Friday, August 28, 2009

Review: Grapevine Studies

For years I've used a combination of AWANA programs, Sunday school, summer VBS and camps and reading Bible stories aloud as our Bible study. As a result, my children are familiar with most Bible stories, can recite various verses and more importantly, truly understand and accept what Christ did for each of us on the cross. Now that I have an approaching teen who has outgrown AWANA and other programs, I've been looking for materials for her to truly start studying the Bible and to dig deeper. My list of criteria is something self-directed, without busywork, not overwhelming, but with appropriate depth.

One of the first review opportunities I had this year was for an unfamiliar company, Grapevine Studies. Grapevine Studies provides easy-to-teach Bible curriculum for ages 5-adult, available in softcover and e-product formats. I was intrigued with their concept of “stick figuring through the Bible”. The idea is to give children a better overview of the Bible while presenting it pictorially in a way for better understanding, engaging both intellect and imagination.

My daughter requested the Level 5 Old Testament Overview by Dianna Wiebe to review. She reasoned, “I might as well start at the beginning!” This particular level does not present the "stick figuring" method as in the lower levels, though there is opportunity to be creative. Consisting of one workbook, it is meant to be a self-directed study and overview of the Old Testament. Aside from the purchased workbook, students also need a Bible, a 3-Ring Notebook, a Bible concordance, a Bible dictionary, and topical Bible and a Bible atlas.

The workbook, meant to be a year-long study, consists of 50 weekly lessons. The study itself is very easy to follow and each lesson is structured the same. The lessons can be used within a Sunday school/group Bible study structure, with class time being used for review and for supplemental studies or individually. There are also suggested daily assignments for homeschoolers to fit within a school schedule.

Each lesson starts with a section of scripture to be read by the student. The passage is then broken down into smaller segments. For each segment, the student is to give a five-to-seven-word title and record what they have learned about the passage through writing notes, drawing pictures or a combination. At times, students will be prompted to find locations mentioned in the scripture in the atlas to provide context for the events and people being studied. After summarizing each passage, the student is to select a portion for the week's memory work.

While reading the scripture passage, students are to select at least three words to look up in the Bible dictionary, the concordance and the topical Bible. The information and any resulting notes are recorded on the Study Page. “The goal of the study page is to provide you with a record of your study notes.” The Passage and Study pages are scheduled to be completed over two days.

After reading and studying the lesson's passage, over the next three days the student then completes the Review Page, which is divided into three sections: Questions, Activities and Further Study. It is recommended that the Review Page be read before beginning the lesson to help the student better understand and think critically about the assigned Biblical reading for each lesson. Answers to the questions should be done on a separate paper after studying the passage and will eventually make up a companion notebook.

The student is to select at least one activity of the several listed. Most of these activities are creative and vary in the amount of time required to complete. Some examples from various lessons are:
  • Write a story about the Fall from the viewpoint of Adam, Eve or the serpent.
  • Create a picture of one or more of the furnishings or coverings for the tabernacle.
  • Map the places to which Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel prophesied.
The last part of each lesson includes the Further Study section, which suggests ways to dig deeper into historical events, places, people or things that influenced the people in the time of the scripture being studied. A few examples are:
  • Study the unusual animals mentioned in Job: behemoth, leviathan, warhorse, and coney.
  • Research Hammurabi's laws, then compare and contrast them to the laws of God.
  • Study the warfare strategies used by the Israelites to conquer Canaan.
The Old Testament Overview suited our needs fairly well. My daughter liked that she could work independently. The lessons are straight-forward and the pages uncluttered. I liked that the first lesson required the student to process through what they already knew through a timeline of each person, place and event covered in the study. Familiarity is not the same as knowing details! At the end the study, students are to complete this same task as a reflection of what they've learned in the study. Students will also record such information as generations covenants, and promises fulfilled in the Old Testament.

While this study is meant to be an overview, I felt the accompanying activities and exercises provide opportunity to add more depth to the study, especially for younger teens. As an adult, I appreciated the Further Study section more than the Activities. Many of the Activities would be well-suited for homeschool projects or could be integrated into other subjects, e.g. creative writing and art. While the Level 5 program does not include the trademark "stick figuring" found in the earlier levels, it does provide plenty of drawing opportunity in the exercises. My artsy daughter seemed to prefer theses activities over the others. Below is a drawing created for the activity selection of, "Draw a picture or series of pictures representing the order of Creation." Coincidentally, there are stick figures in this drawing!

While some of the Level 5 books do have teacher notes, this particular study does not. I personally would have liked to see discussion points and suggested answers for the questions in the Review Page. Some of the questions were subjective or meant to be thought provoking, but others were more objective and had main points to them. A reference in the back of the book for students to check answers or explore those they hadn't considered would be a nice addition to the study.

I generally don't prefer electronic products, which is why I went with the softcover. However, the format of this product is very compatible in an e-book form. The layout is clean, without graphics. It would be very easy and inexpensive to print out a weekly lesson. The added benefit is the ability to print out multiple copies for students in your immediate family.

I suspect that when my daughter is done with this study, we will be purchasing the Level 5 New Testament Overview. Grapevine's use of chronological lessons and timelines are effective in understanding the big picture and creating a solid foundation for further study.

Level 5 Old Testament Overview retails for $28.95, in either softcover or as an e-book. In addition to the Old Testament Overview and New Testament Overview products, available in various levels, Grapevine Studies has a variety of other products. Among them are Biblical Feasts and Holy Days, Birth of Jesus, and Esther. Also available are various study resources and supplemental materials needed for some of the levels. For those curious about the stick figuring aspect found in the younger levels, be sure to read reviews of this product at the official TOS Crew blog as well as visiting the Grapevine Studies website.

Special Discount!!! Save 30% on all Grapevine Studies books by using the code "crew9" when you place your order. Expires September 30, 2009.

1 comment:

Debra said...

Oh, wow... I coulda shoulda woulda had Connor do Level 5. This sounds so perfect! Great review, Heidi, I appreciate it.