Bible Lessons in Form I & II

“But let the imaginations of children be stored with the pictures, their minds nourished upon the words, of the gradually unfolding story of the Scriptures, and they will come to look out upon a wide horizon within which persons and events take shape in their due place and due proportion. By degrees, they will see that the world is a stage whereon the goodness of God is continually striving with the wilfulness of man; that some heroic men take sides with God; and that others, foolish and headstrong, oppose themselves to Him. The fire of enthusiasm will kindle in their breast, and the children, too, will take their side, without much exhortation, or any thought or talk of spiritual experience.”

Charlotte Mason, Vol. I, p. 249


4 x 20 minute lessons per week. The Old Testament and New Testament readings were taken on alternate days with two lessons reserved for each. The Bible Lesson was always scheduled as the first lesson of the day, this denoted the importance of the lesson, the lesson Miss Mason referred to as the “chief” lesson in the students’ education.

“Children between the ages of six and nine should get a considerable knowledge of the Bible text. By nine they should have read the simple (and suitable) narrative portions of the Old Testament, and, say, two of the gospels.”

Charlotte Mason, Vol. I, p. 248

Lesson Books and Material Covered

There were two main texts assigned for Bible Lessons in Forms I & II. These were then supplemented with prayer books, bible atlases, and passages for recitation, as follows:

(a) The Holy Bible
(b) Bible Commentary
(c) A Book of Prayers and/or Hymns
(d) Bible Atlas
(e) Bible Pictures
(f) Supplementary Reading for Teacher
(g) Bible Passages for Recitation

(a) The Holy Bible

“It is a mistake to use paraphrases of the text; the fine roll of Bible English appeals to children with a compelling music, and they will probably retain through life their first conception of the Bible scenes, and, also, the very words in which these scenes are portrayed. This is a great possession.”

Charlotte Mason, Vol. I, p. 249

Bible Lessons were given directly from the text of Holy Scripture itself, read to the students by the teacher. This is the ultimate Living book of which there can be no substitute. Charlotte Mason herself never specifies or advocates for a particular version of the Bible to use. It is likely the students would in most cases have used The Authorised (King James) Version as this was the version commonly used by The Church of England during Miss Mason’s time.

The King James Version is beautiful and it can provide an excellent bridge towards reading such great literature as Shakespeare and Milton, but we need not feel restricted. Unlike Miss Mason, we live in a time when there are so many different Bible versions to choose from. Every family has their own reasons for reading the version they prefer and we personally feel that Miss Mason would be happy for families to use the one they feel most comfortable with, so long as it is a solid biblical translation and not a paraphrase.

In Form I the students would have the parent/teacher read the Bible passages to them, however in Form II the students may have read from the Bible themselves, but out loud.((Although Miss Mason never specifies the students’ reading aloud from the Bible, there is a reference to this being the case in a Parents’ Review article from 1915)).

“The method of such lessons is very simple. Read aloud to the children a few verses covering if possible, an episode. Read reverently, carefully, and with just expression. Then require the children to narrate what they have listened to as nearly as possible in the words of the Bible. It is curious how readily they catch the rhythm of the majestic and simple Bible English. Then, talk the narrative over with them in the light of research and criticism.”

Charlotte Mason, Vol. I, p. 251

Unique to Bible Lessons was the instruction that the students were to narrate “as nearly as possible in the words of the Bible.” This places due reverence to the text, requires the children to pay even greater attention to the words being spoken, and drives home the importance of not taking away nor adding to Scripture.

(b) Bible Commentary

“Let the teaching, moral and spiritual, reach them without much personal application. I know of no better help in the teaching of young children than we get in Canon Paterson Smyth’s Bible for the Young. [. . .] The moral and spiritual teaching in these manuals is on broad and convincing lines. It is rather a good plan occasionally to read aloud Mr. Smyth’s lesson on the subject after the Bible passage has been narrated. Children are more ready to appropriate lessons that are not directly levelled at themselves; while the teacher makes the teaching her own by the interest with which she reads, the pictures and other illustrations she shows, and her conversational remarks.

Charlotte Mason, Vol. I, pp. 251-252

Charlotte Mason assigned a bible commentary to be referenced alongside the Bible reading. The series of commentaries used by the P.U.S. were authored by Dr. J. Paterson-Smyth, and called The Bible for the Young, also known as The Bible for School and Home.

The programmes instruct the use of the commentaries in the following way: “Teacher to prepare beforehand: in teaching, read the Bible passages ONCE and get the children to narrate; add such comments (see Paterson-Smyth) as will bring the passages home to the children.” So this was not to be read directly to the students like their other lesson books, but was meant as a resource for the teacher who would select passages to share with the students based on the Bible reading.

Two installments of The Bible for the Young were generally used each year on a three year cycle, serving students in Form I & II with two complete rotations during this time. Both forms were reading the same portions of Scripture each term with more advanced work being expected from the older students.

The commentaries served as a reference upon which the lessons from Scripture would be selected; therefore the programmes did not specify bible chapter and verses, but lessons and page numbers from the commentaries instead.

This was generally broken down as follows:

Old Testament

Year 1

In the first year of the Bible cycle the students would begin at the very beginning of Scripture with The Book of Genesis.

Year 2

In the second year of the Bible cycle they would be reading suitable stories from Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The commentary they used was Moses and the Exodus, by J. Paterson-Smyth.

Year 3

In the third year of the Bible cycle they would be reading suitable stories from Joshua, Judges, and I Samuel. The commentary they used was Joshua and the Judges, by J. Paterson-Smyth.

New students

In some Form I programmes there was a text suggested for beginners as an introduction to the Old Testament readings, either Bible Stories: Old Testament, by R. G. Moulton, or Bible Stories for My Grandchildren, by “Lois”. These texts were read to the students by the teacher.

New Testament

One installment of The Bible for the Young was generally used each year during the three-year Bible Cycle to coincide with their New Testament Bible reading, save for the final year of the cycle when they would read The Gospel of St. Luke.

Year 1

In the first year of the New Testament Bible cycle the students would begin with The Gospel of St. Matthew. The commentary they used was St. Matthew, by J. Paterson-Smyth.

Year 2

In the second year of the Bible cycle they would be reading The Gospel of St. Mark, and The Acts. The commentary they used was St. Mark and The Acts, by J. Paterson-Smyth.

Year 3

In the third year of the Bible cycle they would be reading suitable stories from The Gospel of St. Luke. Paterson-Smyth does not have a commentary for Luke’s Gospel; however in some of the earlier programmes a commentary published by S.P.C.K, St. Luke’s Gospel, was recommended. It was written by Bishop Walsham How and you can now view free downloads of it on

Bishop How’s commentary followed alongside the same bible passages per term. The chapter breakdown per term was as follows:

(c) A Book of Prayers and/or Hymns (optional)

The Children’s Book of Prayers, by S.B. Macy was a standard addition present on nearly all the programmes, but what started out as one book eventually evolved into a list of several optional suggestions. Three of these books, Sidelights on the Bible, by Mrs Brightwen, The Wonderful Prayer, by G. Hollis, and The Winchester Hymn Supplement, were initially listed each term under Sunday reading in many of the earlier programmes.

The other books listed for optional reading were “A Child’s Book of Prayer, by Rev. J. E. Ward, The Children’s Kingdom (daily readings), by G. Watts and S. F. Perrin, or, The Church and School Hymnal.”

As these were all either prayer book or hymn book suggestions it seems probable that each bible lesson started with a prayer and/or hymn before beginning the bible lesson reading.

(d) Bible Atlas (optional)

Every programme looked at over the thirty year span suggested the use of a Bible Atlas published by S.P.C.K for the children to use.

The programmes often specified that, “Children might use Bible Atlas“, but as several Parents’ Review articles point out, map work was expected more from students in Form II than those in Form I.

(e) Bible Pictures

“The study of such pictures […] should be a valuable part of a child’s education; it is no slight thing to realise how the Nativity and the visit of the Wise Men filled the imagination of the early Masters, and with what exceeding reverence and delight they dwelt upon every detail of the sacred story. This sort of impression is not to be had from any up-to-date treatment, or up-to-date illustrations; and the child who gets it in early days, will have a substratum of reverent feeling upon which should rest his faith. But it is well to let the pictures tell their own tale.”

Charlotte Mason, Vol. I, pp. 252-253

The programmes themselves never made mention of pictures to use in their lessons. Charlotte Mason refers to it in Home Education however, and she recommended the following resources: Illustrated New Testament, and The Holy Gospels with Illustrations from the Old Masters, published by the S.P.C.K. She was adament that children should be exposed to the best in biblical art and that we should not be content with sub-par, cartoony illustrations.

(f) Supplementary Reading for Teacher (optional)

Many of the later programmes included a list of books, “teacher will find useful for personal study”. The books suggested are Palenstine in Picture, by Canon Raven, Everyday Life in the Holy Land, by J. Neill, Fact and Faith in the Bible by Rev. W. R. Williams, The Accuracy of the Old Testament, by J. Garrow Dunean, and Sidelights on the Bible, by Mrs Brightwen.

(g) Bible Passages for Recitation

“The learning by heart of Bible passages should begin while the children are quite young, six or seven. It is a delightful thing to have the memory stored with beautiful, comforting, and inspiring passages, and we cannot tell when and how this manner of seed may spring up, grow, and bear fruit.”

Charlotte Mason, vol. I, p. 253

During the students’ Recitation lessons on the time-table, they were assigned two Bible passages a term, taken from their Old and New Testament readings, a psalm, and a hymn. For more information on exactly what psalms and passages they were assigned, please see our post on Recitation.

Further Reading

A Delectable Education, Episode 17: Bible 2.0
A Delectable Education, Episode 128: Form I Bible Immersion Lesson
Scripture Teaching
Bible Teaching
P.N.E.U. Methods of Teaching Scripture
Notes of Lessons: Scripture, Class Ib
Notes of Lessons: Old Testament, Class I
Notes of Lessons: New Testament Story, Class II




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