Three years ago, when we did our first lessons at home, we started to study the Bible. When my girls were younger (four and six years old), reading from the Bible was difficult. Their attention span was not that long as I would have liked. Children are different, and for those not ready to read the Scriptures that early, what other choices do we have?
Instead of choosing Bibles for children, or simpleton paraphrases, we can simply read from the Bible but less. That is what I did. A few verses at a time. Children have a love and curiosity for difficult words. Just be mindful of the quantity. The more difficult one passage or account is, the slower the pace and the lesser the amount of what it is presented at a time.
To help them understand Bible accounts in more depth, I used Catherine F. Vos’s Bible for Children. Two years ago, our congregation started to use Shaping Hearts for God, a wonderful curriculum because it is not really of a curriculum but Bible readings, some maps facts, general facts, and memory verses. The wonderful thing about this program is that it provides each child with a book for home with Bible verses for each week, in according with lessons that are simply the Bible in chronological order. The booklet looks kiddish to some extent, it has a simple paraphrase of the accounts, yes, but it is a quick glance for the parents and children. The daily verses are the guiding part of the curriculum, and those can be followed and studied even by adults.
I also bought a Bible Dictionary with attractive illustrations, and a People from the Bible Encyclopedia for not much, and we enjoy going to those to find out what phylacteries are, or to know about gleaning, etc. You can google it too, if you don’t have such books.
Two years ago, when we started with Genesis, that Vos’s Bible helped me get the whole picture of the event, locate it geographically and in time, and then I will go directly to the Bible to read the verses for that account that were also shown in the Vos’s Bible and our Shaping Hearts for God. Maybe one of those Children Bibles is helping you to become acquainted with Bible events, just remember you need to read the Bible too.
Fast forward three years and today, at almost 7 and 9, we are in the New Testament, and I am not using the Vos’s Bible anymore. The problem is that the Shaping Hearts for God’s books have more accounts and verses that tell us about the life of Jesus than the ones included in Catherine Vos’s text. The girls have both learned to read, and they enjoy reading the verses suggested in the booklet, and sometimes more. Many children learn before these ages, many after. If we guide them well into reading the Scriptures, this will happen. They will read the Bible themselves.
I only want to share what I have learned by experience.
* If you start with watered down texts or materials, beware of the risk of staying with those books inferior to the Bible, many times erroneous, and always incomplete, and never getting to His Word.
* Keep in mind children can understand Scriptures, will love to hear and read them, and that you will also want to know as much as possible of that you are trying to teach, which you can only learn from the Bible.
* It is fine to aid yourself with other books and materials, but always know what those come from, and take them as such, a tool to guide you to your ultimate goal, the Scriptures.
* At the early ages, a few verses, a song, acting out a story, and maybe showing them some visuals to spark a discussion of the lesson, followed by a drawing of what has been discussed, were you are talking about in order to draw it, is all they need. Better a bit from the Bible, that tons of useless and watered down activities and materials.
* Memory work is something children LOVE and can do from very young. Do not shy from it. Later you can discuss the meaning of the verses, psalms, proverbs, or passages, you are memorizing. There is a value in memorizing the disciples, the beatitudes, the judges, the sons of Benjamin. And don’t forget map locations. Children love working with maps -coloring, pointing to places, writing names in a blank one-. We have this memory box, and it is very useful.
Don’t try to do everything at once. Please, do not feel incompetent or incapable. Remember, stay away from the ALL OR NOTHING mindset, because it usually leads to nothing. When I saw others who had it all together when it came to learning and teaching the Scriptures to their children or students, I (who grew up without any knowledge of His Word), used to feel not cut for this work. Then, that day when they gave our girls that Shaping Hearts from God’s booklets, and since I decided to sign up often to teach, I learned alone and along little by little. I am still learning.