AAC and Bible Verse Memory Part 2 and The Ology
I am learning a multitude of ways not to teach and help Nathaniel. I wrote a lengthy blog post in September about starting to memorize bible verses with him. Seven months later, I have learned that approach did not work. Or perhaps it is better stated that in recent months my goals have changed, and so my approach needed to change too. Click on the link above to learn where we started.
Last September, I was focusing heavily on Nathaniel's expressive language skills in bible memory work. Progress was very slow. I spent hours creating our verse posters using his language symbols, and I spent time daily hunting and pecking on his device to model saying the verses. Most of the time he played with the matchbox car in his hand. He seemed bored. I quickly grew frustrated with the car, his boredom and mine, and my inability to make learning fun. Not that every moment of our day has to be fun, but I believe what Proverbs 16:21 says, that kind words increase learning. I do not speak kind words when I am frustrated. I can testify that despite spending months on trying to learn to recite verses one and two of Psalm 23 expressively using Nathaniel's device, neither of us succeeded.
"We grow a little at a time," states the chapter title in the top photo. It is true for Christians, for Nathaniel's expressive language, for my understanding of how to gently lead his soul. My brother and sister-in-law visited recently; they have not seen Nathaniel since last July, and they both commented how much better Nathaniel communicates. Ironically, they saw limited talker use before making that observation. We were hosting a party. I am pretty sure Nathaniel's device was left on the kitchen counter as we refilled the food table and chatted with guests. But Nathaniel's cognitive growth and ability to understand more advance conversation was apparent to his uncle and aunt.
As I thought and prayed about why our bible memory wasn't working and what to do differently, I reconsidered my goal for sharing bible verses with Nathaniel. I think the emphasis our family has put on incentive based bible verse memorization (children earning awards in Sunday School and at kids' clubs for reciting the week's verses), we've missed the more important goal - to have God's Word in our head and hearts for times when we do not have the written Word in front of us. Like when you are in the PICU for eleven days. Or when you being held down on a hospital gurney by three nurses so a fourth nurse can access your port before you go into the operating room for strabismus surgery. Nathaniel was there today. When thirty minutes of surgery prep feels like a valley of darkness, Nathaniel needs the entirety of Psalm 23's comfort. Over the last few months, I have realized that I should not limit Nathaniel's receptive exposure to scripture to only what he is capable of duplicating expressively. I've changed my approach. Here's a video of our collaborative reciting of Psalm 23 last week.
Like our relatives, I have seen the gradual changes in Nathaniel's abilities to understand much more than he can express. Applying a knowledge of his new abilities to spiritual matters makes sense. He is ready for longer bible stories and ideas about God. Our interactive toddler bible and board books with very beginning theological truths will always be dear to us, but they need replaced.
Nathaniel received The Jesus Storybook Bible as a gift when a baby. We read it through twice, but then set it aside for a toddler friendlier bible story book. We are starting Sally Lloyd-Jones text again. If you are not familiar with this children's story bible, change that. Pick up a copy and read it. The simply told stories that all point to a God who "loves his children with a Never-Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love" can encourage the adult heart too. I am excited to share this again with Nathaniel knowing he will understand more now than he did a few years ago.
When our older children were very young, we shared a daily time of reviewing bible doctrine and scripture verses. Our format was rudimentary - we created a homemade spiral bound index booklet of catechism questions and answers. As parents we would occasionally expound on the questions and scriptures with examples, but it must have been very boring for our children. Our teaching aid has survived close to thirty years of parenting. Nathaniel gets it off the shelf, carries it around, and hands it to me to read him the verses.
In pursuit of something slightly more appealing than our life stained, falling apart notes, I found The Ology. I literally gasped when I opened it. The pictures are breathtaking. The text is as doctrinally solid as our scripture alone approach, but with lovely analogies and child-friendly word pictures to explain complex theology. I am excited to read this book personally, and to share it with Nathaniel and our grandchildren many times thru in the years to come.