In their Bible as Reader curriculum, the Foundation for American Christian Education (F.A.C.E.) teaches some of the areas of language arts within the context of Bible study. Five courses are available for use with kindergarten through seventh grade. There are three grade-specific courses for kindergarten, first grade, and seventh grade. The other two courses can be used at your choice of grade levels: second or third grade for one course and grades four through six for the other. Here I review Walking with Jesus, the course that can be used for grades four through six.
Courses are to be used to develop reading skills, but they simultaneously teach the Bible in a thematic fashion based on biblical principles and concrete ways those principles can be understood from both Scripture and life experiences. Along the way, students are also learning academic skills through the Principle Approach, the methodology developed by F.A.C.E. Students create comprehensive notebooks as they research, reason, relate, and record. (Read more about the methodology in my review of The Noah Plan.)
The courses assume that the teacher is familiar with the methodology and has some of the other F.A.C.E. resources on hand. For example, you will need the American Dictionary of the English Language: Noah Webster 1828, facsimile edition for students to look up and record definitions of words. Lessons teach key principles (for which the Principle Approach is named) that are taught more fully within other F.A.C.E. resources. (F,A,C,E, incorporates the principles and methodology consistently across all subject areas, frequently using resources such as the American Dictionary.)
The Bible as Reader courses all use the Reading Curriculum Guide, second edition for grades K through 12 along with an age-appropriate version of the Bible. For example, kindergartners use The Early Reader’s Bible, while courses for fourth grade and above use the NIV Adventure Bible. (You can read my brief review of the Reading Curriculum Guide within my review of The Noah Plan.)
The course for kindergarten adds the book Phonemic Awareness in Young Children to help parents provide prereading instruction. The Reading Curriculum Guide recommends using The Writing Road to Reading for actual phonics instruction, but it is not included with these Bible as Reader courses. While all courses rely heavily upon the Reading Curriculum Guide, the Walking with Jesus course begins to emphasize reading comprehension and writing activities appropriate for the upper elementary grade levels. To that end, it has additional components that add more detail and assistance for presenting the course.
F.A.C.E. sells a package for this course that includes the Reading Curriculum Guide along with the Walking with Jesus student handbook, Walking with Jesus teacher planner CD, the NIV Adventure Bible (required for the course), and a Noah Plan Academy DVD that has two sessions for teachers: “Teaching Bible and Reading” and “Words Have Consequences.” The DVD is the only one of these components that might be skipped.
In addition to the resources in the package, the teacher will need The Children’s Illustrated Bible and a study Bible of their choice. While the lesson plans refer to The Noah Plan History and Geography Curriculum Guide, you can probably manage without it.
The Walking with Jesus teacher planner CD has PDF files with an explanation of how the course works, charts with weekly lesson plans, and reproducible graphic organizers and charts. The graphic organizers and charts, along with the explanations for using them, are essential for the course. You will probably want to print out most of these pages. Note that these files sometimes refer to the course as being only for fourth grade. I suspect that other courses will be developed specifically for fifth and sixth grade, but in the meantime, Walking with Jesus can be used at any of those grade levels.
The course needs to be taught using both the student text and the lesson plan. The student text begins each session with assigned reading from the Bible, and then it explains the connections and key ideas to be learned.
The teacher is expected to continually stress the biblical principle and leading idea that are foundational for each week’s instruction. As explained in the notes to the teacher, the overarching principle for this entire course is stated: “How the Seed of Local Self-Government Is Planted.” This means that students should discover that learning and following God’s principles produces positive results. To that end, each week's lessons teach a specific biblical principle and a “leading idea” that exemplifies that principle. For example, for the eighth week of the second quarter, the biblical principle is, “People suffer the consequences of sinful behavior in disobedience to God’s laws.” And the leading idea that illustrates this principle is “God allowed judgment to come on Israel from foreign nations.”
Assignments that follow each section of text include discussion, notebook work, and other activities. Notebook work includes vocabulary activities, writing memory verses, writing answers to questions, map work, timeline activities, and occasional grammar-related activities. Students will frequently complete graphic organizers to add to their notebooks, such as a T-chart, a Story Map, and a “People Who Impacted History” chart. Students will learn to paraphrase Scripture passages and explain how they relate to their own lives on a “Paraphrasing from Scripture” chart. In addition, during the second quarter, students will begin to write in a prayer journal. Teachers can adapt activities and assignments to suit each student.
The work is substantive and thought-provoking, as well as academically demanding. It teaches reading comprehension at a level beyond that of most reading skills resources for fourth grade. The formation of character and academic skills might be even more effectively accomplished by this course than the development of reading skills.
Discussion and interaction are essential throughout the course, and these require a relatively high level of teacher preparation, particularly for those new to the Principle Approach. This course is most likely to appeal to homeschoolers who are already comfortable using F.A.C.E. courses and applying their methodology. The preparation time required and the fact that this course incorporates an unfamiliar (to most homeschoolers) methodology could be daunting to newcomers. Nevertheless, the Bible as Reader courses can be used on their own, and they might be one of the easiest ways to try out the Principle Approach.