SummaryCheryl Hernández, homeschooling mom of 9, shows us how beauty and the choices we make in what our children see and hear can bring our family closer to God.
Why is beauty important?
Beauty has traditionally been counted as one of the ultimate values, along with goodness, truth and justice.
Beauty awakens us, brings us joy, and provides us with a sense of awe. Beauty reminds us of God’s presence in the world.
This is why, since the beginning of Christendom, magnificent cathedrals have been erected. Masterpieces of art have been painted and sculpted because the worship of God should be done in a surrounding of beauty, primarily for His glory, but also to help us direct our minds and hearts toward Him.
We should not only desire to worship in places of beauty, but also, for this same reason, we should try to bring that beauty to our own home and family — our domestic church.
The reality is that we live in a world that can be very ugly. We try to shelter our children (and ourselves) from that ugliness — which often can even be promoted as “beautiful”. Because of this distortion, it is so important to cultivate the sense of true beauty in our family.
Our children need a foundation based on beauty and we want them to long for it in their own lives because all beauty leads to God, and our role as parents is to lead our children to Him. How can we instill in our children an understanding and desire for beauty?
The beauty I am talking about isn’t found in opulence or extravagance. You don’t need chandeliers in every room and crystal on the dining table. You certainly don’t need a lot of money.
With a little planning and creativity, there are many simple ways you can bring beauty into your home and family through music, art, literature and nature. Below are just a few examples.
1. Fill your home with beautiful music.
Listen to classical music, sacred music, and solo instrumentalists at home and in the car. Bring your children to orchestras, operas, and any live beautiful music. Our city has a wonderful program to encourage children to attend the orchestra — with one paid adult ticket, up to nine children can attend for free!
Many churches offer concerts showcasing organ pieces or choral music. Recently, a local church in our area brought in a Steinway and had a magnificent pianist play a program of Chopin.
Instead of giving your children more toys or electronics for their birthday, think about giving them an “experience” — tickets to an opera, symphony, or ballet. With a little research, you can find reasonably priced tickets at off-times. Perhaps your child can invite one friend or sibling, dress up and make it a very special night to remember.
Consider having your children learn a musical instrument. It is, quite possibly, the best financial investment we have made as parents. There were many times when we looked at our budget and my husband wanted to cut back. Somehow, thank you God, we managed to cut elsewhere so the children could have music lessons.
With a large family, we have managed to have just the two oldest at home take lessons and then teach the younger ones in turn. as one goes to college, the next one begins lessons. Look for teachers who will emphasize the teaching of classical music.
2. Expose your children to beautiful art.
Take your children to museums and show them good art. Many art museums are free on Mondays – take a field trip and study the paintings up close.
However, just as you would before watching a movie with your children, know the content of the exhibit before you go. Not all art is beautiful or appropriate!
When on vacation, take the time before you leave to research nearby cathedrals, shrines, and other examples of interesting architecture. If you have older children, you can assign each of them one site to research, and have them share their information with the family while you visit.
Decorate your home with beautiful art. This doesn’t have to be expensive. With a little searching and luck, you can find original paintings for next to nothing at estate sales or thrift stores. Prints of beautiful artwork are fine too! With a little creativity and spray paint, an old frame can be made as lovely as the picture.
Buy used, oversized books of the great masters and encourage your children to look at them. Print copies of gorgeous paintings and paste them to the covers of your children’s schoolbooks.
Laminate them and use them as placemats. There are many ways to expose them to wonderful art. We love the Seton books because they provide photos of beautiful paintings, stained glass windows and cathedrals. Our kids often look in the back of the book to learn the name of the artist or title of the work.
Our homes should be filled with statues and pictures of the saints, Our Blessed Mother (who could be more beautiful than Mary?), crucifixes, icons and other religious items.
3. Read and invest in beautiful books.
Surround your children with classic literature, poetry, and spiritual books. Have them read stories of heroic virtue and noble deeds. Stack your coffee table with books filled with gorgeous photography, artwork, and architecture.
Begin when your children are very young by selecting books that have wonderful illustrations and paintings. Weed out books that lack beauty – either through uninteresting text or substandard artwork.
There are so many wonderful books out there, and it is easy to acquire inexpensive, used copies. Monthly library book sales or purchasing used books on Amazon are where most of our books have come from.
Be selective! Here is where quality is far more important than quantity. It is worth the time and investment to have your family surrounded by good, beautiful books. In one of my favorite books, A Landscape with Dragons, author Michael O’Brien provides outstanding reading suggestions according to age level.
Discover the beauty of poetry. Incorporating poetry into our homeschool (and having access to lots of wonderful books on poetry) has turned all of my children into poetry lovers.
Make a list of excellent books and begin reading them, one by one, to your children. Seton offers many in their catalog and supplies reading lists for each grade level with their lesson plans.
We read out loud during lunch — even the older ones like to sit around the table and listen to Mom read wonderful books. Another mom I know puts on audio books (of great literature) when they are in the car — her children love it!
Like cultivating an appreciation for classical music or art, if children are not saturated in high quality literature from an early age, they most likely will shun it when they are older. The world is full of dime-store novels, teen romances, and fluffy books packaged in provocative covers to attract our children.
Teach them to be very discerning. Keeping the standard of literature you have in your home very high is something you will never regret.
4. Bring beauty to your dinner table
We live in such a fast-food, disposable society. Paper plates have become the norm for family dining. While they certainly have their use, there is something lovely about setting the table in a special way for the family dinner.
It doesn’t need to rival a setting in Downton Abbey — the simplest touches can transform a table. With your children’s help, you can cut some flowers from the garden, light a couple of candles, use cloth napkins and place a pretty pitcher of water in the center. On special occasions, celebrate by getting out your nicest tableware.
Put on a tablecloth and iron the napkins! One of my daughters loves to set a beautiful table, and she makes a big deal out of birthday dinners and special occasions.
Setting a beautiful table for dinner not only makes the food taste even better, but also shows love and regard for your family.
5. Marvel at the beauty of Creation.
Take nature walks, go on hikes, discover your local state parks, drive to the beach (or mountains) and watch the sunset. Slow down and really look at the magnificent beauty God has given us all around.
We so often take it for granted that we barely see it anymore. Almost every night, one of my daughters walks across the street (we live across from a big field in the country) and just watches the sunset. I hope she never loses that sense of wonder and awe when looking at the beauty of God’s Creation.
Plant flowers, fruit trees, and flowering trees in your yard. There are plants which attract butterflies — it’s wonderful to see them flitting about in your garden. Put food and water out for the birds to enjoy. My mom has a hummingbird feeder right outside her kitchen window and, because she faithfully fills it up, the little birds flock to it.
Do whatever you can to attract God’s creatures to your home so that you can appreciate them on a daily basis. And, of course, place a statue of Our Blessed Mother, the queen of all beauty, in your garden.
We cannot erase all the ugliness of the world, but we can keep that innate sense of beauty alive by the choices we make. Through music, art, books and nature, we can fill our home and family with beauty — awakening and reminding us that God is indeed present in the world.
“All that is good, all that is true, all that is beautiful, brings us to God.” – Pope Francis