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.
Going into this year (so long ago now…), we all thought that Decision 2020 was going to be about casting our vote for President of the United States on November 3. Silly us. That decision pales in comparison to the difficulty of determining what school will look like for our kids this fall.
I really feel for my friends with kids in public school who are struggling right now with near-daily emails from their districts, changing policies, unhappy teachers and parents, food insecurity or health issues, the challenge of working full-time yet having their kids at home, and (for some) being suddenly plunged into the homeschool world willingly or unwillingly, for a wide variety of reasons.
As a long-time homeschooler (beginning my 20th year), you would think that this whole stay-at-home thing would be a piece of cake by now. That COVID would be a mere blip on the radar of our usual days of homeschooling. But the chaos that this virus has unleashed has been difficult for homeschoolers as well.
In one of the most famous first lines in literature, Leo Tolstoy boldly states, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Now, I haven’t read Anna Karenina, but I can say with confidence that, while he certainly captured our attention and still has us quoting him after nearly 150 years, he is wrong about happy families being all alike (although they may look that way from the outside). But he has a point about unhappy families.
Unhappy families can have an endless number of reasons why they are unhappy, and many of us are sadly familiar with one of them: generational sins (a.k.a. generational trauma or generational dysfunction). This is the tendency of persistent sinful behaviors to be repeated or “handed down” from one generation to the next, contributing to the unhappiness of that family and its individual members. This might be a particular problem with one member of the family, or an overall environment that permeates the day-to-day life and outlook of each person.
When my kids were young, we mostly followed the Charlotte Mason approach to education: literature-based schooling, short lessons, lots of nature study, and frequent copywork, among other things. For the most part, I kept this pattern for all four of my children, through their many differences in enthusiasm for school, attention spans, and abilities in each area of learning. I quickly discovered that I didn’t need a formal language arts program at all until mid-elementary years, thanks in part to the practice of Do-It-Yourself Copywork.
In its most basic form, copywork hones important skills like attention to detail, hand-eye coordination, “keeping your place” while reading, remembering, and writing, learning new things (depending on what you’re copying), and of course, handwriting/fine motor skills practice. These are all foundational skills for early elementary education and easily accomplished when the passage being copied is high-interest and personalized for the student.
The copywork method I used for first grade appealed to all of my children, no matter what their ability level or personal interests. It was effective because it was customized for each child—some sentences were used for all children, and some were tweaked or completely rewritten depending on the child. This might sound like a lot of work for the teacher, but in fact it was one of the most enjoyable lesson planning activities of my homeschooling years! The DIY aspect forced me to think carefully about each child as I wrote sentences just for them, depending on their likes and dislikes, what was going on in their life at the time, their high-interest areas, etc. I highly recommend this copywork method not only as an effective educational tool for children, but as an interesting activity for the teacher that helps you get to know your children better!
In the mid-‘90s, I taught English in an upper-class suburban high school. In my first year of teaching, I was assigned one class of “English Basics,” a class for students who were far behind their peers in their ability to read and write. Basics was a small class, usually only around 10 students, and in the class of sophomores that I was given, the kids were reading on about a second grade level. I was never told the educational or personal background of any child, and I had no special training to help these students, but like all new English teachers, was expected to teach one class of Basics for a couple of years. The positive side, I was told, was that I would only have the class for first quarter and then again for third quarter. Another teacher would take the class second quarter and fourth quarter, so we would each have a “break.”
This staggered-teaching arrangement, especially for a class of kids who were far behind academically, seemed odd to me. I wondered if it had the inadvertent effect of instability and impermanence for the students. The teachers seemed to like it, though, and who was I to say anything—me, a brand-new teacher? Still, I had nagging doubts about this set-up and how beneficial it was for the kids.
I’m an avid reader. I own a couple of thousand books, I read almost every day (for fun), and I’ve been like this my whole life. When I was a little girl, I spent breakfast time reading every box and bag in the kitchen, I read during recess at school, and I was often admonished to “take my nose out of a book” to look at the scenery on car trips.
I married a man who reads almost as much as I do and owns even more books. When we had children, they were all raised in a house full of books, used literature-based learning for school, saw their parents reading often, and were read aloud to until they were teens every single school day. We read really good books, too—fun and interesting books that everybody liked. So naturally, they all grew up to be readers, right?
“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” —Helen Keller
One day back in the late 1990s, I typed Helen Keller’s famous sentence into my PC in my favorite font, printed and cut it out, and glued it to a piece of red construction paper (because with two children under the age of four, that’s what was available at the time). I taped this masterpiece over my kitchen sink and it remains there to this day.
And here I am now using it for the title of my blog. Why?
I wasn’t going to write about the coronavirus, the stay-at-home order, or the social distancing. I’ve been pondering the effects of this pandemic in my heart, talking it over with close family and friends, and reading others’ observations online. But as Month One drags into Month Two of this unique and difficult season in all our lives, I find myself returning again and again to the word that is beginning to define the spring of 2020 for me. The word is loss.
Loss is not the same as missing people or things. Missing people, places, and familiar activities is a very real (and often daily) part of this experience, for sure. We all miss these things—some people more than others, depending on our life situations and our own God-given personalities. And we know that one day, sooner rather than later, we hope, we’ll reunite with people, return to our activities, and go back to church, among other longed-for places.
“…in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me,when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139:16b
Deep in the human heart is a desire to hear, and sometimes tell, a good story. It’s there from the beginning, as babies, sitting on a lap for story time. It’s there when we’re growing up, reading books, watching television, going to movies. It’s there when we get old, telling our own story to others, reminiscing with siblings about a shared childhood, or reliving long-ago moments when our present life is fading before our eyes.
The blockbuster Broadway hit Hamilton capitalizes on this universal human desire by telling the story of an often ignored founding father and his unknown but impressive wife, Eliza. After telling their fascinating story for more than two hours, the company asks the audience, “Who tells your story?” It’s powerful and poignant. It grabs your heart and reminds you that you do indeed have a story that may be someday forgotten to history but is equally important to every other story of anyone who’s ever lived. For those who cry easily, like I do, have a tissue handy for this one.
“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” —Psalm 27:14
There’s a lot of waiting that goes on in our house.
One teenager waits to see if he’ll be accepted into a technical program that will greatly alter his remaining high school years and give him practical skills and knowledge that he feels are relevant to his life now and in the future.
Another teenager waits to see if she’ll get a resident tutoring position at college that will greatly affect her financial situation, her commitment to living on campus, and future professional and academic possibilities.
My advice to both of them is about the same: Do what you can to achieve this goal, don’t miss any deadlines, and then wait patiently. And remember that no matter what the result, God knows what’s best for you. Even if the outcome isn’t what you would have wanted right now, it’s amazing how God works behind the scenes in our lives and we sometimes realize only years later that he did, in fact, work everything for our good.