Earlier this year, I read about a character training program called Character First! on the Large Families on Purpose blog. (You can see that particular post here. She gives excellent details.) I was intrigued because I knew I needed some materials to help me better teach character purposefully to my children.
In the homeschool world, I often read about families that simply read books to their children to give them examples of good or bad character. There are many wonderful books out there like this, one of our favorites being A Hive of Busy Bees by Effie M. Williams. However, after several years of doing that I was not seeing the fruit I was looking for. (Maybe we're just super slow learners here?!) Yes the kids loved the stories, but they were not drawing out the applications I wanted them too - much less applying it to themselves!
Recently after reading a homeschool planning help book called Plan to Be Flexible by Alicia Kazsuk (see my post here), I determined that our two biggest goals for our school year would be growing in Christ, and growing in character. (Yes they are related, aren't they?) Oh yes, there will still be plenty of math, history, literature, etc. But these two things will have the most impact on my children's lives long term.
Large Families on Purpose blogpost, I decided to place an order from the Character First website. I bought the series 1 notebook that had 9 character trait lessons inside. (I'm not seeing that now on their website - it seems they are now selling these teaching guides individually. You can see them here along with a free sample.)
The first lesson was "Attentiveness." I thought the 16 page teacher's guide was excellent. (It has definitions, examples, real life stories, games, and a reproducible coloring page. The only thing lacking, in my opinion, was scriptural references. So I decided I would add that in myself.
Simply Charlotte Mason came out with a companion guide to their habits training handbook Laying Down the Rails. I already owned the book so I bought the new companion, a 2 volume set called Laying Down the Rails for Children. The first book is a compilation of all of Charlotte Mason's quotes regarding habits, or character traits as we tend to call them. The companion book set gives scriptures, stories, poems, and questions for each of the habits laid out in the first book. Perfect! I looked up the "attentiveness" section and decided what I wanted to use from it.
Let me just say that I think either of these curriculums are excellent on their own. But I think they are wonderful combined. We spend 2-3 weeks per trait, doing a little each school day.
Now if you're like me and "like" to make more work for yourself, you can add in some extras from your own imagination. (Tabby and I often joke with each other that neither of us are able to do things without adding embellishments to them.) I made the below things up to add to our lessons. (If you would like to see them, please e-mail me - I will be happy to e-mail you pdfs):
1. Copy work page - for Tabby it has the word "attentiveness" and the definition and a bunch of lines for her to write it out. For Hunter it had the word in all capital letters. My idea was for him to highlight the letters. But he did that once and then grabbed his pen and wrote the word.
2. The "I will" page. Each character trait has 5 "I wills" listed to further illustrate the definition. (See a listing of 5 "I wills" on the Large Families on Purpose post here.) Tabby got these as copy work. For Hunter I made a page of pictures - one properly illustrating each "I will" and the other not. He was to circle the correct one for each of the 5 "I wills".
3. Several examples from the Bible to which I added (of course) some clip art (I love google images!) to the page. For one of the examples, I had different pictures illustrating the Last Supper of Christ and the events leading up to it. I put the pictures in a random order. Then as I read the account, the kids numbered the pictures showing the order they occurred in. (My point being if the disciples were not attentive to the instructions Jesus gave them - they would not have had things ready for the Last Supper!)
I think the above was it for paperwork. Again those were in addition to the stories, discussion, and games that I had already decided to use from Character First! and Laying Down the Rails for Children.
The kids and I all have a weird obsession with notebooks of all kinds, so this study just screamed "3-ring binder!" to personalize and hold our work in:
I also wrote the definition and posted it on our dining room wall:
And put a related quote, by Isaac Newton, on our chalkboard:
Hunter went through a phase of writing "attentiveness" on a bunch of things:
So - how are we doing? Are we all being excellent at being attentive? Hmmm we all still need some work. However, we all have a much, much better grasp on what exactly "attentiveness" is. The kids will frequently use the word in their conversations with each other. When someone wants my attention right that second and I am busy I can say "give me one minute and then I can be attentive to you." That helps them wait patiently because they understand. Honestly the study has helped ME to develop these traits better too. :)
The wisest man in the Bible, Solomon, wrote to his son in Proverbs 4:20: "My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings." He certainly had many sayings that would help us if we would give them our attention and follow them!
We have also gone through the "obedience" booklet. This week we are going to start our third one, "truthfulness." Again, these are all things we have been working on throughout our kids lives. But doing this purposeful study, has helped solidify understand better. And, everyone has actually been having FUN learning.
Our Solomon is looking forward to the lessons too! (And I figure we'll go through them all again at some point so he can hear them from the beginning.)