Now that both of my girls are in junior high (oh, my - did I really admit that??!!!), I'm always on the lookout for Bible studies we can use at home that are age-appropriate and meet their spiritual needs.
Some Bible studies are too simple in that they are really designed for younger children, even though they're touted to be at the junior high school level. Some Bible studies would be appropriate for many junior highers, but not for those students who have been regularly studying the Bible on an almost-daily basis for many years. Some Bible studies tend to ask only "Who, What, When, Where" types of questions, which really don't get to the heart of the Scriptures. Our family prefers a Bible study that gets to the heart of the matter and includes questions that cause us to apply the biblical principles to our everyday lives.
About a month ago, we received and began using "Discovering Our Amazing God", by Deeper Roots Publications. This particular Bible study has been written for students in grades 6-9, although it's targeted for 7th graders. While the authors state that it's been designed to include Bible stories that are less familiar because they are taught less often in most churches and Sunday School programs, we found that our girls were still familiar with the sections of Scripture that we read together in the evenings.
Discovering Our Amazing God contains a few black and white line drawings to help illustrate the text and provide interest. When I was reading this book on my own, before we began using it together as a family, I decided that I'd like to build some pages on my website that included photos, audio stories, recipes, and other items of interest that would go along with the lessons in Discovering Our Amazing God. While I haven't finished doing this for the entire book, I've enjoyed developing some interesting pictures and other items for our family to use when working through this Bible curriculum. You can access those extra pages HERE, if you are interested in using them with your family or small group.
Discovering Our Amazing God does a great job in including prayer for specific unreached people groups found in the 10-40 Window, the region of the globe between 10 degrees north latitude and 40 degrees south latitude, which typically includes Asia and north Africa. The illustrations and drawings for each people group are beautifully drawn, and we enjoyed looking that these reminders to pray for people around the planet.
Deeper Roots Publications' website didn't seem quite as easy to access information about their various Bible studies for different age groups, but I did find that visitors can download a free sample of Discovering Our Amazing God HERE after entering their email address and first and last name.
Here's what our family enjoyed about using this Deeper Roots Bible study:
1. We love the focus on various people groups throughout the world and the reminder to pray for them.
2. The questions were more in-depth than some of the other Bible studies we've done together as a family.
3. The student workbook gives plenty of room to write and take notes.
4. The parent guide directs parents how to work through a lesson to accompany the student workbook. Also, a variety of tips on how to enhance each lesson is provided.
There are a few things that we thought could use some improvement:
1. The website isn't quite as user-friendly as we'd like, so it was harder to find some of the books and materials in which we were interested in learning more about.
2. Some of the suggestions in the lesson require a parent to do a little bit of research to find material to use with the lessons before using the lessons with the family. For example, one day's lesson asked the parent to show a clip from a Superman video. I searched on my own and found a YouTube link, but it would have been nice if this info. had been included with a list of links, or better yet, a CD containing some of the extras which would make this program better. As it was, I had to preview numerous Superman video links to find one that was appropriate and met the needs of that particular lesson. Links to maps required for the lessons, or appropriate maps on an accompanying CD would be nice, to help the lessons to be ready to use instead of requiring parent work ahead of time. Homeschooling parents aren't so lazy that they can't do this work ahead of time, but when most parents are teaching 8+ subjects in the home already, it can be overwhelming if every subject requires even just a few minutes of planning each day. Pretty soon, mom is burned out and ready to throw in the towel.
3. The homeschool materials, which we received, still looked like they were written for the classroom. Quite a bit of the wording was written for the classroom. While this isn't a turnoff for me, I know it can be for some homeschooling families.
4. I'd also like to mention that this Bible curriculum includes writing opportunities in some of the lessons, focusing on journaling and writing essays. While I thought that the journaling suggestions were appropriate for a Bible curriculum, we chose not to do the writing assignments. My husband and I decided years ago when the girls were very small that we wouldn't do anything during our family Bible times together that would make it seem like the Bible was merely another school subject in which they needed to to schoolwork. We have always wanted the Bible and the study of the Scriptures to be a holy time, considered far better than any schoolwork our girls would ever learn! Now if they choose to attend Bible college at some point in the future, there will obviously be more in-depth Bible study where they will have writing assignments, but that's another scenario altogether.
I'm sure the authors didn't intend the writing assignments to be considered "schoolwork", but many homeschooled students today would consider them to be homework. We told our girls that if they were interested in doing some journaling with these lessons, that would be wonderful, but it wasn't something that we were going to force onto them. True spiritual, biblical journaling must come from the heart if it is to be effective, and not from an assignment. I agree with the authors' quote from Howard Hendricks that was included in Discovering Our Amazing God that "Most of us read too much and reflect too little," but I also know that forced reflection isn't really true reflection at all. We chose to not do the writing assignments with our girls.
5. The Parent Guide: because the Teacher's Notes were in a separate side margin, my husband found it trickier to switch back and forth between the parent text and the student text (contained on the same page) and not miss something that should have been said or done by the teacher at various points in the lessons. If they had been intertwined step by step, in the midst of the student questions and comments, that would have been easier to follow question by question. We missed things numerous times and needed to jump backwards because something important was missed. I'm sure that some families wouldn't have difficulty with this, but we found it a bit challenging. In addition, the parent notes were in very small print in the side margin. While I can read it easily with my bifocals, other parents may find it more difficult to read with a small font, especially if they don't yet realize that they need reading glasses...or they're not willing to admit it!
6. I'd also like to see a Materials Needed list at the beginning of each Lesson and at the beginning of each Day's studies. Of course, a parent can read through the entire lesson on his own ahead of time and then gather the needed materials and supplies, but many parents don't have the time to devote to doing that, especially if they have larger families, so a materials list would be helpful.
7. A few times, we were asked to look up words in a dictionary. It would have been nice to include the definitions from Webster's 1828 Dictionary in the lesson itself, which are available free online, or from the actual reprinted 1828 Dictionary, because those definitions are often so different and so much more biblical than the definitions from a modern day dictionary.
Overall, my husband and I think that Discovering Our Amazing God has great potential for families to use with their upper elementary and junior high children! Our girls seemed to like the study and not have complaints about it. That's always wonderful!
Check out what other TOS Crew members have to say about Deeper Roots!
Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary copy of Deeper Roots in exchange for my honest review of this Bible curriculum. No other compensation was provided.
Hi! I'm Julieanne!