Little eyes are watching me all the time. I've searched the scriptures to try to be the person I want to teach my children to be. I'm nothing but a saved sinner. I try to live out my faith and demonstrate how the Lord works at my heart. One reason I'm highly motivated in this area is so that I can pass along these character traits to my children.
No curriculum or Bible study can replace seeing a mother who lives out good character every day.
So we're always on display as demonstrating Godly character for our children. And it's powerful.
But the other day the Lord showed me that I have been relying too heavily on modeling the good character, and not actually discussing it specifically with my children enough. Hearing a lovely piece of music is nice but, sometimes we have to hunker down and stare at some sheet music and study the notes to master it. Learning by example is the best way, but we do have to come right out and say some stuff sometimes too. He brought this to my attention when I was really grieved and humbled by a very harsh conversation between my children. And some mean and sarcastic comments among them another time. This oughtn't be so, thought I.
Sometimes as a homeschooling mother I slack off on character. I am admitting this gigantic failure to you. I confess to y'all that I sometimes slip into thinking somehow my children magically have better than average character, just because we, sniff-sniff, homeschool. Look at us in all our homeschool glory. All mothers can find themselves doing this, if their children go to a Christian school or to church every Sunday, we can start thinking we've checked off the character block. I confess to you that I catch myself doing this and I don't want to have that sort of superior attitude. That's probably the last thing I ever want to teach my children. I know I want them to regard others in higher esteem than themselves, to see themselves as nothing without Christ, to possess genuine humility.
Not a lot of that flying around my home lately.
So I prayed, refocused, and dug out some good materials on character. Had a little conversation with the Lord and He and I agreed that good character is more important than being a math whiz or language genius. I usually start out our homeschool language group time in our living room by reading a chapter of the Bible to my children. We're in Romans these days. I do that first because I want them to know that hearing God's Word is the most important thing. Today we followed that with our new discussion of character. Then the normal academic stuff after that. I want to try to make that our new routine.
Bible, character, then academics.
Marilyn Boyer is one of the coolest mothers you can find, and she has a wonderful little booklet discussing about 45 character traits called Kids of Character. She has a scripture reference and flash card for each trait, with a corresponding workbook to fill out. My children and I got as far as the fourth character trait maybe a year ago, but we gave up and I think it was because we were getting fussy over filling out that workbook together. I thought our character study was a big fat failure because we ended up all fussing and grumping at each other over some workbook pages.
Sometimes I forget that I'm the teacher, principal, superintendent and school board (along with Daddy). If workbook sheets are stressing us out, then just skip it already. I wish I hadn't abandoned the thing altogether. So today we started again with the Boyer character curriculum, this time Jennifer style, which is handing out each child a character card to read aloud with the Bible passage. Then I read the workbook out loud and we talked about the questions, rather than everyone writing out answers. Which had ended up in such an ugly display of not so great character before. I adapted it to the way I like. It took less time with just talking about it rather than writing also. I plan to display the character cards on our fireplace mantel during the school week. We don't have a schoolroom which maybe is a good thing in this situation because the character cards won't be tucked away somewhere. They will be in everyone's full view.
I like Mrs. Boyer's character cards and workbook but heaven knows we could all come up with our own just by observing the weaknesses in our children in a 24 hour period and seeing what needs working on. You probably already know scriptures to go with each weak area too. You don't need to copy anyone else's way of teaching character. We could all easily write on paper, some big words like "kindness," "obedience," "cheerfulness" or whatever else we're seeing a lack of in our family, and talk about those and display those in our home.
This is not one of Mrs. Boyer's examples but one that I like to stress in my family is tone. Tone is huge. If we could just soften our tone of voice around here, it would do wonders for the happiness and harmony in our home. You can say the exact same words but soften your tone and give it a genuinely loving sound, and it makes all the difference between communicating "I care about you" and "them's fightin' words!"
I also plan to ask the children to notice when they have victory in one of these character areas and share those with everyone during school. Or I will try to notice and praise them when I see these things being lived out.
Perhaps most importantly, I participate as a student. No one is ever finished with achieving good character. It's a lifelong thing and we don't award ourselves a PhD just because we're the mother. I think children, especially teenagers, truly love it when we get real with them like that and admit times we've failed and times we've had victory. It's a comfort to know that the big people don't have it all together any more than they do. We do have more wisdom and spiritual maturity. But we don't have to pretend to know everything or be perfect for our children. And...I'm thinking they know us so well that they realize we're not perfect already. I think they appreciate feeling like they are on a spiritual journey just like you. That they have struggles just like you. And that they are learning about those just like you. What a safe place to be, with a mother who doesn't expect perfection but only wants to see a heart that truly seeks after Godliness.
I decided lately that I want to turn character into an official school subject. Godly character doesn't come any more naturally than sight reading a piece of music from Beethoven. And it's a lot more important.