Saturday, August 15, 2009

Review: Grapevine Studies

Recently, our family played a round of Bible Trivia. The questions in this game are grouped by category. In the first round, poor Orville drew "Biblical Feasts and Holy Days" as his topic and was stuck with the card for six excruciating questions. He could not answer even one correctly (with multiple choice options). This is a topic that he had never studied, and it was obvious. He was stuck on start while the rest of us zoomed along the game board. He was a good sport but said he was determined to learn this information and be prepared next time!

Soon after that, Grapevine Studies generously allowed me to choose one of their studies for review. They have a good choice of grade-specific or multi-level curricula available, like Old and New Testament overviews and the Birth of Jesus study. When I saw the study on Biblical Feasts and Holy Days, I knew that was the one for us.

I received a hardcopy of the Teacher's Edition ($19.95) and two student workbooks ($14.95 each). These are also available in e-book format for $12.95 and $14.95 respectively. The e- book prices include the rights to print the copies you need for home use only. Pricing for classes or group use can be found here.

The Grapevine mission is to "provide believers with a method and curriculums to study the Bible, using a timeline, stick figures, word, symbols, and colors to teach chronological lessons." Their method is simple and effective. They promote teaching the Bible as if it were a puzzle. Anyone who has worked a puzzle knows the best place to start is putting the frame together. Once the edge is done, a parameter has been set and it acts as a guide for placing the interior pieces.

Grapevine uses a timeline as the framework for their studies. The first lesson in this study teaches when the feasts and holy days were celebrated within the calendar year. Then each subsequent lesson teaches the specifics of the holidays, following the chronological order established in the first lesson, by having the students draw a simple picture representation of the event.

I really liked this aspect of the study. Other curricula I have used call for adding symbols to a timeline as the study progresses which can be frustrating. We often put pictures in the wrong place or don't leave enough room for other events, and it just gets messy and confusing. By creating the timeline before the study, we were able to place the events in a proper order and get a feel for what we were about to study. As a result, the timeline served as preparation for study rather than just being an afterthought.

The program is very well organized and easy to follow. The only preparation I needed to do was to pre-read the provided script and glance at the suggested symbols to be drawn. The script gave me everything that I needed in order to explain the significance of and means of celebrating the holy days. We were able to connect the dots between Old Testament and New Testament events which led to meaningful discussions about the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ and the Lord's Supper.

If you are not artistically inclined, you may be thinking that a drawing-focused curriculum is just not for you. However, each symbol is very easy to draw. In fact, they're stick figures. The emphasis is not on the art but on sketching as a way to remember the content.

We are an artistic family and I wondered if my boys would think stick-figuring was boring. Not at all! They loved it. I drew the symbol on the board, and as my boys copied it to their workbook, I read the script and the accompanying scripture references. We completed each lesson in about 15 minutes, and the boys were able to answer all of the review questions that followed. There are two cumulative review sections, and both boys answered most of those questions correctly as well. There is also a memory verse for each lesson.

Grapevine Studies is also written without a particular theological slant and aims to leave application to the teacher. I am a Reformed believer, in other words, very conservative. I was able to follow this curricula as is and have meaningful discussions with my children as a result. There are, however, a few instances where symbols are to be drawn to represent the Trinity. I thought they were done respectfully and in accordance to what God has revealed about Himself in the Bible; however, I have readers that do not allow for ANY physical representations of God, even crosses or pictures of Jesus in children's Bibles, for instance. I want to make these readers aware of this and suggest you look at the sample lesson before purchasing.

We decided to give Grapevine Studies one last test and determine just how effective it was. We pulled out the Bible Trivia board on game night, and Michael and I purposefully gave Orville the "Feasts and Holy Days" card. He answered all of the questions correctly this time and said that Grapevine Studies is the best!

That makes me a happy mom, and I give Grapevine Studies two thumbs up. Their methodology is effective. The lessons are easy to teach. It leads to retention. The authors are considerate of doctrinal differences and have designed the program in a way that allows each user to stick to his convictions. On top of that, it was fun!

Interested? Now is a good time to buy. Grapevine Studies has graciously offered Olive Plants readers a 30% discount through Sept. 15. Upon check out, simply enter the coupon code: crews.

1 comment:

argsmommy said...

Oh Dawn... it's starting to get dangerous reading your blog because I end up wanting to buy just about everything you review! Seriously, thank you for another thorough review, particularly for being sensitive to people's views on physical representations of God.