Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Review: Grapevine Studies (Bible Study Curriculum)

Bible study has always been done very simply in our homeschool. Immediately after breakfast, we read a passage of Scripture and I ask SA(7) to tell the story back to me. Then we may talk about it a little. We review our memory work, usually a passage with several verses such as a psalm. When I received Grapevine Studies to use and review, it was hard for me to take a break from our tried-and-true method of narration and try something new. However, it solved a problem that I've been having for a little while; keeping all of my children engaged in the Bible story at once, and I think I've learned some lessons from that!

We received Grapevine Studies Old Testament 1: Level 1 Creation to Jacob as PDF e-books of a teacher's manual and a traceable student workbook for ages three to five.

Grapevine Studies teaches a timeline first in its Old Testament Overview, and then the individual stories within the timeline. The timeline is then reviewed repeatedly between stories so that children begin to have a strong concept of the order of events throughout the Old Testament.

The Bible Stories themselves are taught using "stick figuring" --simple line drawings done by the teacher and copied by the students. In the traceable workbook, children trace the line drawings.

Lessons can be done once a week, or divided over four days. A typical lesson at this level has:
- A review of the timeline
- Eight short passages of Scripture to read and stick-figure (two per page on our traceable student worksheets)
- One or two very short memory verses to learn
- Seven or eight review questions

How We Used it

I used the traceable student worksheets for Old Testament 1: Level 1 Creation to Jacob with three of my boys. SA(7) is a bit behind in his pencil skills, so using the traceable worksheets was appropriate for him. JJ(5) probably could have copied my stick figures without tracing, but he enjoyed it anyway. I'm not sure MM(3) got too much out of the stories, but he did love participating and doing what his big brothers were doing.

Every morning I printed off the worksheets for the day from the PDF student workbook and referred to the teacher's manual. After breakfast I read the suggested Scripture, drawing the stick figures on a blank piece of paper. (The manual recommends a dry-erase board and markers, but I made do with what I had, and that was fine.) The boys traced their stick figures on their worksheets as I read. Then we would review our Bible verse(s). On the last lesson day, I asked them the review questions.

What We Thought

As a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, I appreciate the directness and simplicity of Charlotte Mason's method for Bible lessons.
"Read aloud to the children a few verses covering if possible, an episode. Read reverently, carefully, and with just expression. Then require the children to narrate what they have listened to as nearly as possible in the words of the Bible. It is curious how readily they catch the rhythm of the majestic and simple Bible English. Then, talk the narrative over with them in the light of research and criticism. Let the teaching, moral and spiritual, reach them without much personal application." (Home Education, p. 251)
I have been following Charlotte Mason's method for a while now, and have been very pleased with how SA(7) has been retaining what he has learned, simply by narrating it. I felt that the Grapevine Studies' stick-figuring method was not as good as narration in getting him to pay attention and really know the Bible stories we studied. Of course, stick-figuring could be used as a form of narration for some children (have them tell back the story using stick figures). However, SA's skills would not be up to using any form of drawing as narration at this point.

However, I do have younger children who are not of an age to narrate yet. SA(5) and MM(3) often have a hard time sitting through SA's narration of the Bible story, and they tend to drift away from our Circle Time at that point. Using this curriculum ensured their enthusiastic participation throughout the Bible lesson. Unlike SA, both of them love drawing and colouring!

Yesterday, I noticed that JJ(5) is remembering things from weeks ago. He got out his notebook and pencil crayons and began drawing several of the days of creation from memory. He did not have them in quite the right order, but he did remember exactly how they were depicted in stick figures when we learned them.

The Bottom Line

Will we continue to use Grapevine Studies now that this review period is over?

Yes, for a while, and after a fashion. I am planning to go back to our old format of reading and oral narration for SA(7). While we are still in the "Creation to Jacob" time period, I will continue to print traceable worksheets for JJ(5) and MM(3) to work on while we read our Bible passage. I'm not sure what we'll do beyond that yet. I will not continue using it as written.

Stick figuring could not replace the power of narration for us, but it did have value in keeping my little people engaged in our Bible lesson.

For more reviews on Grapevine Studies' various subjects and levels, click on the link below:

Grapevine Studies Review

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