Saturday, June 8, 2013

Crew Review: Christianity Cove

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As you may have noticed, if you've been reading my blog regularly, our neighbors, E and J have been joining us for school some of the time. When we decided it would be fun for them to join us a few days a week, I realized that I needed to change from the "girls-only" Bible curriculum we were using, and as I flipped through my resources, came across a variety of "Fruit of the Spirit" resources that I figured would be simple enough for the younger kids but still hold the attention of, and be educational for, Sassy and MiniMe. About the same time, Christianity Cove came up as a possible review product, and I noticed that one of the options was (warning: if you're like me and don't like it when you click on a link and it starts talking or otherwise makes noise, be aware that the following link does talk to you when you click it) the Fruits of the Spirit Activity Kit, so I figured everything would fit together nicely.

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Once I received this product (a .pdf download), I discovered that it is all very "high level", addressing the fruits of the spirit as a whole and, it felt like, assuming the children already have a basic understanding of what the fruits are, collectively and individually. So, for our main Bible time we've been going through and talking about one "fruit" each week, coloring pictures, reading stories that highlight that character trait, etc. And then we've pulled ideas from the Fruits of the Spirit Activity Kit to supplement that.

This product is designed to be used in a Sunday School setting for children age 4-12. It's also designed to be a complete "script" so that teachers can read it word-for-word if they want. The kit includes object lessons, games, crafts, snacks, worksheets, a science experiment, and a song.

One of the first things I noticed, as I read through the activities, was that some of the "supplies lists" are either missing things, or completely wrong. In at least one case, the supplies list at the top of one activity is actually for one of the OTHER activities.  So I'd recommend reading through everything in advance.

As I read through the ideas in this kit, I found most weren't a good fit for us. For one thing, we tend to not be very "normal". The suggestion of making popsicles by putting chunks of fruit in water or juice (and freezing it in popsicle mold) is great, but then the "object lesson" breaks down, when it compares these "healthy" popsicles to "regular" popsicles. That doesn't work for kids who normally eat popsicles that are kefir and fruit sweetened with stevia. My kids would have just looked at me blankly if I'd suggested that popsicles aren't healthy. . . My very literal children, would also not have been ok with an object lesson that involved planting apple seeds and then NOT following through to actually GROW the apple trees . . .

Everything ready for our object lesson
One object lesson that we did use involved comparing and contrasting grapes (still on a "vine") to raisins, and talking about the verses in the Bible that say "I am the vine, you are the branches . . ." I found I needed to do some rather major editing to the script however. The script starts with discussing meanings of the term "fruitful" and uses examples that even my 10 year olds would not have heard of before, such as "The company had a fruitful first quarter"  This could have led to a whole economics lesson for my 10 year olds, but that would have taken us way off subject AND completely lost the interest of the littler ones, my 4 year old and our neighbors, E (6) and J (3).  

As the lesson progresses and the raisins are compared, the script suggests that raisins "lack nutrients" and "man has added preservatives" this is simply NOT TRUE! Even the cheap, generic grocery store raisins are JUST DRIED GRAPES! Most OTHER dried fruit has at least a little something extra added so the fruit doesn't discolor, and I'm sure if I'd hunted long enough I could have found a brand of raisins that have added preservatives, but raisins are a HEALTHY snack, and are, in most cases, preservative free! What I found frustrating about this was it meant I felt the need to "fact check" anything and everything that was presented in this kit, and, in fact, is the reason I didn't even attempt the, rather cool-sounding, science lesson, I simply didn't have the time to do the research I felt I would have to do to confirm that the scientific information was accurate, and I wasn't comfortable presenting it without verification.

Enjoying their fruit of the spirit snack
 The other "editing" that I attempted, was the idea presented that non-Christians aren't "as good" as Christians (the wording in the script is "Just like raisins takes okay, people of the world can be 'okay' . . . But separated from the vine, they are different. They're just not quite as good as grapes, are they?"  I have talked to my kids a LOT about not judging others, not telling others they must believe as we believe, but simply letting our lives be our "witness". The LAST lesson I want to teach my children is that we are better than others because we love Jesus! It is important to love Jesus, and serve Him, but that does not make us "holier than thou". So I did some rather major editing to the sections that presented this idea, even with my editing, focusing on how if *we* separate from the vine *we* will shrivel up like raisins, the message I was trying to avoid still came through, ever since, when I serve raisins or grapes for snacks, E asks for "bad people" or "good people" depending on which he wants, sigh . . .

The stated age range for this was 4-12. The above described object lesson was the one I thought was most likely to appeal to Little Bit (4) and J (while J is 3 1/2, I would put him at the level of most 4 yr olds as far as comprehension), they enjoyed making the snack, but the object lesson went over their heads completely. Sassy was busy with something else and unable to join us for this, but while MiniMe didn't dislike it, she didn't "learn from it" either. This object lesson seemed to work well for E (6).  Of more concern to me, when it comes to age range, is that some of the other activities focus on the verses that are right before the "fruit" verses, which list the acts of the flesh (listed in Galatians 5:19-21), call me a prude, but these aren't words that I would want my 4 year old, even my 10 yr olds, introduced to at Sunday School. Nor would I want to, as a teacher, address these with such young children. Obviously this could probably, again, be tweaked, but honestly, by the time you do all the tweaking that I'm finding necessary, I have a hard time seeing the benefit of purchasing the curriculum for $19 vs. writing your own.

I didn't find this to be a good fit for us, as homeschoolers, and while I can usually see where a different style of homeschooler would be excited about the product, I'm struggling with this one. The one "unknown" for me, is that I'm not sure how closely the children's classes at our church mirror those of other churches. I was raised in our denomination and have never really visited other denominations' children's classes. So, perhaps with tweaking it would work well for Sunday School? I can't really speak to that . . . this is only one of MANY products that members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew were given the chance to review from this vendor, so be sure to check out the other reviews to see what other products are available and to get other bloggers' opinion of this product. 


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