High School Bible Courses
by Joy Marie Dunlap
It has always been our goal that our children graduate from high school well versed in the Bible. When they were young, we taught Josh and Justin Bible verses and read Bible stories to them. Once they became strong readers, they began a lifelong Bible reading program in which they read one chapter each from the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs every school day on their own. This is a good starting point, but it is not all we want them to know by high school graduation.
As our two oldest boys were approaching high school, I mapped out four years of Bible for them, using the Bible itself as their main textbook. In each course I have included Bible reading, Scripture memorization, discussion, and one or more Christian resource books. Each course has a different focus.
Year 1: Discipleship. Last year the boys took a discipleship course, focusing on what it means to be a disciple of Christ. The course included reading and discussion of the New Testament with a focus on the four Gospels and the words of Christ Himself. I had the boys memorize just over 100 verses on discipleship. (This sounds like a lot, but is actually fewer than three verses per week of school with a 185-day school year.)
I added to this a dozen books on Christian discipleship by great Christians, past and present, including a half dozen Christian biographies or autobiographies. This gives them a glimpse of real men and women of God living out their faith in practical ways. We included biographies and autobiographies of Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, and others. I also chose books by great Christian authors on topics such as prayer, revival, Christian economics and justice, and the attributes of Christian love.
I chose two of the books to write tests on, made up a test on the Scripture memory, and composed statements for the boys to evaluate as true or false based on the verses they had memorized. They then gave the reference or part of the verse that backed up their answer.
For my course records, I simply had a list of books to check off when read, a list of Scripture verses to check off when memorized and repeated to me correctly, a list of tests and a place to record each test grade, and a place to check when they had read the entire New Testament. (Both boys have read the New Testament through many times, but were required to read it again just for this course.)
Year 2: Old Testament. This year our teenage sons are studying the Old Testament. To help the boys understand the Old Testament, we are also using Nelson's Book of Maps and Charts to give them an overview of what each book is about, who wrote each book, and some key points about each one. With the help of a brief overview, the Bible speaks best for itself.
I have written a test on each section of the Old Testament. My tests touch on the author, theme, and content of each book, but especially focus on the elements of living by faith in God as seen in the lives of great men and women of the Bible as well as the consequences of disobedience and unbelief. Sometimes I ask where key passages can be found, such as, In what chapter of I Samuel did David kill Goliath? or, In what chapter of Exodus did the children of Israel leave Egypt? I might ask where the Ten Commandments can be found or where in Isaiah Christ's death was prophesied in detail.
I am again including Scripture memorization in the course. I have chosen one or more verses from each of the books of the Old Testament (with just a few exceptions) for the boys to memorize, the Ten Commandments, Isaiah 53, some key Proverbs, some Psalms, and the charge to Joshua to study, meditate on, and keep God's Word from Joshua 1.
Record keeping is again straightforward with places to check off Old Testament books read, resource book chapters read, verses or passages memorized, and a place to record test grades.
Year 3: New Testament. The 11th-grade course will cover the New Testament in a more comprehensive way than the discipleship course, which focused mainly on discipleship in the teachings of Christ. We will again use Nelson's Book of Maps and Charts for an overview of each book, discussion, tests, and Scripture memorization. I want the boys to become well acquainted with the content of each book in the New Testament, so that whenever a question comes up in their lives, they will know right where to look to find teaching on that topic in the Bible.
In this course the boys will be memorizing Scriptures on topics such as the fruits of the Spirit, exhortations to Christians, spiritual warfare, keeping a pure mind, the role of suffering in the Christian life, Christian leadership, the relationship between grace and the moral law, the early church, Christian finances, the armor of God, faith, and prayer. (Any one of these topics could make a one-semester Bible course in and of itself if you prefer!) Record keeping will be along the same lines as in our current Old Testament course.
Year 4: Theology. Our final Bible course will be a systematic study of theology (saved until last because it requires the preceding two courses as a foundation and is a more challenging course.)
Record keeping will involve checking off chapters read, verses memorized, and test grades as well. I will also include writing assignments (essays) in this course as I feel that it is important for our sons at this stage to learn to articulate their own position on scriptural topics. My grading will be based on how clearly they communicate and how well they use Scripture to defend their position.
A systematic study of theology is important because our teens need to know exactly what they believe and why before they are challenged by the world around them at every level. It is important to understand the moral law, which transcends the Law of Moses and was taught by Christ.
It is important to research and discuss the relationship between grace and the moral law and to understand seeming contradictions in Scripture in relation to the rest of Scripture in a comprehensive way. (These seeming contradictions are, in fact, the two balancing sides of the same concept, much like the railing on either side of a bridge, to keep us from falling off the one side or the other. That is why it is so important for our teens to be familiar with them.)
As adults, our children will face misinformation, confusion, derision, and heresies, which they need to be well equipped to recognize for what they are. If our teens know only isolated verses taken out of the context of the rest of Scripture on the same or similar topics, they are more vulnerable to heresies. Similarly, if they only know Scripture on limited topics such as salvation, they are also vulnerable. They need to know what the Scripture teaches on a broad range of topics relevant to daily living in the Christian life.
The best way to be equipped to withstand falsehoods (which may look very much like truth) is to be thoroughly acquainted with the Bible and what it teaches in an in-depth way. No goal is more important for the Christian home school.