Every August when the new school year begins, I always feel a mix of dread and joy. Dread that we are about to lose the wonderful fun freedom of summertime with our children, but joy knowing that at the end of this new school year they will have grown in body, mind and spirit.
Here I would like to share a few ideas about how our family plans to make each year a year of growth.
At the beginning of the school year, my wife and I call a family meeting with our four children. After beginning with a prayer, we ask them to write down their personal goals for the school year, to share them and keep them until the end of May to see how faithful they were to their own goals.
Then we remind them of our family rules for things like homework, family meals, technology use, and athletic and extra-curricular activities. Finally, we discuss the ways we will incorporate prayer into the daily rhythm of the school year.
In past years, Patti and I have found praying as a family the “Morning Offering“ before school to be especially powerful, as it consecrated the great variety of a day’s experiences — good and bad — to God for the good of others.
For the past twelve years, I have also made a point of marking saint days (e.g. the children’s saint-name days), or great church feasts (e.g. The Triumph of the Cross) with unique breakfast food and a brief explanation of the feast tied to the food. My favorite was to offer Fruit Loops™ in honor of the Advent “O” Antiphons. I know, I am odd.
Use music to form character
Throughout the school year, I also make time now and again to create a playlist and play a great variety of uplifting, mostly faith-based music during breakfast.
I am convinced that music is a most powerful former of moral character, so anything Patti and I can do to douse their character with true beauty, in a world full of trashy music, we feel is effort well spent.
Give your faith away
The school year offers a privileged time to create a rhythm of life marked by a ‘rule of life’ that demonstrates to the children in a very easy-to-do way that faith is a normal, natural part of life.
And I have found that not only does this discipline help nourish your child’s faith, but it builds up your own — for it is an infallible law of grace that in order to receive something, we must first be willing to give it away. So be lavish this new school year in freely giving your faith away to your children!
(Dr. Tom Neal, Professor of Spiritual Theology and Academic Dean, Notre Dame Seminary, New Orleans)