Thursday, July 7, 2011

Free Bible & Character Study Lessons

How many times have I heard that character is "caught" more than "taught"? For some strange reason, I DO NOT rest comfortably in the thought that my children will just catch the character I so desperately want them to possess. Maybe that's because, quite honestly, I'm wanting my children to have a much better example to "catch" character from than me, which is why I point them to Jesus! So while it is extremely important that we model Godly behavior to our children, it's wonderful to know that parents were also given the responsibility to teach the Word of God diligently to their children:

1 “Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the LORD your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, 2 that you may fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. 3 Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the LORD God of your fathers has promised you—‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’ 4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Through experience, I've found that if all else fails yet I continue steadfast in this area, nothing else will fail. But when I've dropped the ball on Bible study in our home, we've ended up with less-than-fruitful efforts in simply getting along with each other, much less learning our math, science, english, and history. The Word of God is rich and provides wisdom beyond that which we study. And it sets our (NOT JUST MY CHILDREN'S!) hearts and minds aright so that we can enjoy learning and just being together. I will be the first to say that I am NOT PERFECT in this area for many reasons. But I continue to rest in God's promise that "he that began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6 

Because it's best to custom fit Bible study for each family, I will simply recommend some sites that are free but may take you a while to figure out how you want to approach the material.    Everything we have done thus far from the following "sister" sites, our sons have absolutely loved:
  • Lapbook lessons provides Bible lapbooks if your children enjoy cutting and pasting.  (Scroll to bottom of page for a list of lapboks available by category.)  There are so many ads on this site it's sometimes difficult to find the material, but don't let that discourage you.  These resources are fabulous & free - some of the best printables out there!
  • File Folder Fun offers games that have worked WONDERFULLY in our home.  The Fruits of the Spirit game (click here and scroll to bottom) has helped us focus on how to show Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness and Self-Control in various situations.  Also included on this webpage is a youtube video with a song that helped us to memorize the Fruits of the Spirit very quickly.  And The Armor of God game fit in well with our Ephesians 6 study last year. 
Stephen and David playing Armor of God.
  • We also really enjoyed Monster Manners, which has provided a very easy way for our youngest children to remember to "put on" their "good-mannered monsters" when we are at the grocery store.  In fact, one of the most profound quotes by our 5-year-old stemmed from playing this game:
"Good-mannered monsters are in my mind, but sometimes the bad-mannered monsters fight with them."  -David  
In all honesty, I have the same problem.
  • Another Ephesians 6 Armor of God Printable Pack for CC Cycle 2
  • Bible Story Printables has a WEALTH of free resources that will work for pre-k to grade 5: mini-books, crafts, copywork pages, Bible verse visuals... and much more!
  • NOTE:  On all of these pages, be sure to look for the "Page 2," "Page 3," etc. It's hard to find, but you'll miss out on some of the resources if you don't look for it.
Another site separate from these is Erica's printables from Confessions of a Homeschooler.  She has created character lesson plans in the form of weekly unit studies that are just fantastic! This is a list of all of her freebies - scroll down to find Bible Character Studies on Arguing, Diligence, Gentleness, Good Stewardship, Honesty, Humility, Obedience, Patience, Peacemaking and Selflessness.

For lapbooking, we've completed some of Homeschoolshare's Character Lapbook and plan to eventually complete some great lapbooks from the Old Testament offered by Dynamic2Moms. You can use these in conjunction with Genesis Bible Notebooking Pages from Notebookingpages.com. Dynamic2Moms also offers a 52-week guide for reading the entire Bible in a year. AND Nadene at Practical Pages offers several wonderful Bible resources as well.  (I like the Book of James lapbook - a simple way to study the Book of James!)

For prayer time, check out our Pocketful of Prayers, along with the Praying in Victory booklet from PrayingScriptures.com.  And would you know that Biblestoryprintables has a file folder game for memorizing the Lord's Prayer?

For simple Bible lessons that will take you through the Old and New Testaments, Calvary Chapel's Children Ministry offers coloring pages, activity pages, and stories that we used when I was director of AWANA Sparks when we lived in Knoxville.  There are 163 lessons for the Old Testament and 162 lessons for the New Testament.  Though made for Children's Ministry, the Teacher Manual contains a lot of insight and assistance in teaching the program.

Last year we completed some lapbooks we purchased (before I found other free resources): Hands of a Child's A Devotion a Day Lapbook and A Journey Through Learning's New Testament Lapbook.  Lapbooking was a great way to get our oldest motivated to do some extra Bible study last year.  File Folder Games and storybooks worked great for the other two.

So what do we do, specifically? We usually start with some sort of Bible study/lesson/reading before we start the rest of our school day. I have one child that LOVES file folder games but would rather cut paper into a million tiny pieces than to create a lapbook. The other one adores anything to do with paper and scissors - and lapbooking is one of his favorite ways to do ANYTHING. We've done a little of everything I've listed here, but for consistency, almost every night before we go to bed we read a daily devotion out of the One Year Bible for Children by V. Gilbert Beers. It allows me freedom and flexibility to pursue other Bible crafts, file folder games, etc. but still read through the major stories of the Bible in one year (along with some Psalms and Proverbs). For scripture memorization, songs have done the trick in our household. Our favorites are Hide em in your Heart by Steve Green and Seeds Family Worship (Bible Story Printables has visuals for Seeds Family Worship as well.)  These are wonderful to play while doing chores!  I have also found free mp3 downloads of Bible verses from The Blazing Center.

Over the summer, we've been putting together Homeschoolshare's Character Lapbook.  My FAVORITE PART about these are the Who's Who Sorting templates.  The boys keep pulling them out; Stephen reads them, and David gives a thumbs up or thumbs down on which kids are choosing to do what's RIGHT and which kids are choosing to do what's WRONG.  If you don't have the time to do a lapbook, you  might just try out the Who's Who Sorting templates for each character quality.  It'd make a good little File Folder Game...



Another great resource for those wanting to balance some on-line videos and activities with some family lifegroup Bible lessons is LifeKids TV.  It contains on-line activities for 2 year-olds through 6th grade along with Parent Resources and Family Lifegroup Curriculum. 

For the coming school year, we will be completing Character Journals as part of the Book of Virtue (BOV) Project, which incorporates readings from William Bennett's Children's Book of Virtues, copywork, lapbooking, notebooking, and worksheets.  Although the lesson plans call for two-week unit studies, we will spend almost one month on each virtue as outlined in the BOV Project.  Let me just say that if you are disorganized and have no idea or interest in pulling together lesson plans for Bible or Character Training, purchase William Bennett's Children's Treasury of Virtues from Amazon or eBay and download The BOV Project.  It contains detailed lesson plans, worksheets, and corresponding scripture memory verses.  (But don't let the fact that it is a 900-page resource intimidate you.  We simply plan to print a character journal page, discussion questions, and copywork pages for each unit study in this resource.  And if Stephen starts begging to do a lapbook, some templates are made for each character study.)  The link will take you to mediafire.  Click on "Click here to start download from Mediafire."

Some gift ideas that may help to reinforce Bible study during  breaks:
  • "What's in the Bible?" DVD series created by Phil Vischer of Veggietales. Though Veggietales can sometimes confuse the real stories in the Bible, these "What's in the Bible" DVDs are great!  
  • Bible board games (like Bible Sequence and Bible Apples to Apples) 
  • We are trying out a Bible DVD game, but I'll have to provide you with feedback on it at a later date, as we just now added this to our home collection. 
But for our 5-year-old, I'm not sure that any of the items listed above can rival the free home-made game Monster Manners.


Lastly, a free audiobook that has captured the attention of both boys is Swamp Robbers by Paul Hutchens.  Beloved Books offers a great audio of this book, which has so many references to Christ and God.  The SugarCreek Gang stories are written from the perspective of a 5th grade boy, which makes it so heartwarming - I just LOVE IT! It has been great to listen to this in the car or as we wind down for the evening.

If you're new to studying the Bible as a family, simply choose a method that will work best for you.  You can complete Bible studies using a "through-the-Bible" approach, focus on certain stories through the Old or New Testaments, or choose to do Character studies.  Last year, we used a through-the-Bible format focusing primarily on the New Testament.  This year, we will focus on Character Unit Studies with several opportunities to play the silly games that re-inforce the character traits we're studying. 

Other resources:

Teaching with God's Heart for the World One-Year Missions Curriculum
Bible Road Trip 3-Year Bible Survey
Adventures in Holy Bible from Your Story Hour
Free Missionary Audio Drama from Brinkman Adventures

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