It’s the middle of the night and I’m really tired and I’m awake because there are four 12 year olds having a “sleep over” in my living room. So I really shouldn’t respond right now. But I feel it coming on. All I can say is Dan, you must be right.
If you haven’t read the series of posts over at East of Midnight asking what, in my small, unschooled opinion is a relevant question about our Sunday School practices, then I suggest you start here, then go here, then here, and finally, here. Dan’s summary is in part 1, and at this time of night, I read his response as smacking of smugness but may really be an attempt at being helpful. I will give him credit for that because I really don’t want to start a fight with anyone after crabbing at 12 year olds all night long.
But here’s why I’m feeling defensive and want to go all “in your face” when earlier today I posted that that’s not very UU. I may be a UU, but am still human with foibles, so if I sound like I’m going all ape shit, credit the hour and the kids in my living room. That said: I’m no hippie and though I fall in the demographic of the baby boomer generation, I am smack dab NOT a boomer or a gen X/Y er, but a 48 year old woman who had kids late and is now struggling to pull together an RE program for children when there seems to be a lack of interest by very few other people to provide it regularly. As Ms. M. pointed out, the frustration is in putting together a program where the families either are overscheduled, have custody arrangement issues, or simply don’t make the effort and hence do not attend on a regular basis. Frankly, I’m tired of feeling like I (as a volunteer) need to provide weekly programming because someone “might” show up. I’d be happy—-no, I’d be blissed out—to have a weekly worship service that gave people of all ages a grounding for their spiritual center, engaged kids enough to ask questions of their parents and engaged parents enough to be able to ask questions of their kids. That would be more than enough.
I don’t have theory. I have experience. And I’m tired. And I don’t want to be called an unschooler because I think we could do better things for our kids these days then replicate yet another classroom setting for them on a day when they would rather be doing just about anything ELSE than sitting in what looks like a classroom–though it doesn’t always. (Why I should be offended at being called an unschooler I don’t know, but it seemed like a blithe generalization and I generally recoil at those. Hence the not wanting to be labeled a “boomer”.)
I’m not a learned person with a string of degrees. I’m a hardworking mother who barely has time to figure out dinner four nights a week let alone three different curriculums for my volunteer gig at church. So, if I start singing about not offering Sunday School any longer it isn’t because I don’t value it or value the research behind the reasons we have always done what we always do, it is because I do value the young people I meet each week who remind me by their presence and their contribution that sometimes the best thing one can do on Sunday is show up. With or without research.
Further, I have to lift up a further struggle we have had at our church this year and I’m sure this is something other churches have also troubled over. For many years we had kids who came in eager to learn and eager to learn in the typical style of most of the curriculum I have reviewed in my post as RE chair. But the last few years we have had many kids enter the program from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Additionally, these kids came with different learning styles and needs, and different levels of interest in being a part of a typical classroom environment. We have tried shaking things up, but we are all volunteers and, without a leader with the type of credentials and research that Dan lauds, we’re stumbling around most weeks and I have to say it leaves me feeling like I’m doing a crappy job and it might be better for the kids for all of us to put our efforts into a really good worship experience rather than trying to do more than a small church ought to try to do in the first place.
And so, here is what got me writing about this tonight: I feel like I’m doing a crappy job and I hate that. AND I feel that our kids deserve better. AND I know I can’t generalize my experience across the nation, BUT when I hear someone else singing the same tune I’ve been humming for years, I get a little giddy. There is a place for solid religious education programs. My church just isn’t it right now. And what I’m hearing by the question is not a call to dump what we’ve always done just because we don’t want to do it anymore, but because maybe, just maybe, there are other ways of giving people what they need.
When I, as the RE Chair, have even lifted up the possibility of NOT having children’s programming it was as if I was asking the church to kill itself. People literally gasped. But I continue to ask the question why are we doing this because without a solid, communal response to that question, we will continue to do what we have always done because we have always done it and done it that way. And I find that to be a poor and unimaginative response for a liberal religious community to give.