It may not always be pretty, but the point of this blog is for me to hash stuff out and learn. 90% of the time, I edit my struggles or don't write my feelings with exact precision. But sometimes, it just has to come out. And I know my four or so readers understand that and give me grace.
Over the weekend, a lot of Awana discussions transpired, not because of my blog so much as a frustrated comment I left on Facebook. I got in contact with a nice lady who works with Awana and shared with her my concerns with the wording in the T&T book and how it makes kids with disabilities even more confused. She told me about the reasoning behind the weird questions, and she didn't say that those specific things would be changed, but she did say that an update for T&T was in the works, and that they hoped to give churches more options in choosing their materials. So that's hopeful. I talked with many wonderful leaders in our Awana program and we set up a plan to finish out the year. I doubt we'll finish the book, but at least we can be a little less stressed about it. And five people--no, wait, six now--expressed that they have had the same discouragements when it comes to the Awana program. So, I was glad to take the proverbial bullet for the kids who have struggled with feeling like they will never be good Christians because they can't memorize like their peers.
There were also a lot of people who came out in defense of Awana, which I get. They are entitled to their opinions as much as I am. And to be honest, until I had Thing One, I would have never given a program like this a second thought, or if I did have funny feelings about it, they'd never come to the surface. I've been warned not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, that just because our family has had problems with Awana doesn't mean the whole program is bad.
I get it, really, I do. And I know these people have good hearts and intentions.
I don't believe in making everything easy for Thing One just because he's dyslexic. On the other hand, for nine years, I made everything impossibly hard for him by treating him like any other kid and not speaking in his language. So now I'm in the tricky place of having to make intentional decisions about every piece of curriculum that comes through this house. I have seen him blossom in math simply because we switched to a curriculum that he can understand. His understanding of science is exploding because we're doing hands on things instead of just reading a book. Bible, History, Geography, it's all starting to click for him. He still has to work, but he's learning, and it's amazing and refreshing. We're still considering language and spelling programs for him, simply because the ones geared for dyslexics are very expensive and we don't want to waste thousands of dollars on something that won't work for us.
I feel like before it was like we were giving him all of his learning in Latin. Imagine trying to do that--you might recognize a few words here and there, but there's no way you can get ahead that way. Now, his learning is in his language, and he's very bright and enthusiastic about it now.
So, the problem with Awana is, it's not in his language. And about half the population is in the same boat with him.
So, while I can understand that a lot of people love the Awana program, I think I'm to the point where I can't defend it, because, at its essence, Awana is competitive verse learning. That may be fine for some people, but I've noticed that for kids who don't learn the "mainstream" way, things like this really have a strong effect on their self-worth. It's quite easy for a struggling kid to say I can't read well. I can't memorize well. I won't ever be useful for Christ. Maybe I'm not really a Christian because if I was, this would be working. And on the flip side of that, I was the kid who could memorize well in the short term, but until I was an adult, verse memorization felt more like a mindless task than something that changed me.
Anyway, I'm sure you're as sick of hearing about Awana as I am. I guess my main point in all of this is just to stress that programs can be a catalyst for growth for some, but they can also be a stumbling block for others. A program can never be the answer for everyone, and we need to be on the look out for "the least of these" that might end up being hurt more than helped.