When we decided to homeschool three years ago I really had a desire to make character training part of our homeschool curriculum. I felt that teaching our children to have good character was just as important as their other core subjects. I wanted to be able to say words to them like Patience, Honesty, and Attentiveness and have them know what I was talking about. While teaching them, character training has also been a huge blessing to me and a good reminder of the example I should be leading.
Three years ago, and being brand new to homeschooling, I really had no clue where to start. After doing some research and asking around I came across Character First Education! Character First was exactly what I was looking for, and the best part is that you can print, or watch, most things for FREE online!
So what exactly is “Character” anyway?
Good character is the inward values that determine outward actions; the mental model used for making decisions; the moral compass that guides your choices; who we are when no one else is watching. (characterfirsteducation.com)
Here is a list of the 49 character qualities from Character First that we need to be able to teach and model to our children: Alertness, Attentiveness, Availability, Benevolence, Boldness, Cautiousness, Compassion, Contentment, Creativity, Decisiveness, Deference, Dependability, Determination, Diligence, Discernment, Discretion, Endurance, Enthusiasm, Faith, Flexibility, Forgiveness, Generosity, Gentleness, Gratefulness, Honor, Hospitality, Humility, Initiative, Joyfulness, Justice, Loyalty, Meekness, Obedience, Orderliness, Patience, Persuasiveness, Punctuality, Resourcefulness, Responsibility, Security, Self-Control, Sensitivity, Sincerity, Thoroughness, Thriftiness, Tolerance, Truthfulness, Virtue, and Wisdom. (Images used with permission)
I use the Elementary Curriculum with my kids. They currently have 21 character qualities available with more being added to the “line-up” soon! The current Elementary Curriculum character qualities available are: Attentiveness, Availability, Compassion, Conservation, Courage, Determination, Diligence, Enthusiasm, Flexibility, Forgiveness, Generosity, Gratefulness, Honesty, Loyalty, Obedience, Orderliness, Patience, Respect, Responsibility, Self-Control, and Wisdom.
Each character quality has the following offered with it:
An 11×17 inch full color poster (printed on heavy duty paper) with a photo of the animal to go with the character trait, the definition, and the 5 “I will” statements which are the 5 aspects to be learned about that character trait. These are available to be purchased for $2.99 each. I always purchase these to hang on our white board for the month.
Character cards that are 2.5×3.5 inches (printed on heavy paper) with a photo of the animal to go with the character trait on one side and the character name, definition, and 5 “I will” statements on the other side. These can be purchased for $.49 each. I always purchase one for each kid to keep in their room and one for me to keep in my binder as a reference back to what we have done and if we ever need to quickly go over one of the past definitions and “I will” statements.
A poem with hand motions offered for FREE on an online video with Robert Greenlaw.
A Nature Story offered for FREE on an online video where Robert Greenlaw tells a story about how an animal in nature will demonstrate each character trait.
A Song also offered for free on an online video where the children can watch Robert Greenlaw teaching it.
A coloring page of the animal that you can print off for FREE, as many pages as you need, right from your computer!
A history story that you can print off for FREE telling how a famous person has demonstrated that character trait in their life.
Several other crafts and activities that you can print off for FREE to help deepen the understanding and instill the meaning behind each character trait. Usually all the free activities are plenty for us but if you need more activities you can purchase a curriculum guide for each character trait for $9.99.
Discussion starters that you can print off for FREE on each character trait’s home page.
A family connection quiz that me and the kids do for fun together at the end of the month. You can print that off for FREE.
So here is what our monthly plan looks like. We focus on learning one character quality per month. To prepare for that months character trait in advance I purchase online from the website the character trait’s poster and the character cards. I will often actually purchase 3-4 posters and cards at a time so I don’t have to place an order every month. Then I print for FREE from the website:
- The history story, to be read aloud by me
- 3 of the activities or crafts offered online, one page per child
- copies of the coloring pages, one per child
- the discussion starters on the character trait’s home page to keep in my binder
- a copy of the Family Connection character quiz that we complete together for fun at the end of the month
I also make sure I have all the items we need for the crafts and activities for the month. Then I get all the activity sheets that I printed from the website and organize them in the front of my Character First binder and label everything with a sticky note of what week I am doing what activity.
Each school day after breakfast we have a half hour of Character First time. We begin at the start of the month by learning the new character definition and going over the 5 “I will’s”. We continue to recite the definition and “I will’s” each morning for the rest of the month. That just takes a few minutes each day. I keep the character trait poster on the white board all month and as the girls start to remember the definition I will turn the poster around, just for the moment, and they will take turns with who says the definition, and then they take turns reciting the “I will’s”. My 4 year old will also like to chime in with what he remembers too! Here is an example of our Forgiveness poster on the white board:
I will often also write the definition of our character quality on the window by the kitchen table so we can see it all the time!
So each weekday morning we quickly recite the definition and the 5 “I will’s” and then 4 times per month, on Mondays, we do one of the free activities or crafts that I printed off from the website. Here is what our weekly schedule looks like:
First Monday of the month- After going over the definition and I will’s we watch the Nature Story Video (free online), telling how one particular animal demonstrates that character quality. I stream it from the computer, we have Apple TV, on to the TV in the family room. You could also just watch it from your computer or lap top. Then after the nature story we start a craft of that animal (free online) for the rest of our half hour character first block. Usually we finish the craft in our allotted time but if we don’t we finish it up the next day after reviewing the definition and I will’s. Here are a few examples from when we did the Forgiveness craft and the Availability craft below:
Second Monday of the month- After reciting the definition and I will’s I read aloud the 1 page history story (free online) telling how a famous historical person has demonstrated that character quality in their life. While I am doing this the kids color the animal coloring page for that trait (free online).
Third Monday of the month- After the definition and I will’s we watch the Nature Story video for the second time (it has now been two weeks since they heard it the first time) and then after the children do another simple craft from the website.
Fourth Monday of the month- After the definition and I will’s I read again the history story (it has now been 2 weeks since they heard it the first time) and then the children do another simple craft or activity from the website.
The rest of the week (Tuesday – Friday)- After reviewing the definition and I will’s, we will either finish up our craft or coloring sheets from Monday, or when those are done we take that time to go over the discussion starter questions and talk about how we can apply this character trait to our lives. ** I must disclose that this is not a biblical based curriculum. I think it falls in line with biblical principles on how we should live our lives, but it does not give scripture references. So I like to take it a step further. I found this sheet of Operational Definitions of Character Qualities online that line up with the Character First character qualities, but these give a scripture reference. So I also take time in the remainder of our week to go over the scripture verse that goes with our character trait. We will look up the verse in the bible so we can talk about how God wants us to apply this character trait in our lives. Last Friday of the month- We take the Family Connection character quiz together.
On the left inside pocket of my binder I keep all of our activities for the month labeled in order with sticky notes. I put 1st on what activity or craft we are doing for the first Monday of the month, then 2nd and so on will follow underneath. This way I have my curriculum all planned out and ready for the month. At the right side you see all the character cards that I have purchased from all our past character qualities we have studied. This makes it so easy to look back and see what we have done and when we need to easily look back and reference the definitions. I purchased the plastic card holders from the website to keep them all organized.
When you turn past all the character cards I keep a copy of the printout from the character trait’s homepage that has the discussion starters at the bottom. When I print out this page I just decrease my printing scale to fit it all on one page. Following that page I keep a copy of the Operational Definitions of Character Qualities that have the Biblical scripture references. At the end of the month when we are done with a character trait I keep the printout that has the discussion starters in the back of the binder for future reference. When we get to the point that we have studied all the character qualities available, I plan to do them again in the same order I did them the first time. I keep my Character Cards in order so I will know what to do next. We only do about 8 character traits in a school year, we take December off from Character First, and then take off June, July, and August. So by the time we get back around to starting over it will be a few years later so we ALL will be ready for the repeat, and then the boys will be getting them for the first time.
I hope this gives you a great idea about how Character Training can be beneficial and a blessing to your family and homeschool day. Now does this mean that my kids always act perfect now, or always remember how to behave in any given situation, or that mom is always the perfect example….NO, NO, AND DEFINITELY NO!! I am just usually reminded how much we NEED to keep doing this, and pray that with continued exposure, and as they grow and mature, that some of it will start to stick!
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
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