Sunday, August 11, 2013

Review of Bible Study Guide for All Ages

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For the past six weeks or so, we have been using the Intermediate Student Pages, the Advanced Student Pages, and the Bible Summary Cards from Bible Study Guide for All Ages in our homeschool, and we have been LOVING them. I'll be honest: any time a Bible or religion product comes up for review, I'm a little wary. Some Protestant products are just not very Catholic-adaptable (although, let me be clear - we have never encountered a Crew product that has been remotely Catholic-unfriendly). When I saw something that looked like a Bible study, then, I was doubly wary. A Bible study that Catholics could use that was not written, produced, and directed by Catholics? Apparently, yes! Consider this quote from the website (I did):

We believe that the Bible is the word of God and is our guide for life. We want to help people study and understand the Bible for themselves and learn to apply it to themselves. We do not seek to teach others our opinions about issues of debate. We believe in the one true God who exists in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe that God sent his Son Jesus to earth, born of a virgin, to live and die as the atoning sacrifice for all who would place their trust in him. We believe that he rose from the dead and ascended to heaven where he sat down at the right hand of God the Father. We believe that he is present today, through the Holy Spirit, in his church, the body of Christ. We work independently of any church group or denomination. We seek to present the Bible and the Bible alone. 
N.B. I do not make it a practice to quote from vendor websites when I write reviews. In this case, though, I consider it essential, as this piece of information is the first (in fact - the only) one I would want to know if I were myself (a Catholic considering this product) reading this review.

So what is Bible Study Guide for All Ages? The program is comprised of different components for different ages, but, fortunately, my children were all able to use essentially the same parts, that is the student pages and the Bible Book Summary Cards. The best way to understand what the student pages are is to see a sample of them. You can see that student page sample here.

The Intermediate pages, for 3rd and 4th grades, and the Advanced pages, for 5th and 6th grades, are identical in content and very similar in execution. The only difference is that the Advanced pages require a little more thought on the part of the student (that is, fill in the blank, rather than multiple choice, for example). It is 100% possible to do the Bible Study with both levels at the same time, though. Both levels will be doing Genesis 46 on the same day. The first page of the worksheet will be review, while the second page covers the new material.

The Bible Study Guide's plan for the study of the Bible is four years long. Over the course of that time, students will read the whole Bible. Unlike so many Protestant Bible studies I have seen, though,  it does not go through the Bible chronologically! Instead, it teaches the Bible the way I would teach it: as a study in salvation history. By teaching it in this way, students get to the NT almost immediately (and let's be honest - kids really want to talk about Jesus: he's kind of the star of the show), but even better, they get to see the relationship between the Old and the New Testaments. They get to see how the Old Testament prefigures the New and how the New fulfills the Old. It is really the only way that it makes sense to read the Bible in a meaningful way if you want your children to understand the point of the whole thing, and how Jesus and His coming fit into a larger picture that began with a series of covenants a long time before He showed up on the scene (I know, I know, but we really can't get into Trinitarian theology right now!).

After using this Study Guide nearly every day for almost two months, I can honestly say that it is exactly what it purports to be: a completely non-denominational (and that includes Catholics) tool for reading the Bible with your children and helping them retain what they read and make connections from day to day. In fact, just last night, Henry was telling me about a news story in which a couple had just given birth to their 12th son. Michael (8) yelled out, "That was Benjamin!" Suffice it to say that the book of Genesis is very much on his mind! Even though we are still in the part of the Bible that I have read to the kids over and over since they were itty-bitty, it has never *stuck* to this extent before. I give the student pages credit for that.

We do one page a day, and the whole process of reading the Bible, talking about what we read, and completing the page takes about 1/2 an hour. It is part of the beginning of our school day when we are all working together. In fact, when Therese (12) saw the other three kids working on their student pages, she asked me to order a set for her, which I promptly did. While I was on the website, I went ahead and ordered the next sets of 26 lessons for all 4 children. Technically, Therese is outside of the specified grade range, but for the small amount of time the pages take, I like keeping her on the exact same track as the rest of the family.

Because I have already had the opportunity of placing another order with this company, I can tell you that the customer service is second to none. I was waiting anxiously for Therese's pages to arrive because I did not want her to get too far behind the other kids. When I checked the website for my order status, though, it said "in progress" for days. I emailed them in a panic and *immediately* received a very nice email back telling me it was a flaw in their system. They had tracked my package for me and were able to tell me exactly where it was. They were so, so nice. I plan to order again and again. Because the lessons are available in sets of 26 for $5.95 each, the program is affordable. You only have to order a bit at a time. 

The Bible Book Summary Cards are one of the big surprises of the program. They are outstanding. Printed in full-color on very heavy cardstock, each card visually summarizes a book of the Bible.

The back of the card explains what is pictured on the front. The cards are a great way to impress the key points of a particular book of the Bible onto the mind.

You can see a PDF Sample of more of the Bible Book Summary cards on the website. The cards are $24.95 for all 66 books of the Bible. Catholics, of course, will notice the conspicuous absence of what Protestants call the Apocrypha, but what we call the remaining seven canonical books of the Bible. Ordinarily, their absence I would irritate me, but I like this program so much that I am not going to worry about it. For Protestants who have an erroneous understanding of the canonical nature of these seven books (i.e., that Catholics added them after the Reformation), I would encourage you, in charity, to investigate this issue further. These books have been part of the Bible since its original approval by Pope Damasus in the 4th century.

Using this Bible study was the first thing we did every school day, and it will continue in that place of honor (well, after morning prayers). My kids love doing it, and I absolutely love that I have found a way to make sure that my kids are Bible literate. This program does not touch on anything remotely related to doctrine or apologetics. It does not attempt to interpret the Bible in any way. It simply puts forth the story. You can do the study from the KJV or from the Douay-Rheims. I love that. It makes the Bible study its own discrete course, completely unrelated to what we, in our homeschool, call Theology class. 

We will continue to use this entire program. At our current pace, I would expect that it will take us about 2.5 years to finish the whole Bible. There are not words for how much I love that all of my children will have read (heard) the whole Bible by the time the oldest is 14 and the youngest are 11. Huge kudos to this company. I recommend this program to all, Protestants and Catholics alike.

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