Keeping Sunday Holy in Our Homeschool
When I was new to the Catholic faith, I remember I had this whole pile of Scott Hahn cassette lectures that a Catholic friend had gifted me. I recall Dr. Hahn saying something about his own time at university that really struck a chord with me—he said that at the outset of his collegiate studies, he’d made a resolution that he would never do any homework on a Sunday. Since homework is a student’s “work,” Scott Hahn believed that abstaining from homework on a Sunday was a way of honoring the Lord’s Day.
As I was about to begin my own studies at Ave Maria College, I thought this was an excellent standard to hold myself to in my own time in academia. Throughout my time at college—at Ave Maria and Madonna University—I managed to get through seven years of college without ever doing homework on a Sunday. I was so happy I’d made this resolution and stuck with it!
One characteristic of homeschooling is the rigid distinctions that characterize institutional schooling don’t apply to us. Home life and academic life are merged. This is a great benefit, but it can also be a downside because sometimes our home life should be separated from our academics. Like Scott Hahn, I have come to believe that Sunday is one of those times!
The third commandment enjoins us to honor the Lord’s Day and keep it holy. This command is part positive, part negative. Positively, it commands us to worship God and devote this day to Him in a special way. In a negative sense, it prohibits us from engaging in certain activities traditionally referred to as “servile labor.”
But what constitutes servile labor is usually not spelled out except in the most general terms. Servile labor traditionally meant any heavy manual labor or such work in a given society that people commonly associate with strenuous effort and do not engage in when they are free to avoid it. In the modern age, however, it is not as helpful to focus on the “manual” aspect of servile labor because many people no longer engage in strenuous physical work. Rather, I find it more helpful to associate servile labor with that which you do “for a living” – i.e., your job versus something you might engage in for recreation, education, or the worship of God.
For children, this includes homework, as homework is the “work” that students are obliged to do.
Sunday in the Homeschool
As I teach online, I get email updates whenever a student turns in homework. It is always a little disheartening that I get more email notifications on Sunday than any other day, which suggests most students are using Sunday as a day to do their homework.
Now, everyone’s schedule is obviously different; families are probably so engaged in shuffling multiple children around to different co-ops or extra-curricular activities during the week that Sunday becomes the only day free for homework by default. We are all busy, and I am not suggesting anyone who does homework on Sunday is sinning—but I’d like to encourage us all to reflect on whether doing homework on Sundays is a fitting way to enter into the rest the Lord wishes Sundays to be. Perhaps we should consider the following points for reflection:
• Are my kids doing homework on Sundays?
• If so, how much of the day are they devoting to this?
• Do my children seem stressed about their ability to finish their homework each week?
• Is our school week so busy that the children have no other day to catch up save Sunday?
• If so, can we tweak our weekly schedule so that children have more time on other days for homework?
• If not, why are the kids devoting Sunday to homework?
• What can I do as a parent to ensure Sunday retains a restful, leisurely character?
Remember, in a homeschool, you make the rules! The nature of the week will be determined by the character you stamp upon it. I encourage you to think about ways in your homeschool to ensure Sunday retains the leisurely character Christ and His Church intend it to have.
Do you have tips to share or questions to ask? I invite you to join us in our Catholic Homeschool Connections Community and start a conversation.