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Character Training is So Important


"Linda, all the academics in the world you can teach Michael are fine, but they pale in comparison to what you can teach him of Me."


God spoke those words to me very clearly. We had been homeschooling for two years already. I had always incorporated Scripture memorization and Bible stories into our school day, but I was suddenly convicted of the fact that I was treating this time as just another subject ... a subject which was given less time than all the others. I was being given an understanding that there was so much more I needed to be teaching Michael. Once again, I was reminded of my promise to God to raise this boy for Him. Michael belongs to God; he is His child. I am so honored that God has entrusted Rich and I with his care and training.

I was finally fully aware that a child will not understand strong character if he is not taught or shown examples of such. Thus began my search through most every character-building program put out, looking for the program(s) which would be right for us.

Before I share some of the character things we have especially benefited from, I must put in a plug for the Childhood of Famous Americans books! :-) In these books, we have seen so many things in the lives of these children which helped to shape their characters - hard work, loving families, perseverance and overcoming of obstacles. Children were taught obedience, and we saw the consequences of their disobedience. Michael has really learned much from the actions of these other children. I know there are many other good books, we just happen to be partial to these, and they have been great favorites for us.

One of the very first books we worked through was a children's workbook from Gospel Publishing House, Prayer Adventures for Boys and Girls. We had, of course, been praying for years, but I wanted Michael to have a deeper understanding of why he prayed, and the results of those prayers. The book has four parts: Enlistment, You're in the Army Now, The Prayer Soldier's Equipment, and The Prayer Soldier's Ammunition. The Heavenly Father is your new Commander in Chief! The book has stories, puzzles and information - all helping your child to become a prayer soldier. I feel this book helped Michael very much to realize that prayer is very powerful and definitely brings results!

We then started working "through the Bible." I have a wonderful old children's Bible from 1954, Golden Treasury of Bible Stories by Arthur Whitefield Spalding, Southern Publishing. The stories seemed to be more in-depth than many of the children's story Bibles I see today. What a joy to read through this Bible. As we would read stories which I had felts to match, we would always take a day to see the feltboard story as well.

At the same time, we had started working through a Bible program called Star Ways, Departing Daily to Bible Adventures by Joe Swaim, Praise Hymn, Inc. This program also starts in Genesis and works through to the Resurrection of Jesus. It's a workbook format and is quite enjoyable. Humorous pictures and stories kept it very interesting for Michael. He was quite amazed when he received a Hate License! A license to hate the things God hates!

Now, at this point, we seemed to have an orderly reading/learning of the Bible going on. But I could sense I didn't have it right yet. God was still talking to me about teaching character.

In preparation for the beginning of a new school year, I purchased Searching for Treasure from the Sycamore Tree, I purchased For Instructions in Righteousness after seeing a little ad in a magazine, and I bought The Narrow Way Curriculum at a homeschool convention.

Searching For Treasure, A Guide to Wisdom and Character Development by Marty Elwell - Michael's favorite! We really like this book. The book is for the entire family; even very young children can benefit from the Scripture readings and the discussions. The book has Scripture cards to cut out for each lesson. There is a separate coloring book, but Michael likes to color the pictures in the main book. The reason we enjoy this book so much is because it really touches on things we face right now in our everyday lives. The first section of lessons is Understanding Wisdom. There are great comparisons between being foolish and being wise. The second section is Developing Right Relationships, and specifically addresses choosing friends. This came at a perfect time for us as Michael was trying to understand which of the neighbor children were truly his friends. The third section of lessons is Controlling Yourself (anger, pride, temptation). Section four - Controlling What You Say (arguing and complaining, gossiping, lying). Section five is Avoiding the Way of the Wicked. The last section of lessons is Following the Way of the Righteous. The book ends with craft and game ideas, and the book even has a game board included. Very nice! Michael and I have had fantastic personal discussions while working through Searching For Treasure.

For Instructions In Righteousness by Pam Forster (Doorposts). This is by far the best reference book I own (excepting the Bible) for teaching character. Mrs. Forster offers many suggestions on using the book. Let me share with you one section which Michael and I have completed. We were absolutely amazed at what we learned! We chose the sin of Complaining/Ingratitude. The section opens with General Information and Commandments about this sin. You get this information by reading the numerous Scripture references Mrs. Forster has outlined. The next section is What Happens, or Should Happen to the Complainer. Once again, there are numerous Scripture references to gather this information. The remaining headings, followed by Scripture references, are: The Sin of Complaining is Likened to, The Blessings of Gratefulness, Stories that Illustrate the Blessings of Thankfulness, Stories that Illustrate Complaining and Ingratitude, Verses to Memorize. We were just astounded to read God's Word pertaining to this sin. We learned that where there is complaining and ingratitude, someone's anger is usually kindled! This was just an example of one sin - there are 53 outlined in the book!

The Narrow Way Character Curriculum, Building Godly Characters - from Pearables. At our homeschool convention nearly two years ago, Michael and I walked the vendor hall. This was the first year that I knew exactly what I would be using, and I didn't feel there was anything I needed to buy. I started to walk past the Pearables booth, but "something" drew me over. I looked at the curriculum book, I looked at the Pearables stories. A woman stopped by to purchase a set of the storybooks and proceeded to tell me how wonderful the curriculum was. You know how you feel when you know you have found something that you think would be good for your family? Well, I had that feeling ... but I walked away. Before we left the vendor hall, I went back and looked at it one more time. Again, I walked away. I went out and sat with my friend's three children while she went in to shop. I asked her to take a look at the program while she was browsing. (I think she was in mild shock that I had walked out without buying anything!) When she came out, laden with packages, she said that the Narrow Way program looked nice, but that she felt I could basically put together a program like that myself. We then prepared to leave. But there was that feeling. I knew I was supposed to get that program. I hesitated because I didn't have the money. I called home and asked Rich for permission to put the purchase on a credit card. He agreed. I went back into the hall and went to the booth. I asked if I could purchase the program with a credit card, and was told that they didn't accept credit cards! Hmmm... maybe I WASN'T supposed to get the books. She said they would take a personal check, I told her I didn't have enough money in my account. She smiled so nicely and said she would hold a check for me until my next payday if that would be helpful to me. Yes! It would! Rich was working overtime and I wouldn't be putting anything on credit! Yippee! I knew that I knew that I knew God was telling me to get this. Maybe I could put material together which would be similar to this - but I wouldn't. I wouldn't take the time. And one of the nicest things about the book is that it tells me, as a parent, what to say during the lesson. I can certainly use my own words, but I find that the insight of the people who put the material together is such that *I* can learn from them as well. There are 26 lessons on Faith, 27 on Virtue, 19 on Knowledge, 9 on Temperence, 19 on Patience, 20 on Godliness, 14 on Brotherly Kindness, and 10 on Charity. The program is not flashy - there are no games, activities or worksheets. It is a wonderful teaching through 2Peter 1:4-8:
"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ!" 2Peter 1:4-8
We've rotated around many of the programs we have. At times, I've let The Narrow Way Curriculum sit while we've worked in other programs. Several months ago, I felt very strongly that God was telling me, "Linda, I've shown you this program, I want you to use it." I was almost startled, but we got back to it! As Michael and I work through The Narrow Way, I see that it is beneficial for him - but I believe God really chose it for me! :-)

We also do the Royal Rangers program here at home. Michael is just getting ready to move up into Pioneers! We completed his Straight Arrows here at home, took him through Buckaroos, and we are ready for Pioneers! Each of these meetings we have contains a character lesson, too.

Contender's For the Faith is another program we do here at home. Michael earns badges, completes craft projects, and works on Scripture memorization. Each of these meetings contains a character lesson as well! During these meetings we've been working through Josh McDowell's, Don't Check Your Brains at the Door, A Book of Christian Evidences.

Other books we have which we enjoy/enjoyed/plan to enjoy :

Touching Incidents and Remarkable Answers to Prayer compiled by Rev. S.B. Shaw. This book was originally written in 1893; we have a 1907 copy. There are approximately 130 true stories. Many of them made me weep! I've had so many answers to prayer in my life - I love to read stories of how God answers prayers.

Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories - We still love these stories!

Wise Words, Family Stories that Bring the Proverbs to Life by Peter Leithart

Tiger and Tom and Other Stories for Boys
The Kings Daughter and Other Stories for Girls
Choice Stories...for Children
Stories Worth Re-Reading
Sabbath Readings for the Home Circle

Wisdom and the Millers by Mildred A. Martin
Storytime with the Millers
Missionary Stories with the Millers
Prudence and the Millers
School Days with the Millers

Moral Lessons of Yesteryear compiled by A.L. Byers

Books we've purchased from the Keepers of the Faith Catalog:
The Little Woodchopper
Princess in Calico
Stand By, Boys!
Cherry Cobbler and Other Stories About Young Christians
The Little Missionaries and Other Stories
Twelve Youthful Martyrs
Mountain Born
A Place for Peter
The Man of the House
Little Pete and other Stories

A last book I want to mention is Bless Your Children Every Day by Dr. Mary Ruth Swope. Every school day we always start our morning with a prayer and a blessing from this book. I choose one and read the blessing over Michael. Here is an example:

Listening Ears:
In the name of Jesus Christ:
I command your ears to hear clearly today. You will hear and understand with spiritual ears the Word of God. Like the wise man who built his house upon the rock, may you hear the sayings of Jesus and follow them. May the seed of the Word fall on fertile ground in your heart so that you will not only hear and understand but also bear and bring forth fruit a hundred times over. You will also hear and heed the words of your parents and other elders. Their words of wisdom will be precious to you. I bless the ears of your heart that they will hear the words of knowledge and wisdom that are spoken to you today by God's righteous ones one earth. Proverbs 18:15; Matthew 7:24, 13:16,23; Romans 2:13; James 1:19-25

I know that I cannot force Michael to a be a person of good character. But I do know that I am commanded to train him up in the way he should go. He may not have understood what it meant to be virtuous - but after 27 lessons on virtue, he has now been taught ... he should be able to recognize virtue when he sees it. As he continues to be educated, he should have the tools he needs to make right choices in his life.

I spent so much time buying this curriculum and that curriculum, making plans - planning our academics heavily. But I thank God that he has shown me how important is the time we give to Him and studying His Word. I've learned to simplify our academics. I'm very happy with the guidance God has given me as I've purchased curriculum and books to aid in our understanding of Him and what He wants for our lives.

(Editor's note: Michael is a "big" boy now, but this article is timeless! His mom has been a good friend of mine for almost 6 years. Her online used book store is the source of much of our family's wonderful home library! Linda has the most reasonable prices for *living* books on the internet, with most books ranging from only $1.00 - $3.00. She is constantly resupplying her pages with great books! Do be sure to visit Linda's Used Books... and tell her Heather sent you!)

Links of Interest...

Praise Hymn, Inc. ... 1-803-292-1990 (Star Ways)
Sycamore Tree ... 714-650-4466 (Searching for Treasure)
Doorposts... 503-698-7973 (For Instructions in Righteousness)
Pearables ... P.O. Box 9887, Colorado Springs, CO 80932 (The Narrow Way)
Keepers of the Faith ... P.O. Box 100, Ironwood, MI 49938-0100 (Contenders for the Faith (boys), Keepers at Home (girls))
Swope Enterprises ... 1-800-447-9772 (Bless Your Children Every Day)

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