TOS Review Crew: Recon Curriculum

This year, my daughter started her 11th grade year. We've been doing a lot of talking and praying with and for her about her future plans, but one thing I am realizing is that the most thing I can prepare her for is not a career but for her walk with God. As her parents, my husband and I realize what a privilege we have with all our children, including Anah. Each of them have been created by God for good works (Eph. 2:10), but they need to know how to faithfully walk with Him in order to discern what they are. There are so many things that we wish to pass on to our kids---things that we have learned, some the hard way. But let's face it, sometimes that's hard to do. There's so much to say! Where do we start?

This is where today's review comes in. If you have a junior or senior in high school, you know that your time is running out too. And even if you don't, that time will come soon enough. Read on to learn more about this treasure that we discovered!

Company Information: Recon is a curriculum designed for high school juniors and seniors (though it certainly is helpful to any adults as well!) with the goal of preparing them to enter into the "real world" as effective disciples and witnesses for the Lord on their college campuses.

Product Reviewed: To this end, Bill Perry, author of the Recon Curriculum, has written a "field guide" for students that trains them both in the basics of internal spiritual warfare while also preparing them to reach out to others when they attend college. Bill has a particular heart for international students, which he calls "their countries' best and brightest" as well as one of the most overlooked strategic people groups. A more thorough and detailed explanation of the curriculum can be found their About Recon page.

For this review, we were supplied with both the teachers' guide and the student workbook of the Recon Curriculum. The curriculum is comprised of 72 lessons, which equates to about 4 lessons per week for 18 weeks (1 semester). If that is too much for you, doing two lessons a week at the very minimum can allow you to complete it in one year. Less than that is not recommended.

There are a couple ways that you can use the curriculum: 1) for personal one-on-one discipleship between parent and child, 2) in a homeschool co-op, or 3) in a youth group setting. Small group interaction is woven into the study, so this is an ideal study for a small group of teens.

Price: $200 for PDF and license for group use. This includes the Teacher's Guide and Student Workbook. You will also need a Bible for your student, as well as some Bible study tools like an English dictionary, Bible dictionary, concordance, Bible encyclopedia or internet access so your student can utilize online study tools.

Age Range: High school juniors, seniors are the target audience, but collegiates and adults can also benefit.

Parental Preparation: From my personal experience, I have found that while I can get by with simply reading the Teacher's Guide with my child, it does help if I take some time to preview the curriculum in its entirety. I took about half an hour to read the "Note to Teachers" pages, look over the Table of Contents, and read through the first lesson. For each lesson, both a teaching objective for the instructor/parent as well as a learning objective(s) for the student are included at the top of each page so that we can see at a glance what the main goals of the lesson are. I found this very helpful.

While most of the teaching is already scripted out in the lesson plans, I liked being able to think through the material as well to come up with some examples from my own life. I would try to read the lesson in the Teacher's Guide the night before, which took about 10 minutes at the most. A lot of material is covered, so if your time is limited, I would highlight the most important parts. Scripture references are also included, and I also tried to pick out the ones I wanted to focus my time on. This was important for me, as no matter how great a curriculum is, I want my kids to know its source in the Word.

I have written on my blog that we have viewed all of our children's education as spiritual training and that we pray over the things we teach. This is no different with discipleship. No matter how wonderful the curriculum is, it is important that before we teach or sit down with our children, we pray for the Holy Spirit to do His work in their hearts. This curriculum contained a lot of very challenging concepts and thoughts, ones that if taken seriously, can deeply impact the direction our children's lives take. As an adult, I found that going through this was also convicting for me, just as much as it is for my daughter. To keep it from simply becoming a "school subject" I had to grapple with these decisions and commitments in my own life as well. Our teens dont' want to just hear us talking about it: they want to see what we are doing with it as well.

However, I will have to say that there were times when I was not able to do this preparation. Especially on those days, I would pray that the Lord would give me wisdom and guidance as I shared with my daughter, and that I would be sensitive to His Spirit as we followed the discussion.

How We Used It: In our school day, I aim to spend at least one hour with Janna every day. She has already taken over independent study of many of her school subjects but I still like to reserve one hour for us to spend together, whether it be in discussing specific lessons, planning for upcoming tests, or learning new skills. So for this review, we spent that hour on this study, four days a week as was suggested. We found that it did take the full hour to go over all the material thoroughly.

With the exception of the first lesson, each lesson begins with a small group discussion, which is the "homework" from the previous day. Janna and I would be our own small group, though there were times when we wished that her friends were able to do the study with us and share in the discussion. Following the opening discussion, we would jump right into the lesson which included a brief introduction, Bible reading and discussion. I tried to have her find and read all the Scriptures as often as possible. (This is where previewing helps, especially if you know you have limited time that day.)

Much of the lesson was spent in my reading the Teacher's Guide aloud to her, while she filled in the appropriate blanks in her workbook. When it fit the point, we would stop and discuss not only the concept but how it would look. As we had just brought Janna's little sister home, there were many ways that we could apply what we were learning into our lives at that moment. Discussions on learning how to die to herself in order to love her sister sacrificially was a particularly meaningful time for us as we talked about how this new life change can be one of God's tools to shape and equip her with His character. She seemed to understand that this was an opportunity for God to "hardwire" her thinking in a way that she would not otherwise have experienced. This lesson early on seemed to set the stage for our future discussions.

As our teen has gotten older, I have found that it is important not just to feed them information but to take the time to discuss its ramifications in their lives, which is what we did. The material provided excellent fodder for discussion and while we did not skim over it, after I knew she understood the concept, we spent most of our time looking at how it applied in our lives. I say "our" because I also believe in letting our teens into our own spiritual journey with the Lord so that they know that even us "old folks" still need to be making these very same decisions every day. There were times when I even had to share with her the impact of not following God's "Strategic Intelligence Manual" (aka the Bible).

What We Liked: There was so much we liked about this curriculum.

  • It is well written, thoughtful and substantial. It is not full of fluff that is designed to entertain a teen. This is hard core material and not for the faint of heart. My daughter wanted that and she has really enjoyed that level of intensity.
  • The Teacher's Notes are thorough and helpful. We appreciated the highlighted areas that corresponded with the workbook. That way if she missed a blank, we knew exactly what it was supposed to be.
  • The Student's Guide is well designed. Janna liked the graphics and the layout and found them appropriate for teens.
  • The diagrams and illustrations are excellent. It is not all just text. Each lesson in the student guide fits on a page or two at the most and there is a lot of space for notes.
  • We enjoyed the selected Bible passages and had great discussions.
  • The supplemental stories and quotes also provided great illustrations without me having to look for them!
  • The homework at the end of the day challenged my daughter to get into the Word. Discussing her discoveries the next lesson helped me to see that she was thinking and learning.
  • The website also has excellent resources for your perusal, such as worldview devotionalsrelated quotes, and apologetics links.
  • About half of the lessons prepare our children spiritually to enter into the world as a soldier for Christ. The second half prepares them to understand the worldviews and perspective of others. Even though we haven't gotten that far for this review, we are looking forward to completing the study this school year. I believe that this material will help my kids cultivate a heart for others, as well as interact thoughtfully and meaningfully with them.

Other Thoughts:

  • After this review, we will drop down to two lessons per week (which is the minimum) so that we can have more time to reflect and work through the material.
  • The price tag may seem steep, but consider it a semester course (one year if you do it twice a week). We received a hard copy of the materials, but I would purchase the PDF files for my other children so we can use it with them when they reach this age. When you look at it this way, it is a good investment for high quality training. Even better, gather a group of teens and do it as a group. I believe the license gives you permission to copy materials for your group. This also allows your child to participate in an accountability group with their peers and develop relationships. Janna and I are strongly thinking of doing this to get the most out of the study.
  • Be forewarned: as I said earlier, this is not for the faint of heart--either parents or kids. Be prepared to be challenged!

Overall Summary:

Of all the review products I received over the past 5 months, this has got to be one of the best. It is thorough, challenging and excellent preparation for our youth. When our teens are equipped with not only the know-how but the character, integrity and biblical foundations that they need, they can confidently enter into this world as change-agents instead of being sucked into the mindless self-centered values of our culture.

Youth leaders may wish to consider this material for their youth groups as well, though some tailoring may need to be done. If you would like to see samples of the curriculum, go to the product page on the site for a selection of the lessons.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest 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.

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