Sunday, August 16, 2009
TOS Review: Grapevine Studies
My kids like to have their hands busy. People ask me all the time how it is that I can set aside big blocks of the day for read-alouds and not have a mutiny in my living room. The answer is simple: busy hands.
Ninety-nine percent of the reading that gets done around here happens with Legos being mashed together, Lincoln Logs being stacked, colored pencils creating masterpieces or Wikki Stix morphing into happy little oddities.
The follow-up question, once I explain the HOW behind the reading is usually WHAT--as in, "WHAT do you do to keep them focused, then?"
Again, the answer is pretty simple: through a fairly natural process, I find that the business my children's hands are engaging in is usually fairly well linked to the material they're being read.
A bouncing, fun read-aloud starring silly mice trying to rid their cottage home of a dastardly Scottish auntie? Chances are good that the Loegos will be employed in the manufacture of an elaborate mouse manor fit for our hero and heroine. A tale of siblings experiencing the profound landscape of Africa? Pretty good time to draw a savannah, don't you think?
Very, very rarely do I hold my kiddos captive at the kitchen table and force them to digest information that I'm ladeling out with a heavy-handed spoon. Aside from being extraordinarily boring, it's also outrageously one-dimensional. And I don't know about you, but auditory learning is not a skill that flies solo in my house. So busy hands, it is!
One area where I've struggled to find lessons that allow for this kind of "happy hands, happy learners" kind of approach is Bible studies. Many pre-written curricula come complete with puzzles, word searches or even handy little dioramas that you can assemble after the lesson itself. But during the teaching, it seems that far too many authors expect children to be seen and not heard. Which isn't, by the way, really what Jesus was after with that whole "Let the little children come to me," thing. ;-)
This summer, I've been delighted to finally (finally!) find a pre-written, multi-age Bible study that not only allows for busy hands--it requires them! Grapevine Studies are engaging, intellectual and faith-building studies that encourage children to use their visual and kinesthetic skills right alongside their auditory ones. Every lesson in every study lets your child unleash a little bit of imagination as they "stick figure" their way through the Bible. Stick figuring, by the way, is just what it sounds like: drawing simple characters to represent what's happening in the lesson as mom or dad reads.
From that humble beginning, of course, anything is possible. We're using the phenomenal Biblical Feasts and Holy Days curriculum, a multi-age program that allows me to teach a 7th, 4th and 2nd grader at the same time. Their stick figures have definitely reflected their varying abilities, understanding and creative bents, too. Not only have the kids have fun with some very deep topics ... we've also been able to engage in rich dialogue by using their stick figures as a jumping off place to grapple with some theology that rarely gets touched in your average kid's Bible Study. Our cute stick figures have leaped off the page more than once and given way to full-scale reenactments. I'm loving it! Who thought I'd be walking through the origins of Purim with a 7 year-old?
This study has been easy to teach, requires very little prep work and has given us enough room to guide our own further study where interest arises. The presentation is not tied to a specific doctrine; it's a straight Bible Study with the "religion" portion left to the teacher. Personally, I'm a fan of multi-age learning, but with a little tweaking, you may be able to stretch studies intended for specific age ranges to fit your whole family. The topics presented run from the basic (Birth of Jesus) to the deep (Old Testament Overview). They can be purchased as eBooks or hard copies, and there are separate teacher and student books.
Prices are reasonable, especially in eBook form. Our hard copy Biblical Feasts and Holy Days set of teacher guide and one student book retails for just under $35. Since this is a 13 week study, the weekly total is just $2.68. That's a pittance for the level of Biblical insight our family has gleaned through studying a rarely touched on topic.
Multi-age Bible studies that engage creativity and allow children to flex their auditory, visual and kinesthetic learning muscles. What's not to like?