Lent for me, like Advent, is one of those very important events in the Christian calendar that never fully came alive until I began home educating. I’ve always been big on Easter as I am on Christmas. However, the quiet periods leading up to these much-celebrated festivities were evidently, lost on me.
Possibly because overtime, the over commercialisation of Easter and Christmas has shifted our collective focus ( as Christians) from the preparation and anticipation of a spiritual encounter to the excitement of overconsumption in lieu of the main events. Again, it could be because my Christian tradition just didn’t lay enough emphasis on contemplative spiritual encounters especially in the home.
When it came to Easter, however, that was a different story. Since my son was old enough to remember, I have made a song and dance of Easter. We’ve dyed and decorated eggs and hidden them in gardens near and far. We’ve organised egg hunts, sent out easter themed cards and have always attended church on Good Friday and Easter Sundays.
4 years ago, I was introduced to the idea of an Easter garden which I quickly absorbed into my Sunday school lessons and served later to my wider church community with glee.
Yet, none of these easter activities prepared me for the life-giving effects that Lent, now has in shaping the atmosphere around our family. Well, that was until I started home educating my son.
In case you are wondering what Lent is and why I’m banging on about it, let me explain.
Lent, is a period when Christians reflect, fast and pray as a penitential preparation for a spiritual encounter in remembrance of Jesus’s victory on the Cross and through Easter.
Christians spend 40 days (excluding Sundays) between Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, fasting, praying and doing good in imitation of Jesus’s time in the wilderness before starting his public ministry.
In our 1st year of home education, I became more aware of and determined to follow all the rituals of the seasons of nature and festivities of my faith. When it was autumn, we brought autumn into our home. We gathered different types of leaves, studied and drew different colours and shapes. We read autumnal poems and sang seasonal hymns. The same followed for winter, Advent, Christmas and spring; and the came Lent.
When we got to Lent, I knew I was out of my depths, so I reached out to the only two long standing Home Ed Christian mum friends I knew at the time. One of them, being Catholic and therefore predisposed to the traditions of Lent drew me in and lit up an entire world of heart-warming rituals around Lent.
In week’s podcast episode (episode 3) I got to sit we my dear Friend, Clare Carberry again, to recollect some of her wonderful rituals which make Lent such a memorable experience in her home.
Listed below are a few of the practices we discuss in the podcast as well as a few others.
TOP 10 PRACTICES TO INSPIRE A MEMORABLE LENTEN SEASON
1. PREPARE A LENTEN CALENDAR:
like an advent calendar – create or buy a Lenten calendar that captures all the spiritual practices and creative learning activities you intend to carry out for the period. Most Catholic Lenten Calendars in particular capture the stations of the cross i.e., the 12 key events leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus. These events act as good learning and prayer prompts during Lent.
2. MAKE A SYMBOLIC START
Attend Ash Wednesday service together as a family or with friends. During this service Christians receive a mark of the sign of the cross in ashes on their foreheads as a symbolic reminder of the dust from which God made people.
Decide on what and how you and your family will Fast. This could be daily, weekly or for the entire period. You could start by giving up luxuries, such as deserts, chocolate, sweets, snacks or evening screen time for example. When introducing children to fasting, make sure you have a suitable alternative replacement for whatever you decide to fast from. For example, you could replace hot chocolate with warm milk, chocolate with digestives biscuits, screen time for interesting Easter themed craft making sessions.
Make prayer a lifestyle. Build it into your mealtime schedule. Use various prompts to help you remember what to pray for. In the podcast, Clare mentions using the stations of the cross, prayer recitations and readings to ignite her family’s prayer rhythm. Other examples include creating a 40 day prayer chain of issues, people and situations to pray for. Another example is creating a Lenten prayer tree. The idea is bringing the concept of prayer to life with as much creative or visual symbolism as possible.
5. CREATE THE RIGHT ATMOSPHERE:
Create an atmosphere to inspire your prayer and read aloud sessions. Lenten Cross Candle stations are a good way of capturing the mood of prayer and reflection during Lent. These usually have 6 candles, 5 purple and one pink which represent the 6 weeks of Lent. This year my plan was to create my own Lenten cross candle station using sticks from our garden. I intended for my son and I to whittle down our Cross to create inserts for our 6 candles. After days of breaking our backs at whittling we resigned ourselves to keeping our Cross and candles separately.
6. READ OUT LOUD:
Choose one of the gospels to read aloud to your children along with an Easter themed book to read together during Lent. In the podcast, Clare and I discuss Arnold Ytreeide’s great Easter themed book, Amon’s Adventure. We also prioritise reading aloud one of the Gospels. This year, we are reading John’s Gospel.
7. QUIET TIME:
Lent is a good time to introduce your children to the ancient tradition of contemplative quiet prayer and reflection. As suggested in this week’s episode, you could start with assigning as little as 5/10 minutes at a time for quiet reflection, depending on age of child. Most Home-Ed families try to cultivate 1 hour a day of quiet reading, playing or creative activities. In this time books and audio are allowed but screens, and interactions are discouraged. This is difficult habit to cultivate for adults and children alike but still worth pursuing
8. BRING EASTER INTO MORNING TIME:
If you already practice Morning Time, then you might want to substitute your poems, hymns, art and music study in this period for Easter/Lenten themed resources. Hymns and poems are a great way for Christian children to become familiar with beautiful literature and the sound doctrines of their faith.
9. BE A BLESSING TO OTHERS:
Giving up your time and resources in service to others is one of the three pillars of Lent. You could start with making a list of at least 6 ways (one a week) of how you and your children could bless others during each week of Lent. One popular way of serving is through volunteering (outside COVID context) or creating arts and crafts as gifts for others.
10. CREATE ART & CRAFTS:
Decide on a list of weekly creative ideas and crafts to create together as a family
Lenten Food Ideas
- Make Lenten food like Pretzels and Hot Cross buns
- Make unleavened bread to have with communion on Good Friday
Arts and craft Ideas
- Make a cross from clay
- Make an Easter garden
- Design and send out Easter-themed cards
- Dye and decorate easter eggs as gifts
Morning Time inspired crafts
- Memorise and recite a poem or sing a hymn for family members.
- Write a beautiful copy of an Easter themed poem or hymn in card to someone who would appreciate it.
- Create interpretation of an Easter themed piece of art and offer as a gift to a friend.
- Learn to play an Easter hymn record or do a live recital for a friend or neighbour.
Easter Themed Movie Night
- Restrictions permitting, invite friends and family over for an Easter Movie Night with easter themed snacks.