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Creating a Monastery in Your {Catholic} Homeschool in 10 Steps

When I was in college, I prayed and discerned a vocation to become a sister or a nun.  I was enthralled by the Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart; of which I had had the honor of

I wanted to be just like Saint Therese but God was calling me to be more like Blessed Zelie, her mother.

I wanted to be just like Saint Therese but God was calling me to be more like Blessed Zelie, her mother.

working with and for at a Catholic School in Florida.  Fortunately for me, I was assigned to work with Sister Maria Kolbe whom not only directed me and taught me her ways as a model teacher but, more importantly, she showed me the joy in following Our Lord Jesus in all we do.  I wanted that joy she had SO BAD!  But after years of praying, God told me He had other plans for me.  Years later, I married a man whom also discerned at vocation to the priesthood (to the Fraternity of Saint Peter), we met, fell in love, got married and five children and ten years later, here I am homeschooling.  I could not help but wonder what life would have been IF God had called me to become a Carmelite…you know, after all, the grass is always greener on the other side.

Since coming home to home educate our five precious blessings, I have struggled with many things and one of those was surrendering to THIS life, the life God had called me to.  Always looking to feed the ego, I wanted to be either an amazing teacher (to other people’s children, because society thinks it is more prestigious than teaching my own) OR become a sister in full habit, like the Carmelites. But nooooooo….God had other plans and I was being rebellious and fighting Him about it.  Now, I am not an expert at this at all, *even with* my teaching degree…homeschooling?  staying home all the time?  was He really serious???  So the whys and the tantrums that were going on in my head constantly were arguing with the shush I was yearning for in my heart.  UNTIL that is, last Friday when I went to Confession.  My Spiritual Director heard these words come out of my mouth, “I still struggle with being distracted, I yearn for the outside world, I miss my family, I want adult contact and I am so jealous of my husband who gets all of this!!!  It is not fair!”  Yes, my dear sisters, I was having a full blown toddler tantrum in the Confessional!  Dear Father P was so sweet, he stopped me with his gentle fatherly manner and said, “Dear child, the Lord has gifted you with your own mini monastery at home with your children.  He has entrusted you with five beautiful souls to form!  He has taken you OUT of the world and asked you to look inside of yourself and to create a monastic life for your children.  The spiritual life that will be ingrained in your children and will with them Heaven.  After all, is not that what you want for them?”  AND so it hit me, what I always wanted, to have a contemplative life like the Carmelites had been sitting in my lap all this time and I was fighting it!  Dummy!  {got hit by a 2×4 once again!} I wanted to be just like Saint Therese but God was calling me to be more like Blessed Zelie, her mother!

In the prologue of The Rule of Saint Benedict, the great saint states something that drew me even more towards craving this kind of life for my family, he said:

"The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love." ~ Saint Benedict

“The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love.” ~ Saint Benedict

Listen carefully, my child, to my instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from one who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice. Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice from the heavens that every day calls out this charge: “If you hear God’s voice today, do not harden your hearts (Psalm 95:8).”

Therefore we intend to establish a school for God’s service. In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome. The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love. … But as we progress in this way of live and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.

So in my quest for an authentic Catholic life for my children, I have come up with a rule of sort for mothers, on how to create a monastery in my Catholic Homeschool.  Since I need to keep it simple or I will set myself up to fail (my temperament), here they are in 10 steps. They are somewhat based on the Rule of Saint Benedict whom believed, also, in keeping it simple.

1.  Surrender to motherhood. This is the life God has called you to, embrace it with all your might!  This is YOUR duty, task, and job, that God has called you to, do it and do it well!

2. Keep outside distractions to a minimum. Turn social media OFF during the hours the children are awake, if possible, or at the very least once everyone is done with school and chores and has earn (YES earned) free time. Keep phone calls to a minimum.  Any electronic device that might distract anyone in the family should also be kept at bay.

3. Pray with your children and as a Family throughout the day.

Pray and learn about Catholicism as a family!  Pray the Rosary daily, your Blessed Mother

Pray and learn about Catholicism as a family! Pray the Rosary daily, your Blessed Mother’s orders!

Pray the Rosary EVERY DAY.  Say morning prayers, prayers before meals, prayers before bedtime. Make sure they see you praying to help them develop a relationship with God. Pray the Morning and Evening Office.  The family that prays together, stays together! Saint Benedict states that prayer was marked by regularity and fidelity, not mood or convenience. In Benedict’s supremely realistic way, the spiritual life was something to be worked at, not merely hoped for.

4. Learn about God and His Roman Catholic Church daily. Not just in Religion class but incorporate Catholicism in your History lessons, in your Reading lessons as well.  Our Faith is so vast and rich in so many areas, there is an inexhaustible amount of books and things to learn always.

5. Keep a balance in work and prayer.  But work is very important. Children need to work for the sake of the family and your sanity.  Chores are super important in developing character and virtues in the home.  Rotate chores so that everyone learns how to do them all so that when a brother or sister is ill and unable to fulfill their job, other children can jump in and help them.  I have even used this to discipline my children when they have been uncharitable towards a sibling and they had to complete the chores of the child who was hurt.  🙂  Manual labor is good for the soul and the child. Saint Benedict stressed the importance of work as the great equalizer. Everyone from the youngest to the oldest, should be engage in manual labor.

6. Silence is golden. Not just at the movies. Children need to experience some silence throughout the day.  Have an hour or so of quiet time.  Play chant or classical music, have the children sit in different parts of the room where you can see them.  They can sit quietly listening to the music, or no music at all.  Or they can bring a book on the life of a saint to read in their little corner of the room.  Even non-readers can do picture walks and just look through the images of books.

7.  Sleep is important. Children and parents need to sleep, the body needs to rest.  Children, depending on their age, need a certain number of hours of sleep per day.  Establish a solid routine, bedtime should be by a certain time, do it slow not rushed.  Keep bedtime routines and chores quick, simple, and organized.

8.  Meals are important. You are what you eat!  Keep meals on a schedule, breakfast, lunch and dinner should happen at about the same time each day.  Meal planning is helpful in being successful in this, if you can sit down, make a list of your family’s favorite meals and plan at least one week at a time.  Vary meals and introduce new foods so that your children acquire a palate for new tastes and start early.  Even if they only try something once, then wait a while and reintroduce it again.  Also, keep the amount of food your children eat to a minimum, not to overload the stomach and to teach your children moderation.  Snacking should be kept at a minimum and only healthy ones, keep junk food OUT of your house. Eat as a family. Creating a Monastery in Your Catholic Homeschhol

9. Discipline is key. Make sure that your husband and you are on the same page on discipline.  As the head of the house and a man, fathers are much more stern about things and this is okay.  Their role in the home is to lead and guide and discipline.  Mothers should complement these rules fathers have set and follow through with them.  Make sure that children have a clear understanding that disobeying and obeying a mother, means the same as a father and the same as God.  God has given parents the power over their children, so long as parents understand this and discipline like God does, sternly but lovingly.  Be fair and just.  Also, keep yourself disciplined and keep your home simple and organized.  As having order is important in the interior life.

10. Teach your children to have a servant’s heart. Service projects as a family are great but having a servant’s heart is much more than big projects.  Serving others, as Jesus Christ has called us to do, happens in the little everyday things we do.  How we treat our own at home, those we encounter everyday at the grocery store, and what we say or do for others.  Be an example of this for your children, this is how they learn best.  Volunteer at Church do teach CCD, or clean the basement after an event, but get the children involved as well.  Have them train to serve or sing in the Schola/Choir, or help in any way needed.

In the Baltimore Catechism we learn that we must Learn about God, to Love God and then to Serve God.  That is the basic rule in our home in building a monastery in our everyday lives.  We are a work in progress but it is my hope that this little list helps guide you as well as it is helping me in living a happy and holy Catholic life! After all if the only “monastery” we create is our children, let’s personally teach them to love Christ and His Church. If we do, the faith in our families will be a living water, another Holy well to last throughout generations.

About RaisingSaints

RaisingSaints is a group of Catholic Mothers throughout the United States that chose to bring their children home to educate them. "Catholic homeschooling is the planned and organized teaching and training of children at home, for their peaceful and effective life in this world, and for their eternal salvation in the world to come." ~Father John Hardon

  • Shiela - Wonderful!November 7, 2013 – 8:40 amReplyCancel

  • RaisingSaints - Thank you, Sheila! 🙂November 7, 2013 – 10:58 amReplyCancel

  • Michelle - I love this and just the pick me up I need today! I really need to incorporate the silence aspect too. This has been my complaint for many days in a row now (ok, shoot, for many years! LOL). I do have the power to initiate silence and am going to do so. Thank you for the suggestions! <3November 7, 2013 – 12:27 pmReplyCancel

  • Laura - This was a wonderful article! Thank you so much for outlining this for us. Glad to say that I’ve incorporated most of this already but that servant’s heart one is a tough one. Still have to do a lot of work on that myself 🙂November 7, 2013 – 7:03 pmReplyCancel

  • Colleen - I love this! This is wonderful. <3November 7, 2013 – 7:49 pmReplyCancel

  • Patricia - Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory to Him forever!
    This is wonderful, thank you! We also strive to have our home(school)as a domestic monastery. Might I add a little something to suggestion number 4…Learn about God and His Roman Catholic Church daily. Indeed, our Faith IS so vast & so rich! As an Eastern Catholic (also referred to as a Byzantine or Greek Catholic), I encourage you to help your children (as Bl. John Paul II said) “Breathe with both lungs, East & West” by learning about the rich, ancient & mystical traditions, theology & spirituality of the Catholic East (there are 20+ Eastern Catholic Churches in communion with Rome) so that you may better understanding the universality of the One, Holy, Catholic & Apostolic Church. God bless you & your family! ICXC+NIKANovember 8, 2013 – 6:35 amReplyCancel

  • Amy Caroline - I really love this. It is so true! I have come to realize that I do need to earn my time time on the computer. It is hard because so often we, as moms, need the time and so very often cannot get it! It is nice to try and remember what it means to truly have a vocation and how we are doing God’s work by raising up little saints! 🙂November 8, 2013 – 8:59 amReplyCancel

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  • Lee Gilbert - At one time I belonged to a yahoogroup devoted to Carthusian spirituality, and from time to time we had young men or women pop up with a rule that they had formulated- and they were all beautiful- but from religious and former religious came this advice: Don’t do it all at once. Build one thing into your life, and then another. If you do it all at once, you will end up throwing the whole thing over.

    Some context:When I was 18, I fell away from the Church, but at 21 thanks to my parents’ prayers the roof fell in and I cam running back to God and the Church and soon entered a Trappist monastery. It didn’t work out. So when I married and my son came along, I decided to pray for him as if he had already fallen away. He was my Augustine and I was his Monica from day one. When he was three we threw the TV out. We had a prayerful, peaceful, quiet home all the while the children were with us. We were a late vocation to marriage, so we only had two. Now my daughter at 33 is a Carmelite nun, and my son at 35 is married with two children, and still practices the faith. Yet we did not have and did not try to have a home monastery. Rather, I was concerned that wishing too much prayer on them might provoke a rebellion in them as it had in me when I was growing up. Especially I remember playing with my friends in the evening twilight and being called home to say the rosary. So in raising my own family, we only had the family Rosary in May and in October. We did not have morning prayers at all. We had prayers before meals, certainly. And from the time they went out to play outside by themselves, we would take them in our arms and pray with them. Even at ten years old they would come running up to us and say, “Daddy, would you pray with me, I want to go outside and play!” And on those occasions- perhaps three times a day during the summer- we would take the occasion to pray down every blessing on them from here to eternity- always in spontaneous prayers, that eventually fell into a formula for each of them. This little custom was a very great grace, I think, and a our children will be living into those blessings to the very end of their lives.

    In the evenings we would read out loud good secular literature for half an hour- often the Chronicles of Narnia; this would be followed by a good book-length life of a saint for half an hour; and then 20 minutes of the Baltimore Catechism. The catechism went a long way to explaining the life of the saint, and the life of the saint made the catechism come alive. And then at bedtime, usually 9 PM, we would gather in a small circle, holding hands and say the Salve Regina, or the long version of the Shield of St. Patrick. It was, you might think, a bare minimum program, but it got the job done. There was never any teenage rebellion- not a whiff, nor any whiff of unchastity. They never rebelled at going to Mass or asked us why they had to go. The wisdom of the saints had soaked into their bones.

    We did not have in our home any secular media to speak of- no Sunday paper or secular magazines- in 1949 Pope Pius had quoted Juvenal: “Nothing impure in the home!”

    And I would say, keep it to a bare minimum. Guide them into the way of the Lord with a light hand. Keep commands and rules to a minimum. Do not demand more of them than does the Church in terms of attendance at Mass. In short, do not provoke them to rebellion or make their life so strange that they cannot bring their friends home. So long as you do ALL to keep a clean and holy home, you need not fear what they will encounter outside of it, for the Lord will do ALL to keep them holy. But if you will not do ALL, neither will He.

    Well, that’s my perspective from the wisdom I begged from God as a parent. You have your own perspective and your own wisdom, and with the help and the grace of God I am sure you will raise a beautiful family. God bless you!November 11, 2013 – 9:27 pmReplyCancel

  • Heather M. - In response to Lee G.’s comment-

    I think I know what you might be saying. Pushing God into every aspect of a child’s life, that they become resentful/ rebellious.. Yes.?.

    However, reading your well thought out response, (from my perception, what I ‘took away from’ it), I actually see quiet similar way of raising ones child(ren), as was so wonderfully & helpfully stated in the original post.

    It seems like you centered your children’s days, activities, ‘LIFE’ around God, Prayer, and His amazing Church- just as the OP suggested. However, what you did differently, from your own childhood faith formation, (again, from what I took), is the deeper understanding & the “Family”. Meaning- your own childhood faith formation wasn’t as ‘natural’ but more forced… If that makes sense.?.

    You raised your children w/ God, Prayer, & His Church, at the center of your family, but not as a chore. It was as comfortable/ normal/ natural to say a blessing for your children before going out to play, as a nice loving hug.

    My dad converted to Catholicism when I was very young. He researched most of the religions, and was overjoyed when finding the truth in the Church (like, a lost child finding his mother). Yet, when raising us, it was ‘forced’. There was no deeper understanding. No, explaining the ‘Truths’ of what we believe. Only, this is what the Church teaches, so we must obey. As a child, (& a very inquisitive one, at that), I needed to know more. Needed the context. The Why’s, the historical & scriptural understandings.. I don’t believe, in my case, that it was prayer or being “forced” to goto Mass (& it was, as I didn’t understand the why & bought into the devil’s claim that we can talk to God anywhere, & that He is always w/ us, so why goto some bldg).

    If I had been given ‘more’ prayer, scripture, discussion, understanding, I think I would not have rebelled. I don’t believe It’s the “too much” of Faith/ Religion/ Prayer/ God, that causes rebellion…. But, the not understanding, not having the entire Truth, or the deeper truth, the causes/ allows a teen to rebel.

    (My Dad & I are now closer than ever, as I have grown closer to the Church & God, so have I w/ my father. He just isn’t the greatest Catechist/ teacher… But, knowing/ realizing what u was missing, has actually helped me w/ my vocation as a Mother/ Teacher (homeschool)/ & a Catechist at my Church.) <3November 13, 2013 – 2:31 amReplyCancel

  • Sue - Thank you. I needed this. Thank you very much.November 24, 2013 – 6:48 pmReplyCancel

  • Shannon - I really love this! This Rule seems very do-able! I started a FB group with some friends in order to discuss this and encourage each other! Anyone is free to join!
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/183357141855264/November 27, 2013 – 3:21 pmReplyCancel

  • RaisingSaints - Shannon, What an excellent idea!!! I sent my request already! Thanks! ~ ErikaNovember 28, 2013 – 9:15 amReplyCancel

  • ProLIFEmommy - Thank you & God bless you for this post! Any way to encourage those who do not have a FB account, or am I the ONLY one on the planet who doesn’t FB?? lol…January 18, 2014 – 3:40 pmReplyCancel

  • Patricia - ProLIFEmommy: You are not alone…there are a few of us non-facebook users out there. ;)God bless! ICXC+IKAJanuary 20, 2014 – 5:48 pmReplyCancel

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