Homeschooling takes a ton of work, but there are resources out there to help! Christa Petzold shares her favorite books for teaching the faith while homeschooling.
It’s spring and I’m a homeschool mom, which means that this is the time when I’m contemplating curriculum—What worked this year? What do I want to cover with my kids next year? Can we get through what we still need to cover before the beautiful weather brings our academic year to its inevitable end?
I have to confess, I love selecting curriculum! It’s easily one of my favorite parts of homeschooling. I love the challenge of considering each child’s personality, interest areas, and growth needs, as well as our evolving family dynamic. I try to take all this information and come up with a plan for the new school year that will grow each of us individually and together as a family. It’s often a puzzle; no two families are the same, and no one family is the same year to year!
Despite the constant adjustments and changes, we have chosen to keep our devotions and catechesis time at the start of each school day, year after year. So far, this has always entailed a hymn, a prayer, and some kind of book or resource that teaches the faith.
For families who are looking for devotional or teaching resources for their kids, these are some of the resources that I have enjoyed using with my children over the past few years.
Follow and Do Series
In my first year of homeschooling, I had a kindergartener with her three-year-old brother and one-year-old sister along for the ride. I wanted to keep it simple for devotions and introduce them to the catechism gently. The Follow and Do series by Joni Walker was perfect for our first six weeks of school. It is a series of six picture books corresponding to the Six Chief Parts of Luther’s Small Catechism. Each book has the original, unabridged text of the catechism, but with pictures and dialogue bubbles that illustrate and point to the meaning of each part. I chose to read the same book each day of the week for a whole week, moving on to the next part the following week. At such young ages, my kids loved to repeat books, and I thought it was a great way to gain familiarity with the catechism and understand its meaning before embarking on memorization. This upcoming fall, my third-born will be in kindergarten and I plan to use these books again with her. Her siblings—both older and younger—can listen in!
My First Hymnal
We have used My First Hymnal to start our devotion time since the beginning. Now that I have a kid who can read fluently, we have purchased a second copy. My kids love the pictures and love getting to know the hymns. We have used the brief liturgies in the front of the hymnal as well as the prayers. As my kids get older, we have started using the “regular hymnal” as well to introduce more hymns. An idea that recently occurred to me is to make purchasing a hymnal for each child a rite of passage when they have learned to read.
About the Lutheran Church Set
This is a set of three beautiful, hard-cover books with vivid illustrations that explain various elements of the worship service.
- Worship with Angels and Archangels is an introduction to the Divine Service. It walks through the elements of the service (the text from Divine Service, Setting One is included) and explains what is happening in each part.
- Ordering Our Days in His Peace is an introduction to the church year. It has a few pages for each liturgical season that explain its significance and how it is traditionally celebrated. This is a great resource to have on hand to refer to throughout the year as each new season comes.
- And finally, Behold the Lamb: An Introduction to the Signs and Symbols of the Church shows, with rich illustrations and descriptions, some of the many symbols that have been used through the centuries in liturgical art.
We worked through this book slowly last year, reading a few pages each day. My oldest daughter loves to draw and loves all things artistic. She was very interested, and I was surprised and delighted when she brought me her own liturgical artwork! She had drawn our different theological ideas and Bible stories with some of the signs and symbols that we had read about. It was so fun to see what she had retained and absorbed from just a few minutes each day of reading about our faith tradition.
To use this series with elementary-aged kids, I recommend taking these books one section (or a few pages) per day, or bringing them in when you want to talk about a specific church season or part of the worship service. They would be a great resource for older children or adults to learn about Lutheran worship as well.
Luther’s Small Catechism for Kids
This is the resource we have been using most this year (see my blog post where I break down what that looks like here). I have appreciated Luther’s Small Catechism for Kids because we can use it all year long that incorporates Scripture, catechism, hymn suggestions, and memory work. It also leaves room for flexibility. I can look at it each morning and decide which questions I want to ask, which Bible verses I want to read, and where we are with memory work. Like many homeschool subjects, we were rigorous in the fall, serious through the winter, and more laid back now in the spring. And that’s okay! I know we will come back to this book in various ways year after year.
Some other resources that we have used and loved include the age-appropriate books from the Learning about Sex series, The Story Bible (I love that it is so close to the original text, includes so many details and stories, and has truly captivating illustrations and discussion questions), and The Growing in Faith Bible. All of these books have helped us share the truth of God’s Word with our children in developmentally-appropriate ways over the past several years.
I hope that these suggestions are helpful to you as you think about teaching the faith to your children, godchildren, grandchildren, or students. Our devotional time is often messy, a bit chaotic, and sometimes even half-hearted. But the beautiful thing about our God is that He comes to us in the mess and imperfection, even if our kids are distracted or uninterested on any given day. It is God’s Word that has the power to renew and work in our hearts—and immersing our children in the Word will never be fruitless. One of my favorite verses is John 8:31–32:
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Our children are already disciples of Jesus by virtue of their Baptism. Jesus calls us all as disciples to abide in His Word so that we may know Him (He is the truth!) and be set free from sin, death, and the devil.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10–11)