A B C D E F G…
My children attended primary school overseas. Things were different. I remember pointing at the letter ‘b’ and asking my son, “What’s this letter?”
He proudly replied, “That’s buh.”
“No,” I corrected, “That’s bee.”
There was a slight argument, but he was five years old, so I won…at least in the moment.
He also didn’t learn the letters in alphabetical order. He learned them in order of difficulty to write: straight-lined letters first, curvy letters last. His handwritten ‘O’ is still sad.
I was frustrated, but I chalked it up to cultural differences. But now, as much as it pains me to admit it, his teachers were on to something. Never in my adult life has anyone asked me to identify a letter by its name. Every day—even as I type this right now—I use the sounds the letters represent to read and write. As for order, the only benefit to knowing alphabetical order, besides singing the ABC song, involves looking things up in a dictionary. I’m a whiz at that, let me tell you! My son? Not so much, but he’s improving. Dictionaries are going the way of the abacus, unfortunately: obsolete, although some of us refuse to admit it. For that reason, I’m not too worried about this skill either.
My son reads incredibly well, so I really can’t be critical of his primary school teachers. He simply learned the content of the letters without memorizing their titles first.
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers…
In teaching our children about the Bible, one of the most straightforward tasks involves teaching them the list of books contained within the Bible. I’ve even heard songs to help with this—no small task given some of the difficult names in both the Old and New Testaments. (“Chronicles” rhymes with what? Bionicles? They aren’t in the Bible.) While there’s nothing wrong with it, I wonder if this in-order skill serves even less purpose than letters in alphabetical order. It might help our children become excellent Bible Drill participants (Do they even have that anymore?), but how does it help them become stronger Christ-followers?
Our children need to learn the content of the books in the Bible along with the titles of the books. This is easy with books like Esther, but what about Joel? Esther is about a woman named Esther, but she didn’t write it. Joel is written by a guy named Joel, but it’s not actually about him. Confusing! And then there are books like Ecclesiastes, Zephaniah, and Leviticus. Their titles give us no clue as to their content.
I wouldn’t make this critique without also suggesting a solution. So for the next several weeks, come back for a series of posts listing the books of the Bible with some content and context clues. (Look for the first one later today.) Like the times tables, there’s no other way to learn these except to memorize them, but also like the times tables, these facts will be useful forever! Use them in weekly devotions, homeschooling, or however you want. Use as much or as little of the information as you find helpful. At our house, we put each title on an index card with extra information on the back and hung them on the wall by the breakfast table, one per day. Then we quizzed the kids in different ways.
Once all the books of the Bible have been listed and posted, I’ll move everything to a separate page on this blog so you can access it easily.
Hope it helps.
Walk Thru the Bible has some great resources similar to this, but with pictures! What other resources have you seen? Tell us about them in the comments section below.