Character is the quality of response we have towards people and situations.  We study character intentionally in our home – one trait a month – so that our children have an understanding of the choices they can make.

Character First is an organisation that promotes character for different spheres of our community:  the family, the church (God’s people), education, and business.

I was asked a question at the Mum Heart Conference what material to buy and how to teach it to older kids.

For everyone:

CF Cards – 4 sets for around $7-8 each.  This gives you a quick overview of every trait, its definition and five I will statements (which helps you see application).  I have these cards on my fridge and refer to them in the training and encouragement of my kids.  These cards are my top buy… I highly recommend them to everyone as they are very useable and not expensive.  (They do come with the Primary Education Binder so if you are buying that you don’t need to double up).  They are the basic information.

For the Christian parent:

Power for True Success (book).  I use this book to study for myself – it outlines what the Bible has to say, and is a personal study to reflect on our being obedient to the Word.  I rarely teach directly from it and if I do it would only be an aspect.  Studying character myself from this book, fills my mind and heart with God’s word which I can then pass onto my kids via conversation etc.  My older teens do use this book for Bible study at times.  The information is relevant to our family but pretty boring if just read from.  I encourage people to digest the study and then share from their heart to their family.

For teaching primary age kids:

Primary Education Binder – this has a small booklet for each character giving you information to build your lessons on.  It also includes object lessons and craft ideas.  For families who have older children as well, this can be used as the basis of conversation, though they won’t appreciate the craft lessons the same as their younger siblings.  But if you are learning as a family, there is no reason why they couldn’t take their younger siblings and do the craft activities with them after the family discussions.

For teaching highschool:

There are a few options – or maybe a mix (which is what I do simply because I have the materials).

I haven’t used the secondary teachers binders though we do use the Intermediate and Advanced Student Guides.  These are a 4 page pamphlet for each trait giving you at least 3 lessons including discussion questions for older kids.  They tie in or add to the information found in the primary education material but more age appropriate.

I have also used the Business Bulletin for older teens (16-19) which gives more adult like information and application.  Peter and I read these for ourselves as well.  When you subscribe to the Business Bulletin you also gain access to the online Membership site which does give you some questions etc to ask teens (one or two per trait).  The negative to the Business Bulletin is that it comes out on Subscription instead of buying the whole set which means you aren’t as in control of which trait you study.

Blending the ages:

I made a mistake when my older two reached mid-teen years and thought that they could study Character by themselves and they did for a while and then it started to unravel.  I realised that talking about character – the choices we make, the values we hold – is a heart issue, it is a discipleship opportunity and I need to be talking and getting involved with my teens on this subject.  So I encourage you to see it as a family study, not necessarily based on ages.

That being said though we need different approaches to involve different ages.  Generally when we start a study on a new trait we will get together as a whole family.  We would define the trait and discuss what this means or looks like in a general sense.   I then give an object lesson or we discuss something directed at the younger kids, with the older kids listening on.  We would then talk about it – I make sure the younger ones speak first otherwise they are left with nothing to say after the older ones speak first.  Then I would give the little ones something to do with their hands – drawing, colouring, making and continue the discussion with the older kids, often digging deeper and helping them find a personal application for themselves.   It is amazing how much the younger ones learn as they listen in on the older family discussions so don’t dismiss them, just keep them quiet.  The older ones would often (though not always) go and record our discussion in some way with a notebook page.

Even if we take the extra time that homeschooling offers us, we need to remember that we are not running a class (or two different age classes) but rather we are learning together as a family.  I find it helpful to have a clear objective or purpose for each time we get together.  One family objective though I may address it differently for the different ages.  For example:

  • Define the trait and have an overview of the I wills
  • Discuss what the Bible has to say about this trait?  The blessings of walking this way and the consequences of not (rewards or consequences)
  • See how this trait balances with other traits (at no time does choosing one trait mean you ignore another – they all work together)
  • Discuss one of the I wills
  • Find a personal issue to work on this month –set a goal
  • Discuss this quote – this Bible verse – this story.  What do we need to learn or do in response?
  • Consider people we know, or characters from books or movies that demonstrate this trait?  Can we encourage the people we know with a note?
  • See a project that we can get involved in or do as a one off that would be a demonstration of this trait in our individual or family life.

We study a character trait for a month (and though I’d like to say we study a trait each month there are some months that we don’t get to it) but I have found that we need that time – a month – to get the information from our head, to our heart, to our hands.  We want this to be a part of our children’s value system, a part of their automatic thinking – not just information.  So we need to give it time to sink into their hearts and become a habit of action.

I try to start studying myself a week before I want to introduce it to the kids.  This helps get it from my head to my heart so that I’m teaching not so much from my experience or success but teaching from my heart.  Studying it a little earlier also gives me an opportunity to think about my children’s heart and plan how this trait needs to be applied in our family.  Once I have considered the trait, and considered where my family is at with this, I can plan effective lessons or conversations.

Character First has been a great tool in our family – it has given us a vocabulary that expresses the choices we want our children to make in daily life, I use that vocab in the teaching, training and praise on a daily basis.

Link for Character First for Australia

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