Studying Scripture is essential for every Christian family, but the Christian homeschooling family often asks, “How do I teach Bible class in my homeschool?”
Like most homeschool families, we immediately started searching for a Bible curriculum. An organized program is like a security blanket. It makes us feel as though all bases will be covered, and there will be no knowledge gaps. Teaching involves little to no elbow grease, as lesson plans are already laid out. We have confidence someone with expertise has chosen this material for a specific reason, and approved it for publishing. After all, how many of us homeschooling parents are theologians or curriculum publishers?
As we searched for Bible curriculum, we found discrepancies between what we believe to be Scriptural and what the curriculum was teaching. Many were shallow, or had an obvious gimmick. The emphasis was sometimes inconsistent with our values and priorities. The format and illustrations were often too cartoonish or too trite, and some felt disrespectful.
In addition, our budget was severely strained because we had become a one-income family for the purpose of homeschooling. High quality Bible curriculum always seemed too far out of our price range. This was discouraging, because hey—we are talking about the Bible here. Who wants to feel like a cheapskate when they are looking for ways to teach their child the most important lessons they will ever learn about the most important Book ever written?
As we moved toward a more delight-directed homeschool, we applied the same thinking to Bible study as we did to other subject areas. We were concerned that instead of our children feeling the guidance of the Holy Spirit or applying critical thinking skills to their Bible studies, they would just be reading the selected passages, then filling in the blanks of pre-chosen questions with Teacher’s Edition approved answers.
There are some subjects for which a textbook approach is sensible. But for Bible study, we eventually realized textbooks aren’t a homeschool necessity. We found the best resources for Bible study in our homeschool were a Bible, a Bible dictionary, a concordance, and a notebook.
We may not be trained theologians, but we weren’t trying to create theologians—we just wanted our kids to read the Bible and learn how to interpret and apply what they’d read. There’s a cart, and there’s a horse, and we just needed to get them hitched in the right order, not win the Kentucky Derby.
We created a simple plan for how we would teach and learn about Scripture with our kids, and followed it for many years, adding some solid theology books to our home library as our kids got older. As a result, we have never purchased Bible curriculum in 22 years of homeschooling.
Our Homeschool Bible Study Plan
When the kids were young, we started with basic Bible facts, such as the Books of the Bible, divisions of books, geographical and cultural information about the Middle East, and author information.
A Bible reading schedule, such as this chronological approach, was one of our favorite tools.
We bought a Bible and World History timeline poster for the wall of our home library. This alone provided hours of conversation and sparked many questions for independent research.
We helped our kids learn the meaning and context of common terms (sometimes referred to as ‘Christianese’) used to discuss Scripture such as preservation, dispensations, and eternal security.
Biographies have always been an important part of Bible study to us, as these give real life examples of how people applied Scripture in their own lives.
We chose Bible passages for memorization that were important to us personally, or were doctrinally or culturally significant, such as Genesis 1, Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 13, and Psalm 23.
Mostly we read the Bible together and talked about what we read. With each chapter or passage, we followed a simple formula:
- What is taking place in this passage?
- What choices have been made, and what were the consequences of those actions?
- What are the overarching themes?
- Which verse stands out to you as most important?
- Is there a word or idea that is repeated?
- Are there direct applications or commands for us to obey?
- Are there direct or prophetic references to Jesus Christ?
- Are there promises being made? To whom and for what eventual purpose?
- Did you learn something new?
The kids could write notes in their notebooks about anything they found interesting, wanted to research further, or needed to meditate on or pray about privately. It made Bible study more personal than a fill-in-the-blank workbook.
Our plan worked for each child at every age and stage of development. We read together, recited the books of the Bible together, and said our memory passages together. Our younger children learned from the questions the older ones asked, and vice/versa. It naturally opened up opportunities to share our struggles and pray for each other.
We did have some problems. For a time, we fell into a common parenting trap; feeling as though we must present ourselves as The Keepers of All Knowledge, especially Bible knowledge. We needed to get over the idea that admitting our ignorance was a sign of weakness instead of an opportunity to search the Scriptures with our children to find answers.
We learned the hard way that children ask some very tough questions. During many of our parenting years, we were in a church that emphasized parental authority of the “Shut up and do what you’re told because I said so” kind. But we knew our kids, and could see they weren’t challenging our authority or the authority of Scripture when they asked us about apparent contradictions, or passages that didn’t make sense to them, or how what they were reading could possibly be relevant to them (haven’t we all asked the same questions in our head?).
We found it much more beneficial, for them and for us, to assume they were struggling with a particular concept and were sharing their confusion with us. We didn’t want an environment where they hid their lack of understanding out of embarrassment or fear we would be disappointed or angry with them. The more emotionally invested they were in the question, the more passionate they were about it, and we learned to interpret these deep feelings as a good thing.
For our Bible class, there were no assignments, quizzes, or tests. The point was for them to delve into Scripture for the sake of learning and developing good habits, not to complete a course for a grade.
One of the side effects of this method was the joy of learning together and bonding over shared experiences. Our Bible class wasn’t stressful, expensive, or labor intensive, so it was pleasant for all of us.
I’m sure after all these years there are many Bible study programs for young people that are doctrinally accurate, thorough, respectful to Scripture, and purvey the deeper truths of the Bible. If you find a Bible curriculum that fits your family, use it.
However, for us, simple was best, and I highly recommend trying this Do It Yourself Bible class with your homeschooling family.