This month's homeschool blog is about teaching your children to pray. Last week, I wrote on the importance of prayer as an integral, daily facet of our home life and as a necessary part of our schooling. Prayer needs to be both caught and taught. We model it and we teach it. Prayer demonstrates dependence on God, expressing our recognition that doing life on our own doesn't work out very well; we need God's help. It is wise and good to frame our days in prayer: start with prayer in the morning and end with prayer at night.
I would also like to suggest that you begin the study of each different subject during your homeschooling day with prayer. I began this habit out of the obedience of faith. I wanted to verbally acknowledge to God, to myself, and to the children our continual need for God's help.
We needed God's help on multiple levels. First, we needed God's help to work together, to not get frustrated or "lock horns" with each other. We all needed patience and the other fruit of God's Spirit to respond in godly ways.
Of course, I wanted the children to learn the subject at hand. But I didn't want them to just have the temporary ability to pass a test, but rather I wanted them to expand their knowledge base with permanent retention by gaining true understanding and comprehension. We asked God for this.
Beyond the mere knowledge and understanding, I also wanted them to see God in each subject, to realize that every academic course had its origin in the mind of God; He had created them all. As such, every educational pursuit was an opportunity to learn some new aspect of God. They needed their spiritual eyes opened by the Holy Spirit to see those insights.
Overarching those requests was the need for God's help to see the importance and relevance of any given subject. It's often difficult for parent and child alike to fathom the reason behind why we need to study some things. The tedium and details of some subjects seem completely irrelevant and unuseful for life. We need wisdom and longer-range vision to apprehend their purpose. God can give that to us as we lift up this need in prayer.
There were many times (I could even say, most times) when praying before each subject seemed redundant, unnecessary, and ritualistic—like a rote prayer devoid of meaning that hits the ceiling and bounces off. But those were just feelings. We can't live by our feelings. We live by faith. For me, it was an act of faith, regardless of how it felt. We needed God's help, and I wanted God's help with every subject we studied.
When a child is having some particular difficulty with a subject and just not getting it, stop and pray. Prayer isn't like magic: just because you stop to pray doesn't mean they will instantly and suddenly get it. But prayer does lift up our need to God with expectant hearts that He will work on our behalf. Our oldest son had the worst of difficulties with math through high school; I came to tears over it more than once. There were no huge breakthroughs, though we got through it. But as an adult, he ending up teaching algebra and geometry to high school students and loved it! He infused in his students the wonder of God through math.
God had answered my prayers—much more abundantly than I had asked.
Later, when he was shot and killed in his classroom, I was comforted to learn from some of his students who had been in the room that he opened his classes in prayer; it was his custom. Just as he was saying "amen" that morning, his life was ended. One student told us they realized he was talking to God one minute and the next minute he was seeing God face to face. It had seemed most appropriate. I was grateful I had not laid prayer-before-each-subject aside by listening to my feelings all those days and years when we were doing our homeschool routines. That habit of prayer before each class was "caught" and carried over to a foreign land, becoming a testimony of eternal realities—another answer to my prayers, beyond what I could have ever imagined.
How about starting the prayer-before-each-subject habit yourself with your schooling? It may feel repetitive and awkward. Don't worry about that. Just keep doing it. You're teaching the truth about our need for God.