Thursday, October 18

Telling God's Story

Planning school this year was a lot of fun.  I felt more confident with a year behind me and having previously made some successful and some not-so-successful curriculum choices gave me a bit of a picture of what we loved, needed and could do well (and likewise, what we didn't want).  Perhaps most importantly I've learned to leave budget room to repurchase if any given curriculum doesn't work well for us.  

Mostly we've gone with classical materials: First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind(English), The Story of the World (History), Literature from a compiled list from here, here, here and some of my own favorites, Singapore Math with some Miquon Math supplement, Handwriting without Tears, French for Children and All About Spelling.  For science I'm doing monthly unit studies using 'real books', this book at times and focusing on nature study.  Aside from our 'core' we also are doing some music, art, physical education and Bible.*  


When I was looking at curriculums this year I came across Peter Enns' new Bible curriculum and I was intrigued.  It is published by the same folks that put out The Story of the World and what I've read of Enns' work I've really enjoyed.  He is a clear thinker, good writer, and has a grasp of the Bible as a larger narrative.  So, I decided we would give it a try.  We haven't gotten too far in the text, but I've thouroughly enjoyed Telling God's Story: A Parents' Guide to Teaching the Bible (this is a quick read and a companion book to the curriculum, though it can stand alone) and would highly recommend it.  Its the sort of book I want to give at baby showers to every new parent.  I think Enns does a very good job at describing how the Bible should be read (and not read).  He is nuanced in his thinking and he makes a solid case for why introducing our children to the person of Jesus is our primary task in the early years.  Enns' theological thinking is similar to my own (from the little I've read of his work), but both his book and his curriculum would be usable by parents who are more conservative. 

Telling God's Story, the curriculum, is well written. The first year is based around stories Jesus told and Christ's life.  There is a text, which the parent reads out loud and then there is an Student Guide and Activity Pages (it is very similar in set up to The Story of the World).  Enns' writing is clear and each chapter begins with notes for parents about the context and historical background notes.  The lessons read as stories and do a wonderful job of painting a picture of the historical context.  So far, the way they are written seems to be a stretch for a preschooler.  Of course it isn't written for a preschooler, but Rowan loves listening to The Story of the World, so I was surprised by this.  The lessons aren't multi-sensory as you simply read a couple pages, so I find myself grabbing for godly play materials or trying to have the boys act the story out later.  That said, I'm really happy with the few lessons we've done and will continue to use them and probably will buy the other years texts as well (if for no other reason they are a good resource when teaching any given text as Enns has done careful study).

Unfortunately, I'm not as happy with the activity book.  Compared to the The Story of the World activity book it is a bit weak.  Each story has a coloring page and several activities.   A few of the activities are quite good and helpful in relating to the story (i.e. sweeping for lost coins, that make a secret message; making coins to act out the story), but many are standard sunday school fare, that relate in name only or loosely to the story (i.e. make praying hands stained glass to go with the story of the persistent widow).  The activities do include some interesting interdisiplinary activities, such as planting a mustard seed, doing a yeast experiment, and looking at great art work.  The activity books also has some codes, maps and mazes, which Mr. 6 really likes.  The major item I would add would be reading and resource lists.  There are wonderful illustrated books and great artwork depicting parables and stories from Jesus' life and I expected (after the reading lists in SoTW) that this curriculum would help reinforce the story in this way.  Simple lists of artworks, music and books would be a very helpful addition.

Overall though, I'm quite happy with the curriculum and am happy to be introducing a more scholarly approach to scripture to supplement the boy's Bible reading and godly play.

* A couple readers have asked about what we are doing this year for school, hopefully this will answer that question.  Also, I love to think and talk about curriculum, so if you have questions about anything we are using let me know.  I always find it so helpful to talk to someone who has used a curriculum. 

Using a brush and a sand try the boys sweep to find ten lost coins.  Each coin had a number and letter, which make a secret message to answer the question "How does God feel when a person comes to know him?"  The boys loved this activity and did it several times.

The activity book has a pattern for a velcro felt envelope, I opted for a wool pouch with leather tie.  They also had reproductions of roman coins you could copy and back on paste board to make coins.   It was neat to show the kids what the coins might have looked like, but we used Sculpy to make coins that are much more tactilely pleasing.  Jonah enjoyed looking at the reproductions of roman coins and using a scewer to make designs in the sculpy.  I also considered pounding fishing weights to make the coins, which is always a fun activity more authentic results.


What Darlin'? said...


I don't think that I've ever commented on your blog, but I've read lots about Godly Play here. We're just entering the Godly Play arena and I'm using the Stewart Berryman book that you recommended (: I just posted on my blog about my thoughts on Waldorf and Godly Play and cited your blog as a good one to get to know about Godly Play (: (Also, quoted your review of why you like the Young Children and Worship book). So, even though I feel like we've talked a hundred times (;, I wanted to say hello. And that you have been so helpful to this family's homeschooling adventure (:

PS. You might want to check out the 1 star amazon reviews re: Story of the World. We bought the set and, after finding multiple historical errors, I looked at the reviews and found that several people have talked at length about them. It has such a high reputation in homeschooling circles, I was surprised. And disappointed -- especially since I bought all the volumes at once ): Just thought I'd pass on the info.

Watkins said...

Thanks for commenting, it is lovely to 'meet' you. I enjoyed reading your post on Godly Play. I look forward to seeing how you adventure with Godly Play!

And thanks for the thoughts on SotW, I have realized that there are some historical inaccuracies in SotW and the writing drives me crazy sometimes. But, we were given the first book and my four year old picked it up and fell in love with it... so we keep going with it - altering when we need too. I don't think we'll use it past next year as I think it is quite simplistic. The thing I really appreciate about it is that due to the simplicity Jonah has built a mental historical time line and is able to fit other things we read into a larger structure. That said, there is no excuse for historical inaccuracy and I would love to know if you've found something else that you use instead!

What Darlin'? said...

good morning (: I like your idea of a simply framework to fit the world timeline into...I'm going to have to think more about that!

Here's a link to a post I did some time back about the history books I love.

I'm also looking at the Beautiful Feet history curriculum. It's literature based. I got one of her "curriculum guides' and was unimpressed -- but the book packages are wonderful and I tend toward just reading being a wonderful learning around here a lot of the time anyhow.

Time to go "do school" (;

Have a great day and I loved your egg tempera art. We might have to follow up on that here (: Ah, here's a post about 3 wonderful picture books we've read (randomly and because we happened upon them at the library) that are wonderful art studies ..

Okay, now I really have to go (:

Have a fun day!! Looks like you so often do (:

Jessica said...

We are doing a lot of the curriculum you mentioned as well. I am glad for your recommendation for the Parent's Guide to Telling God's Story- I will check it out!

Watkins said...


Thanks for commenting. I'd love to know if you have any thoughts on the Parent's Guide to Telling God's Story if you get a chance to read it. Best,