What is your goal for your children’s education? Academic prowess? Love of learning? Knowledge of Church doctrine? All these are good, but a contemplative homeschool seeks something more. My goal is to help my children have a deep prayer life, which leads them to union with God. You too can teach your children to practice mental prayer, whether you homeschool or send your kids to a Catholic, or even public, school.
Over the past six years, I’ve been developing and implementing a plan to do this. I make every school subject part of this goal. But even if you’re not in charge of your children’s academic instruction, you can implement the essentials of a contemplative education in your home.
As I’ve written about before, start by modeling mental prayer for your children. Then live a contemplative lifestyle, even if you’re in the early stages of your spiritual journey. I’ll write more about that later. Finally, here is the basic pattern I use to teach my boys how to pray:
Choose a passage from the Bible and meditate on it.
Yes, I’m talking to you, the parent. After you’ve finished praying, jot down the key parts of your meditation. Particularly think about what virtues the passage encourages. Brainstorm some virtues your kids can work on to go along with the Scriptures.
Read the story in your favorite children’s Bible.
We use The Golden Children’s Bible for the reasons I outlined in an earlier post. First define (or have your children look up) any new words. Find new places on a map. Then read the story aloud to them. One by one, have them narrate the story back to you. That means re-telling it. Write each child’s narration as he gives it. Generally, if your child is 10 or older, he can write his own without having to give it orally. (Read more about narration.)
After the narration, discuss the story further. Talk about the virtue you want them to pursue. Find some concrete ways they can practice the virtue for the next week or so.
Choose a verse to copy and memorize.
Sometimes you’ll find an appropriate verse within the passage you read. Other times, you’ll have to use a concordance to find a verse from elsewhere in the Bible. I hope to share with you some of those I have used, so you won’t have to find them all on your own. Look for free downloads in the near future.
If you are homeschooling, use the verse for handwriting practice.
The parent(s) should memorize it as well.
Find stories that teach the virtue you are pursuing.
The Book of Virtues by William Bennett is a good place to start. Use your library’s online catalog to have books held for you at the counter. Read and discuss them together. I hope to provide some ideas for you on this step as well.
Create a guided meditation for your children.
Using lots of imagery and as many senses as you can, lead your children to picture themselves in the Bible story. After a short pause, drill down further into the lesson you’ve been learning.
For younger kids (grade 3 or earlier), or those who are new to meditation, have them picture a concrete situation they might encounter. Give them a choice between good and evil. Always state that they choose the good in their imagined situation. Pause a little longer this time so they can picture the scene.
For older children or those who are more practiced in this type of prayer, give them a moment to speak to Jesus silently in their own words. Don’t pause too long, or they may become uncomfortable.
Finally, compose a short prayer to wrap up the meditation. The children should repeat it after you.
Here’s a meditation for kids I posted earlier, using the more open-ended option.
I will post an example of a more concrete meditation on Friday.
I hope as my boys get older (the oldest is now 10) to gradually let them do more of the meditation on their own, until they are able to do mental prayer with ease.
Share with us: Can I clarify any of this for you? Do you have other ideas on how to teach your kids mental prayer?