Homeschooling successfully often brings to mind children well-versed in math, language, history, reading, and writing, doesn’t it? I mean what successful homeschool mama doesn’t want her child to do great in academics?
I think there’s something more important to teach though–something that eclipses all academic subjects.
HEY! There’s a freebie in this post!
Of course, as an author focusing on teaching kids the Bible and Christian history, I think every Christian homeschool mom needs to incorporate those two subjects into her homeschool. I think they’re vital.
But today, I want to talk to you about teaching character. Your child’s character is vital to a well-ordered, peaceful home. His character is of paramount importance in his future success in life. Her character will affect every relationship she has over the course of her lifetime.
But how do you teach character? It’s a nebulous, abstract concept, right?
Fear not. Character can be taught, and you can easily incorporate 5 easy techniques into your homeschool (without adding a subject!) that will help emphasize good character to your kids, and will help your children recognize the long lasting results of character–good or bad–on their lives.
Teach Character Through Real-Life Heroes
It’s important that we realize that our child’s (and our own) heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9). Unless the Lord calls and regenerates (saves) our child, they cannot “be good”. When He does regenerate their little hearts, they enter into a lifetime of progressive sanctification–the process of becoming holy, set apart for God. It’s not until our children die as followers of Jesus Christ that they become glorified. That’s when they’ll be sinless.
So, give your children grace. They’re little sinners–just like you and me.
In the meantime, point your kids to Christ through Scripture, and utilize these five simple techniques to teach character through real-life heroes.
1) Read about Real-Life Heroes in Scripture
Above all, the most important way we can teach character is through reading the Bible with our kids.
Scripture is full of hero stories. “Hero stories” is a literary term used by biblical scholars to refer to the stories Scripture tells us about real-life people who really lived and died. We teach hero stories in Sunday School because they’re concrete, fascinating, and easy-to-relate to our children. Stories about Esther, King David, Queen Jezebel, Samuel, Paul, Barnabas, Mary of Magdalene–these are all examples of hero stories.
When I think of the word hero, I think of someone strong, courageous, and full of wonderful character. Don’t you? The interesting thing about the literary term “hero story” is that it doesn’t mean the story is about a “good” person. It just means the story focuses on someone’s life to convey truth.
Hero stories in the Bible should never be over-moralized. We want to our kids to learn the over-arching Scriptural themes of who God is, God’s total sovereignty, God’s plan for salvation, and our role as believers.
That said, the hero stories of the Bible are a great place to talk about what true godly character looks like, and how godly character impacts the life of an individual, their family, their community, and even all of history.
2) Meet and Talk to Real-Life Heroes
When we look for ways to teach our kids about character, it can be easy to overlook the people around us. I think we do well to remember that God’s people are everywhere, and they often have amazing stories to share with our kids.
I know people who have:
- Served overseas as missionaries.
- Worked with disadvantaged and high-risk groups.
- Fought in various wars.
- Lived through significant historical events.
- Raised families, large and small.
- Been creative in serving the Lord with their finances.
- Left a life of crime, sexual sin, or drugs to follow Christ.
- Stayed married for 20, 30, 40, 50, or even 60+ years.
The faithful Christians around you all have a story to tell about their walk with God. Give them a call and set up a pastry date at your house or theirs. Explain that you’re focusing on teaching your kids character through real-life heroes and ask if they’d be willing to share a life story that involves godly character. These stories can focus on how God enabled them to show spiritual fruit, how character (good or bad) had a consequence in their lives, how God saved them from their sins and gifted them with sanctification, or any way they’d like to share about character through their own life story.
Involve the kids in making a special treat to share, and head over to your subject’s house, or invite them to yours. The older I get, the more I realize there are faithful Christians all around us who desire to pour into our lives–we just have to ask.
On a personal note, we recently moved to a small coastal town very near my dad and other-mother. My dad has been sharing war stories and life experiences with my teen boys. A few weeks ago, he shared his salvation story which was quite dramatic. Not only are my boys drawing closer to my dad, I’m learning more about him too. And we’re all learning from his life experience, wisdom, and…character.
3) Read Books about Real-Life Heroes
Another fabulous way to study character is through the lives of real life heroes in books. Christian history is full of amazing, flawed, godly people who changed the course of history and glorified God with their lives.
One of the benefits of studying Christian heroes who have gone before us is that we can see the impact their character made on history for good or for bad. Hindsight is 20/20, right?
From reading about Christian real-life heroes in books, kids can learn:
- How following God’s leading changes lives.
- How speaking up for the Gospel points people to Christ.
- That God is sovereign over all history.
- That the Christian life is not meant to be comfortable, but to be fully lived to the glory of God.
- That our own selfish, lazy, sinful hearts can impede the work of the Gospel.
- That God can and does work in the world in spite of our flaws.
- That poor doctrine and theology also impacts history–but that it negatively impacts the Church.
- That suffering and laboring for the Kingdom of God here on earth is noble, and that it yields eternal fruit.
Find an ENORMOUS list of Christian history books, separated by grade level and time period, here.
4) Watch Movies about Real-Life Heroes
I love historical movies. There are so many great ones available now, and many are appropriate for kids.
There’s something about seeing and feeling history that really helps drive home character lessons for kids. Our family has really made a habit of looking for at least two movies per month about real-life heroes that we can watch with our kids and discuss character afterwards.
We’ve watched movies that include:
- Christian history movies.
- Historical dramas.
- Cartoons about Christian heroes.
- Sports movies.
In looking for good movies, I always Google the name of the movie we’re considering and then “parents guide” afterward. There are a number of sites that review movies for offensive elements, but I prefer the IMDB parent’s guide if it’s available. It actually counts and details the incidences of sexual innuendos (or acts), violence, and profanity. I never, ever rely on the rating as I’ve seen PG movies with nudity and foul speech.
5) Talk about What Character Qualities a Real-Life Hero Displays
One last way to teach your kids about character is to discuss what character traits a real-life hero displays. These conversations can occur naturally as you look for opportunities to introduce individual character traits.
More than anything, be sure you emphasize that godly character will never manifest itself in our lives without a new heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26 (ESV) says:
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
Use your discussions on character to share the gospel with your kids. Tell them we are all sinners–that we fall short of God’s standards. Let them know that God established a plan for salvation, and that anyone who believes that Jesus is the Son of God become man, crucified in the believer’s place for his or her sins, and risen again will be saved. Share that we must repent of our sins and turn to Jesus.
Scripture gives us a whole list of godly character traits that Christians embody. This embodiment happens progressively over time as we seek to follow Jesus. These traits include:
- Brotherly Love / Unity
- Praying Continually
There are more godly character traits outlined in Scripture, but this will get you started.
Teaching character through real-life heroes is not only possible, it’s fun, easy to incorporate, and it yields good fruit. It’s the perfect way to set your homeschool up for success!
Your Free When Lightning Struck! Discussion Guide! (Retail $12)
The When Lightning Struck! Discussion Guide is perfect for:
- Youth Groups
- Sunday School Classes
- Family Read-Alouds
- Homeschool Christian History
Each chapter has discussion questions and timeline dates to add to the 4-page timeline I’ve included at the back of the guide. There are also short biographies of important figures, and relevant Scripture passages to consider with discussion questions.
When Lightning Struck! Discussion Guide
Danika Cooley is an author, mother of four, and homeschooler. She has a love for the Bible, theology, and Christian history. Her work for children and families can be found on Amazon and at ThinkingKidsBlog.org, and includes When Lightning Struck!: The Story of Martin Luther, Wonderfully Made: God’s Story of Life from Conception to Birth, Bible Road Trip™, and Cobblestone Path™.