7th Grade Religion ($100 +)
Coming From: Old Testament Bible and Catechism Study
Going To: Church History and Topical Studies
The majority of homeschool programs have their roots in one religious denomination or another. On the plus side, if you want a religious program or even just a religion course, you'll almost certainly be able to find the program that's just right for you. On the downside, you may well *not* be able to find a secular program OR you may find a program that is biased against your particular denomination. It's easy to think of religion in homeschooling as a separate class that you can teach or not. It's not a stretch to see how it impacts science instruction. You may be surprised to find religious content or bias in a history program or a handwriting program or literature selections. Today, I'm writing specifically about religion as a separate class.
Religious studies can be grouped into Bible Studies, Doctrinal Studies, Religious History, and Comparative Religion. Some denominations may also have specific programs preparatory to sacraments or similar major milestones. My personal opinion is that a well educated student should have a light understanding of the major religious stories in all major world religions. Why? Because major works of literature and art are filled with religious references. A lack of knowledge in this area will flatten the understanding and appreciation of those works. I've chosen to invest in a mid-level world religions reference book like this one. (Clicking the cover will take you to an Amazon affiliate link that may earn me a small commission.)
Whenever we come to the origin of a religion in our history studies, I assign the relevant pages and ask Emma to add the information to her history timeline. I also assign a picture book from the library, if one is available, that presents one or two of the major stories/philosophical ideas for the religion. These are intentionally well below grade level because the important part is exposure to the general story, not a philosophical discussion or comparative religion instruction. I do plan to have a comparative religion class in highschool.
I wanted to do a cohesive Bible Study before transitioning to a Church History type of class. I am not particularly stressing about keeping Church History aligned with our main History stream. I chose to use the Bible Timeline Guided Journal
I enjoyed this particular journal because it did not move through every single book in the Bible but instead picked a series of books that moved from the beginning to the end of the chronology covered in the Old Testament. It is a Catholic resource and incorporates the book of First Maccabees as the final period of Old Testament history studied. The journal includes some factual questions but also encourages a lot of personal reflection and application. Because I wasn't teaching a specifically doctrinal class, I developed a chart that cross referenced the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Youcat to the scripture passages read in this journal. This helped to develop the concept that Catholic teachings are grounded in the Bible and helped Emma realize how incredibly foreign and ancient stories might be similar to situations she encounters today. Both the CCC and Youcat are available free online. You can buy the cross reference for the Old Testament here. Seventh grade will continue this resource through the Gospel of Luke and book of Acts and a cross reference for those books will be forthcoming.
A history student would think that all Church History courses would be consistent until the period of the Reformation but that would be a sad misstatement. I knew I wanted a specifically Catholic program so that I could avoid anti-Catholic terminology and bias. One of the first programs I found was the Epic program from Ascension Press. I was intrigued by the combination of video and workbook but put off by the price. I looked many other places but found that nearly every Church History program was aimed at high school students. I finally settled on using the Epic program because although it is aimed at adults, it is designed for more casual study. I felt like this target audience, combined with the video lecture presentation would put the content at an appropriate level. I also noted that a more scholarly church history course will need to happen in high school. I set up a search on eBay and Amazon to get notified when used materials were posted and eventually picked up the DVDs for much less than retail price.