On days like today, I feel like the last person to give advice on character. Our kids are battling colds, and my youngest decided last night at bedtime to turn from sugar and spice into-well, not so nice. Even the most compliant child will sometimes prove to be a trial, and will need to be disciplined. So, what's a parent to do?
Paul writes, in 2 Corinthians 3:3, that "You are a letter from Christ... written not with ink but with the Spirit." And Galatians 5:22 teaches that "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control... " With God's help, we try to help our children grow these fruits of the Spirit, every day, in every subject.
You don't have to spend a lot of money to have a character-based homeschool. Our ancestors taught character through family Bible reading and teachable moments in every day life. We can do the same.
We show love when we work together to help care for the younger and weaker family members. We can listen to worship music together, and experience joy. If we choose peace, we put one another first. We practice patience when we wait our turn to ask Mom a question. If Mom leaves the room, children can demonstrate gentleness, self-control, and goodness, treating siblings or pets kindly.
Instead of nagging, families can create their own Chore Charts; children check off each task when completed. Children can learn to faithfully complete reading assignments without being reminded. We can limit and keep track of television and internet use, and learn that work comes before play. Gradually, as children grow in character, they should need less supervision, and they should be able to exercise more leadership over others in ministry, education and work.
Parents with strong-willed children or children with special needs often face extra pressure and challenges when it comes to character education. However, parents with typically developing children also struggle with child training. Books such as Greg Harris's Uncommon Courtesy for Kids and Dr. Dobson's The Strong-Willed Child and Bringing Up Boys may help. The Institute in Basic Life Principles offers a free 49-week series of daily training and encouragement e-mails on 49 general commands of Christ, related character qualities, and more. Parents could share some of these with their children, in the evening before bedtime or in the morning before school or work. Sign up at iblp.org/iblp/discipleship/dailysuccess/enroll/. Doorposts offers a free sample "Daily Evaluation Checklist" from For This Is Right: A Practical Application of the Fifth Commandment for Young People, at doorposts.net/Samples/tr-sample.pdf.
Reading "The Original 21 Rules of This House" by Greg & Joshua Harris
Also, networking with parents who share your values and your challenges can bring fresh perspective and ideas.
You can buy a unit study or character curriculum, such as:
You could also create your own curriculum for free from library materials, or purchase used resources. For more information, see Unit Studies Made Easy: A Guide to Simplified Learning at Home by Valerie Bendt.
When you create your own character curriculum, you will save money, but will spend more time tracking down books, ordering and picking them up from various sources. However, you have more control over the curriculum and buy only what your child needs. You may even wish to include your child in buying decisions. When children are offered choices, they usually are more likely to use materials.
Literature and biographies make great birthday and Christmas gifts, and model positive character traits. Character Education by Amanda Hall, and The Noah Plan: Literature Curriculum Guide by Rosalie June Slater offer ideas for character traits and literature selections. Ten Boys Who Changed the World and Ten Girls Who Changed the World, both by Irene Howat, contain gripping biographies for young people. Vision Video, visionvideo.com, distributes movies about Christian heroes from church history, which families can watch together and talk about
In some cases, older, used materials come prepackaged as character curriculum. Check used book sales for old literature sets, such as The Children's Hour, published by Grolier in 1969, which offered an index based on character traits. Use the set to quickly look up and read stories based on traits such as cooperation ("The Life of William Shakespeare"), friendliness ("Heidi's Adventures on the Mountain"), and industry ("Albert Schweitzer, the Doctor in the Jungle").
Gifts of Character
Holidays present golden opportunities to teach your children what matters to your family. After meals, you may enjoy reading stories from the Bible and discussing character traits, such as those of Mary and Joseph at Christmas. See materials such as Thanksgiving Unit Study CD-ROM by Amanda Bennett and A Family Guide to Biblical Holidays: with Activities for All Ages by Robin Sampson and Linda Pierce.
On birthdays, bring out the family photo albums and genealogies. Young children naturally want to know where they came from-and everyone is related to everyone else, if you go back to Noah. See Write Your Roots, by Carole Thaxton, for more on genealogy studies.
As I explained to my little one, character matters. It's important to follow Jesus, and treat one another-including family members-the way we'd like to be treated. I'm thankful that I can rely on God's Word, and His strength. With God's help, I will continue to build my own character, and teach my children to do the same.
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