How to Teach Your Home School Bible Class Without Curriculum

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.

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There are 7 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'm sure it's hard for publishers to target different audiences w/the curriculum they produce, but my guess is that there would be a large chunk of homeschooling believers who would be better served by "curriculum" that aims to help parents develop their own Bible lessons. Likewise with Sunday school teachers, I think. As the cliche goes, why give a teacher fish when you can teach the teacher to catch fish?

My opinion on this is certainly influenced by my own experience: I have never found a curriculum that didn't feel like I was trying to wear Saul's armor. By the time I was done "making it fit," it seemed like it would have been more efficient to make it from scratch. Which is what I've done 99% of the time for a couple of decades.

Teach teachers--especially parents--to develop, build, and deliver lessons, not hand them prefabs.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I think it would be much better for parents to become students with their children than try to stand 'in front of the class' and lecture, or just hand their kids a workbook and wave them off to their desks. There are many Bible study programs aimed at adults, but they aren't marketed in a way that parents recognize them as educational tools for their kids as well. 

What's more, the Bible is a 'subject' unlike any other, because it's aimed at the soul as much as the mind and heart. So much of understanding Scripture is the work of the Holy Spirit, so it's been more productive for us to read, discuss, and work on study and critical thinking skills than plow through a curriculum that's mostly fill-in-the-blank. I want to get out of the way, so to speak, and see what the Lord does for my kids.

By the way, I posted this article on my blog with a free downloadable printable of the resources we used and questions we discussed after reading, so if you are interested, head on over and download it. 

 

Bert Perry's picture

.....is all 564 volumes of the doctrines of the Magisterium directly from Rome.  :^)

Just kidding.  I'm with Aaron, except I may be even harsher on published curricula; the good ones are those that just spoon feed ideas.  The bad ones are those where the ideas being spoon fed are laughably wrong.  One of my favorite ones from a couple of years ago was a guy trying to argue that Isaiah 58 was actually a list of reasons to perform ritual fasting.  He also argued--as the video accompanying made clear he was carrying 50-100 extra pounds--that he'd overcome his "addiction" to food.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I think the worst is the stuff published for kids and teens. So much of it is gimmick, and attempts to bowl the kids over with its coolness and hipster relevance. I love pop culture, and references to it for the purposes of application are fine, but the next thing you know there will be a Star Wars Bible that looks like R2D2, and that'll be OK because "At least the kids are reading it." I'm not sure the ends justifies those means. 

Bert Perry's picture

.....for the "Eddie" themed Bible.  (think Iron Maiden)

Going far afield, it strikes me that about the same thing is in play when a popular teacher/preacher puts his name on a study Bible. At least my "Eddie the Head Study Bible", and your "R2D2 Study Bible", make it clear that the whole thing is a farce.  

I hope.  :^)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I think when our faith is in a theologian, Bible publisher, curriculum, or angels forfend - a marketing schtick - we got troubles. Hence my extreme reluctance to use curriculum - it's very easy to become dependent on a course, formula, or program.  

I talk to homeschool moms frequently who fret about how they should teach the Bible. They are afraid they'll do it wrong; that they will say the wrong thing and their child will be damned for eternity or go off into some crazy heresy. I don't think I have that much power, and IMO it would take more than one or two bumblings to affect a child's entire spiritual future. 

I blame the era of parenting formulas, when if you read this amazing book and used that family's methods, you were assured of raising Godly children who would grow up to be successful adults. (I think the secret was really in the matching wardrobes.) Now people are scared to death to do what they believe is right - they need a Christian celebrity to tell them what to do.

Now I've gone to meddlin'...

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

On the youth group curric I've seen... yes! So, so over-packaged.  (Or to switch metaphors, all frosting, no cake)

Back when I was doing youth work, I tried out several options to try to lighten the prep load (I was still doing seminary full time at the time... and working a job). The publishers were trying hard to get kids engaged through learning activities. I appreciated their motives. But there's an educational principle they seemed to have forgotten: the more time and energy you put into making the content palatable, easy, and memorable, the less time and energy you have for the actual content. We always have to try to balance that... but there's a pt. where you have to say "I'll do what I can to help but from this pt. on it's up to you as a student to make good use of this opportunity."

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