by reading it together verse by verse, from beginning to end. This is important, whether your children are doing a personal Bible study or not.
In the book, Niemi makes the case for parental responsibility in training our children. Not the Sunday School or the youth group, but parents. I agree wholeheartedly. While those classes and groups are fun and can definitely be a source of training, they should never be the only source for the children of Christian parents.
And like the quotes from Ryle and Spurgeon, above point out, don’t fall for the idea that your kids can’t learn theology. They can.
“You can rest assured that if a student is capable of learning trigonometry or biology then he or she is capable of learning ecclesiology (the doctrine of the Church), pneumatology (the doctrine of the Holy Spirit), or eschatology (the doctrine of the end times). And rather than viewing systematic theology as an esoteric subject meant only for pastors and seminarians, your kids will recognize that they are simply learning the deep truths of the Bible meant for believers of all ages to learn, ponder, and ultimately enjoy to the glory of God.” (Josh Niemi, Expository Parenting)
As Christian parents, we cannot take this responsibility too lightly. All throughout the Bible, God is clear on the command to train our children up with His word.
And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
God bless you as you spend some time each day training your children in the Scriptures!