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Investing in Eternity with the National Bible Bee

By Joyce McPherson
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #90, 2009.

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Joyce McPherson


Have you considered spending a summer immersed in the Bible? What would it be like to focus on Bible memory in your homeschool with the goal of speaking and living out the Word of God so that students become effective ambassadors for Jesus Christ?

This is the goal of the National Bible Bee, which was inaugurated by the Shelby Kennedy Foundation this year. Over 17,000 children were enrolled in the Bible Bee in its first year.

As of the writing of this article, the local competitions have been completed, and we wanted to report on this tremendous opportunity.

Being a “Bee-liever”

This year our family learned about the new National Bible Bee and registered online at biblebee.org. Participants had the choice of several different Bible translations when they registered. In May the Bee-lievers Handbook became available for download and we dove into memorization.

The amount of study material was immense, and we realized that we would not be able to master it all. So we decided to set a realistic goal for our family of two verses a day. We incorporated Bible memory into our daily school. Our students spent about 15-30 minutes memorizing together, and the same amount of time memorizing and reviewing on their own. We had to learn to say the reference at both the beginning and end of the verse, so oral practice was very helpful. We used the daily memory work for our handwriting practice as well.

Studiously preparing for the Bible Bee

Memorization Skills

Our goal of reviewing past verses and learning two new verses a day created an intense Bible immersion. As a result, we quickly honed our memorizing techniques.

My high-school-age son recorded the verses and listened to them over and over. He found that he could memorize more than two verses a day, and that it was more strategic to begin with the longer passages in level four because they incorporated many of the short verses from levels one and two.

My middle-school son memorized best by learning the verses in order. In each level the verses are laid out in the order they appear in the Bible. He liked relating where the verses occurred in each book, and it helped him remember the references better. His favorite tip was to begin with the reference and the first few words and repeat these together over and over until it was anchored in the mind, then work through the rest of the Bible verse repeating phrases until they stuck.

White Boards and Index Cards

My elementary-age son liked having a verse written on a white board so that he could erase one word at a time. He would repeat the verse, supplying the missing word each time. He usually had the verse memorized by the time the twelfth word was erased. (To make good use of his time, I wrote the verse for him.)

He also liked having his verses on index cards. We printed the level one verses, cut along the lines, and glued them to index cards. Though the verses can be printed onto cardstock, he liked the feel of index cards better than cardstock cut with a paper cutter. He carried his cards with him on vacations, dentist appointments, etc. We used them every day to review, and by the end of the summer we were reviewing for about 30 minutes.

Bible Knowledge

The second part of the Bible Bee puts Bible knowledge to the test. Level one and two are provided on memory cards, but the upper levels are based on studying six books of the Bible. We used these six books for our morning family devotions. The children took turns reading several verses of a chapter and my husband led them in a discussion of the passage. For level one and two questions, we used the time after dinner to learn and quiz the material. Answers do not have to be verbatim, which makes this material easier to master. In addition we already knew some of the material, such as the names of the books of the Old and New Testament, which we had learned over the years in Sunday school.

Reaping Benefits

The Bible Bee encourages parents to keep in view the blessing of memorizing God’s word, and to be careful not to exasperate children. If we thought that students were becoming frustrated, we stopped for the day. We were amazed at the power of God’s word to teach us great truths and change us spiritually. Though the task of memorizing could be arduous at times, we quickly reaped the benefit of knowing Scripture. We chose the same version of the Bible that is read in our church, and every Sunday we would exchange glances when a Bible verse that we knew by heart was used in worship. The Bible verses came to mind as we studied other parts of the Bible or when we were dealing with modern issues.

Proudly holding Colossians 3:17, a chosen verse for memorization

Changes for 2010

The National Bible Bee is considering several changes for the 2010 competition. This year (2009) a student would have had to memorize about 15 verses a day to complete the material. For next year, they are considering reducing the number of Bible memory passages for all age groups, particularly the primaries. They may also repeat a significant number of the 2009 core Bible memory questions. They are considering making the 2010 study guide available earlier. Though the online enrollment process was not cumbersome, they plan to further simplify it. They also may schedule the local Bible Bees on the last Saturday in August rather than the Saturday following Labor Day.

The Local Competition

On the day of the local Bible Bee, parents checked their children in at their competition location. We had families from a large geographic area attending the bee, and the hosts provided information on nearby restaurants for lunch. Parents were not able to watch the competition. The written test was administered like a classroom test, and the oral rounds were like private interviews between the student and the judges. Tightly-organized schedules walked the students through the written test round and two oral rounds. The written and oral rounds used both Bible memory questions and Bible knowledge questions.

Though we were able to master less than a quarter of the Bible verses, our students felt good about their participation. The competition administrators and student contestants were wonderful people. Best of all we spent a summer immersing ourselves in God’s word, and that was the best experience of all.

Joyce McPherson is the creator of the online programs “Homeschool Tools” and “Shakespeare Tools,” as well as the author of a series of biographies for Greenleaf Press. With her husband, Garth, she homeschools their nine children. She can be reached through teachingtools.org or at mcpclan@comcast.net.


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