Thursday, November 1, 2012

RECON - A Schoolhouse Crew Review

Do you have any high school students in your home? Do you ever begin to wonder... Will they be ready? The will be launching off from the family home in such a short time. Have they been adequately prepared to "face the enemy"? Is their arsenal packed? Certainly there have been gaps in their preparation. Is there anything you can do, in the time  you have left with them in your home, to under gird and secure their faith?

Early in September I learned that the Schoolhouse Review Crew would be given the opportunity to review a product called Recon, also known as Recon Curriculum, a Bible curriculum for Christian high school juniors and seniors to prepare them to launch off into college.  Recon means, “a collection of strategic intelligence to prepare for a military operation in hostile territory.”  At first, when I saw this product come up for review, I just shrugged. My son is only 7th grade. I didn't "qualify". But then it turned out that they were having trouble finding enough people to review the product. I went to the Recon product page and read, "may be used for college students and other adults. It involves comprehensive and intensive training for the worldview and spiritual challenges they’ll face after high school". I thought, I have a young adult daughter living at home. Maybe she would be willing to do the curriculum with me. I asked her, and she said, "Sure!"

I expressed my situation and my willingness to my Crew leader, and was selected to do the review. A week or two later the materials arrived at my door. The books are gorgeous! They are well illustrated, and well constructed. So far they have proven to be fairly durable. The book is a consumable, so your student will want to keep it in good condition for their own personal reference later, but you aren't trying to keep it intact to be reused for all your kids. You'll want to buy a new student book as each child uses the program.

The RECON set came with a student spiral and a Teacher's Manual spiral. The Student book is much thicker than the Teacher's book.

This is a beautiful set, and will be well appreciated by the right student.  I will explain below. There is a "Spiritual Training Manual", a nice 8-1/2" x 11" spiral, about 1/2" thick, as well as a "Teacher's Manual" spiral, same dimensions, but over an inch thick.

My family has a long heritage of military service. I have RAF (Royal Air Force) insignias from my Grandmother Hall's father, Alfred Morris. Gram's sister, Betty Morris, served in the military in World War II. My dad, also, served in World War II (U.S. Army Air Corps, 1945-1945); and his brother, Uncle Bob, served in the United States Navy. My step-dad served in the Army, serious war duty in World War II (would seldom talk about it, but he was in the South Pacific). Uncle Bob's sons served as well: Little Bob, Navy; Brian, Army or Army Reserve or both; Rick, I'm not sure if he served; David served, I think US Navy. My husband served in the U.S. Air Force under first Jimmy Carter, then finished under Ronald Reagan. Oh, and my husband's father graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1952, and then served active duty during peace time for six years, in the 1950s.

All that to say that "military" runs thick in my family's blood, and I have always tried to convey patriotism, love of country, understanding of honor and service, and respect for military into my children.

Apparently I have failed.

My daughter's experience of the military has been from a different perspective than mine, observing legalism, a requiring of unquestioning obedience by military fathers, that grates against her nature. This has been combined with some unpleasant dating relationships, one abusive physically, the other manipulative, both with veterans. She is not keen on the military. So from the start, this curriculum was a stretch for her.
My daughter, though, is a lover of all things "Mark Driscoll", though, so when she started Day 1 by seeing a quote from Mark Driscoll, she was willing to give it a go.

The Recon program was created by Pastor Bill Perry, a homeschooling dad of seven. He has a long history of work in the area of writing and teaching with an awareness of world missions, right where you are. The specific focus of Recon is to equip high school juniors and seniors to launch off college prepared to not only continue strong in their walk with God, but also to spread the gospel to other students around them. 

Recon contains 72 lessons, with a conclusion of "God's Army Creed" (which might be the equivalent of another lesson). It can be completed in a semester, or stretched out over a year. I, personally, prefer spreading it out. Some of the homework "mission"s can be difficult to accomplish by the next day, especially since high school students do, normally, have more going on than one class... I could tell from Day 1 that homework would e difficult for us to complete -- Day 1's assignment was to interview someone over the age of 50 and ask them something they would do differently during their youth knowing what they know now. I'm sorry, but that is not even an easy answer for the adult to come up with. I'm over 50, and I had trouble answering that question, unless it wass to answer lightheartedly "Invest in Google" or something like that...
Lessons target preparing students to go out into "the world" (as I mentioned before) by making sure they are educated and prepared for thins they will encounter. Lessons touch on topics such as discipleship; preparing oneself with a strong defense;  making wise choices; pagans; pantheism; materialism; evangelism; and many things in between.

The Positives: 
  • I really like the way the program addresses the young adults, recognizing that they are almost out there on their own. Recon treats the students with respect, and challenges them to make hard decisions and to be strategic, to know the "enemy" in advance and create a plan before going out into "battle". I well remember being in college in conversations where I knew what I believed, and that it was in conflict with what the other person was saying, but I had no idea how to intelligently respond to their points or questions. 
  • Pastor Perry teaches the Gospel, and teaches the students how to share the Gospel. 
  • This program uses just the approach that I have learned to use to gain the best effect: "Look at this verse. What does it say? Is there anything in your life right now that this verse might apply to?"  This method works so much better than the "default" method that we parents sometimes tend to slide into: "Look at this thing that you did! Look at this verse: "[verse]". You need to stop doing the wrong thing!"  Kids and adults alike are more likely to obey God (long term) when it is their own decision, rather than when they are being forced to do so to obey house rules. We are looking for heart change, not outward obedience.
  • The page of links they provide is amazing!
  • I really like the way the website is laid out with a huge section for student support, to help them, when the student actually does launch off to college, to continue to apply what they learned during from the Curriculum. The teacher and the student can "Enlist in Recon" (sign up to gain access to the directory and gain access as a mentor or a student). When the student has decided on a college, he/she can then contact an OSM (On Site Mentor) to help him/her get started at the college with a Recon support network. Contact is established initially through information the student inputs in the profile information. (Sadly, as is always the case, the student needs to remember not to meet with a stranger in a private setting -- to reduce risk of abuse. ::sigh::)
  • The program is clearly designed to be used in a classroom setting. Therefore, as I read each lesson's instructions, my mind is having to to restructure the information contained therein. Each lesson starts with a time of the students meeting in their IDGs ("IDentity Groups"), which are groups that are supposed to be formed of three to four students each, in Lesson 1.  Each class day the students are to sit with their IDG, from now on, and part of each lesson they are supposed to spend discussing questions within their IDG. So, individual homeschool students are just... spending that time thinking about the material on their own, or discussing it with their teacher as if the teacher were the other member of their IDG.
  •  I'm grumpy about the Recon "Life Timeline". I know, I know... The Bible says that the span of a man's life is 70 years, or if they are fortunate 80. Using that information, Recon has an 80 year timeline to emphasize to various points to the students. However, in my family many in my family tree have lived well into their 90's, and almost to 100. My daughter, especially, doesn't want to think that I'm almost in the "Fall" of my life-seasons. (She and I prefer to live in denial on this one...)   
  • Students with a strong anti-military bias (my daughter) will be turned off by  the entire theme.
General Comments:
  • I'm not looking foward to teaching high school again. This program requires (::gasp::) teacher preparation. That is not a comment that is positive OR negative, just inconvenient. But to properly do this curriculum with your child, you would do well to red through the material the day before so that you know what is coming.  For instance, if a lesson is introducing Bible study tools such as a concordance, a Bible dictionary, an expository dictionary, etc., it would be good to actually round up what you own and let your student see them, handle them, etc. I don't want to be doing that during the lesson time. Sometimes I like to look up verses in advance and put book marks into the Bible there.
  • Schools signing up to use Recon need to purchase a Curriculum License and PDFs for $200, but home schools can purchase, through,  printed copies of the Student Workbooks for $12.99 and the Teacher's Manuals for $21.95.

My daughter and I worked our way through a portion of the material material, but in spite of the good aspects in this curriculum (which are many and major), this was not a good fit for my her. ::sigh::  We will not finish the book. She is 23 and is a very busy person. She has already established herself in her Christian walk with personal devotional time in books of her own choice, and is not needing to go through this material at this point. She already graduated college, too.  But I have a son in 7th grade, so I will hold on to the material and give it another go in a few years.

DISCLAIMER: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received Recon Curriculum Student Book and Teacher's Manual   in exchange for my honest, uninfluenced review.  I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.  All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.
This has been a Schoolhouse Crew Review.

To see more reviews of Recon Curriculum by the Homeschool Review Crew, see this product's blog entry at the Review Crew's Blog.

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