We’ve had a lot of success using The Story of Christ in our home this year. I have a 4.5 year old and a baby. Charlotte Mason (CM) has a lot to say about how to conduct Bible (or scripture) study in our homes, but some of this doesn’t apply to children under six years old. My husband and I have done our best to apply CM principles to our family scripture study. In my husband’s words, “This is working so much better than what we were doing before!”
Our Family Scripture Study
We begin by gathering our printed version of The Story of Christ, our iPad, and/or our Gospel Art Book. Sometimes either the iPad or the Gospel Art Book can’t be located, so we use whichever is handier. The Story of Christ page on this site includes a selection of art to accompany each reading. We view this art on our iPad (and sometimes our phones, but we find that our phones are too small to keep our child’s interest). The Gospel Art Book works well for the selections from the Book of Mormon and some of the New Testament readings. It is not as comprehensive as the selections on the main study page. If you do not have access to an iPad, you can use just the Gospel Art Book. If the particular story we are reading isn’t represented there, then we turn to a picture of Jesus for our son to look at while he listens. He often has questions as soon as he sees the art, so we take a minute or so to talk about the picture before we start reading the day’s scripture passage.
On the days that our son is particularly busy, we read a sentence and then have him repeat it back to us. We have found that as long as we don’t do this every day, he seems to enjoy it, and it causes him to stop moving and focus for a couple of minutes.
At the end of our daily reading, we ask someone to summarize (or narrate) what was read. If our son volunteers, we let him do it. If not, we don’t force it and the parent who didn’t read will provide the summary. We also use this time to talk about any strange vocabulary words or difficult concepts. We don’t direct the explanations toward our son, but rather treat them as a conversation we are all part of.
This whole production takes between 3-6 minutes. That’s it! Then we say our family prayer and Dad goes to work and Mom and the kids continue with our morning time routine. If our son isn’t having it, I read to the baby and he usually comes over to join us. Our scripture study provides a lovely beginning to our relaxed, unforced, Charlotte-Mason-for-the-young day.
Is this method CM?
Reading scripture with young children is definitely in line with CM principles. Charlotte Mason doesn’t spell out specifically what children younger than six should do, but she does say:
[The child] should not be able to recall a time before the sweet stories of old filled his imagination; he should have heard the voice of the Lord God in the garden in the cool of the evening; should have been an awed spectator where the angels ascended and descended upon Jacob’s stony pillow; should have followed Christ through the cornfield on the Sabbath-day, and sat in the rows of the hungry multitudes—so long ago that such sacred scenes form the unconscious background of his thoughts. CM 2:108-109
So how does one achieve that? She says elsewhere:
The gospel stories they might be read for themselves as soon as they can read them beautifully. It is a mistake to use paraphrases of the text; the fine roll of Bible English appeals to children with a compelling music… Read aloud to the children a few verses covering if possible, an episode. Read reverently, carefully, and with just expression… Let the teaching, moral and spiritual, reach them without much personal application… The study of…pictures… should be a valuable part of a child’s education; it is no slight thing to realise how the Nativity and the visit of the Wise Men filled the imagination of the early Masters, and with what exceeding reverence and delight they dwelt upon every detail of the sacred story. Taken from CM 1:247-254
I conferred with a few other CM moms and we came to a consensus. For younger children, scripture should be presented:
- in its original language
- in short episodes
- with accompanying art
Children younger than six should never be required to narrate (summarize) the story. From those basic guidelines many different versions of scripture study can be formed. If you’ve had success using The Story of Christ, please tell us about it in the comments below. Thanks for reading!