I am not, by nature, a good candidate for a homeschooling mom.
One of my dear husband’s main concerns when we decided to embark on this journey many years ago was, quite frankly, my temper. I have a strong Irish heritage and the quickness of the tempers of those great people is legendary. I’m also not well known for a high level of patience.
Over the years, however, I’ve grown and mellowed and found that when it comes to getting upset or stressed, it doesn’t serve my family very well, so it’s best just not to give into that. This wasn’t some immediate overnight epiphany, but rather the result of a long commitment to praying my way through my children’s homeschool years.
Bringing It Together
Before I was homeschooling, when my oldest children were just babies and toddlers, I met once a week with a group of moms to do a Bible study. We met in the mornings, shared some bagels, and then used a publication (sorry I don’t remember the name) to guide us through the upcoming Sunday Mass readings.
These women remain my dearest and closest friends because as we formed a deep bond over our desire to know the Word of God. I found that when I was really delving deep into that study, my days with my children were affected in the best of ways.
I was calmer and more content and able to be more present to my children’s needs. It also led to my daily rosary habit.
A Daily Necessity
I began to notice that on days I skipped my prayer time things tended to come apart at the seams. When our homeschool lifestyle began, it was easy to let the prayer part of my life fall away since I was too busy to sit quietly. This was a mistake. In my defense, I was pregnant (I was always pregnant), I had a newborn — those were my Irish twins — a kindergartener, a chatty second grader, and an autistic fourth grader. I was a new homeschooling mom who looked at my beautiful Seton plans and felt the need to dot every I and cross every T. It was easy to let some things slip; not wise, but easy.
One day one of those dear Bible Study friends expressed concern about my prayer life. I was no longer in the Bible study due to my new responsibilities, and she gently reminded me to not neglect this important part of my day.
So I would carve out time here and there. I would settle little ones for a nap or with some Play-Doh and I would sit in my comfy chair and pray my rosary. Things calmed down; my soul settled. Prayer became a necessary part of my day, and I began to really see the difference. As the children grew older and everyone started sleeping through the night, a bonus to any plan for the day, my prayer time could be regularly in the morning, accompanied by some spiritual reading.
In Tune With God
Now it was time to impart that peace to the whole house. We had been in the habit of gathering for a morning offering before our day began, and when I say habit I mean when I could get my act together, but I thought I needed to build upon that and teach my children to develop their own prayer lives. I wanted for them what I had to struggle to learn, that when you are in tune with God, and relying on His Blessed Mother, it is much easier to live out your vocation, whatever it may be.
Now we gather right after breakfast every day for prayers before we begin school. I read the Morning Prayer from my Magnificat, (an excellent resource www.magnificat.com). We pray an Our Father for the Holy Father’s intentions and one for my husband. We have recently added one for our college student who is far away.
We pray Hail Mary’s for various intentions, including everyone who has asked us to pray for them. We add an Act of Contrition for our sins and the sins of the whole world, and a St. Michael prayer for the intention of their purity. We pray around the dining room table, where much of the school work takes place.
Inspiring Personal Prayer Lives
Prior to calling the children, I try to make the setting a little beautiful. Making sure the table isn’t sticky is one part of that (the table is often sticky despite my best efforts) and then perhaps a table runner. I often light a candle, to draw attention to the Light of Christ, and if there is a saint or feast day I wish to call attention to, I will use a book stand to display a book or a picture depicting that. Sometimes I will move one of our saint statues or one of our statues of Our Lady to the table. These sacramentals help create a visual for small children which helps bind them to the practice of the Faith.
One habit I wish I had instilled earlier on is the praying of the Angelus at lunchtime. Unfortunately, it seems that ship has sailed since we tend to get spread out as the day goes along now: teenagers with jobs, online classes, and music lessons. If you are home with little ones, I do encourage the practice of this beautiful devotion.
The next time we pray together is at night before bed. First the young ones pray with their father and me, and then later the older ones pray. It would be nicer if we could do it all together as a family every night, but like lunch time, we are often spread about in the evenings, so this is what works for us now.
This prayer time is extremely brief since I am generally tired, and quite frankly, by the time it’s bedtime, I really just want them to go to bed. So we pray a Hail Mary and we petition their patron saints. We also ask the intercession of our family saint, Ryan.
I have also spent a lot of time encouraging the children in their personal prayer lives. It is really important that they consider prayer the first recourse as they confront situations in life. I have tried to foster relationships between the children and their patron saints and ask the children to petition their guardian angels when they feel the need for extra protection.
Children who are taught to pray will, hopefully keep that habit and always make prayer their first response to life’s decisions and discernments. The goal is a relationship with God.
To really sanctify the work of educating our children at home, we moms need to
- pray our way through our day,
- habitually offer up frustrations and annoyances
- immediately give praise and thanksgiving for successes.
This will draw both our children and ourselves closer to the goal of eternal salvation.
Header Image CC Andythedreamer