Building on the Rock is an ambitious project to create a combined biblical Christian worldview and Bible survey curriculum for grades 1 through 6. The folks at Summit Ministries have done an outstanding job with their programs for junior and senior high, and this program builds a foundation in the elementary grades.
The follows a spiral progression for the first five years. Five key themes—wisdom, fellowship (with God), image-bearing, servanthood, and stewardship are repeated each year by bringing in new information and ideas at each level. However, each year one of these themes is expanded with more than twice as many lessons as the other four themes. This design allows students to enter at any level and still pick up the key concepts. The sixth level differs from the others with an exclusive focus on the topic "worldview."
Since I reviewed only the first grade program, all of my comments are in regard to that level. The program was developed for classroom use, so it might not even be practical or affordable for homeschoolers. The teaching materials seem a bit overwhelming at first glance, but once you have familiarized yourself with the curriculum it is relatively easy to use. There are three hefty spiral-bound, hardcover teacher manuals; two student workbooks; two CD-ROMs that will run on either PCs or Macs; and a set of 10 Bible Timeline posters. You will probably also need the Visual Aids Accessory Package. The Visual Aids Accessory Package includes items that will be used throughout all six levels of the program: 20 Biblical Truth Symbol Cards, 4 worldview posters, 11 creation posters, 5 books of the Bible posters, Cross and Crown poster, a tuning fork, the book 3-in-1: A Picture of God, and The International Children's Bible. However, you can print out the cards and posters from the CDs and purchase the tuning fork, 3-in-1 book and International Children's Bible separately. Nevertheless, the posters are nicely printed, laminated, 11" x 17"—hard to create from your home computer.
The course actually divides into two parts: two teacher manuals and one student workbook are for the worldview part of the course which is taught the first 26 weeks, and one teacher manual and one student workbook are for the Bible survey course that takes 10 weeks.
I'll begin with the worldview part of the course. It is important to note that the worldview course is entirely Bible-based since the worldview under discussion is premised upon a "sola scriptura" Protestant foundation. Twenty key biblical truths are taught through each year of the program, and these are buttressed with many, many other scriptural references.
For example, the first unit teaches the biblical truth that "God is truth and always tells us what is right and true." This unit lays a foundation of knowledge about God and how He reveals himself through creation and our consciences, through general revelation, through the Bible, and through Jesus Christ.
The entire curriculum references the story of the wise man who built his house upon the rock. A wooden "house" model is used to represent students building their spiritual homes piece by piece as they proceed through the courses. (It looks like the image that accompanies this review.) Two supplemental CD-ROMs that come with the course have pictures of the model via PowerPoint presentation along with other supplemental teaching aids.
Lessons are taught from the teacher manuals. Student workbooks have pages that reinforce lessons, but they are a small part of each lesson.
Worldview lessons are laid out in 20 units, with anywhere from one to six lessons with each unit. Each lesson will take from two to six days to complete. A detailed schedule in the teacher manual shows pages in teacher manuals and student books to be used for each day.
Each unit begins with an introduction that helps the teacher master the key concepts. The introduction also features suggested memory verses, an explanation of the symbols for the bible truth poster for the unit, key themes and objectives, a list of Bible stories pertinent to the different themes, an outline for a lesson on a character trait, and a list of suggested resources.
In addition to the unit introduction, each individual lesson begins with a section "Preparing to Teach"--another couple of pages with more specific lists of objectives, materials you will need, activities for which you will need to prepare, and suggested extension activities.
Following the preparation is "Teaching the Lesson." While the author says the lessons are not scripted, the lessons are actually laid out in great detail. For example, the first lesson is going to develop the concept of house construction. It tells you to display pictures of houses under construction then gives four follow-up questions: "What do these pictures show us? Have you seen houses being built?" and so on.
Then the lesson switches the focus to building supplies. It tells you to display miscellaneous building supplies. It then gives you five follow-up questions. This "introduction" continues through building plans.
Then you introduce the story of Wise William, which parallels the wise builder.
At this point, you are to set up a simple demonstration of building on a "rock" then review Wise William's story with the provided comprehension questions. Story cards help reinforce the key points of the story. The story continues with Wise William's house making it through a storm. Next, you tell the story of Foolish Fred, again demonstrating, using story cards, a road map, a Bible, a cookbook, and house plans (or a picture of them). The lesson concludes with work on a memory verse; concluding discussion about Wise William, Foolish Fred, and applying this lesson on wisdom to our own lives; a song; and prayer.
Following the worldview part the course, the Bible Survey part takes the last ten weeks of the school year. It begins with creation, Adam and Eve, and the Fall. Then it progresses from Noah through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. The Bible lessons continually tie back to the worldview lessons, integrating ideas with the stories in ways that young children can comprehend. Lessons are taught in a fashion similar to the worldview lessons with visual aids and activities. The student workbook, again, reinforces lessons, playing a minor role.
The classroom design of the curriculum makes all this a bit cumbersome for homeschooling. But if you can put in the lesson preparation and presentation time, it should be effective and interesting for your children. The detailed lesson plans really make it possible for parents to transmit crucial worldview ideas to their children.
Stepping back from all these details, I think it important to understand that this curriculum does something I've never seen done so clearly and purposely in any other Bible curriculum—it begins with epistemology—how we learn or know about God. It talks about the importance of knowing what God has to say to us, the idea that there is Truth that God has revealed. It deals with the fundamental human questions of who we are in relation to God as well as our relationship to others and to God's creation. And it does all this on a level appropriate for first graders. In addition, the wealth of information for teachers will help those with shaky worldview understanding shore up there own foundations.
Note: Since Building on the Rock is not practical for many homeschooling families, Summit worked with Apologia too produce a much more affordable and practical alternative in the What We Believe series.