Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Review: Teen Pact One Day Class

Teen Pact, if you're unfamiliar with it, is a hands-on leadership training school for Christian students.  Per their website:
Our mission is to train youth to understand the political process, value their liberty, defend their Christian faith and engage the culture at a time in their lives when, typically, they do not care about such things.
Classes offered by Teen Pact are intended to help the student understand the purpose and process of our government in a hands-on manner.  Classes are available in most states.  Check the website for more information here.  For 13-19 year-olds, classes are held for 4 days.  We participated in the one day class which is available for 8-12 year olds.  Teen Pact also offers other opportunities including a Political Communications Workshop, national conventions, and alumni events (to name a few).  Classes for this year are at an end.  But, now is a good time to bookmark the site for consideration of a class next year.

Being 12, this was the last year my son could participate in the Teen Pact one day class.  Registering for a class was easily done online at the site.  Directions were given for required and optional homework to complete before the class.  Returning students will have more/different homework than new students.  For my son, his homework consisted of reading a few chapters of a book (the book is available to read online for free or you can order the book through Teen Pact), and writing a bill to present.  An example of a bill was available online for us to use as a template.  The bill could be serious or humorous - the main point was not the content of the bill but understanding the process presenting and discussing a bill.  We opted to skip a couple of the optional assignments due to time considerations and a willful disposition of a pre-teen.

We found the cost of the program to be reasonable.  For our state (I am unsure if the cost differs per state) it cost $40 for one child.  Additional siblings can come at a discount.  Then, we opted to purchase the book required and that cost $10.  Other costs for us included the cost of travel to the capitol and the purchase of dress clothes (we're a pretty casual family).  There is a dress code for the class which includes a collared shirt, tie, and pants for boys and dress pants or a calf length skirt for the girls.  For lunch we were given the option of bringing our own or walking to a nearby restaurant to purchase food. 

On the day of the class, my son arrived with Dad in tow (for this age group a parent is required to attend with the child).  They went with their leader on a tour and prayer walk of the Statehouse.  There was also some teaching involved.  This took up most of the morning.  After lunch the kids were given the opportunity to present the bills they wrote to their group.  I understand that some children were very shy about sharing and to keep it a positive experience, there was no forcing of the matter.  Gathering his courage, my son shared his prepared bill which was about instituting a new state holiday.  Later, certain bills were chosen to be discussed further.  In this process the kids got to see how bills were discussed.  My son's bill was amended, for example. 

I really liked this experience for my son because I think we get so much more out of first hand experiences like Teen Pact than we do just from reading out of a book.  The goal was to learn about government and leadership in a positive, Christian environment and I think that was accomplished.  The leaders for the day were older teens who had been through the program themselves.  I believe seeing other kids having an interest in the topic is valuable.  Plus, they did a good job of trying to make the day fun and light.  Since we had such a positive experience with this program, we are considering the same class for our younger student next year.

Did my son enjoy it?  Yes and no.  Going to Teen Pact wasn't his decision.  I know my son.  And, I know that if given a choice, he wouldn't have chosen to go.  So, he really wasn't happy to learn that I had signed him up for the class and he was going.  (This mama bird tends to force the issue sometimes).  He was a nervous wreck during the week due to a miscommunication (he thought he was to present his bill to the whole REAL congress of our state.  Yikes!  I would have been nervous too!)  Once we got that ironed out and we reassured him that Teen Pact was meant to be a good, fun learning experience, he relaxed a bit.  Coming home he was happy to tell me about his day and was excited to talk about sharing his bill and his overall experiences of the day.  To me, his cheerful mood afterward was indication that the day went well.  He certainly would have acted differently had he really not enjoyed his time there. 

Some things to consider:  Some classes fill up fast so keep an eye on when classes are offered in your area.  Also, this is a Christian event.  If you are uncomfortable with prayer or the mention of God, this is not the program for you (Even one of the required assignments is to memorize a scripture verse.)  And, I do believe they offered a warning when we registered that if you are of certain beliefs that the content of the program would not suit you.  Their statement of faith is available for you to consider or you can call them for more information. 

I would recommend Teen Pact for a great hands-on government experience.  I can only speak personally to our experience with the one day class, however.  Even so, I think Teen Pact is a great resource for homeschool families to participate in.

-A

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