When my kids were little, we read lots of Bible story books. As they grew, we chose Bible story books with longer stories, and eventually we transitioned to reading straight from the Bible. Sometimes I wonder if I should be doing more. I recently discovered an apologetics course from Apologia that fills the hole that I was feeling when it came to my children's religious education.
Apologia partnered with Summit Ministries to create the What We Believe series. It is designed to teach children "how to use Scripture as a lens through which to view the world around them -- to see everything the way God sees it -- and know the truth." The series consists of four titles: Who is God?, Who am I?, Who is My Neighbor?, and What on Earth Can I Do?.
Our family has been using the Who am I? materials for the past several weeks. The book focuses on what it means to be made in the image of God. Each lesson introduces the new concepts through telling part of a continuing story about a young boy growing up in Russia. The middle section of each lesson digs into the scriptures and offers some practical applications. Finally, each lessons ends with a Worldview in Focus section which talks about a child around the world with a different belief system. (Muslim, Mormon, New Age movement, no real religious beliefs, Hindu, etc). These other children are contrasted with those of the family reading the materials.
The Worldviews in Focus section was perhaps our favorite section. Even though we haven't finished studying all of the material in the book, my eighth grade daughter skipped ahead to read some of them. She suggested that I share a quote from one of them to show how they grasped her interest. "Sage is an eleven year old girl who lives in a small town outside Corvallis, Oregon. ... Sage sometimes wonders if her mother is happy because she always seems to be looking for something more in life. Her mom has tried Catholicism, Kabbalah, and even Scientology but wasn't entirely comfortable with any of them. Currently, she is taking classed in yoga and does Tai Chi exercises every morning. Her best friend, Ruby, who runs a New Age shop a few doors down from their grocery store, has been encouraging her to visit and acupuncturist." The discussion questions for this section ask the student, "Why do you suppose Sage's mother keeps trying new beliefs and religions? What do you think she is looking for? What would Sage and her mother think if they visited you church?" (Who Am I?, pages 194, 195, 200).
The Who is God? book is written at a fifth- to sixth-grade reading level and is intended to be used with children ages 6 to 14. I think it worked best when I read it to my fifth and eighth grader so that we could have discussions about what we were reading. My first grader listened in a little bit and colored a bit, but it became apparent that the materials were still a bit too difficult for her to grasp. She also had difficulty paying attention to the sometimes lengthy readings. Apologia claims that the curriculum is nondenominational in content, and I didn't find anything that I objected to coming from my own rather conservative Protestant standpoint.
The textbook for Who am I? costs $39. It does not require any additional materials, but they offer some other products to make teaching a bit easier. An mp3 CD of the text is available for $19, a pre-printed notebooking journal is available for $24, and a coloring book is available for $8. Some of the optional materials would be good if you'd like your student to work more independently.
I think this series would be perfect to work through with middle school aged students. It does a fabulous job of transitioning between reading Bible stories for information and reading Scripture in order to learn how to apply them to your life. Students working through these materials are challenged to figure out what they really believe and how to make their lives reflect those beliefs.
If you'd like to hear how much the other members of the review crew thought about Who am I?, please visit The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew blog here.