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Christian Studies: Bible Course for Students in Third-Seventh Grades, Books 1, 2, and 3 Review by Jill HardyBy Cheryl Lowe, Leigh Lowe, and Taylor Worley
4105 Bishop Ln.,
Louisville, KY 40218
The Memoria Press website describes their Christian Studies series as "comprehensive, dignified, and integrated with the other subjects you prioritize in your classical education." After looking through all three volumes of their series, I have to say that I agree with them wholeheartedly.
The age range for the books is said to be third through seventh grade, and this is one of those rare programs that I do believe could be used with just such a spread. The vocabulary is simple, without being "dumbed down," and the questions are open-ended enough to allow for the answers to vary according to the maturity of the students.
Each lesson is designed to cover one week; the Bible story is read on the first day (the Golden Children's Bible is the suggested text, but you would probably want older students to read from a regular Bible), and then subsequent days are used for discussing the various sections presented in the Student Texts, Facts to Know (vocabulary), Memory Verse, Comprehension Questions, and Activities.
The teacher's manual contains not only the student text in its entirety, and the answers to questions, etc., but also additional Bible passages that reinforce the current lesson and a few paragraphs of background information.
The integration that the publisher speaks of is evident in the instances where reference is made to extra-Biblical historical happenings, cultures, etc., in the context of biblical history. For example, in lesson 3 (Noah and the Ark) of Volume I, the notes in the teacher's manual make mention of the many flood stories in other world cultures, with special attention paid to the Greek myth of Deucalion and Pyrrha. Those following a classical model will appreciate how this dovetails with reading Greek mythology, and even those who are not can appreciate addressing the fact that such stories exist and offering a possible explanation.
Volume I of the series covers the Creation, the patriarchs, and the Exodus, with Volume II teaching about the rise of Israel and the teaching of the prophets. Volume III details the New Testament, life and crucifixion of Christ, and the early church. Each volume is designed to cover one year of study, with students going through the entire Bible in three years. A particular denominational bent wasn't glaringly obvious to me (aside from the mention of the Chalcedonian Creed, which is not accepted by the Oriental Orthodox Church), and as far as I can tell, this is a basic course in the simple truths of orthodox (little 'o') Christianity.
I really have only two complaints about the program. One is that it's cheaply made. Perhaps this is a superficial concern, but the quality of the books is such that they truly look as if they've been printed off a home computer and bound at Kinko's. Comb binding, maps that are obviously computer-generated, and pages with white lines running through them are distracting, and a little disconcerting, considering the price. Two, the Activities section is misleading in its name. The word "Activities" usually brings to mind papier-mâché models of the ark, preparing a meal that the patriarchs might have enjoyed, or some other hands-on type of exercise that brings some aspect of what you're reading in the Word to life. The "Activities" in the Christian Studies series consist almost entirely of answering questions about the illustrations in the Golden Children's Bible. Now, that isn't bad, in and of itself, but I do think that especially for those on the younger end of the spectrum, a few active "Activities" might have enhanced the overall product.
But I think that my highest praise should speak for itself. After years of insisting that I didn't want to "formalize" our faith by using a curriculum for Bible study, I bought an extra copy of the first Student Book for my second oldest (a sixth grader), after receiving my review copies and deciding that I wanted to use it with my oldest child (a seventh grader). I'm also including my kindergartner and first grader by having them listen to the Golden Children's Bible reading, participate in the Activities (which we'll be supplementing with some other projects), and practice their handwriting using Memoria Press's Copybooks, which use memory verses that correlate with the Christian Studies books.
So, physical quality of the books notwithstanding, I believe that this series really does live up to its publisher's description: comprehensive, dignified, and integrated.