Category Archives: Character Qualities

Our Saturday Morning Walk

Our family walks are one of my favorite things to do.  I love getting out into the fresh air, energizing our bodies, and taking to time to appreciate the beauty that is all around us. The kids love it too.  Yes, they get tired and say they want to go home.  Yes, they get hot and thirsty.  Yes, they sometimes say they don’t want to do it again.  But, after it is over and they are cooled down, refreshed, and clean, they always say they enjoyed it.

As parents, these walks are a great opportunity.  We have the chance to model healthy living, enjoying God’s creation, and teaching character qualities. As the kids walk and get tired, we talk to them about perseverance and diligence.  We encourage them to do their best and to not give up.  We tell them how proud we are for continuing on when it gets hard. We are intentional about mentioning what a great job they are doing. We tell them how amazed we are to see little ones—even a three-year-old—taking such a long walk/hike.  We point out the beautiful things that surround us—things that most people pass by and miss. There are so many ways to inspire, encourage, and affirm children when they are doing something this is a little hard for them. It isn’t always easy, but it is very worth the effort!

I really can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday morning!

 




 

 

Teaching Attentiveness

Now that I have shared why we are teaching character and how we are teaching character, I thought it might be beneficial to see the teaching a little more up close.  In posting these, my hope is that it will encourage you and also give you some ideas that you can incorporate into your family time.

During our first week, we focused on the quality of ATTENTIVENESS.

Definition, “I will”  statements, and verse we memorized during the week:

I used the definition straight from the Character First curriculum.  For the “I will” statements, I tweaked them a little. Each day we practiced our definition, our verse, and we focused on one of the “I will statements.” I focused a lot on making sure the kids understood what the definition and statements meant, as well as gaining an understanding of how we could incorporate them into our lives.  For example, on the whiteboard photo pictured above, I drew a picture to help them understand what it means to give our “undivided concentration.”  We did a lot of practicing these “I will” statements — both in showing how to do them and how not to do them.  The kids especially loved acting out the latter.

BIBLE VERSES/STORIES USED:

Luke 10:38-41 (Mary and Martha).  We read the passage, talked about who was being attentive and who was being distracted, and then we acted out the scene.  The kids loved getting to play all the parts (which means we acted out the scene 5 times so everyone got to play every part!)

Mark 6:30-35 (Jesus feeds the 5000).  We talked about being eager listeners and how even when the people were hungry, they still sought after Jesus and listened carefully.  We also discussed how Jesus and the disciples were attentive to the needs of the people and realized that they needed to be fed.

Psalm 25:12-14

Matthew 2:1-12 (Story of the Magi).  We discussed how the magi had to follow the star for a long time to get to their destination. They had to be attentive to make sure they got to where they were going!

ACTIVITIES

Silly Commands:  We played a game that was like Simon Says, but with a twist.  I would give silly commands and if my hand was on my lap, they had to do it, and if my hand wasn’t on my lap, they didn’t have to do it.  The point was for them to practice being attentive to details.

Talking to others: We practiced saying hi to people/introducing ourselves. We practiced looking people in the eye, responding to their questions, and making sure we listened to what they had to say.  The fun thing was, the day after we practiced this we had an opportunity to practice it.  We were at the school where Jason works and Caleb and I ran into the principal.  The principal said hi to Caleb and Caleb stopped, looked him in the eye, said hi, answered his questions, and then gave him a fist bump (the principal’s greeting of choice!) As we left I told Caleb how good he did with being attentive and he said, “Well, it was easy…you had told me what to do.  If you don’t tell me what to do, I won’t know.  But since you told me, it was easy!”

Learning about deer:  We learned about the white-tailed deer and how attentive they are.  We learned about how deer LOOK, LISTEN, BLEND, and RESPOND.  We practiced these characteristics. We also read books about deer and did a coloring page.

Listening Ears: We made a pair of “listening ears” to remind us to listen well.  The kids had a lot of fun wearing them every day.

Magnifying Glasses: Using cardboard and Saran Wrap, we made magnifying glasses.  When you add a drop of water to the Saran Wrap, things are magnified. These were to help us remember to look carefully.

Treasure Hunt: By answering riddles that were placed around the house, the kids found a secret treasure.  This was to help them remember to read closely, think through things carefully, and then look intently.

Following the Magi: To go along with our story of the Magi, we played a “follow the star” game, similar to follow the Leader.

 At the end of the week, all the kids had the opportunity to recite their attentiveness definition, “I will” statements, and Bible verse.  They all did great (even Katie, who is three, was able to do most of it) and they each earned a “medal” for attentiveness.  The hope is that they will continue to earn more medals throughout the year. Getting out the glitter and making their own medals was probably their favorite part of the whole week!

Next stop: OBEDIENCE!

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 it…how 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.

Five Reasons we are Teaching Character Qualities

I have mentioned to a few people that we are teaching character qualities this year as part of our homeschooling curriculum.  It has generated a number of questions and so I thought I would share a little more here.  Before I tell you how we are teaching them, let me explain the five reasons why we are teaching them.

1.  Character is important.

Character is defined as “The mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.”  Character is the essence of who we are. It isn’t who we want to be, it isn’t what we someday want to display.  Character IS who we are.  It is what other people see.  It is the words that people use to describe us.  Character defines our reputation, it gives evidence of what we are sowing in our hearts, and it affects those around us. Character is important.

2. If something is important, we need to take the time to teach it.

How many hours a day do we spend keeping our children safe and healthy?  A lot.  All day long we are telling our kids “be careful, don’t touch hot stuff, look for cars before crossing the road, wear a helmet, chew your food, wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough, eat your veggies, and don’t play with matches!”  We do this because we (rightly) believe that health and safety are important.  Kids are too young and immature to just “know” how to keep themselves safe.  It is our job as parents to teach and protect them.

And so it is with character. We need to dedicate time to intentionally teach our children about the qualities we desire to see in them and the qualities that God desires to see in us.

3. When we use words that describe character, I want our entire family to know exactly what they mean.

“You need to be obedient.”

“You should be grateful for what you have.”

“That doesn’t seem very sincere!”

“You need to be patient.”

As parents, we are guilty of throwing around a lot of big words. We remind our kids to be sensitive, to be responsible, and to be cautious.  These are great qualities that we are hope to see, but let’s be honest.  Our kids have no idea what they mean.  We barely know what they mean.  Go ahead, try to give a quick definition of words we just used:

sensitive
obedient
cautious

See?  Giving a definition is hard.  That is because we know what the words mean at a head and heart level, but we don’t know how to actually define them.  Life experience and context have taught us the deeper meanings.  However, our kids are KIDS.  They don’t have life experience or context.  We might as well be the adults in Charlie Brown’s world since all our kids hear is, “Blah blah blah, blah blah blah.” How can we expect them to be something that they don’t even understand the meaning of?

By teaching our kids character qualities I am giving them (and myself) a solid understanding of what the words represent.  When I use words such as obedient, patient, or creative, I want to be sure that each of us knows exactly what is being communicated.

4. If you want to be good at something, you have to practice.

As the old adage says, “Practice makes perfect.” This is true whether you have oodles of natural talent or if you are driven by zeal alone.  If you want to be good at something, you must practice.  Sports, arts, writing, driving, communicating, running, studying, reading….they all take practice.  Intentional practice.  Contrived and controlled practice.

If I want my children to display good character qualities, I have to teach them and offer them the opportunity to practice.  No sportsman is expected to show up on game day without having conditioned. No actor is expected to get on stage without having rehearsed.  No musician is expected to give a recital without knowing how to play the instrument.  Likewise, no child should be expected to demonstrate a character quality they haven’t had a chance to practice.

5. I want my kids to be able to recognize character — both good and bad — in themselves and in others.

“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?” (Matthew 7:16).

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33).

“For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush” (Luke 6:44).

“Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

If people are known by their fruits, if character qualities give evidence to sowing to the Spirit, and if bad company corrupts good character, then it is imperative that children be able to recognize character in themselves and in other people.  They need to be able to look at themselves and their own behavior and see that God is indeed working in them, as evidenced by the fruit of their lives. They need to be able to see good character so that they know who to spend time with and they need to be able to recognize bad character so that they know who to avoid.

If children don’t know what character is or what it looks like, they cannot see it in themselves or in others.

So there you have it.  Five reasons we are teaching character qualities to our children.  And now that you know the why behind our teaching it, tomorrow I will begin to show you the what and how.  But please remember, what I will share with you is descriptive, not prescriptive.  You don’t have to teach character qualities the way we are doing it, but you would be wise to develop a plan for how you are going to teach them.