TAN Homeschool has created The Story of the Bible, a two-volume Bible History for Catholic students in grades one through eight. Two core books—one on the Old Testament and one on the New Testament—can be read on their own. However, TAN has produced companion resources that make it easier and more enjoyable for the whole family to learn together. The teacher’s manual specifically addresses teaching the course with the “one-room schoolhouse model.”
The core books are based on the text of TAN’s Bible History: A Textbook of the Old and New Testaments for Catholic Schools (originally written in 1931), which has been a favorite of Catholic students for years. But the new, two-volume version is much improved and expanded by co-editors Brian Kennelly and Paul Thigpen. The language has been updated, although storytelling frequently uses language very close to that in the Bible. The stories are told in detail, although sections that might be inappropriate for children, especially those about sexual immorality, have been retold without details so that you won’t have to worry about being blind sided by such passages. Stories sometimes include additional explanation that makes the stories more understandable or that make connections to other parts of the Bible or to the Catholic faith in particular. For example, the concept of original sin is explained after the story of the Fall of Adam and Eve. In another example, after a section about the establishment of the Jewish feast days, the book explains how the Jewish religious traditions “serve in many ways as the roots of our Christian worship, because Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of God’s promise to His chosen people. Through the Tabernacle, sacrifices, priestly ministry, feasts, and fasts of the Jewish people—and also through the Scriptures…the Lord prepared the way for Christ and for the rites of worship that would be practiced by His Church” (Vol. I, p. 106).
Scripture quotes are now from the Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition rather than the Douay-Rheims translation. As in the original book, the new books select key stories and books of the Bible for inclusion rather than trying to cover everything. Volume I: The Old Testament spends quite a bit of time in the book of Genesis covering creation, Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. It continues with Moses and the Exodus, Joshua, Saul, David, Solomon, the split of the Kingdom into Judah and Israel, Elijah, Job, Jonah, Daniel, the prophets, the Assyrian invasion, the Babylonian captivity, the return to Jerusalem, and the last days of the Kingdom of Judah. This volume includes stories about Tobit, Judith, and the Maccabees, stories not included in Protestant Bibles. Volume II: The New Testament has expanded coverage from the original which concentrated primarily on the Gospels. It now has far more coverage of the Book of Acts and the founding of the Church plus comments on the epistles and the Book of Revelation.
New books have attractive covers by the same artist, Chris Pelicano, who created new blackline illustrations inside the books—about one per chapter. So the new books are more attractive, more readable, and have more content than the original book.
Even more enhancements are available with the new companion resources for each volume: dramatized audio books on CDs, video presentations on DVDs, a teacher’s manual, an activity book, and a test book. You might use all or some of these depending upon your circumstances.
For each volume the companion audio CDs come in a set of seven discs. Dramatic reading is accompanied by occasional sound effects to enhance the storytelling. These should be very useful for busy moms since children can listen in the car or at home without mom needing to read the books aloud. They are also great as reinforcement for listening after a chapter has been read aloud.
Each course has a set of four DVDs. The DVDs should be particularly useful for parents with older children since they provide age-appropriate instruction for students in middle school high (and even up through high school level) without requiring any effort by parents. Brian Kennelly, a co-editor of The Story of the Bible, presents lectures on DVDs for each chapter that go further in-depth with more narrative information and more explanation about key characters and historical context. He presents biblical application lessons based on the stories. DVD presentations are beautiful with frequently changing graphics. Older students should watch these lessons in addition to completing the appropriate activities in the rest of the course.
Student activity books have a variety of activities that might be used by children of different ages. Coloring pages are so well drawn that they might interest both younger and older students. Upper elementary and middle school students should use the crossword and word search puzzles as well as the map activities. Students in the elementary grades should enjoy the cut-and-paste craft activities.
The test book for each volume has a test for each chapter with 20 to 30 questions per test. Questions formats are mostly multiple-choice and matching, and the answer key is at the back of the book.
The activity and test books are not reproducible. Because of licensing agreements with collaborating parties, TAN Homeschool cannot allow photocopy rights to their customers, but they do offer generous bulk discounts to parents who need more than one test or activity book. Contact them for details.
The teacher’s manuals—one for each volume—pull it all together and add even more options. For each chapter, there are a number of activities from which to choose, including those found in the activity books. Older students might do the Lectio Divina assignment with a suggested verse or passage from Scripture; Lectio Divina instructions are at the front of the teacher’s manual. Questions for Review should probably be used orally with all of your children together. These are primarily comprehension questions. After discussion, older students might be asked to provide written answers to some or all of the questions. Younger children should then provide oral narrations of the story, while older students might provide written narrations. Map activities (using pages from the activity books) should be great for students about fourth grade and above. Craft projects, generally appropriate for students in the elementary grades, sometimes use pages from the activity book, and always require additional resources such as scissors, markers, construction paper, modeling clay, markers, glue, “craft spoons,” and paper towel tubes. A few science activities serve more as object lessons for the Bible stories for younger students than they do as science learning experiences. These, too, require additional, easy-to-find resources. Many lessons have one or two snack projects that should be fun for the entire family such as creating Ten Commandment Cookies or making a graham cracker version of the wall around Jericho and knocking it down with gummy bears who “march around the wall.”
While the reading and questions should take less than a half-hour per day, the other activities will vary in the amount of time required. Homeschooling families should be able to easily complete one volume in a year with lessons about two or three days per week. Some families might be able to complete both volumes in one year.
The books are all printed in black-and-white (aside from the full-color covers), but the layout and illustrations look very up-to-date. The audio recordings aren’t fully dramatized, but they are very well done with excellent narration. You can purchase all of these items individually, but you can also purchase a set for each volume that includes all of these items at a significantly discounted price.
While there are Catholic religion courses that include activities and helpful resources, this is the first such resource I’ve seen that was designed for Catholic families with children of a wide age span that focuses primarily on the story of the Bible. Catholic families, whether homeschooling or not, should find The Story of the Bible a very appealing resource.