When my kids were little, I didn’t do anything intentional for developing character in children. It just kind of happened along the way. As they grew older, I relied on the influence of church and Christian schooling to help mold their characters.
It wasn’t like I didn’t care. I didn’t know how.
This fall, as we began our homeschooling journey, the idea of character education threatened to overwhelm me. I felt a huge burden to be intentional in developing good character traits and habits in my sons. I did a ton of reading and researching and praying on the subject. At the end of that obsession, I’m happy to say I found answers.
What I learned about character education applies to everyone. Not just homeschoolers. Not just moms with young kids. Not just kids. It applies to everyone. Even me.
The list of desirable character traits can be huge. Depending on how detailed you want to be about it, it’s easy to list 40 or 50 habits that represent good moral character.
Whether it’s the list of traits I find most lacking in my boys or myself, the list is overwhelming. It would be easy to look at the list, throw my hands up, and yell “it’s impossible ! I quit” before I even start.
(I need to work on diligence.)
It would be easy to get frustrated and feel like I’m doomed to failure before I even start.
(I need to work on optimism.)
The key is focus.
Pick one trait. One habit. One character issue. One thing. Then focus on it daily for 2-3 months.
(I need to work on patience.)
Regardless of the homeschool character curriculum I looked at, the way you work on a character trait is fairly similar.
- Words of Wisdom. For any trait, there will be scripture and quotes on the subject. Meditate on those words to get them deep into your brain.
- Living Examples. There are stories that will bring a particular habit or character trait to life. Whether it’s a bible story or an inspirational story of a historical figure, the impact is the same. You can draw inspiration from those stories.
- Object Lessons. Hands on and physical, they can be an eye opener.
- Daily Practice. This is the hard one!
Our first trait to work on as a family was attentiveness. It’s not been easy.
Part of how my boys are supposed to learn to pay attention is this thing where I’m not supposed to repeat myself if they didn’t get it the first time. It works, but breaking MY habit of repeating myself has proven difficult.
Yes. Developing character in children impacts you (the adult) as well. It’s a whole-family commitment.
If you can only pick one trait at a time to work on, it makes sense to go for the biggest possible impact first. The advice of countless homeschoolers is that you should start with
- Attentiveness (they can’t obey if they don’t hear)
- Obedience (they won’t obey if you don’t teach them)
Just think how much better your home would be if everyone (including the adults) mastered those three traits.
Instead of being overwhelmed at the idea of 50 traits that you should somehow instill in your kids, take a different view.
One trait at a time.
Three traits a year.
In five years, where would you be? Would it be better than where you are now?
Resources for Developing Character in Children (and you)
There are a ton of ideas and resources available on the web. If you type “character education” into Pinterest, prepare to be overwhelmed.
(Because character and belief are so intimately connected, take time to screen your resources to make sure they match your own belief system and world view.)
Focus on the Family / Kids of Integrity offer FREE lessons for your family. There is a workbook for each trait that is filled with scripture, bible stories, prayers, crafts and activities.
We used a good portion of their attentiveness workbook this fall. I love how they connect developing a child’s ability to pay attention to their parent to their ability to pay attention to God.
Simply Charlotte Mason offers a workbook called Laying Down the Rails. It’s not free. I’m not an affiliate. But her approach was a game changer for me. (Yes, you can get it on Amazon. I could give you an affiliate link for that. But it’s cheaper on the SCM site.)
I’ve loved using the ideas in the workbook to teach my children the hows and whys of attentiveness. I was skeptical, but honestly it works. I can see a difference in the attention span of my kids.
Here’s a sample of the workshop associated with this book. (No, this isn’t Charlotte Mason talking. Her name is Sonya.)
The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days. ~ Charlotte Mason