Looking for tips and suggestions on creating a homeschool Bible (or Bible-related) class for your high schooler or middle schooler? Read on to see many of my favorite suggestions for a wide range of students, including a great Bible you may never have heard of, other books at all reading and interest levels, and miscellaneous ideas to round out your Bible class.
After I graduated two students from homeschool with credits in Biblical Studies 1 and 2, I thought I had my Bible plan in place. But after a gap of several years, I was back to square one, needing to develop a different high school Bible curriculum for my youngest. One of the great advantages of homeschooling is that you can (and should, if needed!) adapt your plan for each individual child, according to their abilities and interests. I kept some elements of what I had used before, but I also needed a new approach this time around, taking into account my son’s naturally inquisitive nature and lower tolerance for long readings than his siblings at that age.
Remember that as a homeschooler, you, the teacher, will need to determine what constitutes a year or a semester of study or a credit on a transcript. For a Bible class, this can be as easy as choosing a complete curriculum and following the schedule, or as challenging (and fun! Really!) as developing your own curriculum based on your particular child’s needs. My homeschooling style is eclectic—given the choice to use an all-in-one curriculum or to put it together myself, I’ll usually choose the DIY option.
I’ve used most of the following resources for high school, but some could work for an advanced middle schooler. You know your child best. There are books here that are appropriate for students who need quick bursts of reading and shorter assignments on a daily basis, along with a discussion or recap with Mom or Dad. There are also books that are heavier (in both size and content) for more advanced students or excellent readers.
My absolute, #1 favorite resource for high school Bible: The Quest Study Bible
A little background: My husband and I became Christians soon after we were married, right before we had our first child. Neither of us had much experience reading the Bible. We were browsing one day in a Christian bookstore and came across the Quest Study Bible. We liked it so much we bought two copies, one for each of us.
This amazing resource is the complete NIV Bible along with 7,000 questions and answers in the margins—specific things people often wonder about, want to ask, or are confused by. There are also short articles throughout that tackle more complex questions. As new Christians, we found this incredibly helpful, especially since we hadn’t yet found a church where we could learn more about the Bible.
For our older two high schoolers, we gave them a 3-year reading plan and they took notes on interesting questions in a journal, and (theoretically) discussed the journal with Mom or Dad every couple of weeks. This plan worked fine … but only for a while. We all fell off the reading/discussion wagon many times, so for our youngest (who doesn’t love reading as much anyway), I created a much more specific plan.
First, I identified a few dozen major Bible stories (here) that had interesting accompanying questions in the Quest Bible. Then, I created a simple worksheet (here) to be filled out after reading the passage and accompanying questions and articles. The readings are short and the writing is fairly minimal. We discuss his worksheet answers and often other interesting questions he came across but didn’t write down. Or I might say, “You know, I’ve always wondered something about that passage…” and he can tell me if it was answered in the Bible margins. We use this sheet once or twice a week.
We use the regular edition of the Quest Study Bible (linked above), but it’s also available in a teen edition.
Other Quick Bible Resources
In addition to using the Quest Study Bible, my goal this year was to find high-quality Bible resources that were easy to read, interesting, and didn’t take too long each day. I found three that we’re really enjoying, and (very important!) that spark good discussion on most days.
- The 10 Minute Bible Journey – A beautiful, full-color book that presents a quick synopsis of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation in 52 short readings.
- Understanding Your Bible in 15 Minutes a Day – A good Bible companion book with interesting questions and answers about the Bible itself.
- Scientific Facts in the Bible – An interesting book for inquisitive teens, with scientific, medical, archaeological, prophetic (and more) facts in the Bible.
More Books for a Great Bible Class
Here are a few more books to keep on your radar for high schoolers and/or more advanced readers. Keep in mind that my goal in this curriculum creation process isn’t to choose the most rigorous, most high-level books I can find (1,200-page tomes on systematic theology are awesome, but I won’t be assigning them to my kids). Instead, my goal is to find books that speak to teens, give them interesting and compelling reasons to learn more about Jesus, help them wrestle with the natural questioning that many teens have about their parents’ faith, and encourage them to seek out answers to their questions with reliable references. Some books we’ve used are:
- Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis – My two favorites by Lewis, perfect for reading and discussing with teens. I’ve taught these books in high school Sunday school classes and they truly stand the test of time and engage teen readers. Be prepared to discuss “what is satire and why is it used?” before beginning Screwtape.
- Basics of the Faith series – These short books (booklets, really) are quick, easy to read, clearly written, and high-interest. They hit on the topics that teens and adults have questions about; I’ve used them in a high school Sunday school class with great success. Other than a few titles that are specific to Reformed theology, most are basically nondenominational. It’s possible that your particular denomination also has similar booklets available.
- Rose Book of Bible Charts, Maps, & Time Lines – Perfect for visual learners, this beautiful book is packed with detailed and fascinating information about the Bible and Christianity. It’s also an excellent resource for an Apologetics or Comparative Religion class for upper grades. (Other good books to check out for apologetics are The Reason for God, Mere Christianity (above), The Case for Faith, and Why I Am a Christian.)
- 25 Basic Bible Studies, by Francis Schaeffer – This book is exactly what it says: 25 topics with accompanying Bible verses that allow you to do your own theme-based Bible study independently.
- The 100 Most Important Events in Christian History – Like all of the books in this post, this book is useful and interesting for both students and adults. It packs two thousand years of church history into short, readable articles about major people, events, and ideas.
And Now for the Classics…
If you have a student who doesn’t shy away from heavier or historical readings, three classic titles to consider adding to their studies are:
- The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan (you can find this in original and updated language editions)
- The Confessions of St. Augustine
- The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis
Other Skills and Activities to Add to Bible Classes
During the course of your high schoolers’ years of Bible class, you might want to add some or all of these skills and activities:
- Visit a church service (or several) of a different denomination.
- Learn the difference between a translation and a paraphrase.
- Learn to use Bible Gateway.com by looking up and comparing at least 5 different translations of a certain passage and answering questions like, Which is easiest to understand? Which was written earliest? Which might be more likely to be used by a new believer and why? Which words are the ones most likely to be different in the translations? (Try John 1:1-14 in KJV, NIV, NLT, ESV, and The Message.)
- Learn to use a print and/or online concordance. Try words such as famine, fruit, anger, firstborn, etc. in both the Old and New Testaments. Why is it important to make sure your concordance matches the Bible translation you’re using? (Because if a word is translated differently in a different version, it won’t show up in your concordance.)
- Download a Bible app (decide what translation ahead of time; we use the ESV) to your phone and learn to use it.
- Understand C.S. Lewis’s “Liar, Lunatic, or Lord” trilemma and be able to answer it (even if they haven’t read Mere Christianity, which is where Lewis first mentions it).
- Use a blank map and a Bible atlas to identify important cities and geography during key time periods such as Abraham’s journey, Jesus’s life, or Paul’s journeys.
- Read biographies of missionaries (YWAM Publishing has dozens of middle-level bios), hymn writers (easily found online; try Fanny Crosby, Isaac Watts, John Newton, Charles Wesley, or William Cowper for starters), or leaders and heroes of the faith (such as Martin Luther, Eric Liddell, Corrie ten Boom, and others). The possibilities are almost endless here depending on interests and reading ability.
If you’re thinking about adding a Bible class to your homeschool middle or high school, or need to change what you’ve done in past years, I hope some of these ideas are helpful. One of my favorite things about homeschooling is considering each individual child and determining what they need to learn and succeed, and Bible is no exception! Rarely is there a one-size-fits-all approach, and that’s what keeps things interesting. I’d love to hear your ideas for other Bible resources that you’ve used with older kids, so feel free to comment below!
* * * * *
One more book to add! I used this recently with my high schooler and it’s a great way to add current relevance to your Bible class: 10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask (and Answer) about Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin. Many, many cultural references (think Harry Potter, etc.) help address questions that Christian teens will face about their faith in today’s world.