The Institute in Basic Life Principles has published character curricula in various formats for decades. Their latest character-based program, Biblical Character Illustrated Curriculum (BCIC), can be used by homeschoolers and in Sunday schools with children in grades one through six. The intent of the curriculum is to help children form Godly character while learning about the nature of God and becoming familiar with the content of the Bible. Children also learn that the Bible is useful for determining right and wrong, learning how to make wise decisions, and other practical applications.
The essential components of BCIC are 49 character booklets that provide almost everything you need aside from a Bible—instruction for the teacher, content to be shared with students, activities, and answer keys.
Each booklet focuses on a single character trait—such as faith, generosity, or determination—and has four lessons to be completed over a month. A lesson might be completed in as little as one hour in a Sunday school class but could be broken up into 15- to 20-minute segments over four or five days per week in a homeschool setting. The suggested schedule near the front of each booklet is very important since the sequence of the lesson components isn’t obvious.
Each lesson includes an introduction, a Bible story with discussion questions, a game to help students learn the week’s memory verse, an activity, and a coloring page. (All scripture is from the King James version of the Bible.) Activities might be word-search or crossword puzzles, a cut-and-paste page, a matching-columns page, an object-lesson demonstration, or an interactive group activity. Some activities (e.g., working in teams) are clearly designed for group classes and might not be adaptable if you are working with only one or two children.
The Bible stories and their discussion questions are a major part of each lesson and should be done on the same day. An introduction provides a context for the Bible story and concludes with a series of questions that should help students tune in as you read a passage (often an entire chapter) directly from the Bible. This is followed by comprehension and application questions to be discussed. For example, the first lesson in Determination poses the question, “Who was a Godly example to Joash?” To help parents and teachers guide students to correct answers, scripture references follow in parentheses, sometimes to verses other than those in the passage you just read. (The answer key does not include answers to these questions because you will be looking up the provided verses if you don’t know them already.) Each comprehension question is followed by an application question, such as the one that follows the question about Joash: “Who is a Godly example to you? How has that person influenced you?” Sometimes the application questions also have scriptural references to help teachers and students understand what sort of answer is expected.
At the front and back of each booklet are brief teaching instructions, an answer key, evaluation questions to be discussed at the beginning and end of the month, an introductory discussion of the character quality, practical applications for the character quality, a journaling and activity record-keeping page, a hymn, a history of the hymn, and a one-page explanation of how to explain salvation to a child.
One hymn should be learned each month, and sheet music with words for multiple verses for each hymn is included on a page facing the hymn history. Most hymns are from the 1800s, such as “All Creatures of Our God and King,” “Jesus, Loves Me, This I Know,” and “Let the Lower Lights be Burning.” Four hymn collections—Hymns for the Family, Volume 1 through Volume 4—have recordings of the hymns, and these are available on CDs or as MP3 downloads. If you can read music or know the hymns, the recordings are optional.
The booklets are attractively designed and include a full-color image for each Bible story in a detailed, realistic style, typical of past centuries. A free downloadable sample is available on the website, but it has only 11 pages while the actual booklets each have 32 pages.
The overall approach of the lessons is didactic—instructing children directly about beliefs and behavior. While there is discussion, it is guided toward predetermined responses. For instance, on page 19 of Determination, one question asks, “When cleaning your room, would shoving your toys under the bed be the right way to clean?” This approach might work with younger children, but those in fourth grade and above might balk at answering some of the questions where the expected answer is obvious. In addition, some questions, like the one above, touch on personal areas that often cause friction in a household. This type of question is sometimes easier to use in a group class rather than in a homeschool since others are unlikely to know if any particular child tries shoving his toys under the bed or other such personal information. Parents should use their judgment as to which questions to use if they are problematic.
Parents and teachers are given permission to reproduce the worksheets, activity pages, and coloring pages for the family or class, so only one booklet is needed. The parent or teacher presents the lesson from the book, showing images to students at appropriate times.
You can purchase individual booklets, a set for a year (12 months), or a complete set of all 49 booklets. The sets for each year come with a calendar and a page showing which booklet is used each month. Keep in mind that they are organized for a standard-year calendar beginning in January rather than a school year starting in September. Nothing prevents using the booklets in any order you prefer aside from the fact that they might not match up with what the calendar shows. Calendars feature illustrations and information that reflect the theme of the specified booklet. Each day on the calendar has a Bible reference and short summary that demonstrates the character trait.
The Biblical Character Illustrated Curriculum is loaded with both content and practical applications. While instruction and discussion are the dominant forms of learning, they should be balanced by using the hymns, memory-verse games, and other activities.