Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Curriculum Show and Tell: Leading Little Ones to God

Marian Schoolland's devotional Leading Little Ones to God is one of my favourite resources to teach children about God. It's also one my parents used when I was young.

How does this resource fit into your daily routine?

We read the Bible to our children every day. We've chosen to use the ESV (though any essentially literal translation would have done for us). It's important to us that the language of Scripture becomes familiar to our children, and using the same translation every time helps with that. Part of my Dutch Reformed heritage is that we anchor our Bible reading, singing and prayer to every meal. We nourish our bodies, we nourish our's part of the rhythm of life.
Leading Little Ones to God fits into our routine after breakfast each day. The boys and I go and sit on the couch. I begin by reading the Scripture passage suggested in the lesson. It's usually less than a chapter, appropriately short for a child-sized attention span. Then I read a chapter from the book. Chapters are generally about a page in length. The style is conversational and engaging. The book also includes two or three discussion questions, a hymn to sing, a memory verse, and a prayer. I use the discussion questions only if my 3-year-old is not standing on his head yet and my 5-year-old is still engaged with the lesson. (I figure I'll probably go through the book several times over the need to cover everything the first time around.) I don't usually use the hymn. Instead, we sing one of the (five or so) hymns the children already know and love. Doing a different hymn every day will probably work better after they can read. I usually incorporate the ideas in the written prayer into my own prayer. This all doesn't usually take longer than 15 minutes (depending on how active the preschoolers are at the time...). I typically miss a day or two in the week (life happens...) so we generally end up using it four or five times a week.

What topics does Leading Little Ones to God cover?

This book is a book of Bible doctrine. It talks about the attributes of God, about sin, the law, grace, who Jesus is and what He did, the Holy Spirit, how we become children of God, growth, prayer, the church, and the Second Coming. There are 86 chapters in total. I would never suggest that this book is all you need. The most important thing is that you read the living Word of God to your children...after all, it is His own Word that God promises "will not return to Him void." (Can you tell the translation of Scripture I grew up with?) You will also want to tell or read Bible stories in a way little children can understand.

What distinguishes Leading Little Ones to God from other devotionals for children?

I think the most important difference is that there are no cutesy stories to artificially draw in the child's interest. It is assumed that the child is interested in learning about God, and that the child can appreciate the wonder of what is being taught. Each chapter usually does have an illustration from Scripture itself. Equally importantly, there is no artificial "moral" to each story...the object is more to draw out a response of worship, or wonder at God's greatness.
Another thing I appreciate about this devotional is that using it actually teaches me as a parent helpful and appropriate ways to talk about God with my children throughout our everyday life. I can be a fairly private person when it comes to my relationship with God, and I need to learn to be more open with my children.

How is Leading Little Ones to God illustrated?

The illustrations by Paul Stoub are beautiful, but there is less than one on every page. Where they are included with the lesson, I find they help keep the younger child's attention.

What ages would this resource be appropriate for?

I've had this book for several years now. I've started through it a few times before, but I'm just finding now that my 5-year-old is really getting it. He doesn't always display a lot of interest at the time, but later, during the run of a day, he'll make comments that show me he was listening. This is also the first time that I find he really has the attention span for us to read the Scripture passage and the chapter at the same time. I think the book is deep enough that it will continue to hold their attention up to the age of maybe eight or nine.

But speaking of my 5-year-old "getting it", I have to tell you what happened this morning.

We were reading about God's omnipresence.
"God is everywhere!" I read. "When you go to bed at night, God is there. The room may be dark, but you do not have to be afraid..."
I read on, but I noticed SA's face scrunching up the way it does when he's thinking hard.
"Mama," he interrupted. "God is there when I'm in bed."
"Yes," I said, glad he was thinking about it, waiting eagerly for his next thought.
"Mama, God throws my pillow on the floor and moves my blanket like *this* (motions with hands)."
I had to explain that sometimes our hands and feet move when we're asleep so our pillows and blankets aren't in the same place when we wake up... He took a bit of convincing.

May the Holy Spirit use our humble efforts in the lives of our children.

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