Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Free Means Free

Recently I've been asked why we have switched to a free downloadable site,, for our curriculum. The answer is because we feel everyone should have access, and the more people that can use the curriculum, the more kids can be reached for God. Ultimately this is not our work anyway, it's God's. Afterall, he wrote all the concepts and stories that we use. He laid down the foundational knowledge, we are simply repackaging it for young minds to digest.
We began writing curriculum almost five years ago when we moved to the Skagit Valley. I volunteered to be Children's Director at a brand new church in Burlington, Washington, and I began immediately looking for age appropriate preschool Sunday School programs for our very tiny class. I couldn't find what I liked. Most were a hodgepodge of story programs that taught obedience, which has always irritated me. Also, they were expensive. Big publishing companies have really cornered the market on curriculum and make a hefty profit. It bothered me to take tithes and throw them at a companies that were in states far away.
Also, I really wanted to focus on the basics of Christianity- teach kids about Salvation, Creation, Faith, Loving Others, etc. I truly believe that the church doesn't do this very well, as research shows that kids in middle school don't know much about their religion, although they know who Noah, David, Daniel, and the big boys of the Bible are.
Finally, I wanted a program that was simple enough for our mobile church to implement. I didn't have a set classroom where I could put up bulletin boards or paint murals. All I had was a couple of tubs of toys and supplies and an uncomfortable teacher's lounge.
So, I began with one month: Love One Another. I wrote the first story, the Good Samaritan, and wrote up a class schedule similar to the ones I had followed as a preschool teacher. We would gather in a circle, sing a song, say a verse, pray, read a story, and do an activity.
The next week I wrote another story, but we sang the same songs and said the same verse. By week three the kids, with yet another story on the same topic, were able to tell me about what they were learning. By the end of the month, they knew the verse and could independently tell me what Loving Others was all about. Intrinsically I knew that the curriculum would work.
At the end of that first month it occurred to me that parents might like the same stories I read to their children to have at home, to read again, after all, how many times do you read a favorite book to a small child? I have The Spooky Old Tree memorized because my 7 and 9 year olds needed to hear it multiple times a day for two years!
So I found an artist and bought some pens. I began to put pictures to the stories, and my husband scanned them into the computer. We copied them off, stapled them, and gave them to our parents. The parents seemed to like them, then we started hearing that they were being used in a sister church in the next city.
From there the curriculum blossomed. After I finished the preschool program, my husband created a website and started to distribute it for free. That got very expensive very fast. So we spent a few years advertising and distributing it at cost via the Internet. It was wonderful to get feedback from churches on how well their kids were learning. Meanwhile, I had moved on to the elementary program, created prayer journals, and a home school workbook. I got half way through the second year of the elementary program when I began a Children's church for my Sunday program. That launched the CC program, at the same time I was plugging away at an upper elementary program.
Today we have, for free, a preschool program, early elementary, half of the upper elementary, and most of the Children's Church program. In addition, supplemental materials for all the topics, a teen novel, a family small group study and a home school workbook that all teach the basics of Christianity.
Every day I continue to work on the curriculum. It will probably be something I do forever as it has become like an old friend. We may never be as big and grandiose as the publishing companies, we may never have fame or recognition, but that doesn't matter to us, because someday I will may meet those in heaven that I was honored to affect here on earth.

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