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Monday, August 31, 2009

Grapevine Studies

Whose curiosity wouldn't be peaked by a company whose tagline is "Stick Figuring Through the Bible"? I know mine definitely was! I had never heard of Grapevine Studies before we were asked to review their products. My kids and I do Precept studies at a local church during the school year and they've each worked through Leading Little Ones to God with me and have their own devotional books, but I have to admit, I was really excited to take a look at Grapevine Studies to see what this stick-figuring thing was all about!
Grapevine Studies offers many different Bible Studies you can chose from. They have overviews of the Old Testament and the New Testament, as well as a study on the book of Esther, the Birth of Jesus, and Biblical Feasts and Holy Days. There are also separate Old and New Testament Timeline studies available. Depending on the study, it is either multi-level in one book or available specifically geared toward a certain age group from Beginner to Adult. Most of the books they offer are available in your choice of either print or e-book. I chose the Old Testament Level Three printed book ($28.95) and teacher's book ($48.95). The Teacher's book is actually usable for Levels 3 AND 4, and can also be used for lower levels if you simplify the work and drawing for them.

Our Old Testament Study began with an overview of the entire Old Testament drawn out in stick figures on a timeline. Now before you get too overwhelmed, know that you don't do this all in one day! The Teacher's book offers short blurbs of information about each person/event you draw, and a guide for how to represent it in stick figures. They recommend that YOU, the teacher, draw the figures on a white erase board as a guide for your students to use as they draw it on paper. My kids enjoyed embellishing their drawings. (Yes,the idea behind stick figures is that they are simple, but kids will be kids, and they each had to add their own personality into their drawings.) I actually enjoyed seeing the little things they felt they needed to add (Eve has red lips because she's a girl :-) and seeing how different each child's drawing was even though they received the same instruction. The basic supplies you need are the student pages and colored pencils for them, and the Teacher Book and white board with colored dry erase markers for you.

Once the timeline overview is done, you then go back and revisit each event in more detail. There is more stick-figuring to do, character/event cards to make, Bible verses to learn, and review questions to go over. Each lesson starts though with a review of the timeline up to the place you are studying. While it is fun and engaging, this curriculum is no feather-weight. It's a deeper study that fits the inductive style my kids are used to from Precepts. I like too that some of the symbols used in the stick figuring are the same of similar to what they were already familiar with from Precepts, so it was very natural for them.
There are many pros to the Grapevine Study we are doing. I love that it starts with a timeline of the WHOLE Old Testament, and then goes back and fills in the detail. That way, they have the big picture, and you can go back and fill in the details from a place having a general understanding of what happens around this time in history. I love that the stick-figuring gives them an interactive way to understand what they are studying. Each figure is drawn intentional so that the symbols you draw and words you write all serve to reinforce retention of the story. The kids have been enjoying it and I know it will complement the study of Daniel they are doing in Precept this fall.
The only "con" in my opinion is that while the e-book Teacher's Book is significantly cheaper than the print one, the Student Books are the same price in either format. That's not a problem for me, since I prefer the print version, but I know many people opt for the e-book because they typically offer a savings.
The bottom line to me is that this is a unique approach to Bible study that offers an approach that seems easy and light, but actually offers a good amount of depth and an approach that promotes retention. I have to say, I'm impressed with Grapevine Studies. I had personally been seeking to start a Biblical chronological study with my kids, so this came at a perfect time for us. And the fact that it offers a frame work for the Bible that the kids create themselves by drawing out their time-lines and stories gives them ownership of our history as Christians on a personal level. I do want to note that some curriculums that offer a Teacher's Book really don't have enough information in the teacher's edition that is different from the student book to justify buying both. That's not the case here. You will need the Teacher's Book to make sense of the Student Book, so be prepared to get both.
For more information about Grapevine Studies, go HERE. To see what other TOS Crew members have to say (many of them reviewed the other studies Grapevine offers), go HERE.
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