I recently shared over at The Homeschool Lounge the resources I use for teaching Character. Thought I would share it here too:
We use Character First as our main core lessons for Character. They have 49 traits that they have ‘school’ lessons on. In the School binder they have some information on the definition and application as far as a big picture goes. Then they have a story about a particular animal that shows that trait in nature, then a story where a character from history displayed the trait (generally American founding heroes). Then they have 5 statements (I will not get upset when plans change, I will respect the decisions of my authorities, I will not be stubborn, I will look for the good in changes, I will not compromise what is right – these are the statements for Flexibility) The next section in the school booklet gives a paragraph on each of those statements, then a few pages of games, crafts and object lessons. Last page is a colouring in page of the animal.
I have used this resource very successfully for my primary age children. You can get a lot of that information for free at characterjournal.com but not the activities section – so it depends how creative you are and how you want to do your lessons.
This material is not Christian though. For Christian content I refer to the above website, characterjournal.com as they list lots of Scripture, Bible stories and hymns that enhance our study as a Christian.
There is also a book, that you can get through Character First (I’ve just checked it out you can get it from Amazon too) Power for True Success. This book is like a Bible study on each trait. It starts off with talking about how the word is used in the Bible and then uses examples to further teach more about the trait. It finishes off with some very pointed challenges for the Christian to take on board if they are going to exhibit this trait.
I study this book for my own self (It is a little less overwhelming and better organised than characterjournal.com) – it helps me to get the lesson from my head to my heart. Lessons are so much more powerful in my family if the material comes from my heart (not that I am living it perfectly but I have a heart understanding of the trait, and that I have made a commitment to work on it) Otherwise it is no more life giving than a geography lesson. I often pull bits from this study and give to my children but only the children who are into personal bible study could read it on their own.
Then Character First has a Business Bulletin – which we have subscribed to for a few years now. I find this to be a terrific adult application. I take lessons from this to talk over with my teens. They were reading this themselves and thinking about it themselves etc but I have felt that though they were getting something from it character lessons are a discipleship opportunity so this year we have everyone joining family discussions and I am using all the material I can in order to cover the different ages of my children. It is a much richer lesson this way (and I’m having input into my older children’s lives!)
There are student Bulletins as well – Primary, Intermediate and Advanced. I personally see these as just re-hashing what has been put in the other material. Much like a flyer you would send a school kid home with so the parents can keep in touch. But that being said, there could be a place for them, especially if you didn’t want to put a lot of prep into the character lessons. They break the stories down to age appropriate length, words and comprehension levels. The applications vary a little but not much.
The number one thing I recommend to people is the Character Cards they come with the Primary Curriculum but you can buy them separately too. To me this is such an important tool I have as a parent. I keep these 4 sets of cards (buy all 4 at once they arent expensive), on my fridge as a central reference point. There is a card for each trait; each card has the definition, the opposite trait, and the 5 I will statements (like those statements I wrote about Flexibility). I use these cards day in and day out for day to day integration of character. The thing I love the most about Character First is it describes the trait in full it gives you clear understanding of what this looks like in real life. After studying a trait for a month, our family language changes, we use words that describe the trait to help each other change our attitudes or our actions. I use these cards to prompt me when I feel something is missing in my kids actions or attitude that I want to address from a character perspective. Instead of ranting and raving when my kid digs in his heels and simply wont co-operate – I can remind him to be flexible. The word flexible triggers off in his memory that to be flexible you accept change and see the good in changes. It helps the child decide to change his attitude because he has the where-with-all to do so. So these cards sit on my fridge and I refer to them daily. (I recommend these to folk to buy even if they are not buying anything else. I find them that helpful.)
My personal recommendation is to have the Primary Binders if you have Primary Children (and are going to do lessons with them, not just family conversation), the Power of True Success if you are a Christian, and the Business Bulletins for discussion topics with your teenagers and beyond. Actually if you get the Business Bulletins it includes an online library which has a few links especially for teenagers so it really makes the student bulletins a bit extra (in my opinion).
I have a few other resources that I use to fill out the Character First
(Not that it necessarily needs it Im just a resource junkie!!)
Ive already mentioned Character Journal. I look them up for a hymn to look at, a memory verse to focus on, and possibly Bible stories that show the trait we are studying. Sometimes they have a great little story which works well for discussions with older children. This resource may well be enough if you have older children, or time to put togther hands on reminders for young children yourself.
Hero Tales by Dave and Neta Jackson. These short biographical stories point out character based choices/decisions that Christian heroes have made. I have found all ages have been able to listen to these stories short enough for the primary age, interesting enough for the older.
For Instruction in Righteousness by Pam Forster an incredible Scripture reference to sin issues. It works hand in hand with character training as long as you dont focus on if you do the bad . I believe character training is about elevating the good in our childrens minds, instructing them on what to do instead of what not to do all the time. I dont believe this book is enough to base positive character training on but it is a good supplemement especially when looking for Scripture verses. (You can get this straight from Doorpost)
Doorposts also has two other discipleship resources which cover areas of character training:
Plants Grown up – for boys
Polished Cornerstones – for girls
Family Times: We have just started to use this material. Once again, I use it as supplementary to the content of Character First. Character First gives very solid application and understanding. I have yet to find something to beat that. But Family Times covers some traits that Character First doesnt (is there a definitive list? Doubt it!!) I like the set up of Family Times; it is built around the Deut 6:7 Impress them upon your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up I would describe their material as conversation starters. They provide 4 Bible stories, a definition, 4 conversation/ discussion notes. They also have an audio story but I dont believe it is the best part of the programme there are better audios out there.
Talking of audios Odyssey, from Focus on the Family have character based audios which is great family listening and the lessons clearly point to an understanding of godly character and how that changes things. My children listen to these all the time.
Laying Down the Rails by Sonja Schaffer from Simply Charlotte Mason is a study on the issues of character (or habits) that Charlotte Mason wrote about. A wonderful resource.
Teaching character to our children isnt just about the lessons we give them in lesson time though that can train our focus it needs to be a part of our family purpose a part of the atmosphere of our family. Character is the decisions and choices we make that directs how we relate to God, others and ourselves. It needs to be more than a head lesson though knowledge can be the beginning of change.