Wednesday, May 9, 2012

TOS Review - Judah Bible Curriculum

Many homeschoolers I know would say that wanting their kids to have a Bible-based education was a factor in their choice to home educate.  It certainly was a factor for us, and we want more than just a nominal Christianity for our kids.  We want them to know what they believe and why, and to have a worldview solidly based on a knowledge of God's Word.  As a member of the TOS Crew, I've had an opportunity to find out more about a Bible study tool that is designed to help us do just that - Judah Bible Curriculum.

The website states the following objectives:

  • A Principle Approach curriculum for Bible class.
  • Develop a comprehensive knowledge of the Bible.
  • Build strong, Godly character in your children.
  • Study the Bible together.
  • Study the hand of God in the lives of individuals and nations.
  • For homeschool, Christian school, Sunday school.
  • Teach your children living Biblical principles to guide their lives.
  • Apply God's word personally in every area of life.
  • The Bible is the textbook. 

Before starting to use the study with my kids, I had to figure out a few things.  What is the Principle Approach?  Judah Bible's website offers this explanation by the author:  "Why is the JBC unique? -From the author"  My brief explanation - it's a method of teaching where the focus is on character building from the eternal principles in God's Word.  Studying what the Bible has to say about all areas of life and applying the principles to our own lives and times.  I also had to figure out HOW to use the JBC - here is a summary of The Judah Bible Philosophy of Education.

I love the philosophy and the whole idea behind this product, but it took me a lot of preparation and working to wrap my brain around HOW to use it before the first time I sat down with my kids to start studying the Bible with them.  When I see/hear the word "curriculum" I have an expectation that it will be a book or text or lesson plans that make it easy for me as the instructor to determine what I will be teaching and how to go about it.  Judah Bible Curriculum doesn't quite fit my personal definition - I have come to think of it more as a Teacher Training Guide and a Scope and Sequence for Bible study. (You can view the Scope & Sequence here.)

So... it's a little different from what I (and maybe you!) might expect.  Each year, you study the main ideas and principles of the Bible, but different details.  For example, in the first year when you study the book of Exodus, you would focus on Moses as a Key Individual and on the 10 Commandments.  In the second year, you would focus on the deliverance from Egypt and the wilderness.  In another year, you might focus on Moses' ministry of intercession or the principles of the many laws and ordinances given at Mount Sinai.  Judah Bible Curriculum identifies the details and lays out the themes and Bible Keys (Key Individuals such as Moses or Jesus; Key Events such as the Babylonian captivity or the Last Supper; Key Institutions such as the Pre-Flood society or the Jerusalem Church; and Key Documents such as the 10 Commandments or Peter's Letters).  You can style your daily study to fit your family's needs and children's ages.  What you can't do is just open up a workbook and just fill in the blanks.  Instead, each student (and although you're the teacher, you will definitely find that you are also a student!) will make a notebook outlining those Bible Keys and adding any other drawings, writings, notes, etc that will help make the principles they are learning memorable.  JBC emphasizes that these notebooks are not to be busywork, but to be an individual study guide full of personal insight and meaning.  There are templates for the Bible Keys, so that students can fill in the information.  Suggested additions to the notebooks are drawings, maps, essays, timelines, or family trees.  We made some drawings such as a comic strip showing what happened on each of the days of Creation, and we found maps and helpful timelines to add.  Younger children would probably like to make their own drawings or use coloring pages.  Older students might want to write essays or summaries of what they are learning, or create family trees or comparative timelines of the kings of the Divided Kingdom or the ministries of the prophets.  (We haven't got that far yet!)


 Judah Bible Curriculum gives you the outline and philosophy to teach you how to teach the Bible, and teach it from Kindergarten through High School, with the whole family learning together.

The Judah Bible Curriculum K-12 Manual lays out all the Themes and Scope & Sequence for the study.  There are five themes to cover each year, and they are organized into school-year quarters (Theme I and Theme III are a half-quarter each), for six years.  You will cover the entire Bible each year, but with a slightly different focus.  In other words, this really is the only study guide you would need for all your students through all 12 or 13 years of school.  No matter what age your students are, you would start with the First Year outline, and then (in my opinion) could do the subsequent years in the order that best suits your students' needs and ages.  You also get an book of Elementary Notebook Ideas with examples and instructions to help you in setting up the individual notebooks and the kinds of things they could contain.  Also included is a set of eight Teacher Training lectures.  These are on CD if you purchase the hard copy, or as MP3 or online if you purchase the download version.  Let me emphasize that these Teacher Training lectures really aren't optional if you want to understand how to use the materials!


What we liked best:

  • this is really the only Bible curriculum one would need for an entire school career (and beyond).
  • flexibility - I could choose how to teach and what notebooking activities we would do.  Five days a week, three days a week, which translation of the Bible, and more were left up to me.  
  • encourages family interaction and discussion, and thinking deeply about the Bible's teaching because it's not just fill-in-the-blank and memorize a pat answer.  You will be studying the Bible.  
  • the teacher is also a student and has to be personally involved in the teaching.  We were all students together, my "advantage" being that I have been studying the Bible for a lot longer than my kids, and I had also studied the Themes and Keys we'd be looking at in advance.  
What we weren't crazy about:
  • flexibility - yes, I mentioned it as something we liked, but it's not always a good thing, or not a good thing for everybody.  For teachers that want a daily lesson plan and to know exactly what to teach when, this is going to be an aspect that is likely to leave them confused and frustrated.
  • although there are some suggestions for the types of things to add to the notebooks, the only printable or template included are those for the Bible Keys.  If you want maps, coloring pages, etc, you will need to find those on your own.
  • I listened to the lectures online, since I don't have an MP3 player, and had a few difficulties with that - which could well have been related to my computer or connection! - the lectures are around an hour in length, and when the recording inexplicably stopped at about 45 minutes through, I had to start over again and there wasn't a way to skip ahead to where I left off.  I would strongly recommend the CD or MP3 option of listening.  Also, because it is only the audio of the lecture, I found myself flipping pages trying to figure out which diagram or section of the manual was being referenced in the presentation.
Bottom line is that my kids actually liked this better than I did.  LOL  It was more work for me, and just fun and open-ended Bible discussion for them.  Which is good - we had some really interesting conversations as we studied, and we needed to discover the truths and answers to our questions together!  Truthfully, if Judah Bible Curriculum had been available to me about eight or ten years ago, I would probably still be using it with my students.  At this point, I feel like maybe I really am an old enough dog that I'm not willing to learn new tricks.  And frankly, without the time to spend on the preparation to really do this right over the long term.

I would recommend Judah Bible Curriculum to families who want to make daily family Bible study a priority and not just a short devotional, but real study.  I would also recommend it to homeschoolers who truly enjoy making their own lesson plans and having several subjects integrated and overlapping. I can envision using a curriculum like this as a companion study to ancient history, and to springboard into studies of the geography and cultures of the Middle East, or early Church history.  There are many opportunities for writing assignments of all kinds, and for art projects, probably even for some science projects.  But, if you want a clear daily lesson already set up, if your children are intimidated by blank pages and prefer a workbook style, or if you really don't have the time to devote to preparation and planning, this may not work for you.

Is Judah Bible Curriculum right for your family? Here's what you need to know:

The Judah Bible Curriculum can be purchased as a download ($44.00) or hard copy ($69.00).  It includes:  
  • Judah Bible Curriculum K-12 Manual or e-book
  • Elementary Notebook Ideas booklet (download or view online)
  • Eight-lecture Teacher Training Seminars on CD, download, or listen online
Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog for more information, and to read other Crew member reviews.

Disclaimer: As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, we received a complimentary download edition in exchange for our honest opinions.


Stefanie said...

Awesome review!!! I've been following along with this one and, after reading your review, I can kind of visualize it a little bit. LOL Wonderful job!

Michele said...

I am getting ready to post my review as well! I agree with Stefanie, you did a GREAT job with this review! It was a challenging one!

Debbie Phillips said...

Thanks for this review Kim. When you first started off I was thinking, "Hey, maybe I will order this for my youngest son and I for school next year." It will only be the 2 of us since my 3rd child will be graduating in a few weeks. Then I saw that it was more work for Mom and I decided against it. I like Bible to be one of the easier subjects to plan. I already plan our whole History and Science program from a spine or two and add many other resources and it takes a large chunk of my summer. I don't want to plan out Bible as well and find the resources. Also, I only have one student left and only 3 years to go. I will keep this in mind however to recommend to my children should they marry and have grandchildren to homeschool. It does sound good, especially if you are just starting out.

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