I’m pondering a different kind of homework for my religious education students for next year.
Typically, we think of homework as completing some type of worksheet, writing an essay or a paragraph, or reading a chapter and answering questions.
I’m talking about a different kind of homework: assignments that amount to practicing what we preach. In other words, we hope that what we teach our young people will have an impact on how they live on a daily basis. We are trying to apprentice them into a way of life. Perhaps we can devise assignments that require them to attempt a new “skill” for Christian living with the idea that, on the following week, we could talk about their experience.
What might I be thinking about? Here are some examples based on Catholic social teaching:
- Life and dignity of the human person: Think of someone at school who is often “left out.” Go out of your way to sit with this person at lunch or during recess.
- Call to family, community, and participation: Go out of your way to do a chore at home that will make life easier for your parents and family.
- Rights and responsibilities: Focus on a responsibility that has recently become yours (at home, in school, as part of an extra-curricular activity) and do your best to fulfill it.
- Option for the poor and vulnerable: Select an opportunity this week, either at school or at your parish, to contribute to or participate in efforts to help those who are poor (e.g. a food or clothing drive, Catholic Relief Services, working at the soup kitchen, etc.)
- The dignity of work and the rights of workers: Visit www.oxfam.org.uk/coolplanet/kidsweb/food and find out what FAIR TRADE is all about and come back with one example
- Solidarity – Visit www.hcakids.org to find out about the HOLY CHILDHOOD ASSOCIATION and come back with a story about children in another country who need our help.
- Care for God’s Creation – Keep a tally of how many items you can recycle in one week (e.g. plastic bottles, glass bottles, newspaper, aluminum cans, and so on)
As much as possible, I’m looking for these ideas to be practical and simple enough for an individual to accomplish on their own without requiring them to “make something” (no posters, etc.) and without repeatedly asking them to give money to causes that address these various needs. Likewise, various categories can be used to inspire the assignments. There can be assignments based on the Beatitudes, the Virtues, the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, and much more.
My inspiration for this is Luke 10 in which Jesus sends out the 70 disciples in pairs with a mission to accomplish and then they report back to him. Likewise, in Luke 24, the Emmaus story, the 2 disciples go on to Jerusalem after their encounter with the Risen Christ and they report what they have experienced. I believe that this is an important part of the process of mentoring: assignments are given and then a “report” is given at which time advice can be offered. It is often in the telling of these experiences that the hand of God is recognized in the experience. I think we need to give our young people more experiences!
I’d love to hear your thoughts.