Achievable in your Home
If Character Education is important it must be achievable in every family home. For us this is not just a part of our homeschool, it has become a way of life.
Find your way around this page:Character Education is do-able
Structuring our Lessons
Choosing what trait to study
Fitting Character Studies into our Day
Character Education is Do-able
We have found that as we purposefully take time to teach what Character looks like in the everyday life the more opportunity we have to teach into our children’s lives everyday.
It is easy to say to our children “Pay Attention” and yet what does that look like to a 6 year old, to a 3 year old? The trait of Attentiveness was our first study of a particular trait and our children were 2,4,6,8. Nomi at 4, could understand that she needed to look at me and keep still. That was being Attentive.
Just yesterday Daniel was setting the table and he remembered that one of our guests liked tomato sauce on his eggs so though we don’t usually set tomato sauce when we have poached eggs he put it on the table. I praised him for being Hospitable. He immediately wanted to know what that meant. We went to our chart and found out that to be Hospitable you cheerfully share food, shelter and friendship, and that you make people feel special. Remembering the tomato sauce would have made our friend feel special.
Knowing what each virtue looks like means you can teach, train, correct and praise day in and day out – it is more than a school lesson, it is a way of life. It becomes intentional rather than hit and miss.
I have found though that if I just follow the lesson plans it is just head knowledge. To get our children to a place where they desire godly character, I must touch their hearts. For this to happen my knowledge (the lesson plan) needs to be in my heart, a part of my life, real and alive! So I commit myself to studying each trait, to studying the Word of God about that trait and to applying it to my life. This takes time and commitment on my behalf but when I can teach my children from my heart that is when we touch their heart and change their lives!
We study one trait a month. I find to do more than this does not give me or the children enough time to apply it to our lives, after all habits are being changed or being formed – it takes time.
Our studies (6-8 days) put the definition of the trait, the actions, what it looks like, the expectations etc into our heads. In taking a whole month to focus on one trait though gives us many daily opportunities to remind, correct or praise our children for exhibiting that trait. It is in choosing to act a certain way that the character trait becomes ours – it is not through the study.
Though there are many virtues/values resources online I use CharacterFirst
for our core study. CharacterFirst (CF) publishes material for many sectors of the community - Business, School, Christians, Families. In each of their publications they address character education from that particular angle.
- The Power for True Success This book has a Christian emphasis. I base my own personal study on this publication. This helps me in my own life but also as I prepare for passing values onto my children.
- Education Series This is written for the classroom (it has no direct Bible content). I have chosen this product though as it is simple to use, it has fun activities and it works! The above mentioned book helps me intertwine God's perspective into these lessons easily enough.
- Achieving True Success Is a book written to the Family component of our society. It gives a great schedule for using weekly family meetings to encourage character development. I use this book for quick reference and highly recommend to parents wanting to be proactive in their training and not homeschooling.
- Character Bulletin This year, we have moved our older two (ages 13 and 14) to some independent study of Character. They use this Bulletin as their reading source. This is a publication with a adult/business application. Moving to this resource has given them great scope for thinking and applying character to their lives.
The Education Series, for primary school years, which is the series we use, is not Christian in its content though when you use the Power for True Success as your personal study guide you will have all the tools you need to incorporate the Bible into your studies. I think this is actually a good discipline as it makes us, the parent, study for our own lives so that we can teach from our hearts, not from a book.
I’d like to outline our lessons (primary school age)
We watch a video from CF that presents a story about the animal that displays the character trait we are studying. Though the DVD isn’t a necessary part of our studies Rob who tells the story is such a great story teller the kids do enjoy it. The DVD also gives actions to a song and poem which we find helpful.
After the DVD we practice the poem and its actions so we can remember this throughout the month. This helps with understanding what the trait “looks like”.
The children then copydraw a drawing of the animal and copywrite the definition.
Occasionally we study the animal in depth – this is where we can bring in our language arts lessons for the day; research, summaries, report, copywrite, take notes, etc.
Day two to Day six
We review the poem and actions and a Bible verse.
CF has 5 statements that help you see what this trait “looks like” and we study one a day. Each day they copy the relevant statement. We discuss this aspect and there is an object and/or a craft activity (provided in the curriculum).
Often there is something on my heart that I want to share with the kids. I take extra days to do this with them. These thoughts come from either my Bible study, or observations in our family.
We read a story where the trait we are studying is displayed. CF does supply a story based on an American Hero, though I do use these, I often look for Christian Heroes to replace this with.
The benefit of reading a story at the end of our studies is that the children can see the trait displayed in these people’s lives. Noticing and discussing when we see a character displayed, either in each others lives, in the books we read, the movies we see or as we walk down the street makes a big impact on our children’s learning and valuing the lessons we learn.
I see two situations for the study of character – proactive and reactive.
The proactive is the time we sit down to planned lessons where we put information into our children's hearts as well as give them an opportunity to make character based decisions in their every day lives. For this course of study I tend to follow the order that Character First releases in their Education Series, which starts with Attentiveness. Oddly enough, the Christian book starts with Love and the Family book is alphabetically, so I don't really think it matters. Going with the order Character First has set out in the Education/Primary school series means one less decision for me to make as well as the fact that I only need to buy one binder at a time.
As I mentioned there is also a reactive side to character education. This is when our children have heart issues. We often address their choices from a character perspective. For this reactive situation I still use my Character First resources, though I isolate the missing character trait and teach from that.
Fitting Character Studies into our Day
We take about 8 days to cover one character trait. Each lesson is about one to one and a half hours. In this time though we are also incorporating their language arts lessons (at whatever level they are at – oral narrations, written narrations, summarizing, researching, writing notes, writing an opinion essay etc), so we don’t repeat a language arts lesson later in the day.
We alternate our Character studies with our Bible studies. Jesus’ commandment to us was to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and to love others like ourselves. We therefore see both the study of the Word, and the changing of our hearts towards other people (character) as following this command. For about 2 weeks we focus on Character and then for about 2 weeks we focus on Bible study. We do have other parts of our day, such as our personal Devotional time, and our Family Devotions where we are reading the Word of God.
To us Character is such an important aspect of our children’s discipleship. We so often see people with great talents let down by their character, or by the way they relate to the people around them. We don’t want that for ourselves, and we don’t what that for our children. We want to be ready for whatever task God has for us and God’s heart is for people. All character is focused towards the preciousness of others – it is not self directed at all. So in developing character into our own lives and into the lives of our children I believe we will find the feet and hands to Jesus’ command to love one another.
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