I recently received a sample lesson from Group Publishing’s soon-to-be released Faithweaver Parent Curriculum from Side Door Communications. The idea of this curriculum is to give parents a jump-start on what their kids are learning each week in church by teaching parents the same lesson and giving ideas for at-home-activities to really solidify the Bible point. For this to work, of course, everyone in the church would need to use Faithweaver materials so the lessons coordinate each week.
What We’re Looking At:
I received one sample lesson from each age category: Parents, Pre-K/K (Ages 5-6), and Grades 3&4. Each category contained both a sample from the Teacher Guide and Handbook. Since I had such a narrow view of the curriculum, I’m going to be a bit more specific in the review, but I think you can draw some general conclusions based on that. If you have any exposure/experience with this curriculum, I’d love to hear about it!
Parents Teacher Guide
Not so much moving around, please!
This lesson seemed a little juvenile for parents. They were supposed to move around the room and sit in a designated corner according to the ages of their children. I get the purpose, but adults do not want to leave their seats to go to a corner, chat for a few minutes, and then return to their seats. Most likely they have hustled around all morning trying to find Johnny’s socks, brush Gloria’s hair, wrestle Tommy into the carseat, and grab a lukewarm cup of coffee along the way. When they finally make it to Sunday School, they want to sit and stay seated. Unlike kids, adults generally do not need to move around in order to connect with the lesson. Usually they find this sort of thing bothersome.
The questions in this section, talking aboutwho your kids rely on in different situations, are good. Since they are designed to get adults talking and opened up, I think turning to the person next to you (as long as it’s not your spouse!) would be just as effective.
Try this as a at-home activity instead
Along the same vein, I cannot see the “blindfold” activity being a big hit. Let’s just be honest, women aren’t going to want their hair messed up for church, and men are going to feel silly being blindfolded and going on a trust walk. Sunday school is just not the proper setting for this type of thing. Might be great for kids, but not adults. As an alternative, this could be suggested as a home activity for the parents to try during the week and then report back to the class about.
There was a farmer…
I LOVE the “eieio” method of talking with your child. It looked a little corny at first, but the points are excellent and the acronym is easy to remember for any parent who has sung the classic barnyard song with their little one. (It stands for Empathize, Invite conversation, Encourage, Instill hope, and Offer support). The role-playing suggestion is good because it helps parents see this technique in action, giving them a chance to practice and become more comfortable with the steps before using it with their child.
This might be helpful, but I don’t think it’s really necessary. The Discussions questions could easily be included with the Teacher’s Guide and the Notes (insight for Parents, Faith Talk Starter, and Prayer Starter) could be converted into a weekly take home sheet for parents. This way, parents might post it up somewhere they could see it every day instead of it sitting in their handbook until the next Sunday, not really serving its purpose.
Pre-K/K Teacher Guide
A little background on the age group
For anyone who has used Faithweaver Family before, the format remains pretty much the same. I’ve always appreciated the “Understanding ages … for Teachers” section at the beginning of each lesson. It helps the teacher understand how children will relate to the lesson based on their development (physical, emotional, social, etc). It also gives the teacher something to consider about the students background or family situation and how that might affect the child’s perception of the lesson.
Easy Prep and Daily Challenge
The “Easy Prep for Teachers” outline is great. A good starting point and a good review after you’ve prepared the lesson. We formally used Faithweaver Family in our church (for children’s church and midweek), and though I like the idea of Daily Challenge, it never really stuck with the kids. They forgot about doing it, or teachers forgot about following through. How can we change this? What can be done to really make this daily challenge a part of kids’ growing faith?
For even more ideas…
The web address displayed prominently at the bottom of each page is nice. I know there were “Web Extras” when we did Faithweaver before, but teachers never realized it. I see at the bottom at the Easy Prep, there is a reference to web extras. Nice!
The CD’s that usually accompany Faithweaver Family are good. I like when the class listens to a Bible character telling a part of the story, complete with background noises. Theo (the dog puppet used each week) was also a big hit with our 4 & 5 year olds.
Centered on the lesson
The Weaving Faith into Life section looks great. I love the Centers and the very-hands on activities: building a block kingdom for King David, making “Count on God” clocks with bagels, making crowns, etc.
It seems like the format for this class is without table and chairs, or at least not having them as the main centerpiece. Kids return again and again to “the circle area” where they discuss things and pray together. Ideally, the classroom itself would have to be a pretty good size in order to set up all the centers, have a circle area, and some room to move around to play games. Of course, teachers can adapt to fit their own space, and I think based on what I read, adaptions are completely doable without sacrificing any of the content or presentation.
Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of handbooks or student guides. Don’t we have enough paperwork to contend with without adding pointless coloring or matching worksheets to the pile? This handbook, however, contains a HomeConnect sheet for each week that details what the student learned, a recap of the Daily Challenge (nice!), and two ideas for parents to connect the Bible lesson with life. Keep the HomeConnect, and lose the in-class activity page.
Grades 3&4 Teacher Guide
Step One: Getting Started
The game used to introduce the lesson/open up class time seemed very confusing for children and not really applicable to the lesson. This is the primary reason our church decided not to go with Faithweaver anymore. Sometimes the materials for the week are spot-on, amazing, really great. Other times, you read through the lesson three times and are still scratching your head about application or the proper way to execute the activity. Not good.
Especially not good if you rely on a rotating team of volunteers each week. For a class that only uses one consistent teacher, these little bumps in the road are surmountable because the good weeks even out the bad. However, if you get a rotating teacher who has a bad experience (or more than one) because the material didn’t connect with him or the kids– you start dropping volunteers, quickly. Definitely not good.
Give us more Scripture!
For this age group, I would like to see a little more Bible content used. The kids read three verses, answer a few questions, and then move onto activities. Keep the text in the context folks — let’s read the whole passage to see what’s going on in this account.
Great object lesson
I really like the use of marbles, water, and various materials to show how God is the only truly reliable person. Very creative. I hope the other object lessons in this curriculum are as clever.
Grades 3&4 Handbook
Again, the same note as above. Ditch the in-class activity (especially for this age group), but keep HomeConnect. I love the “Word for the Week” feature on HomeConnect which gives a different passage for kids to read each week.
As always, the Tip from the Trenches are nice. They give great ideas that have worked in other classrooms so you can do those little extras without having to figure them all out yourself.
The CD’s that accompany this curriculum are great. We still use them with other curriculum when possible because they have very scripture-based songs and great character clips used to introduce a story. I just used a John the Baptist track this week during our review time — for our Promiseland curriculum. Great job here.
All in all, I’m very impressed with this sampler. However, as I mentioned before, the weakness in Faithweaver is its inconsistency. Did I just look at the “best of the best”? Is every week going to be this creative, engaging, and practical? I would hope so. It did seem like there were some improvements since we stopped using this series (about 2 years ago), and I really appreciate the fact that Group is trying to something new to help parents become Spiritual leaders in their house. The biggest obstacle I can see is getting all the Sunday School teachers to switch over to this material. Some pick out their own material. Some have been using another curriculum “forever”. Some teach based on what kids are dealing with in real life.
Will moving to this method make Sunday School seemed too “canned” in general?
What do we do with teachers who don’t want to switch?
Right now, in the midst of Vacation Bible School prep, it’s not the right time for us to pursue this curriculum, but I will certainly keep it in mind for the Fall or Winter. I would love to see it in action and get a feel for how parents are going to respond before we try to get all the Sunday School (kids) classes on board. I’ll keep you posted on any further developments!
Pick up your copy this Fall at Group Publishing.
Other Curriculum Reviews:
- Bible in Life Early Elementary
- Bible in Life Elementary
- Voice of the Matrys: Kids of Courage
- The Lads Preteen Curriculum
- David C. Cook’s Rio