The Lenten season is one which, with a little effort, can be extremely fruitful for the homeschool family. We get a beautiful opportunity to strengthen our spiritual muscles as we journey toward the Risen Christ.
When preparing for Lent, I start by focusing on the destination. We are preparing for the resurrection and that is such an extraordinary, joyful thing that it requires special preparation. In the same way an athlete prepares for a championship game, we all need to take the necessary steps to be in the right state to greet Jesus on Easter morning.
Including Lent and it’s devotions in your homeschool will not only draw your children closer to God but also draw you closer as a family because you are making this journey together.
1. Shrove Tuesday
I begin by making a big deal about Shrove Tuesday. It’s a fun evening in our home in which we have pancakes, bacon, whipped cream and fruit for dinner. There is king cake and all kinds of treats because the fasting will begin tomorrow! We also bury the Alleluia, a homemade banner, in a small purple box. It appears strung across the fireplace on Easter morning.
2. Particular Sacrifices for Lent
For a few weeks prior to the Lenten season, we have the children think about what their particular sacrifices and devotions will be. It’s important as they get older that there is thought and consideration put into these decisions and dinnertime on Shrove Tuesday is when we nail down the plan.
Very often their devotion inspires and humbles me. Last year, my Kevin (11) chose to forgo his blankets for the season and Kelli (12) gave up her pillow. Some children add prayers to their daily routine while others commit to some spiritual reading, a saint biography or the like.
3. Ash Wednesday
After Mass on Ash Wednesday, I have the kids memorize the phrase “Remember thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return” and then we discuss the biblical references for the symbolic nature of the ashes, such as Job 42:6, Daniel 9:3, and Jonah 3:5-6.
4. Crown of Thorns
Another little devotion that helps the kids stay on track is our crown of thorns. Every year, I reach down deep into my non-crafty self and we make a salt dough crown of thorns. This serves as a visual reminder to my children of the sacrifices they will be making over the next forty days. I buy two boxes of the plain toothpicks and use a basic salt dough recipe and we all stick several hundred toothpicks in the braided salt dough circle to serve as thorns before baking.
The crown is displayed on the dining room table with a jar in the middle. When the children make sacrifices, they pull out a thorn and place it in the jar and on Easter morning it’s filled with candy and the crown is surrounded in flowers. It’s a nice reminder that their sacrifices bear fruit. It’s a nice visual for small ones and is low maintenance enough not to overwhelm me during a busy time of year.
This also helps create a more peaceful homeschool atmosphere since everyone wants to be able to pull out a thorn, so there is very little complaining and bickering.
5. Stations of the Cross
One devotion that I always make time for in our Lenten observances is the Stations of the Cross. Every Friday at three we meet a few local homeschool families at my parish church and we walk the Stations praying with the children using The Way Of The Cross For Children.
In years past, this has just been us, but last year my parish made it a formal prayer service for children, which was just beautiful.
Lent can be challenging for children: no sweets, frequent confession, lots of church time and generally a little less fun as we all try hard to be better. By bringing Lent home, we should be quieting the atmosphere in the home and generally fostering more deliberation in the choices we make.
In our home, we make efforts to keep the screens off, to play uplifting background music, to pray more often, and to bring attention to the penitential aspects of Lent. None of this is in the nature of most children, so it’s important to gently encourage them in their own spiritual journey by deciding as a family how Lent is going to look in your home.
Pick a few devotions, one or two activities, and explore the rich heritage of our faith while leading the children to Easter. Secular traditions such as baskets and bunnies are all lovely, but Lent is so much more.
As homeschooling moms, we have the responsibility to make Lent fruitful for the whole family, to keep them close to God, and to make them aware of the victory of the Cross. It may be the most important lesson they ever learn.