Saturday, January 6, 2007

Curriculum Review

After working with my husband to develop our curriculum for the next few weeks (Judges through Samuel), I began to think, what if there really is some half-way decent curriculum out there that JC and I aren't aware of? Anne Robertson, whose "Spirit Walker" podcasts absolutely changed my feelings about "Godcasting" (though I still cringe at the term), emailed to tell me that one of her previous churches had a curriculum that was the best she'd seen--immersive, interactive, and engaging. The kids loved it.

I've decided to conduct a review of various Sunday School curricula. As I stated earlier, I'm really NOT a fan of Twenty-First-Century Christian, which my church uses. It's dry and uninteresting, not to mention there's basically no logical progression from one lesson to the next.
Can anyone out there tell me what curriculum your church uses/used? I didn't go through Sunday School at all, not having been raised a Christian, so I don't even know the names of any other ones.

Also, it's important to keep in mind the exact age that I'm trying to look at here. I'd say it's probably ages 8 through 12, give or take. Too old for little-kid stuff, not yet old enough for teen issues. Some of the online curricula I've seen are great for preschool through first- or even second-grade, but when I imagine trying to do them with my bigger kids, I shudder. They are at this weird age where they won't even sing. I don't mean VBS little-kid songs ("Father Abraham," "I'm in the Lord's Army," "God Is Bigger Than the Boogie Man"). A few weeks ago, JC and I tried to teach them a hymn, a grown-up real hymn that they have heard nine hundred times. We wanted them to be able to participate in the church service like grown-ups. We thought it would help them be less bored. Every single one of them refused. Is it some kind of developmental thing? Do pre-adolescents just not sing? I sang all the time at that age, but I was in choir. These kids aren't.

Here's what the ideal Bible curriculum would have, in my book:

  • Something hands on for every lesson. This doesn't necessarily entail a craft (and if there were a craft, it would have to be REALLY tied to the lesson, not like making Bible verses out of macaroni or something). Kids need to move around a bit. They like getting their hands dirty. They like doing.
  • A logical flow from one lesson to the next. Our invented curriculum happens to have a chronological flow, governed by our family tree and the beautiful timeline book that Pat lent us. My ideal curriculum does not necessarily have to have this specific kind of flow, but every lesson must have some logical build on the lesson before.
  • None of the following: crosswords, word finds, coloring pages, mazes. These belong on Denny's kids' menus, not my Sunday school lesson plan.
  • A sincere effort to teach the kids things they might not know. Our students were surprised to learn that Enoch didn't exactly die. Tomorrow we're going to blow their minds by telling them that Joshua (who knocked down Jericho and led God's people to the Promised Land) had the same name as Jesus (who also broke down some barriers and led another iteration of God's people to another sort of Promised Land). Sidebars that explain this kind of thing would be really good. Fun facts, strange vocabulary that they have in even the most mundane translations, any of that would help.
  • A joy in the fact that the Bible is a very weird document. My ideal Bible curriculum wouldn't avoid the weird stories, the parts we can't really explain or synthesize. It's all there for a reason. Should we cover, in explicit detail, the Song of Songs with our ten-year-old charges? Uhm. No. But so help me, what kid wouldn't get a kick out of the story of Eglon (king so fat that his assassin couldn't retrieve his sword)? We need to just chill out. The Bible isn't so proper as all that. It's human. I get terribly annoyed when Sunday schools only tell the "nice" stories, because there are only about fifteen of them, and the kids get bored with hearing them over and over.
  • NO preprinted Bible verses. Let the kids look them up for themselves. How else will they learn where things are?
  • LOTS of maps, timelines, visual explainations. LOTS of illustration--not campy junk illustration, but quality stuff. Example: an architectural rendering (guesswork, but educated guesswork) of Solomon's temple. Preferably accompanied by maps showing where the materials would have come from.
Let's see if that's out there, shall we?

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