Wednesday 14 August 2013

Bible Memory & Bible Literacy

I went for a walk with my husband the other night after a messy week in one way and another. I often find as I talk about things on my mind I get some perspective but on this particular evening I was feeling frustrated and as my husband was talking about his day I was only half listening.
By the time he'd finished talking we were trudging up a hill (which was only adding to my feelings of disgruntlement) and I was ready to launch forth and pour out my vexation when, without any warning, the words from Psalm 121 came to the front of my mind, almost as if I could see them in print:

"I lift up my eyes to the hills,
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven & earth."

I wasn't thinking of anything remotely like those words! - they'd sprung up from the deposit I'd placed there sometime ago. I felt like I'd been thrown a rope and that I was being pulled up as I held on. It hit me that I'd been looking to the wrong place for the kind of help I needed at that time and that just letting my mouth spill out my disagreeable thoughts wasn't going to do me (or my husband) any good.

'How did the old Cavaliers bring up sons and daughters, in passionate loyalty and reverence for not too worthy princes? Their own hearts were full of it; their lips spake it; their acts proclaimed it.....'
Home Education; Volume 1, Charlotte Mason

'Impress them upon your children...'

Our eldest son, just turned 22 years of age, said to us a short time ago that one of the best things he thinks  we've done as parents was being serious about instilling God's Word and having regular family devotions.

It's a  very secure thing for our children to know that they and we are all under the same authority - God's Word is the benchmark, not some arbitrary  rules we might enforce depending on our mood at the time.
I know there are all sorts of ways to memorise & review scripture but I know what I'm like - I need to keep it very simple & just do it - otherwise I tend to get paralysed trying to figure out how to implement a system.
Memorising scripture wasn't easy for me, but I found that if I could put verses to a tune that I knew I would remember the words. I've used this and other methods with my children.
I started with Psalm 23 when our children were about 2 years of age and made up some simple actions to go with the words. They'd get to the stage where I could prompt their memory with a couple of actions such as pointing to a cup (my cup overflows), tapping the table (prepare a table) etc as we recited it together.

We've put verses to folk tunes, the boys have done rap versions of some verses, we've printed sections out and stuck them to the doors, we've used CD's such as Colin Buchanan, Steve Green (Hide 'Em in Your Heart) and Sons of Korah and I've assigned them for copy work at different times.

Until they really know the verses, we recite or sing them each day or a few times a week until they're familiar.

Here are some other resources that we've found very helpful.

The Psalty Kid's Company was one of the few resources around when our older children were little. The songs are not for Bible memory as such but they encouraged children in developing their faith. A couple that our children enjoyed & listened to endlessly were:

Psalty's Hymnological Adventure Through Time - children learn about the hymn writers of the Church and the heritage of Christian music in history when they accidentally go back in history via a time machine.
Psalty's Missing 9 is a fun way of learning how to grow in the Lord as Psalty and kids search for the secret of how to grow in the Lord.


Psalm 139 - Knowing God's Word helps our children understand their worth. They are not the centre of the universe but they are unique, precious in His sight, were made for a purpose and were not accidents. A good psalm for anyone!

It's said that the Bible created the soul of Western Civilization but in more recent times that soul has been disintegrating and Biblical literacy is almost absent in modern day books. It's not until you read an author from an earlier time period - John Buchan is one who comes to mind - that this loss becomes apparent.
I basically had zero Bible knowledge growing up so it was a whole new world to me. My husband was the opposite and he'd had the benefit a a fairly thorough knowledge of the Bible.
When it came to starting out with our own family we just did a few simple things:

Family Devotions - reading through a section of the Bible after dinner as a family & everyone praying for something/someone. This becomes a much more difficult thing to do with a span of ages, work and study committments and other things that come with a growing family, but laying down the habit in the early years does provide a foundation, even if it's difficult to continue on a regular basis later on.

Bible Memory - this is something I usually do with them during the day as part of our together time. Some of our children memorized things very quickly and others didn't seem to be remembering anything but they do eventually. I think of it like fruit - sometimes growth takes a long time but you eventually reap what you sow.

Learning the books of the Bible in order - we put the books of the Bible to the tune of Onward Christian Soldiers and they picked that up fairly quickly - my oldest could recite these at the age of 2 (she has a great memory; it took longer with some of the others).

Their own Bible - when they could actually read we made a special trip out to buy them their own Bible - not a story book - we use the NIV generally.

Devotional Living - by this I mean using daily opportunities to apply & live out God's Word. Nature study affords some obvious ways to do this (check out Psalm 19!); praying as needs arise during the day; checking out what the Scriptures say about certain situations eg. anger, quarrelling, forgiveness.

My husband and his siblings grew up with these books and our children have enjoyed what's left of them. They are good  for a general overview of the Bible stories and great for boys, reluctant readers and non readers. I have seen them in one volume somewhere.



'Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the 
lord your God will be with you wherever you go.'  
Joshua 1:8-9

Update: another book we've found helpful: What the Bible is all About by Dr. Henrietta Mears is a handbook to help you to navigate the books of the Bible and understand why they were written. Very easy to use, it's an easy book to pick up before you start reading a book of the Bible you don't know much about. Especially helpful with the minor prophets in the Old Testament.


Charlotte Mason in the City said...

You wrote: 'Impress them on your children.'
That reminder spoke to me. Thank you! And, thank you for participating in the CM Carnival!

Nancy Kelly said...

Great advice and wise words about Bible memory and the importance of it. Such a small thing yields such life-giving results. I like how you kept it simple and doable.

From joy to joy,

Joyfulmum said...

I love what your son said:)
We love Colin here too! I need to look at the others you mentioned.

Katrina Gagner said...

Thank you for a wonderful post! Inspiring! I like the idea of not just telling them what God says but actually looking up the scripture with them and reading it from there or even better allowing them to read it. My oldest is kindergarten so not quite reading yet.

Carol said...

You're welcome, Katrina. Thanks for taking the time to comment.