One of the great things about writing reviews is being introduced to all kinds of new companies and products. I don't know about you, but I tend to get into a rut and use the same thing over and over. This year, I not only got to interview one but two products from Classical Academic Press. Next month, I'll be sharing about their poetry curriculum which I am just starting with Matthew. But for today, we are going to take a look at their Bible curriculum for children! I would highly recommend this not only for homeschooling families but for any Christian home.
Company Information: Classical Academic Press's motto is "Classical subjects creatively taught." Their products include many of the traditional classical subjects such as Greek, Latin, and logic for children from kindergarten through high school. Their goal is to bridge these classical studies from years past using today's technology so that it brings "the life-giving wisdom of the ancient world to the thirsty soul of our own modern culture." If you are interested in learning more about classical education, their website has some excellent audio recordings and essays on socratic dialogue and learning on their Free Resources page. You'll definitely want to check those out. (The
Product Reviewed: God's Great Covenant Bible Curriculum for Children, Old Testament Volume 2, along with the Teacher's Edition (both softcovers) and mp3 Audio Book download, narrated by Christpher Perrin (publisher of Classical Academic Press). This curriculum is written by Claire A. Larsen and comes from a covenantal and reformed perspective. The volume I looked at covered the second half of the Old Testament, from 1 Samuel to Malachi. (There is an Old Testament volume 1 that covers from Genesis to Ruth and a New Testament book that covers Gospels. It sounds like a second New Testament volume is in the works.) There is also an optional Old Testament Timeline and Map Set that accompanies the Old Testament series.
The book is divided into 32 weekly chapters, covering five themed units. Each lesson includes a weekly memory verse, vocabulary to learn, a "Message from the King" to guide in applying the story to the student's life today, a paraphrased version of the Bible story (which is read aloud in the mp3 downloads), review worksheets and a quiz.
The teacher's edition not only provides answer keys, but additional facts to help expand what is covered in the student text. The optional maps cover a variety of topics that help visualize the landscape of Bible times so that your children can see (among other things) the movements of troops, the wanderings of the Jews, and the division of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms.
Price: The three items I reviewed can be purchased as a set for $49.95 or individually ($22.95 for the student book, $24.95 for the teacher book, and $9.95 for the audio book download). I ended up purchasing the optional map set that goes along with this series myself for $36.95.
Age Range: suggested age range--Grades 3 to 6. However, younger children may enjoy listening to the mp3 audios alongside their older siblings!
Parental Preparation: As with teaching any Bible curriculum, the more you invest in personal preparation, the more confident you will be when you share it with your children and the richer it will be for you as the parent. If you do so, you may not need the Teacher's Edition. However, I found the Teacher's guide a very helpful and valuable resource, full of extra information, which I would read or skim quickly before starting the lesson with Matthew. But if you cannot even do that, you can simply read the Teacher's Guide as your child looks at the student text.
How We Used It: For the purposes of this review, I used this as a mini unit study on the life of David. For this reason, I did not start at the beginning of the book as I usually do. As my son already has some background into the lives of Samuel and King Saul, I felt that it was all right to jump into Chapter 4. We went through chapter 4 through 7 (a review chapter), which covered the early life of David before he became king.
Even as a young boy, my Matthew looked up to David. I remember him at the age of two, acting out the story of David and Goliath, with all of us taking various roles. He, of course, was David. To make this review meaningful to him and not just something that he was doing for me, I thought we'd learn more about this man who was after God's own heart.
Although the site included a five-day lesson plan suggestion, I opted to structure it my own way. Every day, for about 20 minutes each day, we would spend some time working on some part of the lesson. I usually would start the week by going through the first page of the lesson, the memory verse, and the key facts. I would also read the "Read to Me" passage straight from the Bible first. The second day, we would listen to the mp3 audio while reading along in the student text. I did it this way so that he knew that what he was hearing was straight from the Bible. Matthew tends to learn best with both of these modalities going on at the same time. On Wednesday, he would complete the review worksheets independently during his Bible lesson time. On Thursday, I would use some of the interesting facts from the teacher's guide as a point of discussion, as well as discuss "Message from the King" to bring the study to a more personal level. On Friday, he would take the quiz.
I would have to say the one thing we didn't really do was the memory verses, mainly because Matthew already has a program that he is going through.
What We Liked:
- I like how the course is systematically covered. Even though I didn't get past the first unit, I was very impressed with the thoroughness of the entire series. Even stories that are not typically studied by children are given their full place in the course.
- The "Key Facts" sections were very informative and helpful. For example, in chapter 4, we learned all about the different types of psalms (e.g. pilgrim psalms, repentance psalms, historical psalms, etc.) and the different types of Hebrew poetry. Each chapter has charts like this that were pertinent to the material covered (e.g. tracking the journey of the Ark of the Covenant, names of God, etc.). These facts really enriched our study of the Word.
- I like how each chapter sought to bring the passage to real life. Matthew and I had good discussions based on the "Message from the King" questions.
- Each chapter had a little "Jesus in the OT" box that showed how Jesus is connected with these Old Testament stories. That helps to link the Bible as a whole.
- Matthew enjoyed the puzzles. Even as a sixth grader, he did not find them too easy.
- I really liked the teacher's guide notes. They were insightful and gave good extra detail to share with Matthew. Sometimes I would just read them straight out of the book!
- The mp3 audios were a bonus for us. As I mentioned earlier, Matthew does better listening as he reads. Together, they are the ideal combination for him. The nice thing with them was that I could let Dr. Perrin do the reading, which freed me up for a few minutes!
- I did buy the maps to supplement our study. They helped us to visualize where the cities were and to understand especially where all Israel's "enemies" lived in relation to the nation. This was especially helpful when reading about David and the Philistines.
What We Didn't Like:
I personally did not find anything substantially bothersome for us. If you are not of the reformed or covenantal persuasion, you may not see things exactly the same way. However, for us this was not an issue. All in all, this is an excellent program to use for thorough Bible training. I would not say that we are classical homeschoolers, but this curriculum is still good, regardless of your philosophy on home education.
If you are the reformed or covenantal persuasion, you may not see things exactly the same way. However, for us this was not an issue.
Even if you are not a homeschooling family, this would be a great study to do together for family devotions, with a little every day. The worksheets and quizzes can be entirely optional or something to do orally.
Studying the Bible thoroughly and understanding its overarching themes and appreciating God's work throughout history is essential to the discipleship of our children. Too often they get bits and pieces with lessons that do not underscore the whole of Scripture or are too simplistic. I would personally invest in all these volumes to go over with my children, probably starting in third grade and working through them one per year. They are at the right level and full of interesting facts as well as presenting the stories of Scripture in an engaging way. I would have to say the Classical Academic Press hit their goal with this series!