Monday, June 18, 2018

The Tale of Two Sunday Schools

A Tale of Two Sunday Schools


The Tale of Two Sunday Schools      

 Jacob's Morning:

On Sunday morning, Jacob got up and got ready for Church. He put on his nicest clothes, brushed his teeth, and combed his hair neatly. He liked going to Church with his Dad a lot on the weekends they were together - and he loved seeing the other kids in Sunday School. He wondered what the new year of Sunday School would bring.

As he walked into his Sunday School class, his new teacher greeted him. She was a warm, kind person and he took an instant liking to her. She offered him a name tag, and showed him to a seat.

First, the teacher took attendance, and reminded the children that there would be a prize for perfect attendance at the end of the year. Jacob had already missed the first class - and he would miss a lot more before the year was over. None of the weeks he spent at his Mom's would count. He felt sad about the prize he wouldn't be getting.

As the teacher started the class, she said, "Can anyone recite their memory verse from last week?" Jacob tried to keep his head down and not be noticed. He didn't know anything about the memory verse, since he hadn't been there last week, and felt embarrassed that he hadn't done the work. The kids who had done the work put up their stickers on the chart, and Jacob felt left out.

Next, the teacher passed out Bible story books. She went around the room and asked each child to read a paragraph. Michael read first. Michael was a star student, and when he read, it sounded just like a grown-up was reading. Next, Emma read, and she read proficiently, but she didn't put any feeling into her reading - it was rather like listening to a computer read to you - boooor-rring! When Jacob's turn came, he carefully sounded out each word as best as he could. But, he had struggled in school ever since his parents' divorce, and anyone listening could tell that reading was a struggle for him. Not only was he a poor reader, but didn't also didn't know as many "Church words" as the kids who came every week. When he said "baby- lawn" for Babylon, a few of the kids chuckled - not mean spiritedly, but because it seemed funny to them. Jacob was embarrassed. This was beginning to feel a lot like school. After struggling all week in school, the last thing he wanted to do was to spend his weekend doing more of the same. He thought, "I can't be a good Christian because I'm not smart. Good Christians are good at school!"

After story time, there was a crossword puzzle to do. It asked Jacob to fill in the blanks with a lot of answers he didn't know. He was excited that he knew that Jesus was born in Bethlehem - he could fill that one in! But, he misspelled it "Bethilham." That meant that the few other answers he knew didn't work. He finally pushed the paper aside and played with his pencil - spinning it in circles on the table.

After that, there was a game of "Hangman" for the kids to play on the dry erase board with Bible words. But Jacob knew he had no chance at that - he was a lousy speller! Yet another confirmation of his theory that good Christians were good at school things.

At the end of the class, there was a short playtime as parents came to pick their kids up. Jacob asked the other boys if he could join their group, but they refused. They said the group was a club that was members only. The Sunday School teacher saw this happen, and thought "Boys will be Boys" and felt that it wouldn't be right to intervene, even though she felt bad for Jacob.  By now, Jacob felt certain that he didn't fit in with all these good "Church kids."

When Jacob's Dad picked him up from class, he put his arm around Jacob's shoulder. He said, "Well, what did you think of your new class? How is the new teacher?"

"Oh, she's really nice." said Jacob.

"So, are you looking forward Sunday School on our next weekend together?" Dad inquired. He was very hopeful that Sunday School would be a great experience for his son.

But Jacob just replied, "If it's okay with you, Dad, I think I'll just hang out with you next time."

Emily's Morning:


On Sunday morning, Emily got up and got ready for Church. She put on her nicest clothes, brushed her teeth, and combed her hair neatly. She liked going to Church with her Grandma a lot on the weekends that she could - and she loved seeing the other kids in Sunday School. She wondered what the new year of Sunday School would bring. This week the doctor had said that Emily's health would permit her to go to Sunday School, and she was excited.

As she walked into her Sunday School class, her new teacher greeted her. The teacher was a warm, kind person and Emily took an instant liking to her. The offered her a name tag, and showed her to a seat.

First, the teacher took attendance, and reminded the children that there would be a prize for each child each time they got four attendance stars. Emily looked forward to getting a prize after three more visits. She knew that three more visits would take a while, but she had a prize to look forward to when the time came.

As the teacher started the class, she said, "Can anyone recite their memory verse from last week? If you missed last week, let me know, and you can get a sticker for the verse either later today or next time you come." Emily watched the other kids reciting the verse. By the time they had all said it, she had it memorized! She recited it for the teacher, and got her sticker! She was so happy to be able to succeed with all the other kids.

Next, the teacher read a Bible story to the class. The teacher was a good storyteller and read with great emphasis and hand gestures, and when necessary stopped to ask the class questions or explain a bit of the text. The story really came to life and Emily found it enthralling!  She was so relieved that they didn't take turns reading like at school - that was both boring and embarrassing. Because Emily's health condition required her to miss a lot of school, she wasn't as strong a reader as other kids in her grade, and sometimes that could make her feel like the other kids were better than her.

After story time, they had a game in which one kid could draw a picture from today's story, while the other kids guessed what part of the story it was. It was a fun game because everyone who had listened could take turns and have a good chance at winning. Emily liked it better than games that required her to be a great speller or to know a lot of stuff that she had missed in other lessons. And, when a kid had misunderstood the story and drew a picture of the Prophet Daniel being eaten by a Lion, the teacher re-told that part of the story so that everyone could learn the message of the story. 

At the end of the class, the kids sang a new Bible Verse memory song together - to help them get ready for next week's memory verse assignment. This helped those kids who had trouble memorizing at home. The teacher reminded them that if they missed next week, they could recite the verse on the next week that they were able to attend.

At the end of the class, there was a short playtime as parents came to pick their kids up. Emily asked the other girls if she could join their group, but they refused. They said the group was a club that was members only. The Sunday School teacher saw this happen, and she reminded the kids that we never exclude other people in Sunday School - after all - Jesus includes all of us! The kids readily changed their minds and Emily joined them in the game.

When Emily's Grandma picked her up from class, she put her arm around Emily's shoulder. She said, "Well, what did you think of your new class? How is the new teacher?"

"Oh, she's really nice." said Emily.

"So, are you looking forward Sunday School the next time you're able to come to Church?" Grandma inquired. She was very hopeful that Sunday School would be a great experience for her granddaughter.

Emily said, "That will be great! I can't wait!" 

Including Everyone

In our modern culture, we spend a lot of time thinking and talking about being "inclusive." For Christians, including those members of society who might be mistreated or neglected is a particularly important goal. 

But, when many Church leaders think of including those who might be left out, all too often, they think only of big projects like installing an elevator for the person who uses a wheelchair, or having multi-racial illustrations so that children of all racial groups feel included. And, those things ARE very important. 

But, the reality is that there are many needs in our Sunday Schools in addition to racial diversity and mobility devices. In fact, a different family structure, or an educational challenge are probably the most common differences that children bring to Sunday School with them.

We still think of the "non-traditional" family as an exception. In reality, when divorce, widowhood, never marrieds, grandparent-led families and others are all added up, it is very likely that more than half of our Sunday School Children are from "non-traditional" families. They are the majority! 

Yet, often, we make NO allowances when teaching for things like every-other-weekend visits, or telling a story in which Grandma is the head of household because Dad & Grandpa have both gone on to Heaven. 

And then there is the fact that,  by definition, half of our children are average, or below average students when it comes to academic pursuits. But, Sunday School lessons are almost invariably written as if they are school lessons, with vocabulary, word searches, crossword puzzles and other academic exercises. Lessons CAN be taught differently - as stories, using fewer literacy-dependent teaching methods. If that happened, more of our kids might feel like they were "good at" Church and like they had potential to be good Christians, and could even be Saints one day - whatever their academic gifts!

There is a great modern emphasis on "Home as Church" or "the Family Altar." Those things are incredibly valuable. But, these things are meant to work hand-in-hand with Church programs, not to be a replacement for them. We must not forget that many of our families - especially those which are non-traditional, or which have limited financial resources -  simply do not have the emotional resources to do all of the "homework assignments" that many Churches send home with Sunday School Children. As the Scriptures command, we must "Bear one another's burdens." - the Church must offer to help these families carry the load that they already bear, and be always alert to new ways to reach out to our families and strengthen them.

As illustrated in the stories above, a Sunday School program that reaches out to kids from non-traditional families, and to kids with academic difficulties can be VERY similar to one that does not. It doesn't cost any more money, or take any more time to include all of the kids that come to us - it only takes a little forethought about what tiny tweaks we can make to existing programs.

(Note: The preceding stories are fiction. Any similarity to any particular Sunday School is coincidental. The examples in this story come from a life time of observing a huge variety of Sunday School programs and curriculum packages, in a variety of Churches and denominations - as well from my own experience teaching for several years and observing the experience of extended family. Indeed, even my own childhood experience as a Sunday School student is woven into this story. My own daughter's Sunday School experience is an exceedingly happy one, and I am delighted with the wonderful volunteers at my own Church.)







Monday, June 11, 2018

Homeschool Questions I NEVER Hear

Homeschool Questions I Never Hear
We home-schoolers all know the common home school questions, and can list them off without thinking twice:

1. But what about socialization?

and

2. How will she get into (the "right") college?

The answers to THOSE questions are pretty simple:

1. Once a month, we let her out of her cage and let her meet people ; )

and

2. We're teaching her how to pick locks ; )


But, we seldom think about the questions that are missing - those questions that never get asked.

1. What about your child's Spiritual life?
2. How do you get to weekday morning Church services?
3. Is your child getting the best possible academics?
4. Is your child's education tailored to her needs and abilities?
5. How do you find time for quality time with your child?
6. How do you keep her from falling in with a bad crowd?
7. Don't you worry about a drug problem in your child's school?
8. How do you ensure that her Character is being developed in a healthy way?
9. How do see to it that she grows up with a healthy view of human relationships, instead of being corrupted by "education" on this topic in the school system?
10. How do you deal with the nationwide school shooting epidemic?
11. How do you fit in time to study your Faith?
12. How do you prevent bullying in your school?


It's interesting. I have to wonder WHY I hear the first set of questions nonstop, while I don't think I've EVER heard even one of the questions on the second list. (and, to be clear, home school parents CAN fail to provide for the second category of concerns!)

Most parents I talk to (regardless of their educational choice for their child) say that their Child's Spiritual, Academic, Emotional and Psychological development, Family relationships, AND their Physical safety are FAR more important to them than their kid's social life or the name of the name of the college they get into.

And if you ask them what the purpose of public school is, very few will tell you that its purpose is providing their kids with a great social life, or getting them into a university that will impress the neighbors.

And yet . . . .

I always hear the first set of questions, and never the second.

Wonder why?

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Monday, June 4, 2018

June Vegan Menu for a Week

June 2018 Week's Vegan Menu
Here is a week's worth of Vegan menu ideas for the beginning of summer.
7 Days of Dinners, plus one Lunch idea, one Breakfast idea and one Dessert.















Day 1:

Black Bean Enchiladas






Day 2:

Grilled Greek Mushroom Kabobs (Manitarakia)




Greek Tahini Sauce


Stove Top Pita Bread



Greek Inspired Oven Fries




Day 3:

Indian Lemon Rice with Peas



Day 4 (serve with some leftover Pita from Day 2):  

Sausages are great sandwiched in a Pita with Mustard, Lettuce & Tomato

Vegan Sausage Patties




Lentil & Rice Salad



Day 5:
Vacation Soup



Day 6:
Indian Chickpeas in Ginger Sauce over Rice
Day 7:



Peas & Artichokes Yachni




Easy No Knead Greek Olive Crescents


Breakfast:

Gluten Free, Sugar Free, Oil Free Banana Bars
Lunch:



Veggie & Olive Sandwich



Dessert:

Easy Vegan White Cake with Strawberries




Enjoy!

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