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Recon: Spiritual Training Manual and Teacher's Manual Review by Kathy Gelzer

Bill Perry
InterFACE Ministries
PO Box 450816
Atlanta, GA 31145-0816

Author Bill Perry is a teacher and pastor who, with his wife, has homeschooled his seven children. He has written the Recon materials for the purpose of “building a bridge between Christian high school students and the universities they’ll be attending.” As such, the Bible study is to be completed by high school juniors or seniors in preparation for college. It is designed for use at Christian high schools, church youth groups or Sunday school classes, or homeschools.

Group networking is an integral component of the curriculum; small group sessions are part of the daily lessons, and the hope is that students will connect with other Recon graduates via a national website to navigate the college years together. Homeschool parents will want to teach the curriculum with other homeschoolers or perhaps offer this as a co-op class to meet the collaborative requirement.

The student book (Spiritual Training Manual) has an edgy layout with lots of graphics. Even the photos are unconventional—blurred and distressed black and white shots with interesting perspectives. “We have attempted to make this the most interesting and visually graphic high school Bible student workbook ever published in the US,” says the author.

There are 72 days of material divided into 18 weeks allowing for 4 lessons per week. Teaching and learning objectives are listed at the beginning of every lesson.

Military motif used in the books and found on the website is in reference to the spiritual warfare Christians are up against. Recon is short for reconnaissance, “strategic intelligence to prepare for a military operation in hostile territory,” and the Bible is referred to as “God’s Strategic Intelligence Manual.” This military theme is present throughout the text as well. The last page of the student manual is “God’s Army Creed,” 13 affirmations including, “I am a soldier of the Lord, I am a servant warrior and a member of the Church, and I am committed and I am fulltime.”

Each lesson (called Boot Camp) in the teacher’s guide is clearly outlined and even includes time estimates for the various segments. The lessons are approximately 50 to 60 minutes long. Looking at Boot Camp Day 12 in the Teacher’s Manual, entitled Tools for a Strong Defense, there is a “Breakout” session with students answering questions about specific Bible passages from the previous day’s lesson. This is estimated to take 15 minutes. Next is “Briefing Notes,” a scripted outline taking about 25 minutes. Both of these parts of the lesson correspond to the student manual lesson pages which have places for the student to fill in blanks as they actively listen.

Every lesson ends with a homework assignment: occasionally a thinking/writing/interviewing project, usually a Bible passage to read and study, sometimes an internet research project.  I estimate these would take 15 to 30 minutes to complete. In the first 9 lessons, these assignments are called “Explore after class,” but after that they are called, Dog TAGs (Time Alone with God) until lesson 57 when they again are called “Explore after class,” and are more application-oriented.

I wish the lessons were organized into some sort of topical framework with unit titles. It would help the teacher and student to understand the big picture. It would also help this reviewer describe the scope of the product more easily! Generally, the curriculum seems to cover basic life questions, purposeful living, making godly decisions, following Christ, keeping the faith, the Holy Spirit, worldviews and religions, and evangelism. The other religions described are Islam, Materialism (Atheism), and Pantheism. For the latter, the pattern of learning is to compare these beliefs with Christianity and to equip the student to reach out and witness to followers of these religions.

The student workbook contains an appendix. There are some useful charts delineating the important differences between Christianity and the above mentioned religions. There is also a set of worksheets for the Dog TAG Bible study assignments.

“A Note to Teachers” in the front of the leader’s guide explains the use of italics, brackets, shading, highlighting, and bold type in the books. You won’t find any quizzes or tests, but suggestions for creating that type of teaching tool yourself are supplied. The New King James Version is used in Recon.

At the risk of sounding sexist, I think this Bible study program would appeal more to young men than young women. In fact, I have great difficulty visualizing young women using this curriculum. The student workbook is full of black and white military imagery, and all of the soldiers appear to be male. Indeed, much of the text language is geared to young men as opposed to young women. For example, “In what decade of life do people normally …take wives and have sons and daughters?” (p. 7)

The teacher guide would be easier to navigate if the lesson numbers were written on the top or bottom of each page. It is cumbersome to flip through the 434 pages looking for a specific lesson.

Recon is a solid Bible curriculum for high school students. We need more of this kind of material which equips our older students for life after high school, especially as they leave the protection of the nest and venture out into the world.

Product Review by Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April, 2012