Parents, take the initiative to find out what your children are learning in Church School. Build upon the weekly lessons at home with supplemental teaching.
Also, build upon the Scripture readings, hymns, and commemorations of Saints and feasts that the children encounter in the Divine Services of the Church. Explain to your children what the readings and hymns mean and tell them the stories of the Saints and feasts commemorated.
Educating your children means that you must be educated in the Faith yourself. This is the parents’ responsibility. Immerse yourself in the life of the Church. Worship and pray in as many of the Divine Services as possible, attend adult education classes, read the Holy Scripture, and consult the commentaries and sermons on the Scripture by the Holy Fathers.
In the home, set up a family altar or icon corner. Read the Scripture readings and lives of the Saints daily. Pray together as a family every day, at least in the morning and/or evening.
Make a big deal of feast days. Take the kids to the Divine Liturgy and enjoy a special meal to celebrate the day.
Celebrate the Name Day of the children with a celebration. Tell the story of the patron Saint’s life and explain how to emulate his or her life as an Orthodox Christian. At the family icon corner/altar make sure to have an icon of the child’s patron Saint alongside the icons of the parents’ patron Saints.
Ask the clergy to visit your home, to bless it, and to explain to the family the significance of this event.
Encourage the clergy to develop an outreach program involving visitations to homes in order to teach families how to practically live the Faith in the home as a “domestic church.”
Strive to be a holy example within the home, as well as in public, for your children to follow.
QUOTES TO CONSIDER
St. John Chrysostom’s instructions to fathers on telling stories from Holy Scripture:
“Tell him this story one evening at supper. Let his mother repeat the same tale; then, when he has heard it often, ask him too, saying: ‘Tell me the story,’ so that he may be eager to imitate you. And when he has memorized it thou wilt also tell him how it profits him. The soul indeed, as it receives the story within itself before thou has elaborated it, is aware that it will benefit.” (Laistner 104)
“Go leading him by the hand in church and pay heed particularly when this tale is read aloud. Thou wilt see him rejoice and leap with pleasure because he knows what the other children do not know, as he anticipates the story, recognizes it, and derives great gain from it. And hereafter the episode is fixed in his memory.” (Laistner 105)
St. John Chrysostom on naming children after the Saints:
“So let the names of the saints enter our homes through the naming of children, to train not only the child but the father, when he reflects that he is the father of John or Elijah or James; for, if the name be given with forethought to pay honor to those that have departed, and we grasp at our kinship with the righteous rather than with our forebears, this too will greatly help us and our children.” (Laistner 108-109)
The above text has been taken from Dana Symeon Kees, “The Scriptural Narrative in Orthodox Education,” Master’s Thesis, St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, 2009, pp. 138, 139-140, quoting St. John Chrysostom, “An Address on Vainglory and the Right Way for Parents to Bring Up Their Children,” printed in the appendix of M. L. W. Laistner, Christianity and Pagan Culture in the Later Roman Empire (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1951), 104-105,108-109.
Elder Porphyrios on Nurturing Children:
“What saves and makes for good children is the life of the parents in the home. The parents need to devote themselves to the love of God. They need to become saints in their relations to their children through their mildness, patience, and love. They need to make a new start every day, with a fresh outlook, renewed enthusiasm and love for their children. And the joy that will come to them, the holiness that will visit them, will shower grace on their children. Generally the parents are to blame for the bad behavior of the children. And their behaviour is not improved by reprimands, disciplining, or strictness. If the parents do not pursue a life of holiness and if they don’t engage in spiritual struggle, they make great mistakes and transmit the faults they have within them. If the parents do not live a holy life and do not display love towards each other, the devil torments the parents with the reactions of the children. Love, harmony and understanding between parents are what are required for the children. This provides a great sense of security and certainty.”
The above selection is from Wounded by Love: The Life and Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios, trans. by John Raffan (Limni, Evia, GRE: Denise Harvey, Publisher, 2005), 196.