Over the summer I had the opportunity to spend some time reading and thinking about life in general and about how to approach what I think of as the “middle years”. Here we are in many ways past the “household of small children keep your head above water” stage and entering into a time of slowly relaxing the reins and going beyond direct instruction to help the children develop what they have been taught into internal habits and principles of self-discipline.
That’s a major transition in thinking and interacting for all of us and at the same time the younger ones still need that direct instruction, consistent application of consequences (good and bad) and plenty of foundation laying. The questions cycle in my mind: how to balance the needs of the younger and the needs of the older? How to develop an environment that is neither too childish nor too mature? Where are the checks and balances? How do we all walk towards Christ and holiness in a daily way?
I’ve been reading and reading and thinking and thinking and in that pursuit came to two books: one an old favorite and one a new discovery that I have been taking in in small doses with much pondering.
The old favorite is Edith Schaeffer’s What is a Family? and the new book is Sofia Cavaletti’s Religious Potential of the Child (6-12 Years Old) . Both books speak about the importance of teaching and living an authentic religious life with children, of helping them preserve and expand on the wonder that they understand as young children as they grow into adults.
Edith Schaeffer talks in particular of the way that the family serves as a micropicture of God in His various attributes, a place where people can develop godliness together through work and play and a place where creativity is nurtured. She explains that as human beings made in God’s image we have an inborn desire for beauty and creativity and that as we function within God’s covenant of a family we are able to spark one another and encourage one another through great disappointments and great triumphs. What a wonderful picture and inspiration to family life!
Sofia Cavaletti expands on that theme to speak specifically of how the older child takes the wonder that they have discovered in being taught about and experiencing God’s love and seeks to categorize it and understand how it all fits together. Where the young child thrives upon such understandings as Christ as the Good Shepherd, or Mary as the Blessed Mother of the Church, the older child wants to understand how what they do and say interacts with what God does and says. The covenants of the Bible and the unfolding of God’s plan in the world at large and for them in particular help them to retain and expand on their own experience of faith and what they have been taught and observe.
So this theme of Creativity and Covenant- how we reflect God and make Him known (Creativity) and how we communicate with God and He with us (Covenant) seems to me to be a theme that all of us can relate to this year.
With that in mind I’ve put some specific plans in motion:
- More direct instruction using the Baltimore Catechism for the 8, 10, and 11 year olds. This includes memorizing the questions and answers and doing the Scripture reading that goes along with it as well as discussion.
- Simpler direct instruction for the 3 and 6 year olds using the Baltimore Catechism for First Communion, Kendra Tierney’s My Little Book About Confession, and Maria Montessori’s The Mass Explained For Children. This mostly takes the form of my reading aloud and the little two narrating back.
- Some specific study of covenantal history during Advent and Lent using a Jesse Tree and some other resources.
- Time built into our schedule for creative pursuits, both individually during quiet time and as a group during Friday lessons and Advent.
- Taking time to do creative things myself so that there is a living example of adult creativity.
- Stepping up our housekeeping game so that clutter and chaos don’t distract from other pursuits.
It’s not easy. In fact I expect, that there will be days when we all just want to throw the whole thing over. That’s part of life- the frustration when the project doesn’t work or others fail to see the beauty we see, or constantly interrupt our concentration. Life sanctifies us if we are willing to grasp that painful, purifying grace.
Will you join us?
Will you post your creative projects and your understandings of covenant using the hashtag #creativityandcovenant? Fridays are our days for group creative pursuits and I’d love to see what we all can do with this theme.