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    Educational Philosophy, Home Education

    Bible Lessons, Charlotte Mason Style {Part 2}

    October 25, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    [dropcap]L[/dropcap]ast time, we discussed how our friend Charlotte approached the knowledge of the Old Testament. Today, we’ll discuss the New Testament. Honestly, because I think of the Bible as one big whole, I found it fascinating that she approached the New Testament so differently from the Old, and yet I appreciate her reasoning and believe I might begin incorporating her thoughts into what we are doing, beginning with my Circle Time plans for next term {which have yet to be written, of course}.

    Bible Lessons CM Style Part II

    As a quick disclaimer, I am not saying that this is the only way to study Bible, or that Bible ought to be studied this way. I simply find Charlotte’s ways to be incredibly thoughtful and worth pondering, even though most of us then tinker with things to make them fit our families. I also think it is helpful if we separate Charlotte’s ideas about what is a good way to spend time in the classroom with what our families do outside of the classroom. I know there is no fine line in home education which neatly divides “school” from “non-school,” however, comma, I do not think that all of this is the same as family worship. It would be in addition to not in place of.



    The New Testament

    The quote I used before in praise of the Old Testament is a good starting point for discussing the handling of the new:

    [I]t is probably true that the teaching of the New Testament, not duly grounded upon or accompanied by that of the Old, fails to result in such thought of God, wide, all-embracing, all-permeating, as David, for example, gives constant expression to in the Psalms. Let us have faith and courage to give children such a full and gradual picture of Old Testament history that they unconsciously perceive for themselves a panoramic view of the history of mankind typified by that of the Jewish nation as it is unfolded in the Bible.

    Just as the goal of reading the Old Testament over and over is not just simply to better understand our God, but to have a full understanding of the New Testament, so not rushing through the New Testament when children are young is to promote the same. The purpose of Charlotte’s methodical plan is to ground them in understanding.


    Ages Six to Twelve

    Charlotte tells us that the lower forms read in turns each of the Synoptic Gospels. That, my friends, is a very slow reading — something that even I can pull off! So far, I am encouraged.

    A good question to ask here, though, is why we would have them “simply” read the life of Christ over … and over … and over. Granted, they are reading three different Gospels, but we all know they are more similar than different.

    I should like to urge the importance of what may be called a poetic presentation of the life and teaching of Our Lord. The young reader should experience in this study a curious and delightful sense of harmonious development, of the rounding out of each incident, of the progressive unfolding which characterises Our Lord’s teaching.”

    James Taylor would be thrilled to know that by poetic she means no analysis. Charlotte herself quotes another on this point:

    We are at present in a phase of religious thought, Christian and pseudo-Christian, when a synthetic study of the life and teaching of Christ may well be of use. We have analysed until the mind turns in weariness from the broken fragments…

    Our goal, then, is for the child to form a unified whole, the fullest picture of Christ it is possible for them to have. This is poetic in its more traditional sense. Interestingly enough, though, it is also poetic in the literal sense in that children are then answering exam questions concerning the New Testament in the form of poetry, expressing their Scriptural knowledge with a poetic impulse. Considering that most poetry is written from a place where we feel deeply, this is, in my opinion, evidence of Charlotte’s great success. In building, gently and methodically, a whole picture of Christ, the children have cultivated deep understanding and love.

    As far as I can tell, at this age they simply read {or were read to} and then narrated. Charlotte explicitly says very little teaching ought to be done as

    …the danger of boring young listeners by such teaching is great…

    This boredom would lessen the poetic impulse we are seeking to feed.


    Ages Twelve to Fifteen

    In Form IV, John and Acts were added to the student’s diet. Form IV roughly corresponds to the American conception of eighth and/or ninth grade. Commentaries were not mentioned for the earlier ages, but they are definitely suggested for this stage. Narration is not mentioned, but considering what we know of Miss Mason, I think it is safely assumed.


    Ages Fifteen to Eighteen

    Here is where children study the Epistles and Revelation. I see the wisdom in this, especially considering that the children are also on their third reading of the Old Testament at this age. If you recall the quote I posted a while back from Eugene Peterson’s Reversed Thunder:

    Everything in the Revelation can be found in the previous sixty-five books of the Bible. The Revelation adds nothing of substance to what we already know. The truth of the gospel is already complete, revealed in Jesus Christ.

    I did a little research and learned that, on average, each verse of Revelation has more than one quotation or paraphrase of the Old Testament. We do not tend to catch these, but our children may, if they are offered the gift of this sort of education.


    Other Material

    Charlotte also mentions the things which do not fall neatly into the above categories:

    The Catechism, Prayer-book, and Church History are treated with suitable text-books much in the same manner and give opportunities for such summing-up of Christian teaching as is included in the so-called dogmas of the Church. We find that Sundays together with the time given to preparation for Confirmation afford sufficient opportunities for this teaching.

    I am unsure at what age Confirmation occurred, nor am I enlightened as to what this involved. If you have such knowledge, please share your thoughts with us in the comments!


    What Our Family Actually Does, What I’m Adding/Changing

    I was debating over whether or not to include this, but I decided I will. Our church does not have a Prayer Book, but other than that, things line up fairly neatly. {I would be curious to know how one uses a Prayer Book at home — is it a daily thing? What is a Prayer Book anyhow?}

    In Circle Time, we read a story from the Old Testament, and everyone six and older {which, as of now, is only two of my children} must narrate. We began in Genesis a year or two ago, and we are in Judges right now. I had never considered the benefit of chronological education, but I like it, so I’m going to try and figure out how to do it correctly.

    In addition to the Old Testament story, we read one chapter of Proverbs {whichever chapter matches the day’s date} and one Psalm {we are working our way through from start to finish}. After we finish Psalms, I plan to go through Job before returning to Psalms.

    My oldest is reading through the Gospel of John on his own. I haven’t been having him narrate, which is a mistake I ought to remedy. It is my favorite, so I never considered that he ought to read the Synoptics first. After John, I will have him read the two Synoptics he hasn’t yet read. {My husband is kind enough to break them into readings for me.} He began reading the gospels in Year Three. I am considering adding a daily New Testament story to Circle Time, but haven’t yet committed one way or the other.

    He is also reading through Romans because we are taking a Romans class at church. I know Charlotte would probably frown on this, but he really likes the class, and I find he is absorbing Romans more than I expected. The class gives us a small reading {a paragraph or two} as “homework” for each week. Every day, he reads that assignment in a different translation: KJV, NASP, NKJV and NIV. He tells me he likes the King James best. {He is a strange child, but I must agree it is the the most beautiful of all available options.}

    We are currently using the Children’s Catechism. I don’t know where we’ll head after that — Westminster or Heidelberg. It’s a toss-up right now! This fits into our memory binder, along with Scripture memory. They are memorizing various Psalms and parables, which is something Charlotte mentions in her Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six, but does not mention in her section on Bible lessons.

    I am researching commentaries. I would like to add one in the next year or so, if I can find something that works well.

    AmblesideOnline incorporates Church History into the curriculum, so I just do what I’m told. Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula is read over the first six years. I would like to see my children do King’s Meadow Study Center’s Christendom course in high school.

    After reading through all of this, I find myself wanting to do more as Charlotte did, not less. Her approach makes a lot of sense to me, and what I am doing now is similar {due to her influence, not any inherent wisdom on my part}, so I think it’d be easy to switch. I won’t drop the Psalms/Proverbs/Job plan, though. I like it too much, and I never know where to place Job anyhow.

    What does your family do? Does Charlotte make you want to change anything?


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  • Reply danielle September 3, 2017 at 4:17 am

    I’m sure you’ve heard of New City Catechism, but just in case. From their description: “The New City Catechism is based on and adapted from Calvin’s Geneva Catechism, the Westminster Shorter and Larger catechisms, and especially the Heidelberg Catechism.”

    Also, I’m curious how long your Bible time lasts? Perhaps I missed a key detail, but do you read through one Proverbs and one Psalms each day? I haven’t done a great job incorporating Bible into our “together work” (in part because my youngest has significant special needs) and I’m trying to wrap my mind around how to organize.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 4, 2017 at 8:54 am

      Hi Danielle!

      So this was written back in 2011. At that time, our Bible time was pretty lengthy … because our schools days were much simpler. As my children have gotten older, our *together* Bible time has gotten quite a bit shorter (they now read on their own as well). At that time, yes, I was reading one Proverb and one Psalm per day (and when we finished Psalms, I did a portion of Job per day along with the Proverb). I still revert to this in the summers much of the time. 🙂

      I don’t know how old your children are, but I think it’s more important to *have* a Bible time than to do it any particular way or make it last a particular amount of time. The simplest Bible time is to read a portion — a complete story, let’s say — and then ask the children over 6 to narrate it. After that, I ask if they have any questions or anything this made them think about. It’s an easy approach that really works. 🙂

  • Reply Courtney March 30, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    I liked the idea of reading a chapter from Proverbs daily. Do/did you have your children respond to the reading?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel March 30, 2017 at 7:27 pm

      I didn’t! (And I still do this sometimes … usually over summer I make sure we get through Proverbs at least once.) What was interesting to me was that they responded on their own. Sometimes it was in pointing at one another. Ha. But still … I feel like the wisdom of Proverbs really applies to children in their little squabbles and selfishnesses, you know? 🙂

  • Reply Kathy May 2, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    Here are some of the commentaries used to guide the early New Testament lessons:
    St. Matthew’s Gospel of the Kingdom
    Mark and the first part of Acts

  • Reply Kelly October 31, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Oh, I’d forgotten about The Little Duke. The Eastern Orthodox church still does it that way. When the baby is baptized, he’s also given communion — a crumb of bread and a drop of wine from the priest’s fingertip, to show that he’s a full member of the community.

    In the West, with the rise of belief in transubstantiation (which happened after the Great Schism of 1054 — the EO churches have never had that belief), parents quit allowing their young children to take communion, and eventually it was codified.

    Jennifer, thanks — I wasn’t sure if you meant that kids might be examined by the elders to be admitted to the Table, then later confirmed and given voting rights.

  • Reply Jennifer October 31, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Oh, yes, sorry that I forgot to mention that. It was tied to communion as well. I forgot about that because I actually went through the process in 2 churches (long story) so I had forgotten that.
    The reason being that the Bible does state that believers who took communion in the wrong attitude became sick & even died, so parents need to be very careful that their children totally understand the need to repent of sins before coming to the communion table to avoid possible negative consequences.
    Yes, this is very common in a church which has infant baptism (so the children are covenant members of the church) and then later confirmation with beginning to take communion(sometimes with voting rights, depending on the church). At our church, everyone took the confirmation class at that age (which varies from church to church – 11 to 14 in the churches I was in), but not everyone chose to become a full-fledged member at that point.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts October 31, 2011 at 4:28 am

    This is very interesting to me.

    SO…sometimes confirmation is tied to communion? and sometimes to membership/voting rights? and sometimes both? Am I understanding correctly?

    This would sort of mesh with the AO book I mentioned before (I remember now that it was The Little Duke) where the comment about confirmation and baptism being the same at that time was an explanation for why he was taking communion at such a young age.

    We do not have confirmation in our church, and my children even took communion before being baptized! We are Reformed, but our church is regular old evangelical, and because of that baptism is taken more seriously than communion, which means I am almost completely ignorant about all of this!

  • Reply Kelly October 31, 2011 at 3:21 am

    Jennifer, was it tied to communion too, or just voting?

    Oh, and I didn’t mention this before because I figured “it goes without saying,” but maybe it’s best to say it anyway, just to be clear, but as far as I know, confirmation proper only happens in paedobaptist church. In churches that require a profession of faith, baptism is usually also the same thing as confirmation and admission to the Table.

  • Reply Jennifer October 31, 2011 at 3:12 am

    Confirmation classes…

    In the PCA church in which I grew up, something similar to confirmation happened around age 14. They held a class which discussed all of the deep, basic theological issues necessary to salvation & to understanding PCA theology in general. After this class, and meeting with an elder to confirm that you did, indeed, seem to have a saving faith in Christ, we could join the church as voting members. I would imagine that most churches would have a similar theology class for young adults being “confirmed” in their faith.
    🙂 Jen

  • Reply Kelly October 31, 2011 at 2:47 am

    Brandy, I’m beginning series on the BCP. 🙂

    Re: confirmation…
    Adult converts are sometimes baptized and confirmed at the same time, but I’m not sure how common that is.

    Length of time spent is going to vary according to each church’s custom. My LCMS friends had their kids in catechism class on Sunday mornings (it took the place of Sunday School) for two or three years before confirmation. The class began when the students were around fifth or sixth grade.

    The ECUSA we belonged to in Texas, confirmation classes met for a couple of hours once a week for about a year. You had to be at least 16 to be confirmed in that church.

    My kids were kind of rushed through it because when we came here, they’d already been taking communion for years and the bishop didn’t want them to be “excommunicated.” He gave each of them a copy of the catechism to read and then a woman in the church stopped by my house nearly every afternoon for about two weeks to talk to me and the children. She reported to the priest and the bishop. The priest talked to them some too, after church. I don’t remember how long the whole thing took, but it couldn’t have been more than a month.

    The way it worked out, confirmation for my youngest four (they were 12, 8, 6, and 4 at the time) was just a hoop they had to jump through, which was a let-down for me.

    (My oldest three were admitted to the Table by the elders of the PCA we used to belong to. In that church, the kids had catechism class, using the OPC’s Catechism for Children, on Sunday nights, and I think it included all the 1st through 6th grade kids.)

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts October 28, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Wow, Kathy! You are the linking queen lately. 🙂

  • Reply Kathy October 28, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    That’s one section.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts October 28, 2011 at 2:57 am

    Kathy, Thank you for the links! Have you ever looked at the OT History text she was using? I ask because I still have my textbooks from Bible classes and seminary, but they were just so…boring!…most of the time. I wonder if it is actually the writing {I’d like something to compare it to} or if it’s just from being forced to cram in too much at once…

    I can’t believe I didn’t remember until I read this that I own a great Bible atlas! I need to get that out next week and start using it.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts October 28, 2011 at 2:54 am

    Kelly, Thank you for all of this wealth of information! I hope you DO write a post on all of this sometime. I think I told you about a year ago that I hoped to get my hands on a BCP…I must confess I still haven’t done so!

    I never fully understood that it was used both daily AND in the service. That clears up a lot of my confusion. I believe our local Lutheran church confirms around age 12, but one of the AO books a couple years ago explained that confirmation and baptism were almost the same thing, and so I got confused about that, too.

    How much time is devoted to the confirmation practice? What does it involve? I am asking because CM seems to think that this is part of what makes her program “sufficient” or “enough” and so I’m wondering what is actually involved.

    Thanks again for your help!

  • Reply Kathy October 28, 2011 at 2:19 am

    Oh, let me make it clickable:

    PNEU Bible Lessons

  • Reply Kathy October 28, 2011 at 2:18 am

    Finally found the actual assignments for each year in the PNEU schools. This might be helpful, especially for the Old Testament.

  • Reply Kathy October 26, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    Kelly, thanks for that additional information!

    Here’s more detail about the lessons in the PNEU schools:

    (Look for the Bible Lessons sections.)

  • Reply Kelly October 26, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Age at confirmation has varied widely over the centuries. It’s meant to be something that the baptized person does once he’s reached the age of reason, which, historically was about seven years of age.

    John Donne wasn’t confirmed until he was 18 or 19 and that was considered late. His family was Roman Catholic and it took him a long time to decide between the Roman and Reformed faiths.

    I think the current practice in England is around age 12, so I’m guessing that it would have been somewhere between 7 and 12 in CM’s day.

    In this country it seems to vary by region. In places where the Baptist children are being baptized around age seven, that’s the age that most Episcopal, Catholic, and Lutheran children are being confirmed. But in other areas, 12 seems to be the expected age.

    I know I’ve mentioned our use of the Prayer Book in passing at my blog, but maybe I should make a more substantial post.

    Here’s a link to the one our church uses — The 1928 BCP. That’s a table of contents page with links to the actual contents, but it’ll give you an overview of what’s inside: the lectionary readings for morning and evening prayers through out the year, morning and evening prayers themselves, Psalter, communion service, all the services needed in the church from baptism through marriage, ordination, and burial, plus the catechism and 39 Articles of Religion. So it’s used for daily prayers at home, for instruction in the faith, and for all church services.

    At the top of that page is a link that says “United States.” If you click that it takes you to the 1979 BCP, which is what the ECUSA uses. It has several more services, and is an improvement in some ways over the 1928, but in some ways is not as good as it. There are also links to all the other ones since Cranmer’s prayer book in the 1500s.

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