Virtue Formation Through Liturgy in Our Homeschool Morning Time
Earlier this month I had the privilege to speak at a women’s conference for ten like-minded Fort Worth churches. I spoke on family worship in the home–developing daily habits, or liturgies (which can be defined as habitual group actions), reflective of the gospel and of the church’s worship in order to cultivate Christlikeness in our children.
After the conference weekend, I had a chance to catch up on some podcasts, and, wouldn’t you know it, the very first one I listened to was Dr. Christopher Perrin of Classical Academic Press talking to Pam Barnhill about how to incorporate liturgy into your homeschool “morning time.” We have morning time in our homeschool (more on this in a sec), and we have incorporated some worship elements into our homeschool day as well, but I hadn’t considered actually structuring our whole morning time around a gospel liturgy. (And this is exactly what I’d just spoken on–just not in the context of homeschool!)
I think of our homeschool day in two categories. There’s our skill work, which is important because you really should know it for life (and to get into college), because it disciplines the mind, and because it reflects God’s order and absolute nature. These are subjects like math, Latin, English grammar, spelling, and the mechanics of writing, and these things have to be taught incrementally because they rely on prior knowledge. Then there’s what I think of as our idea work. This is where we cultivate our imaginations and our affections and where we grow to be more fully human. I tend to place more emphasis on these things (over our skill work) because if my kids can’t do an algebraic equation when they’re grown or decline a Latin noun, I’ll think, hmm, maybe I failed them in that area–but I won’t think I failed them as human beings. (These things are important, and The Liberal Arts Tradition provides some of the best reasons I’ve heard to keep at the skill subjects with excellence, but that’s for another post.) However, if they have bad habits or lack character discernment or can’t recognize true beauty or aren’t fully grounded in God’s Word, that’s when I’ll think I’ve failed them as human beings! And it’s these virtues that the idea work speaks to–things like Scripture reading and memory, great literature, history, poetry memorization, etc. These things form our idea of what it means to be a person created in God’s image to live to His glory.
We do our idea work in morning time. These are our “together subjects,” the ones that don’t have to be taught incrementally, which allows us to do them as a group. Morning time in our homeschool is the first thing we do when I enter the school room. (In a perfect world, the kids have completed their morning household responsibilities and are sitting in our school room copying passages of Scripture or poetry in their neatest handwriting when I get there at nine o’clock on the dot.) With a second grader and a fourth grader, our morning time “subjects” include history, literature, poetry, Scripture reading, and memory work. This takes us about 45 minutes to an hour. In days past, we would pray before we began and usually sing at some point, but I wasn’t thinking about how adding a few elements and consciously ordering what we do in morning time to reflect gospel-shaped worship could be virtue-forming as well. (If you know this blog at all, you’re probably wondering where I’ve been. Point taken.)
Here’s what our new liturgy-based morning time looks like:
- Christian Greeting:
- Me: “The Lord be with you.”
- Kids: “And also with you.”
- Adoration: “Lord, we praise you because you are ______.” (Everyone chimes in.)
- Singing of the Doxology or the Gloria Patri
- Confession (How have we wronged each other and God already this morning?)
- Prayer of Repentance and Petition for God’s Help
- Truth and Beauty
- Reading of a Psalm
- Reading of a Poem (This term we’re reading and memorizing from Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses.)
- Memory Work (Catechism, Scripture verses, Poetry)
- History chapter (This year: The Story of the Ancient World by H.A. Guerber and Christine Miller)
- Intercessory Prayer in conjunction with our history reading (Typically, we will pray about current events in Israel or Egypt or the country we are studying.)
- Hymn Singing in Response to Truth (one or two hymns from the hymnal)
- Shakespeare (We are currently doing our own Lego rendition of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” from the full text, and boy do the kids beg for it! I’ve also seen numerous other fruits of this, but I’ll save that for another post.)
- Literature (i.e., Our current read aloud book; I choose something that will help shape their character and their recognition of beauty. Since we’re doing Stevenson in poetry this term, we’re reading Kidnapped right now. I like to end with this because then we can discuss it or the kids can imagine about it during snack time, which follows.)
- Prayer of Thanksgiving and Petition for God’s Help (again, because yes, we need it that much! Skill work is next, remember?)
- Benediction (I vary it, but ones that we all especially need to hear before skill work begins are Hebrews 13:20-21, 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13, 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, Romans 15:5-6, 1 Corinthians 15:58, Ephesians 3:20-21, Jude 24-25, and, of course, Numbers 6:24-26, which talk about peace and abounding in every good work and loving one another, etc.)
I think you can see how this reflects, at least in some way, the elements of worship in most traditions. (Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice presents a fascinating discussion of the history and somewhat surprising unity of worship practices across church traditions since the time of the early church until the modern age.) Importantly, it also closely reflects our church’s Sunday worship service.
I’ll tell you what, doing morning time like this has been so great! At the women’s conference, I said that what we do in our homes six days a week will be much more fruitful in the long run than what happens once a week on Sundays. How we worship corporately six days a week in our homes will also make corporate worship on Sundays with our fellow believers that much more meaningful. In just the short time since we’ve implemented our liturgical morning time, I’ve already seen the fruit of this on Sunday.
In our church’s worship service, we will occasionally do what I think of in my mind as popcorn praise, which is such a ridiculous way to think about something so beautiful, but there it is. (It’s simply listed in our order of service as “Lord, we praise you…” in bold print, which indicates oral participation from the congregation, and we all know what it means.) Well, since we’ve started doing this very same thing at the beginning of our morning time, my kids got all wide-eyed and excited in church this past Sunday and both independently tapped me and whispered, “Like in school!” They may not remember that we’ve done this dozens of other times over the years in church, but they do remember that we do it five days every week in school. I think it’s made the whole service more meaningful to them, but more importantly, they realize that this way of interacting with God and His Truth isn’t just for Sunday morning (or for car rides and getting dressed times and other “out and about” times of family worship or for sit-down times of family worship–both of which were what I talked about in at the conference). But school is a time of family worship also! It’s not a time only to learn, mark our check sheets, and be done. It’s a time where we can glorify and worship God in a very direct way (not a nebulous “it’s all to His glory”) so that God is a very real, living part of every day. It’s a time when we can train our children, not to be narcissistic geniuses, but to be holy–set apart in every single thought and action to His service. As our children, Lord willing, grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man, may we be able to confidently say about them and to them:
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls…Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”…knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (from 1 Peter 1)
What more could we ask for?
About Becky Aniol
Becky holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and music, a master's degree in Christian education, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Christian education. She taught classical upper school grammar, literature, and history and lower school composition and grammar for two years, elementary school music for one year, and Kindermusik classes for four years before the birth of her children. She now loves staying home with her four children, Caleb, Kate, Christopher, and Caroline and homeschooling them classically.