We love to begin every day with Bible time. You may call it family worship, family altar, or family devotions. It is all the same idea. We all gather around the table or in the living room and open our Bibles. Daily Bible time doesn’t require a Bible curriculum, advanced planning, or special skills. It is no more complicated than sharing your love for the Word of God with your children.
Bible time is family time
Ideally, you should do Bible time with your husband and all your children. If your husband isn’t available first thing in the morning, but he wants to do Bible time later in the day, then work your schedule around his and be flexible. You can do Bible time around the table after dinner, or snuggle together as a family right before bed. If you have other plans for family Bible time, then a morning basket (a time for poetry, plays, art, or other pleasant subjects you enjoy as group before going your separate ways) is a nice alternative.
If, for whatever reason, your husband doesn’t want to do it with you, then you have freedom to do it whenever you want – and beginning the school day with Bible time is a great choice.
I find doing it first thing ensures that Bible time happens. Our evenings are busy and our schedules unpredictable, but as long as we wake up on time we have control of our time in the morning. So we choose to do the most important thing first.
Children are an integral part of Bible time
Bible time is all about sharing the Word of God with your children. If you love the Bible, you find a few minutes alone each day to read and pray. But the focus here is on the children. So include everyone from toddlers to teens.
The first day you sit down to do Bible time with your littlest ones, they will fuss and cry, and refuse to sit still. So do not sit down the very first day expecting an uninterrupted reading of a chapter, a lecture on application, and an extended prayer. Sit down the first day and plan to be interrupted. Then train your children to sit still. Keep it short. Try to ask questions early talkers might be able to answer. Sing songs they will enjoy. With time- lots of time- and training, the very young will learn to listen and participate. In this way Bible time becomes a great preparation for learning to sit quietly in church.
Teens will often have a bad attitude. If you change your plans every time your kid has a bad attitude, you’ll never get anything done at all. Especially if you have three teens and they all want different things. Make your choice and stick to it. Every once in a while your teens will have a profound thought that will amaze you, and the hundred other mornings you spent in the Word and weren’t sure they were listening, will all be worthwhile.
Keep Bible time short
We aim to finish Bible time in thirty minutes. Below I am going to list a number of things you can do during Bible time, but you will not be able to do them all in thirty minutes. Not possible. Pick and choose the things that are most important to you, and be willing to change what you do by day of the week, season, or year.
Thirty minutes is a reasonable amount of time to expect kids to stay engaged. Sullen teens can spare that much time. Wiggly babies can learn to sit still for that long. And let’s be honest, no one wants to listen to you lecture for an hour and a half. That’s boring and your goal should be to keep everyone engaged.
Thirty minutes is also short enough that it does not cut out too much other school work. Bible time is our most important component of the school day, but not the only component.
Is thirty minutes enough time?
Yes! If you have an unusual family that could sit for hours and talk about the Bible, feel free to spend more time. You should probably move Bible time out of your school morning in that case. Just make sure your kids are loving it as much as you are. A few minutes of their full attention will have a greater impact than an hour with a dull heart.
Next, these thirty minutes should not be the only time of day you speak about God and Jesus Christ. His providence runs through history. His hand is evident in science. Bible verses are natural material for copywork. We cannot apply ethics and morality to government without considering the Law of God. When you homeschool you can fill your day with reminders of God.
Finally, thirty minutes is not much. But thirty minutes every day, five days a week, 36 weeks a year, for 13 years adds up to a lot of time. Never underestimate the power of consistency!
Bible time and early readers
We love to have all our kids read a portion of Scripture every day, and as soon as our kids could sound out a few words they were included. We gave our early readers a large print Bible in the same version the rest of the family used. Then I would have them sit by my side and when I spotted a word I knew they could sound out I would put my finger under it and help them. Kids love to use their new skill to keep up with the rest of the family. Then everyone has a chance to praise them for learning to read.
Later in their learning process I would scan the portion of Scripture for the day and find an easy verse that they could tackle by themselves. Sometimes it required a lot of patience as they worked through that verse! But in another year or two, they could read an equal portion with everyone else.
Here’s another true confession. There were seasons when my homeschool days were very full and I needed my kids to do a lot of independent work. Once I had taught my kids to read, I didn’t always have time to check their reading progress. But I heard every one of my kids read aloud every single day – even if only a verse or two. So I always knew whether or not their reading was improving. That’s a side benefit of Bible time.
Our curriculum is the Bible
We read from the Bible for Bible time. It’s surprising – I know. We each sit down with our own copy of the Bible. We read through it one book at a time. When your kids are very young there may be a few chapters you choose to skip, or an entire book, like Song of Solomon.
We usually read through the Bible chronologically, so that it roughly lines up with history. Here’s a pop quiz…how far through your chronological study of history does that take you? About AD 100. You just juggle things around and make them work. Our goal is to read through the entire Bible a couple of times before the kids leave home, the order we read through it is of secondary importance. Acts is nice to read while you study Rome. But Romans makes sense in conjunction with the Reformation. Other Epistles we read while we study modern history. Psalms and Proverbs fit in anywhere.
In fact, Proverbs is a book written to the young man and is suitable to read over and over. Proverbs was my mother’s old standby. I couldn’t even tell you how many times my brothers and sister have been through Proverbs. They read one chapter a day. Then everyone picked one Proverb they liked. Repeat. Bible time doesn’t have to be hard!
A helpful resource
We have gone all these years and never used anything but the Bible. But now that everyone is older, we did start noticing that sometimes it would be nice to have just a little more conversation about the chapter. The parents responsible for leading that extra conversation weren’t always very inspired (if I speak of myself in the third person surely I am not culpable). We needed something short and to the point – thirty minutes, right? Now we’re trying the Family Worship Bible Guide.
The Family Worship Bible Guide has a short paragraph to read corresponding to almost every chapter of the Bible, usually followed by a discussion question. Both the reading and questions are on theological themes rather than historical questions. If you just need a better grasp of timelines you should buy a good study Bible. Using the Family Worship Bible Guide we have had a couple great insights we would never have thought of without it. The one improvement I would make is that I would love to see a question every day. We were really looking for good questions when we bought the book. The book is also intended for an older audience and wouldn’t be particularly helpful with little people.
Six components of Bible time
Here are six different ideas you can incorporate into Bible time. There probably will not be time to include all of them in a thirty minute time slot. We can usually do three or four of them.
- Read a chapter of the Bible. Divide the verses and let everyone read. Put the chapter in its historical context. Ask a discussion question. Find a favorite verse.
- Memorize a verse. We prefer to memorize a passage rather than single verses because it is easier to remember them as a group. Back when our children had vastly different abilities we might pick one or two verses out of the family passage that the little kids were responsible for learning. So we would drill the little kids’ verses, then move on and work on the rest of the verses. But we were all working from the same place in the Bible. And you don’t need to learn a new verse every day. Practice a verse until you know it well, then move on.
- Teach your kids a catechism. Choose from the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the Heidelberg Catechism, or the 1689 London Baptist. The catechism is basic theology phrased in a question and answer format. Everyone should know basic theology. You can just read them, or you can try to get your kids to memorize the answers. We have enjoyed Training Hearts Teaching Minds.
- Sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. I freely admit, we don’t do this one. Some of us have terrible voices and we don’t want to hear ourselves sing. But I think it’s really important! Singing is very fun for the youngest children.
- Pray together. Take time to pray for your day. Ask your kids their concerns. Pray for extended family. For your church and for missionaries. Our country needs prayers. And if you run out of ideas, you have all the rest of the world to pray for. Remember your crowd and keep prayers an appropriate length.
- Read a Christian book together. We usually do this later in the day, if it’s a book we cover in history or literature. But many books could fit into Bible time. For instance, Trial and Triumph: Stories from Church History or a missionary biography.
Bible time will not change your day
Christians say things like, “If we don’t do Bible time the day just falls apart.” But sometimes here’s how Bible time goes: the baby screams and the four-year-old is in a neck lock to keep them on the couch. The ten-year-old was mumbling unintelligibly and had to reread the verse six times. You ask your teen to put down his hood over and over. And over.
Sometimes Bible time makes you fall apart.
In the end, you do Bible time because teaching the Word of God to your children is important. When something is important you figure out how to get it done. No matter how hard the process is, you figure it out. There are rewards that come from a knowledge of the Bible, and a knowledge of God, but they are not always immediate rewards. They may be long term rewards. But we’re in this for the long term, aren’t we?
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