My offerings are so small, but when other women offered these ideas to me, they felt like great and treasured gifts. Therefore, I want to share in case they are great gifts to anyone else.
Holy Reading and Prayer
For some time, I had the children beginning our day with Holy Reading, which I wrote about previously. It was a sweet practice and had the pragmatic benefit of teaching even the little ones how to sit quietly for 15 minutes.
Our family routine changed when we moved Rosary (and added Morning Prayers) from evening to morning time before breakfast. This made for a much better Rosary than doing it when everyone is frazzled after dinner, but I could not now start our day with 15 minutes of holy reading plus 30 minutes of family prayer. There are limits for little ones!
I have long missed holy reading.
Recently talking with an experienced homeschooling mother gave me an idea of how to reintroduce this practice. We still do our Rosary and Morning Prayers in the morning. Then we pause for breakfast and dressing for the day.
My friend has her children read the entire Golden Children's Bible during their First Holy Communion year: a wonderful practice! But this is where parental decisions come in. My second grader has had the Golden Children's Bible read to him for so many years that he requested something different, so he is reading the Sacred Art Series Gospels, designed for ages 8-12. Meanwhile, my Kindergartener happens to have an advanced enough reading ability that I have her reading through the Golden Children's Bible.
Get creative! If a child didn't have strong-enough reading skills to read the Bible, one could assign him 15 minutes of listening to the Truth and Life New Testament on CD or one of many Old Testament CDs (I can't find any that are Catholic in production, but I think there is less Catholic-Protestant concern in the Old Testament than in interpretation of the New).
Our family prays plenty of venerable, formulaic Catholic prayers, but the children weren't yet doing any mental prayer. My friend has had her children beginning the day with mental prayer for many years. The simple formula given to me as follows:
1. Love God.
2. Say sorry.
3. Thank him for three things.
4. Ask for help.
5. Pray for someone.
This formula is so simple a 3-year-old could do it yet profound enough that more adults should follow it!
I note the great flexibility of this formula. For the young child, loving God might be as simple as saying, "I love you, God," and nothing else. Saying sorry might be, "I'm sorry" generically or "I'm sorry hitting my sister this morning," or a proper Act of Contrition.
Catholicism has always had a tradition of mental prayer, but in practice Catholics often miss out on this aspect of their relationship with God. (On the other side of the coin, I think Protestants miss out tremendously on the anchor of orthodoxy and the saints who have gone before by failing to recite traditional, memorized prayers.) See here and here for edifying articles on Catholic mental prayer.
We are only two weeks in to this new way of starting our school day, but I am already finding it a lovely, calm way to start school.