Thursday, November 5, 2009

Character development

There are many reasons why we decided to homeschool, the details of which I am not going to go into now (I will post about that soon), other than to say that character development was at the core of our decision. We feel that the early years of life are undoubtedly the most important where the development of virtuous behavior is concerned. Yes, we can all grow and develop later in life, but if the foundation is solid at a young age, navigating those difficult and often confusing teen and early adult years can be so much easier. Although I do believe children learn this every day through interactions with family and friends in different situations, we felt we wanted to work much more to really establish virtuous behavior in them. To that end we have incorporated two main aspects into our family life (and by extension our homeschooling). The first is “circle time”, which we do every morning after breakfast. During this time the boys and I sit in a – yes, a circle – on the floor, we say prayers together (learning how to be respectful and meditative during this time) and also learn new prayers together. After this we study a virtue together.

Every week we work on one virtue (for example, kindness, compassion, generosity, respect, and courtesy). We use the Virtues Project cards as a starting point. Every day we study one portion of the card covering that week’s virtue, which for us involves, defining and discussing the virtue, or perhaps using role play and acting it out. At the beginning of the week we do a virtues poster (a drawing of what the virtue means to us), and we put it up to help us to remember that virtue throughout the week.
(This was Rylan’s depiction of “friendliness”, a whale and a squid becoming friends)

We also do craft projects, service projects, read relevant books (see my book recommendations), make gifts for family and friends, etc. all under the theme of that week’s virtue (whatever works best with the particular virtue we are learning).

The second thing we are trying to do as a family, is to incorporate the “language” of virtues into our home life. That is, to use these words in everyday life and interactions, so that we are constantly calling them to mind. An example would be – instead of saying “No fighting!”, saying “You need to work that out peacefully, please.” (so that you are focusing on what you want them to do rather than what you don’t want them to do). Or instead of “good job”, saying “Thank you, you waited very patiently while I finished making dinner” (in praising them you are defining the quality/behavior you like). In both circumstances, the language of virtues is being used, which empowers them and speaks directly to their hearts. For more in-depth information on this read The Virtues Project Educator’s Guide or The Family Virtues Guide. I personally recommend the former if you want to get only one. Although aimed at teachers, it is very adaptable to the family, and provides practical tools and ideas to reinforce the learning of virtues.

This process is a constant learning and growth process for us, parents included (actually, especially the parents! :) )! It forces us to constantly grow by evaluating our behavior and thinking, because modeling is an important part of this process for the kids. The effort that goes into it, however, is most definitely worth it!


  1. yep agree with the virtues! I have read too on how we should talk to the kids instead of just saying "stop fighting" and you are quite right to say that it's difficult for the parents :)
    good job Kami, always a pleasure to read your blog ...
    I have the family virtues guide book which I was using before for Leah and took it out last nite :) She loves this book too ... :)

  2. Thanks, Kami! Its great!!

    Yes, the language (tone included) plays important role. We make sure to use courtesy words, 'please', 'thank you' for every little thing. This also incorporates the attitude of being grateful.

  3. What a wonderful idea! Thank you for sharing!
    I am a Bahai living in Leipzig, Germany, and our daughter is 4 months old, but we thought it is never to early to start with virtues education! And you are so right - it is all about changing yourself!
    Thank you for encouraging posts!
    Vera Schreiner



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