Welcome to the Character Building for Families Blog!

Hi! I’m Lee Ann Rubsam, author of Character Building for Families. My husband and I are former homeschoolers. (Our children are grown now.) We started homeschooling back in the pioneer days of the homeschooling movement, before many people knew what homeschooling was. Our daughters were with us at home for their entire elementary and high school education. We had a blast together!

Character Building for Families is the character curriculum which I wrote for them many years ago, because I saw a need in our family for an organized approach to character training, rather than teaching it in a hit-or-miss fashion. (I was concerned about the “miss” part.)

I hope you will visit our Character Building for Families website to see what our books have to offer. They are totally Bible-based, easy to use, are a great way for the entire family to grow together in Christ-like character qualities, and your kids will love them.

Volume1     Volume2

We have quite a bit of free info for you at the Character Building for Families website, some which is specifically geared toward homeschooling families and some which is just plain encouraging for all Christians!  You may want to check out our The Names of God page, which alphabetically lists over 600 of God’s names and titles, as recorded in the KJV Bible.

We have other books for you as well, including River Life: Entering into the Character of Jesus, which is a study geared toward high schoolers and adults, and Before Whom We Stand: The Everyman’s Guide to the Nature of God. For a full listing of our books, please visit our website, Full Gospel Family Publications.

So, that’s the website, but what about this blog? Our goal is to talk about various homeschool topics, especially character education from a homeschool perspective. I will post a few of our older articles to begin with, but you will also find fresh material showing up here on a regular basis. If you don’t want to miss a thing, in the right-hand column of this page, you will find an option to subscribe via e-mail.

Is Your (Homeschool) Pride Showing?

happychildrenreadingSo, maybe you and your family are homeschool veterans. You’ve been at it for a few years now, you’ve got a handle on how it works, the kids are well-behaved most of the time, and they are doing wonderfully academically. You don’t struggle with them having the sin issues which your neighbors and even some of your church friends are dealing with in their children. Low self-esteem? What’s that? And best of all, your whole family, from the teenagers down to the toddlers, know and love Jesus.

What I’ve just described is why many of us decided to homeschool in the first place. We had a vision of nurturing up our children in the ways of the Lord. Our goal was to train their tender, innocent hearts to love Him passionately and to live in joyful obedience to Him. We wanted to give them the best education we possibly could, with one-on-one tutoring. And we hoped to keep them from having to deal with evil before they had the maturity to resist it, to keep them physically safe, and to shield them emotionally from cruel peers who would try to tear down their healthy perceptions of who they are. To whatever measure you and your family have been successful in accomplishing these goals, it is due to God’s grace and blessing upon your efforts. It’s also because you’ve been faithful to the mission He has given you.

But there is a weed that particularly loves to grow in the homeschool garden — one we need to be vigilant to watch for and uproot. It is rather subtle, and in its initial stages, often looks like the genuine plants we are trying to raise. It’s the sin of pride, and if we’re not aware of it, we can be quite blind to its existence in ourselves and in our children.

How does it manifest? In many ways, but here are a few questions which will help us to recognize it, so that we can rip it out before it gets too large:

  1. Do my children and I feel spiritually superior to those who have chosen public or private education? (Do we think homeschooling is “God’s way” and that those who don’t do it are not listening to Him?)
  2. Do I feel a little smug about how well my children perform — grades, being ahead of their age group academically, in their artistic talents, etc.?
  3. Do I brag about their accomplishments a lot? Or do they?
  4. When someone else’s child goes astray, do I have thoughts such as, “If they had only taken the time to homeschool, this wouldn’t have happened”?
  5. Do my children monopolize conversations, by talking about themselves and their opinions, rather than listening to, and asking into, the lives and thoughts of others?

These are just a few of the signs of pride in our hearts over our homeschooling lifestyle. One of the reasons pride is so sneaky is because many times it is cloaked in a measure of truth. It justifies itself with pretty plausible rationale.

Perhaps your children do excel because you’ve been able to spend more individual educational time with them. Be grateful that God gave you the ability to provide those nurturing opportunities for them. (And realize that there are plenty of children who also excel, who are not homeschooled — some of them in spite of having to overcome great obstacles.)

Perhaps if the Jones family had homeschooled their Danny, he wouldn’t have had as much chance to run around with a bad crowd. But it isn’t ours to think. We don’t know the reasons Danny went wrong, how much his parents tried to keep him going in the right direction — or even whether, in spite of our best efforts, our own children could do the same thing, once they are out from under our protective covering.

Homeschooling is a wonderful vehicle to help our children thrive, one for which we can be most thankful, but it is not the Savior. Jesus is. And He has a variety of ways to work salvation and solid character in people. He is the Redeemer of both  those who never wander far from Him and those who spend some time in the pig sty. Have the compassion to pray for your neighbors’ Danny and to weep along with them. And have the prayerful fear of the Lord to realize it is only by His keeping mercy that your own children do not stray.

Quite honestly, homeschooling provides a hospitable environment for pride to grow in — because, although the homeschool movement enjoys more acceptance now than it did thirty years ago, it is sometimes still an uphill climb to prove to our society that we can do a great job of educating children who will not end up backward and who can function well in the “real” world. The temptation is to build our trust on a model of performance and comparing ourselves to non-homeschoolers. We’ve got to lay the ax to the root of that mindset whenever and wherever we see it in ourselves and in our children.

If we will be vigilant to recognize pride for what it is, and to humble ourselves before God and people, the Lord will have a free hand to bless our families — and also to make us His instruments to bless the world around us.

 

Character Building for Families

Help! My Kids Aren’t Listening to Me!

familycirclepoempicSo, you’re a brand-new homeschooling parent. You’ve been at it now for a week or two (maybe a little longer). You went into this with enthusiasm in your heart, and beautiful visions in your head of happy, loving hours together with your children, all of you as ardent as could be about learning just scads of great stuff. Maybe you dreamed of creating art masterpieces and pint-size architectural wonders together. Perhaps you were going to jointly discover scientific breakthroughs in your very own  lab in the basement, just like Thomas Edison. All was going to be laughter and good times together. Homeschooling is fun, right?

The problem is, Jimmy and Chrissy don’t want to reinvent the light bulb or paint a Renoir, and they certainly don’t want to learn arithmetic or write a book report. And besides it taking all your energy to get them to push a pencil through a couple of worksheets for twenty minutes, they … um … are sassy.

I don’t know why this is, but initially, homeschooling can bring out the worst in kids. Even if they’ve been pretty good about obeying and being respectful before you began the homeschooling adventure, you might find that there’s something about you taking on the role of schoolmarm that changes how they view and respond to you. If your children have already experienced a traditional school, they may even have been squeaky-clean models of comportment there — but it all changes when Mom is the teacher.

The theological reason for that has sometimes been called “the depraved nature” — that fallen, sinful soul we are all born with. Most children are not highly motivated to learn, unless the subject happens to be a particular passion for them. They don’t want to work; they want to do whatever they want to do. We grownups are the same way, only we’ve matured enough to discipline ourselves to do stuff we know is good for us to do, even if we don’t enjoy it.

In the long run, homeschooling your children will be far more successful if you make your main goal for the first year to lay the foundations of Christ-like character in your children — especially that they learn to relate to you, the parent, with respect and obedience.  Outwardly right behavior is not enough: you will need to address and bring transformation to what is going on in  their hearts. This means keeping a watchful eye for attitudes in your children which do not seem to be right, and then dealing with those immediately. It’s a lot of work. It is far easier to ignore little things, and just keep pushing to get the academic stuff done.

Yes, your children are still going to do their school assignments, and you will progress in that area, but you may not get as much done in that first year as you had hoped (or as you will in years to come), because you might have to interrupt your lesson times frequently to deal with needed attitude adjustments. But once you get the foundations in place, you will make up for lost time in the  academic side of their education.

Am I saying you will be able to fix all the character issues in the first year, and it will be smooth sailing from thereon? No, just that it will get easier over time. Think about it: is God still working with you on your character? It’s the same with our children. Ongoing conforming to the character of Jesus is needed for all of us. But if you focus on the major points of dealing with budding rebellion at the heart level and teaching your children how to respond to you with obedience and honor, you will have accomplished a tremendous amount of “real” learning, which will aid them throughout their lifetimes.

Maybe you feel inadequate to the task, and don’t even know where to start. For an overview, you might enjoy reading J. C. Ryle’s classic article The Duties of Parents, available as a free, short e-book. And for more comprehensive help, you might want to take a look at our Character Building for Families manuals (see below). They will help you not only teach your children how to behave well, but they will also help you to get at the heart issues which motivate their behavior. Ultimately, it’s about bringing our children to know and love Jesus wholeheartedly.

 

Character Building for Families

 

New to Homeschooling? Let’s Talk Pros and Cons (Part 2)

scalephoto2Last time, we talked about the advantages of homeschooling. The positives far outweigh the negatives, but it doesn’t hurt to be realistic. The disadvantages are not insurmountable, but we do need to be aware that they exist.

1.)  The discipline it requires for both parent and child — I was amused when one of my older daughter’s teenaged friends said she was trying to convince her mom to homeschool her, because she, too, wanted to sleep in until 10:00 in the morning and sit around in her pajamas all day.  Um, we didn’t do that. We set the alarm, just like other folks, got ourselves together, spent time in prayer, and settled down to the books by 9:00 a.m. (well, most mornings).

Even if you and the kids do wear your pajamas all day, you should have some sort of schedule and try to stick to it. There will be days when the schedule goes down the tubes, but having one and managing to stay with it most days is important — because for most of us, school will never happen all by itself.

2.)  The time it takes to prepare lessons – Unless your plan is to sit your child down in front of a computer all day and never take a peek at what he is being taught or whether goals are being reached, you will have to check out the teaching materials ahead of time and figure out where things are going — and if you even like where they’re going! If you don’t, the inevitable moment will come when Johnny suddenly hollers, “Mom, I don’t get this! Help meeeeee!” … and you won’t have a clue how to do it.

You will probably need more lesson planning/preparation time in the early grades, but the need never quite goes away, even in the high school years. How much time you spend on it will depend on what curriculum provider you go with and whether you use books, videos, or a combination of the two.

3.)  Lack of some resources which are available in traditional school — Oh, how we struggled with trying to examine amoebas under our hobby store microscope! Be thankful if you can teach biology and chemistry via video. But still, it’s not quite the same as the hands-on science labs. If you want the real experience, it can be done at a lot of expense through science companies or hobby stores which cater to homeschool families. Or, you can send your child for a class or two to the local public school, if it doesn’t bother you to do that. (It would have bothered me plenty.)

We didn’t dissect stuff. I promised the girls, “We will never poke around on the insides of anything other than a mushroom or a bean seed, and you will not have smelly hands from touching critters preserved in formaldehyde.” We did all right, since neither of the girls opted for science-related careers.

If your child wants to play a musical instrument other than guitar or piano, that will be hard to accomplish in a homeschool setting — unless he  can join a junior community orchestra or take part in a traditional school’s music program. It can be done if you want to. It just takes more effort.

As far as sports, you’re probably going to have to step outside your family circle to fully experience them. I remember my attempt to teach one of my daughters the art of playing basketball at the local park. I am not very coordinated. It wasn’t going well. Unfortunately, there was a guy there also shooting hoops. He stared at my pathetic attempts for quite a while. Then, deciding he couldn’t stand the pain anymore, he volunteered, “Here, lady, let me show your kid how!” It was my lesson in humility for the day. There is always the city recreation department or the YMCA, if it’s important to you to have your children involved in team sports.

4.)  Loneliness — Some homeschooling experts will tell you it’s better for your children to do almost all their interacting with adults. They say that having your young ones playing with children from outside your home just introduces them to negative peer habits, and that they don’t really need other children anyway.

Yes, keeping your child away from peers as much as possible will cut down on bad habits learned and the pain that comes from awful things other kids say and do sometimes. We did that, to a point. But children quite naturally enjoy playing and talking with people their own age. That’s normal. It also seems to be a need in their lives.

If you have a good-sized family, loneliness for others their own age may not be a big problem for your children. (But they will still probably want friends outside of their brothers and sisters.) Smaller families have to work at it a little harder. Perhaps your church or a local homeschool support group will be a solution for you. Yes, be careful about who your kids spend time with, and keep your ears and eyes open to what they are doing, but don’t let them get too isolated.

All of the disadvantages mentioned do have solutions. But you have to make an effort to achieve them, rather than expecting them to magically happen. Don’t let the drawbacks discourage you; just be aware of them. And remind yourself often that the positives of homeschooling far outweigh the negatives.

 

Character Building for Families

New to Homeschooling? Let’s Talk Pros and Cons (Part 1)

scalephoto2So, you’re getting ready to homeschool for the very first time. Good for you! There are many advantages to homeschooling, and here are just a few:

1.)  You guide what your children learn and from what perspective. This was the reason we decided to homeschool. We wanted to give our children a biblical worldview, and we didn’t want to waste energy constantly trying to undo what they would be taught by someone else.

2.)  Your children can learn at their own pace. Although you will need to keep goals for the school year in mind and schedule accordingly, your schedule  does not need to be set in stone. Homeschooling gives the freedom to slow down a little or go back over a topic until it is mastered, if your child doesn’t nail it the first time. This is especially important in the early years, when foundations in reading and arithmetic are laid. If the foundations are shaky, it isn’t going to do much good to go on building, so it’s better to take extra time to learn basic concepts well. Homeschooling gives you the flexibility to do that. On the flip side, if your child is out way ahead of the game, he or she can learn at a faster pace without having to wait for other students to catch up.

3.)  You can answer their questions and teach them the practical stuff of life as the need arises. Take advantage of those special teaching moments that come up naturally during the day, which have nothing to do with the class at hand. Does your child suddenly pop out with a question, smack dab in the middle of a math lesson,  about God, or how to handle a relationship problem with a neighbor child, or how insects manage to hang upside down on the ceiling? Use the opportunity! Math can wait.

4.)  You can offer classes which might not be available to your children in a traditional school. Do you own a home business or excel at a hobby? Do you know the fine points of  creating a website or how to build a treehouse? Teach your children what you know.

Teach them life skills. Many traditional schools include this topic in their educational program, but it just works better in a natural setting. You can teach some life skills  as a “class,” but a lot of  this type of learning  is going to happen informally along the way. We tried to make sure our daughters were as prepared as possible to live in the “real world” once they were grown. I kept that goal in the back of my mind throughout our homeschooling years, and I kept a checklist of things I felt they would need to know.

5.)  You can tailor your teaching to how your children learn. Some kids learn best by hearing, some by processing  visually, some by participating in hands-on activities. Whatever your child’s learning style, you can choose a curriculum which fits him or her well — or adapt your curriculum to accommodate him. This is often not practically possible in a traditional school setting, although many teachers do their best to provide a variety of learning opportunities for their students.

The points I’ve just mentioned can be boiled down to flexibility — one of the greatest advantages of homeschooling. There are other obvious reasons people choose to homeschool, such as reducing social contact with children or adults who would be a negative influence, cutting down on exposure to communicable diseases, and avoiding violence possibilities in the institutional school setting.

Next time we will talk about the disadvantages of homeschooling. I think you will find the pros far outweigh the cons, but it’s still good to know what challenges you will have to find ways to overcome.

 

Character Building for Families

 

New to Homeschooling? Classes and Record-Keeping Demystified

one room schoolhouseIf you are new to homeschooling, the responsibility can seem overwhelming, and you may be a bit nervous about it. It’s really not that hard. You’ve gotten the kids this far, and you’ve already taught them a lot of things without thinking twice about it — stuff like bathing, brushing their teeth, tying their shoes, how to use crayons or markers, etc. You succeeded in potty training them, didn’t you? Hey, you are already a great teacher! You can do this!

But maybe you are unsure about what to teach. Of course, there are the basics — math, science, language arts (which is made up of reading and writing, basically), and social studies (history, geography, cultural studies — not all necessarily taught in the same year).

Many states have a requirement that you teach health. You don’t need a textbook or a special class time for this. You can use what Ruth Beechick called the “total immersion method” — which is a fancy way of saying you teach it on the fly, as needed. When they’ve got an owie, teach first aid. Talk about what to do to get better when they are sick, and what not to do, so they won’t get sick. Teach them the four basic food groups or the food pyramid, or however you want to instruct in healthy eating, as you prepare meals together. It’s all just common sense knowledge that you would probably pass along to them at appropriate ages anyway.

What about art, music, and physical education? These are not generally state-required subjects, so you can relax and just have fun with them. For art in the younger grades, you can simply provide the materials and let the children explore as they choose. Get each of them a sketch book and encourage them to use various art media to fill its pages. One of our children had a talent for drawing. We initially bought a few simple how-to books for her to practice with, but eventually she took art classes from a professional artist in our area.

Farm out music education, if you are not a musician yourself. (And yes, you can count those outside lessons as school time!) Sing songs together. Listen to classical music on your public radio station or YouTube. If you are a Christian, worship together using worship music found on YouTube or at other music sources.

Have Dad teach the kids to play basketball or baseball. Go hiking at a local park. Ride bikes or go walking together. Take advantage of your community recreation department or YMCA for sports or swimming lessons. It all counts as phys. ed. and if you do it on the weekends just because you are having a good time together, you can still count it toward school hours accomplished.

Art, music, and phys. ed. do not each need to be done every day of the week. Get a little exercise several days a week, and do the art or music once or twice a week.

If you are a Christian, a Bible course is just as important (really, more important) as all the other core subjects. You can use a course from a curriculum publisher, but there may be times when you will need to discuss areas of doctrine which don’t agree with what you believe. We used a prepared curriculum which came from our denomination for our first child, but with our second, we simply read the Bible aloud together and stopped to talk about what we were reading along the way. I really liked the second approach much better than using a canned curriculum, and I think our daughter learned just as much. We also used Character Building for Families (which I wrote, and am therefore fond of) to teach Christ-like character to our girls. It worked for us — maybe you would like it too!

So those are the basic classes.

What about record-keeping? Requirements vary from state to state, but for your own sanity, keep it as simple as possible. Save the work the children do in their core classes as proof, in case authorities ever question whether you are legitimately teaching the children. Keep a copy of whatever forms you filed with your state department of public education.

If you are required by your state to homeschool a minimum number of hours annually, divide that number of hours by 180 days (for a 9-month school year) to find out how many hours you should put in per day, on average. Keep a record of what days your school was in session, and for how many hours each day. I did that by simply recording the starting and ending time of each day on an ordinary wall calendar.

I also kept track of any hours we spent over the summer doing educational things. Count those camping excursions, summer recreational activities, vacation visits to away-from-home places, or anything which could qualify as a field trip, and add the hours spent doing them into your next school year’s hours. You would be surprised how much legitimate learning goes on over the summer months.

 

Character Building for Families

 

New to Homeschooling?

school_books_smlSo, you are planning on homeschooling your children for the very first time this fall. Congratulations! It is going to be an exciting adventure, and yes, you can do it and do it well!

When you are first starting out, the prospect of teaching your children at home can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be as hard as it seems. Let’s do a little checklist of what needs to be done now so that you are ready when the school year arrives.

1.  Find out what your state’s regulations are and how to comply. — The requirements for each state are different, and it is important to be well informed. Surprisingly (or maybe not), your state’s department of public instruction is not always the best place to find out what the rules are. Some overstate the requirements for homeschooling or ask for more of your family’s personal information than your state law requires.

Your state homeschooling organization, made up of homeschooling parents who stay up-to-date with current law, is usually the best place to find out everything you need to know to be in compliance.  Here’s a list of the state homeschooling organizations, at The Teaching Home.

Do make sure you register with your state. It is important for your own safety (so that no one accuses you of truancy) and for the good reputation of all the homeschool families within your state. Now is a good time to get going on this, so that you don’t come up against any surprises at the last moment.

2.  If possible, join a local homeschool support group, and begin making friends there. Perhaps you already have homeschooling friends who are helping you get started, but connecting with more people with experience under their belts never hurts. Ask lots of questions. Most homeschool veterans are more than happy to take you by the hand and walk you through the process.

3.  Begin deciding what books you will use. Get them ordered soon, to avoid the end-of-summer rush that homeschool curriculum companies tend to experience. Also, having the books in hand for a few weeks before you are ready to start teaching will give you time to familiarize yourself with how the materials are laid out and what to expect.

There are so many choices these days — online programs; correspondence schools which provide accountability, schedule your weekly tasks for you, and do all the grading; publishers who let you choose between ordering a full curriculum package for the year, or who will sell you the individual books and/or video programs you desire.

Some people homeschool using packaged curricula from one publisher and do all the lessons exactly as presented; some use a mixture of publishers; some stick entirely to homeschooling materials they find for free online or at their local library. Every family is different.

My personal feeling is that if you are new to homeschooling, it might be wisest to start out with one publisher for the core classes — language arts, math, science, and social studies. After the first year, when you have a better feel for what you are doing, you may want to branch off and try new things. But having the structure of a full program laid out for you by one curriculum publisher can cut down on frustration and fear of failure when you are a beginner.

Helpful homeschool links (including product review sites)
Homeschool catalog companies listing

For further help in getting started with confidence, you might want to see my website page, Character Building for Families Homeschool Hints. I’ve got some tips there for you, as well as some links to other places with helpful articles.

Over the next few posts, I’ll try to give you more practical ideas to help you get started.

 

Character Building for Families

 

 

Have You Met Ruth Beechick?

Ruth BeechickIf I were to create a Homeschooling for Parents 101 course, it would be made up of Ruth Beechick’s books, The Three R’s (intended for K-3) and You Can Teach Your Child Successfully: Grades 4-8.

Filled with practical, no-nonsense advice and a step-by-step relaxed plan for teaching the basics every child should know, these books are an absolute must for those just beginning to homeschool. They are also chock-full of valuable info that even veteran homeschoolers will find useful. There is something for everyone, whether you are planning on creating your own unit studies, using a hodgepodge of texts, or are locked into one curriculum provider for all subjects.

Mrs. Beechick, who was herself a public school teacher for many years, starts by encouraging her readers that they truly are capable of teaching their own children and doing it well. She takes the mystery out of what  homeschool education is all about, and fills us ordinary moms with a Yes! I think I can do this now! confidence.

She coaches us in how to teach without ever having to purchase textbooks, and if this is the direction you want to go, she will help you do it with excellence. (We used textbooks most of the time, but her ideas still enriched our learning.) She gives valuable information about what children should know when, practical skills that should be taught (some of which your textbooks have probably missed entirely), and how to lighten up, relax, and enjoy teaching your children.

3 RsI found these books very freeing, as I learned from Mrs. Beechick that it is OK to not do every workbook page, if your child already has a good grasp of the material. She has some wonderful ideas about teaching math concepts without having to buy the fancy manipulatives.  And who can beat her “total immersion” approach to teaching health? (Hint: it means teaching common sense health stuff as you go along, and not feeling the need to do a workbook course on brushing teeth and bathing!) In You Can Teach Your Child Successfully, she thoroughly covers how to teach reading, writing, science and health, math, social studies, the arts, and the Bible.

These books are down-to-earth, fast and enjoyable reading. They will give you a new confidence and enthusiasm for homeschooling, and they will teach you ways to make learning enjoyable for your children as well. I appreciated the very Christ-centered focus of the materials.

You will be passing these books around to many of your friends. I wish I had bought two sets, because mine were loaned out so much.

Note: The Three R’s is actually a compilation of three of her booklets: A Home Start in Reading, A Strong Start in Language, and An Easy Start in Arithmetic. Each of them can also be purchased individually, if desired.

Ruth Beechick page at Amazon
The Three R’s  (K-3)
You Can Teach Your Child Successfully: Grades 4-8

Bio of Ruth Beechick

 

Character Building for Families