Catholic Activity: Religion in the Home for Preschool: September
This section for the month of September covers the following areas:
Practice — The Our Father Visits to Church — September 8th, the birthday of our Blessed Lady, September 21st, St. Matthew, Apostle, September 28th, St. Wenceslas, Martyr, Patron of Hungary, Poland and Bohemia. Lesson — Saints and Stories Moral Help From Books How to Use a Book Things to Do — Honor Our Lady for her birthday Acting St. Wenceslas' Story Pedagogy — Truthfulness and Courage Virtue for Parents — Cultivate the practice of accepting the will of God always. Book for the Month — The Lord's Prayer, Hymns of the Month — All hymns to our Lady, Good King Wenceslas
REMINDER FOR THE YEAR We learn to pray by praying.
REVIEW The tiny baby watches mother say the Morning Offering. And as he grows, he learns evening prayer, grace, the "Hail Mary," little home-made prayers, the Acts of Faith, Hope and Love, until by the age of four he should be able to learn the "Our Father." Most four-year-olds can repeat nursery rhymes, and there is no reason why they cannot, by careful teaching, have learned the "Our Father" by the fifth birthday. So, when the baby is four, begin.
PRACTICE The parents, by consulting the section for March, will see it was suggested that in teaching the "Hail Mary," they should have a little box house in which the child acts out the Annunciation with a statue of our Lady and a cardboard angel. By this plan, the little one could understand that the "Hail Mary" is based on an angel's words to God's future mother.
The "Our Father" cannot be so easily represented. A story will probably suffice. Show the child a picture of Jesus with His Apostles if you can find one. Tell how they asked our Lord to teach them how to pray, and how He answered "Our Father, Who art in Heaven." That one line will do for a start. Explain about God in Heaven for several days at prayer time, and say very reverently the one first line. As soon as the child knows it, give him one more line. Do not worry if it takes a long time to finish, perhaps three months. Each day repeat your little tale of how the Apostles asked Jesus how to pray and what He told them. Children are not bored by repetition.
VISITS TO CHURCH September 8th, the birthday of our Blessed Lady. September 21st, St. Matthew, Apostle. Tell the child St. Matthew was one of those Apostles to whom our Lord taught the "Our Father." September 28th, St. Wenceslas, Martyr, Patron of Hungary, Poland and Bohemia.
LESSON—SAINTS AND STORIES Last month we recommended the purchase of stories of saints to be read and told to young children. Fortunately for us of the twentieth century, many saints'' lives are being written in a bright attractive style, and the saints, the heroes and heroines of the Church, are becoming family characters in many a household. Mothers of babies today should realize their good fortune and make use of these attractive books.
Moral Help from Books You may preach to a child about honesty, truthfulness, politeness, or any other virtue; but he will practice it much more readily if he has heard a story about children who are truthful, honest, polite and good. A moment's thought reminds us that of course children copy others and learn by imitation. They always want to be like the children in the books. So be sure that you make careful choice of all the books your little one has read to him.
So important is this matter of imitation that parents might be interested to know that the American Indians realized that the best way to make a boy brave and a great chieftain was to tell him stories about older boys who had done brave deeds and endured great hardships. An old Indian chief told an American explorer that he became the leader of his people because once on the march, when the whole tribe was moving to fresh pastures, he had overheard some older people talking about a certain youth who had proved himself to be a very swift runner and a fearless hunter. He said that from the moment of that conversation he had become a different boy and had never stopped trying to copy the heroic example of the older youth.
If even the Indians made use of the desire to imitate which is in all children, why should not we find books with good models for our own little ones?
The Pro Parvulis Book Club1 (Pro Parvulis means "For the Little Ones") will send book lists to inquiring parents.
How to Use a Book The plan as sketched in the March section is for the parent to read or tell the story. Every mother should aim to have a set time for this occupation. The best hour is usually around 4:30 or 5:00 o'clock, when the children come in from the fresh air, just before their supper. Fifteen minutes or a half-hour is plenty of time and will not interfere with supper and bed.
Telling stories at bedtime, after supper, is not a sensible plan, because the children, instead of yielding to sleepiness and going off to bed quietly, have their little brains stimulated and often lie awake thinking of the stories.
THINGS TO DO On September 8th, the altar should be especially decorated for our Lady. Flowers, natural or made by the children, should be brought to her. Let them sing a hymn if possible. And remember blue hair ribbons or a blue dress for tiny girls and a blue armband for boy knights of our Lady. We always give birthday presents and what shall we give to our Blessed Mother? Some acts of love. We may write a prayer in our personal prayer book, a prayer saying, "I love you and thank you for your care." Draw a picture of her or color one that you cut out. And in the scrapbook paste a picture of our Lady as a child.
Acting St. Wenceslas' Story St. Wenceslas'' story lends itself to acting. If there are several children in the family, or if you can bring in two little friends, St. Wenceslas, the beggar, and the page are three characters which appeal to small folk. In snowy weather, the good deed of King Wenceslas can be acted out of doors, when the children are bundled up to play in the snow. It is hard to imagine a child whose heart will not be stirred with pity for the poor, after having seen the good king and the page start off in the bitter weather to the beggar man's hovel.
PEDAGOGY—TRUTHFULNESS AND COURAGE In the early years, the foundations of the virtues of truth and courage must be laid. The approach is twofold:
- Through example. Stories of truthful, honest children set up models whom admiring youngsters will certainly follow. The lives of saints serve this purpose. St. Agnes answers the truth at the cost of life. All the martyrs teach the same lesson and show extraordinary courage.
- Through direct teaching. When the occasion arises, perhaps at four-and-a-half or five years, the parent should explain directly that children of God tell the truth.
Cause of Untruthfulness If a baby is slapped for breaking a cup or knocking over something precious, the foundation for fear and lying has been laid. Never punish a child for an accident. He did not intend to drop the cup or knock over the lamp. If you blame him for what he did not mean to do, you lead him to try to deceive you. Next time you find a broken cup, you will say, "Did baby break the cup?" and he will say, "No." Blame yourself and start on the difficult task of undoing the wrong you have done. You must say very clearly, "Mother knows you did not mean to do it." Kiss him and say, "We can easily get another cup."
Make-Up Stories Many imaginative children make up stories of great doings which they talk about as if they were true. Do not imply that such things are lies. On that score, most of our literature is lies. The baby is "making up" a story. Call it "make believe" and let the distinction be clear between make-believe stories and real life.
NEWS FROM OTHER PARENTS One mother reports a story of a little girl, one of a large family, who was inclined to go by herself to play, one in a while. She had two imaginary playmates, Christopher and Neddie, with whom she played games and carried on long conversations. Her talk about her make-believe companions was harmless as long as she played with her brothers and sisters and did not become a little solitary.
VIRTUE FOR PARENTS On September 15th occurs the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady. Parents, who must always suffer, would do well to cultivate the practice of accepting the will of God always, in everything, as our Mother did each time the sword of sorrow pierced her heart.
BOOK FOR THE MONTH The Lord's Prayer,2 illustrated, is a large handsome book with brilliantly colored pictures, suggesting the meaning of the words of the prayer. Quite small children (of two and-a-half years) will love the pictures, even though they may not understand or know the prayer until they are four or five. The Our Father3 is an excellent pamphlet for a child.
HYMNS OF THE MONTH All hymns to our Lady are suitable this month. You can find them in your hymn book. The lovely carol Good King Wenceslas4 has a rhythm which children love, the carol that begins:
"Good King Wenceslas looked out On the feast of Stephen When the snow lay round about Deep and crisp and even."
1 Pro Parvulis Book Club, Empire State Building, New York City. [Editor's Note: No longer in existence.]
2 The Lord's Prayer, illustrated by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire. New York: Doubleday, Doran & Co.
3 The Our Father, by Rev. Daniel M. Dougherty. New York: The Paulist Press. [Editor's Note: This book is out of print, but a good substitute series is the "St. Joseph Picture Books" by Father Lovasik, S.V.D. published by the Catholic Book Publishing Company. Also Pauline Books and Media (the Daughters of St. Paul), http://www.pauline.org have a "Learning my Prayers series" to help teach preschool age the basic prayers, including The Hail Mary, Our Father, Angel of God and Glory to the Father. --JGM]
4 Christmastide (A Collection of Carols). New York: Paull-Pioneer Music Corporation. [Editor's Note: It is not necessary to match the exact edition for the Christmas carols, as there are myriads of editions of carols. Choose one that suits your needs. --JGM]
Activity Source: More Six O'Clock Saints by Joan Windham, Sheed & Ward, 1945