Friday, October 23

Teaching my Children to Tell Time

Godly Play Circle of the Church Year

We are temporal creatures so very aware of the passing of time.  It intrigues me to watch each of my boys as they discover time.  Long before they can speak they seem to acquire a sense of past, present and future.  When they do begin to speak, tomorrow means anytime in the future and then at some point they understand that Christmas is not tomorrow and that Easter is even farther away.  Helping them to navigate this temporal development is so very important.  I love the emphasis alternative forms of education place on navigating time together by being in nature and celebrating the seasons, which grounds our children in time by the changing cycle of the natural world.  And along with the four seasons we have been so excited to teach our boys to tell time by the church year.

When Rowan entered K4 last year I realized that he had a hazy understanding of the months of the year.  However, he could easily explain the circle of the church year, telling about how the year begins at Advent and goes through Christmas and Great Green Growing Sundays.  He could explain that Lent was longer than Advent because Easter is an even greater mystery than Christmas.  Easter is so great that it spills into six more weeks and he delights in sharing about "Red Hot" Pentecost (which includes a lot of silliness and ouches as he pretends to be burnt by the heat of this day). 

I've been thinking a lot about the church year and why we have chosen to make it so central in our home.  I think the crux of it is a belief that if I can teach my boys to tell time by the weeks and seasons of the church year, whatever path they chose in life this great story that they are part of will stay close to who they are.  The very passing of time will be tied to God, his great story and his kingdom.  I'm not saying that means that they will chose to walk a path of faith or that the church year is going to make them Christians.  Indeed not.  In fact, it is when I hear stories of prodigals that it gives me comfort to know that whatever rebellious, dangerous or lonely path my boys may find themselves on, they will never enter December without remembering that this is Advent, a time to get ready for the mystery of Christmas; the birth of the Savior.  It gives me such hope to know that when they see plastic Easter eggs in the grocery store aisle they may remember that Easter is such a great mystery that it spills into six weeks of Alleluias.  "He is Risen; he is Risen Indeed" will surface in their memory.  I pray these seasonal changes will jog memories of the warm and celebratory moments our family shares as we walk through the biblical story together each year.  I pray that these memories will stir up the faith and trust I see in their young hearts now, and remind them of the goodness of being part of the kingdom of God, which is already here, though it is not yet fully realized.

So what does it mean to create a liturgy of our days that is tied to this other way of telling time?  How is it that my four year old knew more about the circle of the church year than he did the calendar?  There are lots of little things we do to celebrate the church year. We are intentional explaining why things in our home are changing colors and why new seasonal activities are added.  Over the next couple weeks, I'll be sharing some of the things we have tried. But even more important then the seasonal decorations and activities is my own journey towards a reoriented understanding of time. The church year has truly become the way I think of our days and months falling together.  And because of this,the very passing of time continues to draw me deeper into the great story we are all part of and into the coming kingdom.  


gmyo said...

As you share some of the things you've done in your home to reorient your lives toward this way of keeping time, I would be curious for your perspective on the significance of the local church you are part of sharing this as well. I struggle with this, as our local church does Advent and Lent in at least an "attempted" way, but not anything else (Easter does not spill over, etc.) I quickly fizzle out saying "This is the way the church tells time, this is how we mark our lives..." when it is not reinforced in the wider church (that we are currently part of). Is there still hope that it will sink in - - when it is not reinforced in a wider community? Or will it just be one more thing my crazy parents did...when they get to that questioning stage?

Watkins said...

I wish I had definitive answers for these questions. They are good questions and have me itching to write something longer to think through this.

My first thought is that the home is where faith formation primarily takes place in the younger years. While the church is a crucial part of a child's life, it isn't where faith development primarily happens. Our children learn to read a clock and understand the hours and minutes of a day at home (or school) and then they can read clocks at church (and everywhere else). I hope in this same way that my children will bring their ability to tell time by the church year with them wherever they go.

Certainly it is wonderful if the wider church is practicing together as a community, but the reality is, even in churches that change the colors, many congregants don't have a good understanding of the church year and what it means to tell time in this way. I think it is going to be a bit counter-cultural in most churches to truly base one's life in the church year.

And perhaps our kids will think we were a bit crazy, but our boys really love our traditions (most of the time) and so, while they may shake their heads at our antics some day, I hope they will be grinning as they do so.