Too often we relegate religious instruction in our private and homeschools to a kind of secondary academic status. We teach it, but in a way that seems to communicate a lack of seriousness about it. We do this by failing to treat it like we would treat any other academic subject. But what I will call “Christian Studies” is best taught as an academic course that is subject to the same standards—class time, homework, and testing—as other comparable courses, such as Classical Studies and American/Modern Studies. The material we use to teach children their faith should be just as rigorous and demanding as that we would use in any other important subject, as should the tests we use to assess their knowledge. Biblical literacy is just as important as cultural, moral, and functional literacy, and the programs we use to teach it should reflect this.
In Memoria Press’ primary Christian Studies program, students learn Bible stories, prayers, and memory verses using our Copybook series. In grades 3-7, students continue with Scripture memorization, but also begin a systematic study of the major events and characters in salvation history. They work through a Bible timeline from Creation to Christ, memorize Bible geography, the books of the Bible, people and events in order, and discuss vocabulary and basic theological concepts common to all Christian faith traditions. Students are thoroughly grounded in the knowledge necessary for advanced Christian Studies.
The memorization program is based on an ideal—that students will memorize and retain a large amount of Scripture over the course of thirteen years of schooling, and that if passages are chosen carefully, the child will grow into a knowledge, love, and appreciation of Scripture. Consequently, passages chosen for the primary grades are age-appropriate verses that are suited to the child’s concrete level of understanding and appeal to his love of beautiful and poetic language.
In grades 3-7, the focus of the memorization program continues with the great, dramatic stories of salvation history, the majority of passages being taken from Genesis, the Psalms, the prophets, and the Gospels. Most convey concrete images that are also ideal prompts for art assignments. Some passages are chosen because of their frequent use as biblical allusions, some are favorite Psalms, and some are central to Christianity, like the Commandments or Beatitudes. Passages span the whole Bible and give the student memory cues to tie together the story of man’s redemption. It should be noted that many adult favorites, especially the more abstract theological writings of the New Testament epistles, are not age-appropriate for the grammar-stage child and are reserved for the more mature student in grades 7 and up.
The Story Bible and The Golden Children’s Bible, which we use as the basis of Christian Studies with younger children, are simplified King James texts rather than retellings or storybooks by modern authors. Both are good preparation for reading the Bible itself. The illustrations are beautiful, informative, and an invaluable aid to memory.
The King James Bible is the poetic and literary version of Scripture. It has had a tremendous influence on the development of the English language. Many spiritual and literary allusions come directly from the King James Bible. A thorough knowledge of the King James Bible, then, is a necessary preparation for the study of English literature, as well as a foundation for a deep spiritual life. A few passages in our memorization program are elided or slightly simplified from the King James.
Because of the lack of rigor that characterizes much religious instruction today, students are often given the impression that Bible or religion classes are about feelings and opinions rather than knowledge and truth. Our Christian Studies program is an objective, historical course in which content and testing are serious and demanding.
In a classical education, students are immersed in the ancient world; they learn Bible history and the Christian faith in a historical context so that they see them as real history. One of the weaknesses of American education is that its focus on the modern world makes the ancient world vague and unreal, blurring the distinction between myth and history.
Students who have a firm foundation in the ancient roots of their faith are prepared for the advanced study of Christian history and culture, in which they will come to understand the radical change in human history that is symbolized by the abbreviations B.C. and A.D. Students will develop a deep and profound Christian perspective on history. A classical education is the best education for Christian children and the only one that can prepare them to defend their faith in an unbelieving and hostile modern world.
At Memoria Press, we focus on four areas of integrated study: Classical Studies, Christian Studies, English Studies, and American/Modern Studies. Each of these areas includes the language, literature, history, geography, and philosophy of each culture. Our kindergarten-7th grade Christian Studies program is primarily a Bible program, but beginning in grade 8 students will begin the study of Christian history, culture, ethics, and apologetics.
The coming of Christ changed the world dramatically and eternally. By studying the development of Christian doctrine and the impact of the Christian faith on history and culture for the last 2,000 years, students will see evidence for the divine origin of the Christian faith and be strengthened to face the skepticism and doubt of the modern world.
We are orthodox Christian and conservative in doctrine. We profess the historic doctrines of the Christian faith that are revealed in Holy Scripture and are taught in the ancient creeds of the Church, especially the Apostles’ and the Nicene Creeds. Our approach is consistent with and similar to that of C. S. Lewis in his book Mere Christianity when he says, “I am not trying to convert anyone to my own position … only to defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times.”