We haven’t done much in the way of bible literacy education beyond having my daughter read through a children’s bible. And, as you may have guessed, we are not an overly religious family. However, I have been looking for something to help me teach my children bible stories (my knowledge is woefully lacking) and have discussions about morality. Thankfully, Bible Study Guide for All Ages was a program that I was chosen to review, as it has easily surpassed my expectations and can be used with children from preK up until the teenage years.
BSGfAA does not cover the bible in a chronological fashion. There are a total of 416 lessons spread across four units. Each unit is further broken down into packets of 26 lessons. The first lessons cover the story of Joseph: how his brothers hated him and sold him into slavery up until his family finally joins him in Egypt. Then the program moves on to Daniel and subsequently Jesus, before going back to cover Adam and Noah (click here to see the order of study). The authors state that the first 30 lessons are meant to give some bible history before going back to fill in the gaps, and that going between the Old and New Testaments makes for a more balanced way to study the Bible.
There are several levels to this program depending on the age and reading ability of your child(ren). Each level covers the Bible in the same order so that it becomes easy for a family to use this program together. The beginner level is for non-reading students, the primary level is for students who are beginning to read, the intermediate level is for children reading at a second grade level or higher, and the advanced level is for fifth graders and up. Although my daughter is reading at about a third grade level I decided to try the primary level student pages for her since I was unsure of how much reading she would want to do (the names of people and places in the Bible can be daunting at times).
For the primary level (only) the teacher guide is considered a necessary purchase and I certainly agree with that assessment. The guide is spiral bound and the lesson plans in the guide are so easy to follow. The student pages come separately and it is easy to tear out the page that is needed for that day’s lesson. The content of the lesson is a bit repetitive, but I found that to be helpful for the memory work portion of this program. Each lesson begins with a quick review and then moves on to some memory work and suggested songs. Following that is the main story for the lesson and some review questions to check for comprehension. The lesson ends with the student doing some mapwork or filling in a timeline and then applying the lesson learned from the bible story to a contemporary situation (sample pages can be found here).
Generally we broke up a lesson into two sessions and so we were able to easily cover two lessons a week. At times my daughter wanted to push through an entire lesson, but I preferred doing the review, listening to the songs, doing the memory work, and reading the story the first day and then finishing up the lesson the next day. I would read the main story from our Golden Children’s Bible, but I would also need to have the New American Bible (BSGfAA can be used with any version you have) close by to read certain verses to her when they were not included in the student pages (the GCB does not clearly indicate individual verses). My daughter enjoyed following along with her student page (there is only one double-sided page per lesson) and filling in the blanks, marking the correct answer, matching people to their names, drawing on the maps, and filling in the timeline. Aside from wanting to follow the teacher guide, there is no particular reason that you couldn’t break down the lesson however you see fit and scramble up the pieces if you so wish (eg. reviewing the previous work and reading the current story and then doing the memory work and mapwork/timeline portion).
Two other resources that we used were the Children’s Songs CD set and the Bible Book Summary Cards. Although these components are not required, they certainly did add a richness to the program that I would be hesitant to leave out. The CD set features a cappella singing that is pleasurable to listen to and many of the songs are included to help out with the memory work component of the program. One of the first songs suggested is to help memorize the 12 sons of Jacob, and you will find suggested songs in the teacher guide for each lesson. The Bible book summary cards are a stack of 66 8.5″x11″ full color cards that represent the main message for each book (of the Protestant Bible). On the front side is a picture (or several pictures) depicting the themes and on the back is a summary of the book along with some good memory work questions at the bottom. I have included images of the front and back of the first card that covers Genesis, but more sample cards can be found online. These cards are also referred to many times in the teacher guide, but only three are used in the first packet of 26 lessons.
Overall, I was quite impressed with this program and I have already purchased the next student pages and teacher guide packets for our studies. I loved the fact that this program can be used in a secular sense for bible literacy. There is no particular denomination that is followed (although it is based on a Protestant Bible) and it is easy to flavor the studies however you choose. According to the BSGfAA website, the authors “work independently of any church group or denomination and make no attempt to teach their opinion about issues of debate.” I also appreciated the lack of crafting, gluing messiness; a set of colored pencils/pens/crayons is all that is needed. The only thing that I was not happy with is the flimsy paper covers on the student pages and teacher guide – these certainly need to be treated with care if they are not to be destroyed quickly…quality cardstock would have been appreciated.
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Price: student pages $9.95 each, teacher guides $9.95 each, children’s songs cd set $19.95, Bible book summary cards $24.95