Vacation Bible School (VBS) is no longer the only vacation school in town thanks to Kentucky members of Glenn Beck's grassroots liberty group called the 9/12 Project.
Vacation Liberty School (VLS) treads the line of faith and politics to teach children ages 10 to 15 the virtues of a democratic society, God's role in the founding of America and even economic issues like inflation. However, the creators of the curriculum say they do not wish to interfere with the spiritual importance of VBS or convert attendees to a particular party's politics. They simply want to the youth to know more about America's founding.
VLS has taken Kentucky and the nation by storm since the idea was first conceived last year.
Curriculum creator Lisa Abler says over 30-40 VLS programs were staged nationwide so far this year. To date, Texas and Ohio have exhibited the most interest in the five-day school teaching lessons in liberty, faith and personal responsibility, she says.
The groups hosting the program, Abler said, "love the curriculum ... [and] that the kids have hands-on experience with the [program's] principals [of faith, hope and charity]."
Abler said that parents are also happy with VLS.
"Parents ... are saying they learned more in a week of Vacation Liberty School than they've learned in all their years of school," she shared.
VLS borrows its play-learn teaching style, timing schedule and even its name and church location from VBS. (Some VLSs have been hosted in clubhouses and public spaces. However, Abler said churches are usually willing to host the schools for free.)
VLS also touches on the topic of faith. The second day of the VLS program is devoted entirely to faith and how signers of the Constitution prayed and held regular Bible studies. During day two, VLS leaders also pray a historical prayer uttered by early American clergyman and historian Rev. Thomas Prince.
However, Abler, a Lutheran, says VBS is spiritual, and she does not wish to take away from the popular summer church ministry.
"Vacation Liberty School borrows from the model of Vacation Bible School that is familiar to so many Americans," Abler noted on the Ivory Notebook's website. "It is not intended to be in competition or association with VBS in any way."
While similar, VBS and VLS curriculums teach very different concepts.
Rather than teaching stories of Jesus and biblical parables, the program teaches children lessons in early American history – the plight of early settlers, the history behind documents such as the U.S. Constitution and the contributions of people like Ben Franklin. VLS embeds these lessons in children's minds through games, scenarios and discussions.
For instance, children learn about the colonists' escape from tyranny to the new world on the first day by entering a room where the seating is assigned, the food consists of only bread and water and the games are "boring." After going through a maze, they emerge in a new room where there are free seating, lots of fun games and a wide variety of snacks.
"When you engage [the children] in meaningful activity in which ... they are doing something, then you follow it up with talking afterwards, you reinforce that [lesson]," Abler explained.
Abler and her husband, Jeff, created the VLS curriculum last year after their local Kentucky 9/12 Project chapter contacted her with the idea of the school. The first VLS held last year drew immense interest and a hardcopy curriculum was written so it could be shipped to other states. Abler, a homeschooler, said she and her husband Jeff worked all winter to put together the current planning guide.
While VLS teaches details of the country's founding, it also teaches the 9/12 Project's principles and values.
Conservative Pundit and Mormon Glenn Beck introduced the project in 2009 as a non-profit organization with the mission to return American back to the day after 9/11.
"On 9/12 no one in the government had to tell us what to do. We just did it. We went and we found a place to give blood. We went and we gave money. We gathered together. We gathered our family around. We prayed. We were the people that our grandparents were and nobody had to tell us," Beck told his Fox News viewers.
The group espouses nine principals such as "America is good," "I believe in God and he is the center of my Life" and "I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday." The 12 values include hope, courage, hard work, personal responsibility and thrift.
The group exercises its principles and values through charitable events and patriotic seminars on the Constitution and American rights and freedoms.
Similarly, VLS has an activity-filled seminar for kids that teach the ills of communism, the importance of individual charity over government charity and the dangers of inflation.
The VLS curriculum has been picked up by several Tea Party groups as well as 9/12 groups, Abler noted. But she said VLS is not about growing the Tea Party's membership or teaching their principals.
"It's not to recruit any children to become a member of any party or any particular group. It's to introduce and awaken children to what the truth is about the Founding Fathers and how this country was formed," she shared.
Abler and her husband are working on more liberty-themed curriculums: one for black history month and another VLS planning guide focused on the Constitution and the federalist papers.