Category Archives: Bible lessons

Online Bible Course from Veritas Press (Crew Review)

Veritas Press Bible Review
As much as I love teaching my children, I have found that sometimes I need them to work independently, and Veritas Press has proven to be a great place to turn.  Last year Ian went through one of the online Self-Paced History courses, and Elijah has been eager to have a turn.  He was thrilled to get to try their online Self-Paced Bible course “Old Testament 1: Genesis to Joshua.”

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About Veritas Press Self-Paced Bible Courses

Veritas Press Bible Image
Veritas Press Self-Paced Bible Courses are interactive online lessons that take students through the Bible chronologically.  There are 32 events covered in “Old Testament 1: Genesis to Joshua,” corresponding to the Veritas Press Bible cards.  Each card is covered in 4 lessons (including the quiz at the end). It is possible to do the course without having the physical cards, but I decided to go ahead and purchase them, and I was glad I did.  Elijah liked having something tangible to refer back to, and he used them with almost every lesson.

VP Bible Cards
During the lesson two young Israelites, Asher and Abigail, act as teachers or guides, walking the student through the story (with a little help from an animated cat, Teb).

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There are lots of different activities, such as putting events in order, matching up definitions, a catchy memory tune that covers all 32 events, and even fun games.  Students do need to be able to read to complete most of the activities, so these courses are intended for 2nd-5th grade.  (Scriptures used come from the New King James Version.)

Veritas Bible 1
Following the classical style, students memorize names, dates, and places, gaining a solid foundation of biblical understanding that will prepare them for delving deeper in the Bible as they grow older and move into more advanced stages of learning.

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Veritas Press Self-Paced Courses are all online.  The student logs in and is automatically sent to the correct lesson.  (If they stopped in the middle of one, they can choose to pick up right where they left off.)  Quizzes are graded, it’s easy to see how they have done on each lesson by looking at their student dashboard (or signing in as a parent).

There are actually two options for going through these lessons.  The first is the Self-Paced Course Elijah is doing, where the student has one year to work through all the lessons, and they are graded on how they do on the quizzes.  The other choice is a monthly or yearly subscription to, including an option for a family subscription that allows multiple students to use the program.  With, they can also access the lessons from ALL the available Bible courses (both Old and New Testaments).  While I usually try to find resources that can benefit several of my children, this time I opted for the Self-Paced course because I felt like having a deadline to get through all the lessons would help us stay more disciplined about getting through the entire program, plus I was only going to have Elijah using it this year.

Our Experience

Veritas Bible 5Because Ian went through one of the Veritas Press history courses last year, Elijah went into this course with certain expectations.  Some things were the same, but there were also several differences.  His favorite thing about the history lessons had been the games.  He watched Ian get to play a new one every week and was so excited to start his own course so he could play games like that too.  Unfortunately, for the first several weeks there were no games.  He was really disappointed, and it was hard to get him motivated to sign on and do his Bible lesson.

Thankfully, when he got to the Flood, he found a game very similar to one from Ian’s course.  From that point on, Elijah gladly worked through his lessons.  The games continue to be his favorite part.

Here are the main ways this Bible course compared with the self-paced history courses:

  • Still 32 cards (for 32 weeks) but only 4 lessons for each card rather than 5
  • The Bible lessons are a bit shorter (13-14 slides each)
  • Similar activity pages
  • Not a game for every week
  • Continual review of what’s been learned previously so students master the material

My Opinion

I am really pleased with this Veritas Press Self-Paced Bible course and have already signed Elijah up for the next course, Old Testament 2: Judges – Kings to start once he completes this one.  (If you purchase before July 11 you can save $100 off the price of the course and set the start date for any time up through September 1!) I love the solid Biblical foundation Elijah is getting through this program and want to keep adding onto it.

Other Crew Member took a look at different courses, and some received a subscription to, so if you want to learn more, click on the banner below to see what they thought of those options.

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas ReviewCrew Disclaimer

“Stick Figuring” Through the Bible (Crew Review)

Nothing is more important in our homeschool than learning about the Bible, though I don’t often mention it on this blog anymore because we do Bible time in the evenings with Daddy and I don’t think of it as part of our school day.  I often wrestle with wanting to spend more time in the Word with my kids during the day, however, so I was excited when GrapeVine Studies gave us a chance to review their materials for Old Testament 1: Level 1 Creation to Jacob, including a Teacher Book, and two student books: the Level 1 book for ages 6-8 and the Traceable Level 1 book for ages 3-5.

About GrapeVine Studies

Grapevine Studies Review

GrapeVine Studies lead children on a chronological journey through the Bible, guiding them through stick figure drawings for each story to help them learn.  Old Testament 1: Creation to Jacob consists of 12 lessons designed for the whole family (preschool- 8th grade) to go through together, with age-appropriate student books for multiple levels.  The lessons are intended to be done over the course of about 4 days, so this entire book can be used for 12 weeks of school (about 45 separate sessions).

Grapevine Studies Review
As this chart shows, there is an Old Testament Overview designed specifically for preschool and Kindergarten students (the “Beginner” level), but the lessons don’t correspond with the other levels (it only covers Creation to Babel in the first book).  To include younger children in the older ones’ lessons, there is a Traceable Level 1 book that has the drawings already marked with gray lines, which is a really helpful option for families like ours with both preschoolers and older children.

Grapevine Studies ReviewThe Old Testament Overview for Levels 1-4 is presented in four books, with Part 1 covering the major stories of Genesis from Creation to Jacob.  Our family all worked at Level 1, with the boys (2nd grade and Kindergarten) using the regular student book and Arianna (age 3) using the traceable version (which was identical except for the addition of the gray line drawings).  The 82-page student book has blank timeline pages with the names of each story for the students to fill in as the teacher guides them through the lessons.  Level 1 is really just about introducing the major stories and characters, helping the children see how they are all related by creating them a physical timeline so they have a mental frame of reference to place each story in context.  (Older students go deeper with memory verses and additional material for each lesson.)

Teacher involvement is essential.  The main part of each lesson comes from the material in the 100-page teacher book.  That’s where you’ll find the Bible verses to go along with each picture, as well as details about what should be drawn.  The color illustrations are intended to be drawn on a whiteboard for the students to copy as you progress through the lesson.

Our Experience

My kids really looked forward to our Bible lessons with GrapeVine studies.  The boys appreciated the simplicity of the stick figure drawings, and Arianna loved being able to join us for this part of “school.”  (She reminded me every day that we needed to do our Bible lessons!)  She did really well tracing the pictures and then coloring them in, and the boys like sneaking glimpses of her pages to make sure they knew what their figures should look like.  Once or twice they asked me to give them her pages (I received the books in pdf form so we just printed them out, though they are available to purchase as softbound student books as well), but eventually they realized their drawings didn’t need to look exactly like hers, and they had fun being creative.

Once we had done a few lessons and gotten into a groove I enjoyed the lessons as well, but I felt like we got off to a bit of a rocky start.  There was a lot of introductory material in the Teacher Book about the studies themselves and the philosophy behind them, but not a lot of guidance for a newbie wanting jump into teaching.  Although I rarely follow lesson plans exactly, I found myself really wishing the first lesson in particular (which was a little different from all the others because it was solely about the timeline) had a suggested script.  The kids were so excited about doing their pages that they wanted to race through each event, and I wasn’t sure whether to try to explain in picture or just save that for when we did the later lessons on each story.

The kids didn’t seem to notice my floundering, however, and the later lessons did get easier for me to teach as I learned when to make them set their drawing pages aside so we could actually read in our Bibles and talk about each story.  Most of these stories were familiar to Ian and Elijah, so it was a fun way to review them.

I was really glad my kids enjoyed our time with GrapeVine Studies, but it required a bit more preparation and teacher involvement than I’m ready to give at this point in our family’s journey.  I do love the idea of everyone being able to participate at their own level, however, so I will definitely keep these studies in mind once the babies are old enough to join us.

Grapevine Studies Review
Crew Disclaimer

Theo: God’s Love (video review)

God's Love (Volume 1) Home Edition - DVD

I recently heard a mom talking about the Theo Bible story videos her kids had been enjoying, and since I’m always looking for resources to help teach my children about Scripture, I headed over to to find out more.  Right away I noticed the company’s emphasis on teaching children God’s Word, and I was delighted to get a chance to review the three episodes from the DVD Theo: God’s Love.

The main characters are two mice, Belfry and Luther, and the old pastor with whom they live, whose name is Theo.  Each episode follows the same basic formula: Belfry and Luther face a problem, then Theo explains a basic doctrine that addresses that problem, followed by a Bible story to illustrate the point.

Quick Summaries

In “Saving Faith” Theo teaches about the meaning of “faith,” whether it be in false things such as superstitions or true faith in God.  Then he tells the story of Abraham and Sarah following God to the land of Canaan.

In “Loving Obedience”, Theo teaches about ways we can please God by obeying His Word. Then the Bible story of Jonah.

In “Forgiveness,” Belfry, eats the special treats Luther has been saving.  Theo teaches them the meaning of the word forgiveness and then tells the parable of “The Unforgiving Servant.”  He shares about how our sin puts us in debt to God, and how God forgives us.

Our Thoughts

I loved the beautiful animation and solid teaching.  It is rare to find such a well thought out resource for teaching theology to children.  The characters were fun and likeable, and I loved the way Theo was often singing through an old hymn.  My children were immediately drawn in, and their only complaint was that they wanted more to watch. Each episode is about 9-10 minutes long, with three episodes on each of the five DVDs currently available.

In addition to the videos themselves, I was impressed by the free parent guides offered on the website (in addition to coloring and activity pages).  For each episode, the parent guide gives Scripture references for the verses used in the video, as well as discussion questions, a “family activity,” and 6 days of family devotions. These would be a wonderful resource for families looking for ways to spend time together in the Bible.

If you’re interested in checking out the Theo series, the 5-minute bonus episode “Good News” is available to download for free.  Other episodes are available for purchase on DVD or as downloads from the Theo website.  I hope you enjoy Theo as much as we did!

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DISCLAIMER: I received the digital downloads of the three episode from God is Love for free in exchange for my honest review.

3-Year Bible Survey for Students (Review)

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When I first started this blog most of my posts were about the Bible lessons I started doing when my oldest turned three as I sought to be intentional about discipling him.  Now he’s just starting 1st grade (and there are two preschoolers and a baby coming up close behind!), and I would still say the most important part of my children’s home education is our time in God’s Word.  I have several goals:

  1. I want them to know about the Bible (historical context, authors, genres, canonization, etc.).
  2. I want them to know what’s in it (where to find what they’re looking for).
  3. I want it to be a part of their daily lives in such a way that when they are grown they can’t imagine a day passing without being in the Word because they are eager for God to speak to them through it.

So how do I go about pursuing those goals on a day to day basis?  We spend time each morning in Proverbs, and time each evening in family devotions, both times helping meet the last two goals.  But now that Ian is starting 1st grade, I want a thorough, systematic way to help us meet the first one.  That’s why I was SO excited to find Bible Road Trip.

What is it?

Bible Road Trip is a 3-year curriculum design to be used over and over as a child matures from preschool all the way through high school.  (I love repeatable cycles!) It takes students on a journey from Genesis to Revelation, teaching about each book and helping them come to a greater understanding of the overall message of the Bible.

I have many friends who limit their homeschool Bible time to the ties they can make between the Scriptures and whatever else they are studying.  While I think that is an important part of educating and discipling our children, I also think it is essential to have a time devoted specifically to studying the Bible on a systematic basis.  I thought I was going to have to create my own program to take my children through the Bible the way I desired, but Danika Cooley, the author of Bible Road Trip, has put together a curriculum that leads students through God’s Word, helping them understand what they are reading.

The program is broken up into three 32-week years, making it easy to fit into a school year with flexibility for holidays, time to catch up, or extended study:

  1. Year One covers the Old Testament books of Law and History
  2. Year Two covers the Old Testament books of Poetry and Prophecy
  3. Year Three covers the entire New Testament.

There are 5 separate levels of study, following essentially classical delineations:

  • Preschool-Kindergarten
  • Lower Grammar (Grades 1-3)
  • Upper Grammar (Grades 4-6)
  • Dialectic (Grades 7-9)
  • Rhetoric (Grades 9-12)

For each week of study, there are assignments at each of these levels, so the entire family can be focusing on the same portion of Scripture simultaneously in ways developmentally appropriate to each students stage of learning.

Each week is broken up into two main sections.  “Dig Deep” contains the bulk of the lesson:

  • Researching the Word (using the Bible study books listed below)
  • Reading the Word (5 daily assignments including a few comprehension questions)
  • Memorizing the Word (weekly memory verse)
  • Notebooking about the Word
  • Praying about the Word (focusing on different countries around the world)

This is followed by a section for “Explore Further,” which includes:

  • Learning More about the Word (related videos, etc.)
  • Crafting Through the Word (hands-on projects to help reinforce what was learned)

Getting Started

Since Ian is in 1st grade, I’ll just be discussing how to use the program in the “Lower Grammar” stage.  Here’s what we needed to collect in order to begin using Bible Road Trip:

 There are also a few recommended resources for extra learning:

P1030468Our Experience

We spent some time on Week 1 and 2 of Year One, which cover “What is the Bible?” and “Exploring the Old Testament,” but then we jumped ahead because I want to use Bible Road Trip to enrich the boys’ study as we finish going through the Bible in our family devotions.  (We started in August 2012 and are just about finished with the Old Testament period in our chronological study.)  After those introductory weeks, we skipped ahead to Year Two to find the sections on Daniel so we be “on the same page,” and then we went back to Year One to finish the story of the exiles’ return in Ezra and Nehemiah.

Year Three will soon begin being posted week by week, and that’s what we plan to use for this coming school year as we head into the New Testament as a family.

What We Liked About Bible Road Trip

I like that Danika has created the program as an adaptable tool for families.  “The goal is to acquaint our children with the Word of God, not to create busy work.”  If the suggestions she makes for each lesson aren’t helpful, it’s not going to cause problems if you decide to skip them with your family.  On the other hand, she provides some wonderful ways to engage children, especially in the “Explore Further” section of each lesson.

BRT1I think my favorite part of the curriculum, however, is the Notebooking Journal.  The pages Danika has created are just stunning! They contain many full-color works of art from masters such as Van Gogh, Michelangelo, and Rembrandt. Notebooking is such a great learning tool, and these pages are going to create a beautiful record of what we have learned.  Ian loves going through the Bible notebook we created during his preschool years, and I know this will be something he goes back to again and again.

(Incidentally, I first heard about Bible Road Trip when I purchased a lifetime membership to and received the Year One lesson plan pdf as a bonus.  If you want to find out more about the benefits of notebooking, their website is a great place to start!)

What We Adjusted for Our Family

When going through the Bible I always have to make a decision about how I’m going to do it: book by book or chronological order?  There are pros and cons to both approaches, and those are passed on when choosing a Bible curriculum.

We have been using a devotional that goes through chronologically, which I think really helps kids grasp the flow of history and see where the different stories they read in the Bible fit into the big picture.  Bible Road Trip goes through book by book, so while you get a good sense of history in Year One, you miss a few things (like the stories of Daniel) that are described in the books of prophecy in Year Two.  As I said above, we solved this issue by using the appropriate lessons from the Year Two curriculum since we already have a chronological framework established.  When I begin the entire 3-year cycle again, I will probably just do Bible Road Trip as written, but I’m wondering if there will be some confusion with abandoning the chronological approach.

I also opted not to use the “Praying About the Word” section.  It’s not that I had any issues with it; on the contrary, I thought it was a valuable addition.  Still, it seemed to be completely separate from rest of the study, which made it feel like a supplementary curriculum in and of itself.  We just are doing so much already that I decided to hold off on it, at least for now.

Just the Facts

Interested in starting Bible Road Trip?  Here’s

  • Recommended ages: preschool-highschool
  • Weekly lessons plans and notebooking pages are available for free if you download each week separately!
  • If you want the convenience of having the whole year in one place (great for printing the year in advance with one click!), you can purchase the Year One and
    Year Two lesson plans ($20 per year) and the corresponding Notebooking Journals ($20 per year for each level: Lower Grammar, Upper Grammar, or Dialectic) as pdf files.

My Overall Impression

I’m excited to find such a valuable tool to help disciple my children.  I am so thankful for the research Danika has put into Bible Road Trip and the time she has taken in making it available for other families to use.  I’m sure I’ll be sharing more as we get further into our journey!

DISCLAIMER:  I received the Year One Notebooking Journal for free in exchange for my honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.  All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.  This post contains affiliate links.

5 Bible Basics (Going Beyond Stories)


When I first starting following Jesus at age 14, I knew little about the Bible beyond the stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and Noah’s Ark.  (My mom had once bought me a children’s Bible storybook and that was about as far as I got.) Everyone at church knew so much more about the Bible than I did, and I wanted to start reading the Bible regularly, so I asked two friends to help me pick one out.  That experience was the beginning of my Bible education.

I’m not quite sure what I was expecting as far as choices: paperback, hardcover, or leather, maybe?  I remember being slightly overwhelmed as the two of them discussed different translations and finally decided I should get an NIV.  “A what?”  Maybe they explained the concept, but if so I don’t remember.  I just took their word for it that that was what I should get.  I found a plain NIV Bible and promptly took it home to begin reading.

I think I made it to Leviticus before I got discouraged.  I told my friends about it on Sunday and one of them said the Old Testament might be too much to tackle at first.  He recommended I skip ahead to the New Testament and start with Matthew.  That was my first Bible lesson: this big book has two major divisions, and it could still make sense if I didn’t read it completely in order.

I enjoyed my journey through Matthew, but when I start in on Mark I got confused.  I’d start into a story and then realize I’d already read it back in Matthew.  Why was it in here twice? Then I hit Luke and many of the stories were there yet again!  What was wrong with this book?  Why did it keep repeating the same stories?

5 Things Everyone Should Know About the Bible

My confusion could have been cleared up with a few lessons in Bible basics.  Somewhere along the line I got a better grasp on things and eventually I not only read the Bible but also studied it with great enthusiasm.  In the beginning I felt like my friends all knew so much more than I did about the Bible, but as I started to learn more, I realized even those who had grown up in the church were often lacking a basic understanding of the Word of God.

I want to be sure my children grow up with a solid foundation when it comes to knowledge of the Bible.  As I’ve looked into different ways people use the Bible in homeschooling, it seems like much of what I have found consists of teaching Bible stories.  I think that’s great when the children are little, but I want to be sure we go beyond just stories and teach our children both some basic facts about the Bible as well as knowledge about how to study it to gain a deeper understanding.

Here are 5 Bible basics that helped us get started:

Bible page1. 66 books in 1.  The Bible may come bound as one book, but it is actually a whole library of books by different authors written over a span of hundreds of years. (Knowing this would have helped me so much as I went through the gospels!)  I created this blank Bible library bookshelf notebook page to help teach this concept.  (The only label on it is the title at the top; everything else can be written in by hand.  Feel free to adapt it to make it work for you!)

  1. 2 major divisions.  Those 66 books are divided into two groups: The Old Testament and the New Testament.  The OT tells the story of how mankind was separated from God and how God used one nation, Israel, to set in motion a plan to bring about reconciliation.  The NT tells about how God’s plan was carried out and how all people can experience that reconciliation.  As a new believer, these basic descriptions could have helped me a lot in finding my way around!

  2. Multiple genres.  Some of the books of the Bible tell stories. Some list laws.  Some have poems.  Some describe prophetic visions.  It’s important to know what type of book you’re reading in order to fully understand it.

  3. It’s helpful to learn the names of the different books in order.  It makes it SO much easier to look things up.  I have found the best way to do this is through songs.  I learned both Testaments from the My First Hymnal: 75 Favorite Bible Songs CD I bought years ago, so that’s what I’ve taught my kids, but there are lots of different songs out there that teach the names of the books of the Bible.

  4. Translations abound.  The books of the Bible were originally written in Hebrew (OT) or Greek (NT) (plus a small amount in Aramaic), so all English Bibles are translations.  That’s why sometimes we’ll hear verses read slightly differently depending on which translation the speaker is using.  (We use primarily the ESV in our home, as well as spending some time in the KJV.)

These are all basic things that we’ve taught our kids from early on.  We have a chance to reiterate these concepts frequently, so at least the older boys have a fairly good understanding of them.  I’m looking forward to Ian’s 1st grade year, when we’ll be able to dig a little deeper as we study the Scriptures.

Coming Soon: My review of the program we’ll be using as a framework for our Bible studies for this coming school year!


A Daily Dose of Proverbs


Look at those faces!  I cannot help but wonder where their journeys will lead them in the years to come.  So many hopes and dreams are wrapped up in this one picture.

Someday I hope I will be able to look back and say, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4).

What can I do to help work toward that goal?  I hear stories of friends who “gave their lives to Jesus” when they were little, but I just don’t know what that looks like.  My children can tell you a lot of Bible stories (at least the older two can).  They could probably explain the basics of salvation.  Yet I don’t know to what extent they claim this faith for themselves.  So the big question for me these days is this:

How can I help guide them to a place of wanting their own relationship with Christ?

Right now that best answer I can give is to show them the difference between a life lived God’s way and a life guided by man’s own attempts at wisdom.  I want them to recognize wisdom and folly and to know which one they want to rule their lives.  I want them to hunger for a knowledge of God.  I want them to realize that trusting in the Lord is far superior to leaning on their own understanding.  I want them to look to Him to supply their deepest needs, especially their need for salvation.

But those seem like lofty goals when the oldest of my children is only 6.  Right now, I think the best thing I can do is to just fill them with the Word, pouring treasure into their hearts, hoping and praying that someday they will realize its value.

And so we read the Bible.  A lot. For a long time I struggled with “Bible first,” a maxim I’ve heard repeated over and over in homeschool circles.  We have a family Bible time in the evenings, and I wasn’t sure how do Bible in the morning without it affecting what we do with Daddy.  As I considered our long-term goals for our children I realized that what I really wanted to do was soak them in the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament.  Our evening devotions with Long Story Short by Marty Machowski have been wonderful for teaching our children about the stories of the Bible and how they tell God’s overall story of salvation, but we didn’t really get to spend much time in Psalms and Proverbs.

So for the last few months, our routine has been to start our school day on the couch, reading a chapter (or more, since Ian usually begs to keep going) out of one of the Miller family books and then 5-10 verses from Proverbs.  Sometimes it’s just Ian.  Sometimes the little ones join us.  But we’re starting our day in the Word, and I’m trusting the Lord that His Word will not return void.

I look forward to this sweet time every morning, and I think Ian does too.  The other day as we were putting away our Bibles, he turned to me and said, “Could we bring our Bibles to the park and do this with our friends?  I think they’d like to know all this too.”  I pray God will water the seeds I am planting and that Ian will share with all his friends and bear much fruit for the Kingdom of God.

The Resurrection: Letting Go of Expectations

It seems like the main lesson I learned through this Lenten season was that things are not always going to happen the way I expect.  Lent TreeOur Lenten Tree limped to life in spurts.  Because it wasn’t connected to either our evening family Bible Time devotions nor our morning Bible reading with school, we just didn’t add to it as regularly as I hoped.  Instead we kept adding leaves in clusters.

There were two ways we brought our tree to “life.”  The leaves were made using the printable “ornaments” from Gina at Seamless Days.  She has drawn up simple pictures to represent the stories mentioned in No Ordinary Home: The Uncommon Art of Christ-Centered Homemaking by Carol Brazo.  They tell the story of God’s redemption from Creation to the Resurrection.  We also added flowers to represent some of the ideas I got from Bring Lent to Life: Activities & Reflections For Your Family by Kathleen M. Basi (e.g. people we’re praying for, things we’re thankful for).  I still like the idea of the tree, but the next time we try it I think we’ll make sure to connect it with the devotions during our family Bible Time.

Even though we didn’t add to the tree daily or as often as I would have liked, at least it did happen (sort of) and provided the visual lesson I intended.  I had other plans for Lent that never happened at all, so I went to church this morning with anticipation in my heart, hoping for a great glorious celebration tapping into two thousand years of tradition of celebrating the miraculous morning of the Resurrection, something that would wipe away the dissatisfaction of my frustration expectations.

Then my children had one of the most difficult times in church I can remember since we started keeping them in the main service with us a few years ago.  (Actually, it was probably just one child in particular having trouble, but multiple issues on that front made me hyper-sensitive and then every little thing out of the others seemed a lot worse than it was.)  I ended the service in tears.  The morning had not been the glorious experience of my dreams.

I imagine the disciples felt the same way at the beginning of that Sunday morning so long ago.  Here they were, at the culmination of three years of ministry following Jesus, expecting him to triumph over their oppressors and establish his kingdom, only to find themselves left with a body in a tomb.  They adjusted to his death and tried to figure out where to go from there.  Then the women came back from the tomb proclaiming Christ’s resurrection.  In spite of the fact that Jesus had told them he would be raised on the third day, they still had a hard time believing it until they saw him for themselves.  It wasn’t until they let go of their expectations that they were able to fully experience the awesome power of Christ’s victory over death.  What started as a gloomy morning turned into a joyous celebration.

My own morning did get better.  Our merciful God brought several good friends around me who offered comfort and encouragement, and by the time we left the church building my spirit was renewed and refreshed.  Even though the rest of our day has just been an ordinary Sunday at home, there is something different inside me.  I have spent the day reading through the story of Easter morning in all four gospels and reflecting on the beauty of the Resurrection.  While my day wasn’t quite so dramatic as that first Resurrection Sunday, it still ended up being a time of joy and marveling at the glory of God.  As I let go of my expectations I was able to embrace His mercy, His grace, and His infinite love.  And that is a wonderful way to celebrate the day God triumphed over death and gave us the incredible gift of new Life.


Lent: Looking forward to New Life

Lent1Our family so enjoyed the sacredness of celebrating Advent that I decided I wanted to do something for Lent this year to make this season a holy celebration as well.  Usually when I think of Lent, I think “fasting,” but really the season is about so much more than that.  I’m not sure how much our children would understand the concept at their ages and whether they could really choose to give something up on their own.  I don’t want the season to be remembered for how much they resented me taking away their sweets or screen time. So instead, I’m choosing to use a “Lenten Tree” to represent God bringing us new life.

Throughout the season we will add leaves, flowers, and ornaments to transform our barren “tree” into a lush symbol of Christ’s triumph over death.  I’ll share a little more about how those things will get added as we move toward the celebration of the Resurrection.

To see how our tree came to life, check out The Resurrection: Letting Go of Expectations.

Long Story Short: David and Goliath

David and Goliath

The two armies (and their champions) face off under Ian’s watchful eye.

It’s been a while since I posted anything about our journey through Long Story Short by Marty Machowski, but we had so much fun with David and Goliath recently that I thought I’d post about it.  There are lots of ideas floating around online for preschool lessons to go along with the story (like my previous post from the last time we covered it), but not so many for elementary age kids.  This time around I tried not to repeat everything we’d done before.  We did pull out some of our favorite activities (like painting a life-sized Goliath) though, while still adding a few new ones Ian wasn’t ready for before.  Our discussion was also a little deeper this time, since Long Story Short shows how every story points to Jesus.  Just as God used David to help Israel achieve a seemingly impossibly victory against an overpowering enemy, He also used Christ to conquer sin and death, something we could never accomplish on our own.  I love how the Lord used David’s experiences as a youth in the field (trusting the Lord to help him kill the lion and the bear) to prepare him for an event he never could have imagined.  We told the boys we never know how God might be preparing us for something in the future, and that even as children their faithfulness and trust in Him can help them be ready to be used in a might way.

The highlight of our week was definitely painting Goliath.  We measured out 9 feet on a role of paper and then I drew a basic outline for the kids to paint.  We took it outside and then I left them to their fun.


We hung the completed painting in our living room and left it up for a couple weeks so anyone who came over could admire it.  I considered making “slings” like David’s, but I was afraid the boys would just get frustrated by how difficult it was to aim, so we stuck with just throwing rolled up socks at Goliath.


Along with measuring Goliath’s height, we did another measurement activity that was suggested in Long Story Short.  The Bible says the head of Goliath’s spear weighed 600 shekels, or about 15 pounds (1 Samuel 17:7).  We piled books on a scale until we had a stack that weighed 15 pounds, and then I placed the stack in Ian’s arms so he could feel how heavy just the head of Goliath’s spear had been.  Ian could hardly hold it long enough to take a picture, and we talked about how strong Goliath must have been to carry such a heavy weapon.

Goliath1   Goliath2

Another new thing we did was print out and color two little books (“David, The Lion, and the Bear” and “David is Brave”) from Lambsongs(Search the page to find the titles.)  They were easy enough for Ian to read, and he really enjoyed coloring them in and having his own books.  (They print two on a page, so Elijah also got a copy, though he didn’t have the attention span to finish his coloring.)    Goliath5

The boys loved our “Listening Lesson” for this story and requested it frequently, even wanting to sing the songs to Daddy at night during Bible time.  Here’s what was on our iPod playlist:

It can be challenging to find ways to keep our Bible lessons “fresh” when covering such familiar stories, but I think overall we had a successful week.  Ian’s already asking me about the next time we do this story and sharing his plans for painting another Goliath.

Battling “the Wants” by Focusing on Advent


Growing up I always felt like Christmas was a magical time, and as an adult I strove to recreate that feeling to no avail.  What I finally realized this year was that the feeling I felt as a child was almost entirely about the Christmas morning gift orgy.  Our one Christ-related tradition was attending Mass at my father’s church on Christmas Eve (the one time of year we ever went), and for me even that was about presents, since I was allowed to open one gift that night if I behaved well in church.  I saw that hour as a trial I had to endure to reach my goal of presents.  My childhood mindset was:

 Christmas = Present Day.

Can anyone relate?

This was the first in many years that I was again overwhelmed with a sense of wonder.  I think the main difference was that we chose to focus on Advent rather than Christmas.  As a child, the only thing I knew about Advent was that my aunt sent us an “Advent calendar” every year, which for me was essentially a countdown until Present Day.  I opened each door with increasing anticipation, knowing I was one day closer to the bliss of satisfying my rather serious case of ” the wants.”

Very little of our celebration this year was about presents on December 25th.  Instead we used the 4 weeks prior to Christmas to celebrate the turning point of human history.  We immersed our family in the story of Christ’s birth, beginning with the promise God made back in Genesis 3:15 about Eve’s seed bruising the head of the serpent.  We talked about blessing others and showing love, just as God showed us His love by sending Jesus.  Our whole family went caroling in two retirement homes and spent time just chatting with several residents afterward.  We had fun making spice dough ornaments and candy cane reindeer and giving them away to special friends and relatives.  We talked about various Christmas traditions and how they point us toward God and remind us of the Christmas story.

Our nightly family “Bible Time” around the Advent wreath became everyone’s favorite part of each day.  The boys took turns helping light the appropriate candles and blowing them out after we sang together.  Ian’s favorite song this season was “O Come O Come Emmanuel and he requested it every night, even when it wasn’t the song suggested in our devotional book (We Light The Candles by Catharine Brandt).  On Christmas Eve after the candlelight service at church, our extended family joined us for dinner and our final night with the Advent wreath.  The boys were so excited about finally lighting the Christ candle in the middle!  We read Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones, which portrays the excitement of all Creation at the wonder that “the one who made us has come to live with us.”  The angel choir proclaims, “It’s time!  He’s come!  At last!  He’s here!”  It’s a wonderful book that captures the essence of Christmas as the climax of Advent, and it was the perfect way to end our season.

The result of all of this celebration is that we spent very little time talking about gifts.  Last year Ian was constantly poring through the numerous catalogs that kept arriving in the mail, which really captured his heart and caused him to focus on his “wants.”  I was so tired of hearing “I want ___,” “Can we get ___ sometime?” and so on that I finally threw all the catalogs away.  This year when they started arriving months ago I looked through them on my own for gift ideas and then got them out of the house.  I bought most of our gifts months in advance so I too would be able to focus on the wonder of Christ’s Incarnation rather than Present Day.  I know some people like to wrap up everything from toothbrushes to socks to make Christmas morning a little more exciting, but I felt that was counter to what we were trying to accomplish.  So I didn’t stuff stockings with everyday items I would have bought for my kids anyway, because that felt like it would make Christmas morning all about unwrapping presents.  (We did plenty of gift opening, but it almost felt like an addendum to a wonderful season of celebration, rather than being the main event.)  At our cousins’ house we read the Christmas story from Luke 2 before having our meal and progressing to gift-opening.  There was just so much more to Christmas than Present Day!

My dad’s birthday is on the 25th, so as we were about to dive into our breakfast someone asked if we were going to sing happy birthday.  My dad pretended to look surprised and said, “Whose birthday is it?  Jesus’?  Well, did you sing happy birthday to Jesus?”  To which Elijah promptly answered very seriously, “Yes, we did,” remembering the “Happy Birthday, Jesus” party with our homeschool group two weeks ago.  It had been just one more part of our month-long celebration, and I loved that Elijah knew it was all connected.

All in all, we had a wonderful Advent and Christmas.  I am so thankful that my children were able to enjoy the true wonder of the season by setting aside their “wants” and marveling in the miracle of Christ’s birth.  I’m already full of ideas for next year, and I hope we can continue to make Advent a meaningful part of our family tradition.




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