Sanctity. For many of us, this is what we want above all for our children. We want them to grow up to be devout, holy Catholics filled with grace and virtue.
But sometimes that seems impossible. When our kids are obstinate, quarrelsome, selfish, or hot-tempered, it seems there is no way they will overcome their faults and grow up to be mature, generous adults… let alone saints!
So for this Feast of All Saints, I did some dirt digging. Saints are not born, but made, though the mercy and grace of God. When we feel discouraged about our kids, it helps to hear about saints who were normal as children — usually very good but sometimes really challenging.
Here are three children who were difficult at times and still grew up to be saints:
Here’s a sweet and delightful picture book for your little ones! My teenage daughter and her friends collaborated on it over the spring and summer.
Luna has always dreamed of going to the moon. One day, the opportunity arises in an unexpected way. At first, Luna is afraid to embark on her adventure, but she realizes that this is a once in a lifetime chance. On a daring quest to save the moon from Ash the fire-breathing dragon, Luna meets amazing friends and grows in self-discovery. With beautiful illustrations, this book will capture the imagination of young readers, while teaching important life lessons on kindness and courage.
Just look at some of these beautiful illustrations by Grace Gunther:
Last spring, I read an intriguing book, When Slow is Fast Enough: Educating the Delayed Preschool Child. It is written by Joan Goodman, a child psychologist who specialized in the diagnosis and early intervention of preschool-aged children with developmental delays. Her book is the result of extensive and highly detailed observations of twenty early intervention programs around the United States.
As a homeschool mom of a preschooler with T21, I was keenly interested in her work. Frankly, I could not put it down. I found her astute observations of these early intervention programs concerning and her recommendations enlightening yet challenging.
Although this book is about early intervention pre-schools, there are some important and useful ideas that parents can glean from Goodman’s work for teaching their preschoolers with Down Syndrome at home:
You’re going to love these — you moms with preschoolers and kindergarteners. In the spring, Junior surprised us by learning all the upper case letters by playing with a foam letter puzzle and singing the alphabet. So, I gave him a puzzle with the lower case letters. But he insisted that lower case “a” was not “a”. I realized I need to present the letters in pairs, differentiating between “big letter A” and “little letter a”.
So I went searching online for alphabet wall cards, but I could not find anything to my taste. (I was looking for cards with real photos of things found in nature.) I asked my teenage son to make alphabet wall cards for Junior — beautiful ones with photographs of real things from nature. I could not have been more pleased. And now I’m happy to share them with you.
In my pediatrician’s office, there is a poster that says:
Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch you words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny
It’s so true that our actions become habits which build up or break down our character. And the time for developing good habits — virtues — is while children are young. Children’s characters are like freshly made play-doh – malleable and relatively easy to form. As children grow into teens and then into adulthood, their characters become harder to form, like old playdoh that dries up and gets crusty.
Most kids don’t think of the effect their actions have on their character. But once children reach the age of ten, I think it’s worth pointing out to them that the way they treat their family members now and the virtues they exercise now will have an impact on the type of person they will grow up to be. You don’t become an accomplished pianist just by waiting to become one. You practice daily and faithfully, drilling in those musical passages until they become a part of you. The same goes for developing one’s character. Want to be a great husband and father? Start by being considerate and generous now. Want to be successful in your career? Start by being industrious and persevering now. As I told my son, if you wait until you’re grown to be the wonderful person you want to be, it might be too late, because old habits die hard.
To be a little more proactive about growing in virtue this year, I made Virtue of the Month cards for my kids… and yours!
Anne of Green Gables. Heidi. A Little Princess. These are classics your daughters should read during their childhood. But have you noticed they’re all about orphans? Even the Pevensie children of the Narnia series are often estranged from their family. Where is family life as it should be in the realm of children’s literature? Thank goodness for Little Women!
Here’s another novel in the heart-warming style of the classics, but this time it’s about a young girl and her large fun-loving, rambunctious family:Clara of Strawberry Fields.
Are any of you using Sea to Shining Sea by Catholic Textbook Project this year? If you have a middle schooler studying American history this year, you should really consider it. It’s been one of our favorite history texts. Sea to Shining Sea is written in an engaging story-like style and has wonderful color pictures and maps.
Some moms have asked me how I homeschool preschool and kindergarten. For many moms, homeschooling preschool is the testing ground. It is one way of discerning if teaching their children at home is something they can or want to do. Of course now, many parents have no choice but to do a little kinder-school at home. Distance-learning at such an early age just doesn’t work. But the good news is doing preschool or kindergarten at home can be simple and inexpensive. Plus, it’s really fun!
Each time I’ve homeschooled a preschooler, it has been different from what I’ve done with my other children. How I teach has evolved over the years based on family circumstance and the individual child. Some of my kids were eager to start “school” with books and crayons; others wanted to learn in a context of play. Doing “preschool” with Junior (which is essentially speech and occupational therapy) is a whole new ball game, but it’s so much fun. There is no one right way to teach preschool or kindergarten at home, but here are some ideas that I hope will help you find helpful:
Three years ago, I was at the peak of my homeschooling load. I was homeschooling five kids, and I had baby with Down Syndrome. (Think lots and lots of doctors’ appointments.) It was a joyful year, but it was also intense. On the one hand, I had a kindergartener who needed help with almost everything. On the other hand, I had an eighth grader who was preparing for the momentous HSPT (High school Placement Test). And in between, I had three high-energy boys.
Sometimes homeschooling all five kids felt like a juggling act. But in reality, it was more of a choreographed dance, with everyone doing their part. Such choreography allowed our homeschool to run on auto-pilot: the kids knew what they had to do without being told, they usually started their school work without having to be prompted, and they continued to do their school work even when I had to be elsewhere. This is not to say that our days were always smooth and the kids were always co-operative… we certainly had our moments! But, overall we had a rhythm to our day which allowed for much autonomous learning.
For those of you who are wondering how to structure your homeschool day, here are four ways to make your homeschool run on autopilot:
Yesterday was the feast day of one of my favorite saints, the hard-working, anxious St. Martha. I was actually relaxing (for once!) while watching my children swim in our neighbor’s pool, when I got a call from Cale Clarke. He wanted to know if I would like to talk about this blog and St. Martha on his nationally syndicated talk show on Relevant Radio… that very day!