This Is How We Do It: Teaching Character

Hopefully you have had the chance to read about why we are teaching character. I now want to share a little with you about how we are teaching it.  It is important, though, to keep in mind that these are the materials that are working for our family situation.   We chose our materials based on the ages of our children (8 and under) and the time we have available (quite a bit since we homeschool and at least for this year, we are using it as the main part of our Bible time).  These materials might not work for you, or at least not in this combination, but a number of people have asked what we are using and I am happy to share.

Early in the summer when I decided that I wanted to intentionally teach character qualities (planned, as opposed to random teachable moments), I went searching.  I knew this was a curriculum that I wasn't able to create myself.  After searching for a while I decided on three different parts to our character curriculum.

  1. Character First! Elementary Curriculum
  2. Character Sketches: A three-volume book set
  3. Kids of Integrity (an online resource from Focus on the Family, Canada).

Character First! (Elementary)

These materials were simply a result of a Google search.  This company, Character First, creates materials for organizations, government, and schools.  The materials are all secular in nature (and therefore have no integration of Scripture), but they are rock solid on their character definitions and the materials are incredibly well done. In a word: FANTASTIC.

Each of the booklets is just four pages long and focuses on one of 36 character qualities (you purchase the booklets in a series of nine).  The front page (shown above) lists the title, definition, "I Will" statements, and a "Picture This" section to help illustrate the quality in action.  The inside left page gives easy and fun activities to do with your kids (for example, when we learned about attentiveness, we made magnifying glasses to help remind us to look carefully). The inside right page gives a story from history.  The back page is a science lesson about an animal that displays that quality.  There is also a coloring section.

The company also sells materials for Intermediate (grades 5-8) and Advanced (grades 9-12).  I have no experience with these, but if the elementary guides are any indication, I bet they are great.

Character Sketches: From the Pages of Scripture, Illustrated by the World of Nature

These HUGE books were originally published in 1976 by the Institute of Basic Life Principles.  Since that time, they have been very popular.  They are quite pricey ($39 for each of the three volumes.)  For this reason, I only ordered volume one.  I wanted to make sure that I really loved them before buying the others.  After seeing the book, I definitely plan on purchasing the remaining two volumes.  Although these aren't our primary resource, I just love the feel of the massive book and having the kids piled around me looking at all the beautiful animals. Each volume contains information on seven or eight different character qualities.  Each section defines the quality, gives stories from Scripture, and then has wonderful stories from nature that illustrate the topic.  The pictures in the book are phenomenal and the science information is quite extensive. There are stories about all sorts of amazing animals, how they live, and how they demonstrate the quality we are learning about.  I love when we can integrate subjects in our homeschool rather than compartmentalizing. My seven-year-old son hit the mark when he said to me last week, "Wait.  Are we doing Bible or what?  This kind of feels like science. Or social studies.  Or art."  A beautiful braid of life and discipleship and learning.

Kids of Integrity

Since the Character First materials are aimed at the secular market, I knew I needed to beef up our curriculum with something else.  These qualities, while great for anyone to have, are commanded in Scripture and I want our family to see how God's word lines up with what we are learning.  I stumbled upon an AMAZING and FREE resource from Focus on the Family Canada: Kids of Integrity.

These lessons are so incredibly well-done and FULL of Scripture, activities, and more.  You can download them in sections (as in the image above) or you can download the entire 20+ page pdf file -- FOR FREE. You'll have to download one to see how amazing they are.  My favorite part, I think, is the "Parents' Prayer" portion.  It is such a good reminder that 1) We can teach all we want, but it is GOD who is working in the hearts of our children and 2) That if we want our children to learn about character, we have to be displaying it in our own lives.  They also give ideas for creative discipline, object lessons, and more.  They seem to be continually adding to the collection as well.

So how does all of this play out in our home?

We are only a few weeks in, so things could change, but right now, this is what it looks like:

Day 1:
  • Introduce character quality, practice definition and "I will statements."
  • Act out one of our "I will" statements, acting out doing it right and doing it wrong.  The kids think this is hilarious and I love that they are really practicing so that when they get in a real situation, they know what to do.
  • Read applicable Scripture and start to memorize our Bible verse for the week.
Day 2:
  • Practice definition, "I will" statements, and memory verse.
  • Act out another "I will" statement.
  • Read about the animal we are studying while doing the coloring page (I photocopy and enlarge the coloring image from the booklet). We also look in our animal encyclopedia and in library books for additional information.
  • Read another applicable Scripture passage.
  Day 3:
  • Practice definition, "I will" statements, and memory verse.
  • Act out another "I will" statement.
  • Do one activity from either the Character First booklet or one of the ones from Kids of Integrity.
  • Read another applicable Scripture passage.
Day 4:
  • Practice definition, "I will" statements, and memory verse.
  • Act out another "I will" statement.
  • Read the history story and any other related library books.
  • Read another applicable Scripture passage.
Day 5:
  • Recite definition, "I will" statements, and memory verse. When completed, we make a medal for them showing them that they have learned the character quality.
  • Activity from one of our materials.
  • Read another applicable Scripture passage.
  • Take pictures with our medals and activities from the week.

So there you have we are teaching character qualities.  We're still fairly new at it (as in teaching these character qualities with actual curriculum), but we are loving it.  The kids have gotten so into it and I find many times throughout the day when we can bring up our lessons.  This helps the kids identify "real life" situations where these qualities come in handy.  I really love that we now have "operational definitions" for these words and the "I will" statements help the kids know what is expected.  For instance, our kids now know that when I say that they need to obey, they know that it means that they are expected to obey quickly, cheerfully, and completely; they know to strive to go "above and beyond;" and they know to NOT obey a wrong command or a command from someone who is not responsible for them.  So many lessons there!

The best part, though, is that it once again forces me to examine my own life and to be honest about whether my kids are seeing these qualities lived out in me.  If they aren't, I could use all the materials in the world and my kids would not learn these qualities in their heart.  Kids follow a parent's actions, not their words.  End of story.

17 thoughts on “This Is How We Do It: Teaching Character

  1. jaime scott

    i’m so glad you shared all of this. i just started homeschooling (i have a 5, 3, and 1 year old) and I have been looking for good character studies. We’ve tried a few different things, but I haven’t been very happy with them. I’m excited to give these a try!! Thanks!

  2. Hollie

    What do you use for your other subjects? Like math, phonics, literature, spelling, grammar…I’d love to know 🙂 I so enjoy finding out about what you are doing. You are an inspiring lady!

  3. Kellie

    Thanks for the good reminder. I would love to do this, but I had no idea where to start. You’ve given us some great resources.

  4. Anna

    I posted earlier to ask about the particular character curriculum for my “animal loving girl”.Thank you soooooo much for the wealth of information.The Kids of Integrity site is AMAZING, & I am ordering some of the Character First material.It was also fantastic to get a glimpse into how you implement your lesson plans.

  5. Abigail Ransom

    Janet, I remember the Character Sketches books! My dad ordered them when we were small and I remember them as big, thick books with amazing pictures of animals. I remember going through a few of them together as a family, but I think maybe we all got busy and my parents didn’t make the time to use them more. We did family devotions, though, from when I was little until graduation. So these books, although well-intentioned, didn’t get used much. I am seeing such a value in the amount of time I have with my kids through homeschooling! I love it…I love having the time and having their attention naturally from the discipline of doing school with them.

  6. Pingback: Teaching Attentiveness | Preparing the Soil

  7. Mamato7

    There is a corresponding PDF file of character traits to bible stories. One old and one new testament story. I called CF and asked, they emailed it to me. Sorry I don’t know right where mine is or I would share. We used it in Children’s church.

    We love all CF, Sketches, etc!

  8. Lacey

    I just came across your blog after searching for advice on teaching attentiveness. I am soooo excited about the 3 resources you shared! It is just perfect for a starting point for my family. Thank you so much. What a blessing!!!

  9. Shannon

    I’m planning on using the Character First resources for our summer homeschooling needs:) Just curious as to what you purchased, the teachers guide, student guide, both? thanks for the additional resources!

  10. Shiku

    I want to teach my kids different character traits and I have gotten just what I need. Thank you for sharing not just the resources but how you implement them. Bless you

  11. Don MacMannis

    Hi Janet-

    I am a Child Psychologist and award-winning PBS children’s songwriter and music director for Jay Jay the Jet Plane.

    I have written and produced dozens of songs, and research has shown their effectiveness in building character and social and emotional skills for kids ages 4-8.

    Given your interest in family communications and parenting I thought you might be interested in hearing and having an award-winning song that is tailor-fit for these concepts.

    In a fun and entertaining way, it teaches the principles and importance of telling the truth.

    Please let me know if you’d like me to forward you this free song, “H-O-N-E-S-T-Y,” and I’d be glad to send it along!

    Hope to hear from you soon.

    Thanks so much-

    Dr. Mac

    I have your materials available for my team consulting with schools. There is nothing better as far as I am concerned. Thanks, and keep up the marvelous, inspiring work!!!
    –Maurice Elias, Ph.D., author, Educator’s Guide to Emotional Intelligence and Academic Achievement

    I listened to your songs with my grandchildren, and we loved them…

    -Daniel Goleman, Ph.D. author, Emotional Intelligence

    The music is so inviting and upbeat, kids may not notice it’s teaching them a thing or two about sharing and kindness as they bop to the beats.
    -Parenting Magazine

    I highly recommend this creative and entertaining way to give children life-long tools for getting along! Fabulous full-production music for the souls of children and families.
    -Jack Canfield, Co-Author, Chicken Soup for the Soul ®

    • Teacher’s Choice Award
    • Academic’s Choice Award
    • iParenting Media Award
    • Dr. Toy 100 Best Children’s Products Award 2015
    • First Prize, Children’s Category, for “The Magic Word” USA Songwriting Competition
    • Honorable Mention, Children’s Category, for “Bye Bye Bully” International Songwriting Competition
    • The National Parenting Center’s Seal of Approval
    • Seal of Excellence Award from Creative Child Magazine

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