Category Archives: character education

What About Life Skills?

Am I teaching everything my child will need to know in order to function well in life? This is a question in many homeschooling parents’ minds. We tend to be anxious about whether we have left gaps in their learning.

The truth is, many young adults brought up in a traditional school setting also have a huge gap in their education. Specifically, while they may have conquered academics, an increasing number are deficient in basic life skills, ranging from knowing how to carry out everyday tasks to the ability to interact well with other people.

In our home, we included a “Life Skills” class for all four years of our children’s high school experience. Whether your state homeschooling laws allow you to give high school credit for such a class or not, it really should be a goal to teach our children how to do life well in non-academic areas, no matter what type of higher education or career they are planning on.

Here is a checklist of life skills you may want to teach your child before they reach adulthood:

Social Skills

  • Basic manners
  • All the “Be kind to one another” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” things. (While this may seem to be a no-brainer, a casual dance through social media reveals that caring for the feelings of others is a scarce commodity, even among Christians.)
  • Listening – includes being willing to hear, discuss, and learn from someone else’s opinion or perspective without feeling threatened
  • Knowing how to resolve conflict or differences of opinion without anger
  • Conversational skills —
    — Asking questions to start conversation and show interest in others
    — Making eye contact, maintaining appropriate space from other people’s faces, being in control of body language
    — Dialoguing, rather than dominating
  • Empathy – being able to put oneself in the other person’s shoes and respond accordingly
  • Functioning well as a “team player”
  • Having the courage to say no when necessary
  • Coping with criticism — using it to learn, but refusing to let it drag down self-esteem

Thinking Skills

  • Following step-by-step instructions
  • Organizing thoughts, both oral and written (Outlining practice helps with this.)
  • Logic – cause and effect (“If this, then that.”)
  • Decision-making

Responsibility / Reliability

  • Being on time
  • Following through on commitments, such as verbal or written promises and appointments
  • Having a good work ethic – not goofing off, doing one’s best, being worthy of the wage paid

Servanthood

  • Valuing others
  • Looking out for the needs of others before self — includes getting rid of that “What’s in it for me?” attitude
  • Recognizing and avoiding intimidation and manipulation tactics
  • Leading by example, rather than bossing people

Living a Healthy Lifestyle

  • Nutritional food basics
  • Cleanliness
  • Common sense first aid
  • Advanced first aid — knowing how to do the Heimlich maneuver for both children and adults; perhaps CPR training, too
  • Natural healing remedies
  • What’s minor versus what’s important to see a doctor about

Housekeeping (both boys and girls for many of these)

  • How to clean – dusting, vacuuming, bathrooms, etc.
  • Washing, drying, and folding clothes
  • Neatness – tackling clutter, organizational skills
  • Cooking – the basics, including how to follow a recipe
  • Sewing – simple mending tasks, such as sewing on a button, fixing a torn seam, darning a hole, hemming
  • Ironing
  • Mowing lawn
  • Gardening (and preserving the harvest)

Auto

  • Knowing what is serious and needs immediate attention
  • How to air up a tire
  • Fluids checks
  • How to wash that critter!

Home Repairs and Maintenance

  • Basic tool use – hammers, wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers (Yep! Girls too!)
  • Simple plumbing and electrical fixes
  • Painting / remodeling / construction
  • (You can find out how to fix just about everything on YouTube!)

Money Management

  • Faithful giving to the Lord (establishing tithing habits)
  • Shopping for deals
  • Budgeting
  • Responsible credit card use and management
  • Managing / balancing a checking account
  • Developing saving habits
  • Investment knowledge and practice
  • How loans work; simple and compound interest
  • Basic economics knowledge – Fun book: Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? (affiliate link) (Other “Uncle Eric” books on finance)
  • Filing taxes

Basic Computer Skills

  • Downloads and uploads
  • Maintenance
  • Minor fixes
  • Using a word processing program proficiently

Self-Learning

  • How to research answers online
  • How to efficiently study and retain knowledge
  • Online course sites, such as Udemy, Lynda, SkillShare
  • YouTube

This list is not exhaustive – but it may seem a bit … exhausting. Keep in mind that it doesn’t all have to be done in a twelve-week course. You can spread the learning out over many years, exploring new skills as they seem relevant and age-appropriate. Go over your checklist from time to time, just to make sure you are making headway and not forgetting anything vital.

I have probably not caught everything, so if you see something missing in this list, please add your thoughts to the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

 

Character Building for Families

The Virtue of Contentment

Godliness with Contentment

One of the rarest character qualities to be seen in our day is contentment. Contentment comes from knowing God’s nature, being convinced of His delight in caring for His children, and having a desire to live life yielded to Him. I don’t believe it is possible to live a satisfied life without such understanding.

Because our society has increasingly fallen further away from the Lord,  an entitlement attitude has perverted the concept of what real contentment is. This deception has  made great inroads into the Church as well. Our children are encouraged to think of themselves as very special individuals, but have not always been taught to esteem and defer to others as equally special. Exalted, unrealistic expectations have been planted in them that they can do and be whatever their minds can imagine, and that they deserve the top of the line, rather than patiently working to reach attainable goals. As a result, many are grossly dissatisfied with life.

How can we who are Christian parents help our children to overcome the prevailing entitlement mentality — to live unselfishly, and to be content with the blessings God gives them? It is not an easy task. It requires diligence in laying foundational truths from the Bible in their thinking and then reinforcing corresponding right attitudes through repeated reminders and applications.

There is a strong correlation between gratitude and contentment. If we can teach our children to cultivate a habit of thanking God for every blessing which comes their way, and to appreciate even the smallest kindnesses people show them, contentment will naturally follow on the heels of the grateful heart they develop.

We must teach them to be thankful, not only when they receive exactly what they desired, but whenever the Lord or another person gives or does something for them — even if the gift doesn’t perfectly fit  what they had hoped for. We teach them to appreciate the heart of love in which the gift was given, not focusing on whether it met their expectations to the last iota. Some of the biggest blessings we will ever receive don’t initially look like what we had envisioned, but over time, we come to understand that there was a hidden treasure inside of them.

Some blessings are beginning steps to larger ones. The Lord releases goodness into our lives in increments. He watches to see how we handle what we are given — the attitude we have toward the gift, how responsible we are in caring for it, and whether we are mature enough to handle a greater blessing in the future.

We must teach our children not only to be content with material goods, but also with the people God places in their lives. Teach them to accept and love people, flaws and all, and to look for the precious nuggets in each person. If they can’t find anything to love in someone, suggest that they ask the Lord to reveal to them what that person’s good points are. I have found that some of the most irritating people in my life became treasured friends, as I asked the Lord to show me what He saw in them.

We must also help our children realize that the good things which come our way are not all rights we naturally should expect. Some are undeserved blessings, given simply because God or people love us. Some require patience and hard work to acquire.

Contentment comes from trusting that God intends great good for us. He will not let us down, or give us something nasty in answer to our prayers for good things. Contentment also comes from learning to give unselfishly to others. The more we give of ourselves, the happier we become, because we are acting as our Father in heaven acts. Most importantly of all, true contentment comes in knowing God intimately.

If you would like a step-by-step starting plan for cultivating contentment and a thankful heart in your children, my book, Character Building for Families, Volume 1 contains a 17-day unit on contentment and a 12-day unit on gratitude which will get your family headed in the right direction.

Character Building for Families

 

Character Building for Families

 

 

 

Finding Strengths in Your Child’s Weaknesses (Part 1)

Norman Rockwell Girl with Black EyeWhen we see faults in our children’s character, our feelings can range from annoyance to serious concern. Perhaps you have been trying to fix particular attitude problems your kids have, but although you’ve lectured to exhaustion, the issues persist.

It can be discouraging — especially if you recognize that the faults you see in them are your own areas of weakness. Our children are often miniature mirrors of ourselves, and that’s not always pleasant to acknowledge. We don’t want them to make the same mistakes and suffer the same consequences we have, and sometimes we blame ourselves, thinking we’ve inadvertently trained our bad habits right into them!

There’s hope, and it starts with realizing that many negative character traits can be turned into utterly positive ones, as we call upon the Lord for His assistance. He’s the One Who said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

While it isn’t the case across the board, some character flaws are actually good qualities in disguise. Originally, mankind had been created in the image of God, bearing an accurate reflection of His nature, but the resemblance was marred when Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the garden. All of us have inherited the sin nature and the damaged character traits which go with it. Now, the God-image in us is grossly distorted, like how those mirrors in carnival fun houses look — only worse. What was once beautiful became ugly.

Here’s the good news, though: ever since Jesus redeemed mankind through His atonement at the cross, He has been restoring all things. He wants to restore you and your children, too — including those besetting character flaws. The negative traits can be transformed back into what God originally intended them to be.

Let’s take a look at some common negative character qualities, and see what God wants to restore us to:

1.) Stubbornness becomes persistence and perseverance when we allow God to reshape us. The persistence/persevering side of this character trait is crucial for intercessors, leaders, and problem solvers.

2.) Criticalness is the flip side of discernment. Discernment is a vital tool in getting God’s kingdom work done. When we understand the difference between these two, we no longer have to feel paralyzed by negative impressions received in our spirit-man. (See my article, Criticalness or Discernment? at my Out of the Fire blog for how to know the difference.)

3.) Bossiness is the immature mark of born leadership. Born leaders see the goal and just want to get it done! Developing a heart of servanthood helps us overcome bossiness.

4.) Arrogance is transformed into confidence. Arrogance is all about me and what I can do in my strength; confidence is about knowing who I am in Christ and letting His Spirit work through me.

5.) The tendency to be controlling becomes decisiveness and the ability to take the lead when a need presents itself. Control has a root of not trusting God. As we yield to Him and let go, He teaches us when to take the reins and when to restrain ourselves. We learn to delegate, rather than manipulate, and to leave our hands off of whatever is not our realm of responsibility.

6.) Paralyzing timidity and fearful caution change into prudence which weighs situations and moves forward in wisdom.

7.) Blunt lack of tact, when redeemed, becomes a steady directness, a stay-the-course truthfulness, seasoned with grace.

8.) Those who are oversensitive to the actions and words of others usually have an acute ability to hear the Lord hidden inside of them. They can also be keenly empathetic toward the pain of others.

(9.) Self-pity, redirected, becomes compassion.

The Holy Spirit desires to remold each of us so that these negative traits become the positives they were meant to be. He renews our minds and imparts His heart to us, as we spend time in prayer, Bible meditation, and listening to Him.

The Lord has other means to restore the God-image within us as well:

  1. Suffering brings forth humility and compassion for others.
  2. Yielding ourselves to His discipline, rather than making excuses for why we are justified in keeping our weaknesses,  helps us achieve transformation into positive character faster.
  3. Allowing Him to bring us through testings creates dependency on Him for His strength.
  4. Submitting ourselves to others on a regular basis builds humility within.

All of these are necessary components for growing in Christ-likeness. The refiner’s fire cannot be avoided if we wish to move forward in the Lord’s plans for us. We and our kids need to know that. We can ask Him to redeem our areas of weakness, and He will be faithful to answer us.

When we understand that many of our particular faults are actually God-designed traits which are part of our purpose in Him (once they are restored), it is far easier to love ourselves as we are and to cooperate with God to set things right.

Next time, we’ll talk about how we can help our children come into the positive side of their character challenges.

Part 2

 

Character Building for Families

 

New Discounts and Ordering Options

U. S. Customers:

Character Building for Families SetEverybody likes receiving discounts — and at Full Gospel Family Publications, we like giving them out, too! That’s why, for our U. S. customers, we are offering a 20% discount on orders of 5 or more Character Building for Families (either Volume 1 or 2, mix or match). Put together a group order for  your homeschool co-op or homeschooling buddies and save $3.20 per book. Order at our Character Building for Families homepage.

River Life Student EditionWe also offer a 25% discount on 5-10 copies of River Life: Entering into the Character of Jesus (ideal for your homeschooling teens). Order more than 10 copies and receive a 30% discount. Order at our River Life page.

As always, Media Mail shipping is free on all our products.

International Customers:

Over the years, shipping internationally has become extremely expensive, and I really hate how much we have to charge our international customers to ship your printed materials.

We have another solution for you. You can now purchase Character Building for Families and River Life: Entering into the Character of Jesus very reasonably as PDFs. Go to our ordering page, click on the button which applies to where you live, and look for the PDF options on the ordering page for significant savings.

(We’re not entirely automated, so we’ll e-mail your PDF to you. Please give us a short amount of response time.)

Sorry, PDFs are not available to U. S. customers.

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

 

Raising Them Moral, or Raising Them Christian?

good childrenDuring an interview, I was once asked which is the most important character trait to cultivate in our children. My immediate answer was, “a passion for Jesus.” We can have a measure of success in educating our kids to be truthful, responsible, moral citizens, but if we don’t reach their hearts with the message of their need for Jesus and bring them into a vibrant relationship with Him, what have we really accomplished?

In the secular world, both in our public school systems and in business, character training has become a big deal in recent years. Educators and corporate leaders are discovering the need to teach people within their organizations the basics of integrity and living responsibly, for the sake of alleviating chaos in the system and bringing about greater productivity. Secular character education companies are currently making big bucks trying to teach people how to behave decently.

Now, I don’t have a problem with schools and corporations teaching people the rudiments of good character. If we’ve got a society full of broken homes, where many children are being raised with little concept of behaving in a principled, civilized manner, somebody has to take matters in hand, or we eventually end up with anarchy. But cleaning up the outside of the cup, while the inside is still pretty much a mess, and keeping people under control by convincing them that behaving well will be advantageous to them and society (and that not behaving well will bring painful consequences), has its limitations. The severest limitation of all is an eternal one.

So, what does this have to do with homeschooling families? Simply this: if we are not vigilant, it is very easy for us, too, to teach our children to be outstanding models of good character without it ever reaching their hearts. We have them in an ideal environment, with little outside corrupting influences most of the time. We tend to monitor and protect what goes in their eyes and ears through the TV, computer, and other media. We watch over who they spend time with outside of our homes, so that they are not involved on a daily basis with other people’s out-of-control lifestyles. And we instruct them in how a Christian should live through the Bible, teaching materials, lectures, and through being role models to them.

Unfortunately, sometimes it can escape our notice that, although we are presenting the right model to them, they might be merely complying with our expectations, without absorbing into their hearts the truths we are trying to impart. Indeed, even if they do embrace the concepts we teach, if it goes no further than a sincere desire to live uprightly, we’ve not accomplished the intended purpose.

What is that purpose? Bringing them into knowing and loving the Lord Jesus. The goal should not be to raise upright, law-abiding citizens, but to raise up lovers of God, who will obediently, humbly, and enthusiastically follow after Him.

Part of the reason some homeschool parents (certainly not all) are experiencing the heartbreak of seeing their children turn away from the Lord once they are grown is because children who grow up in an environment of goodness without ever coming into a heart-changing relationship with the Lord (or who are not taught how to keep growing in that relationship) are left wide open to the evil pursuits of the world outside, once they are no longer in the controlled environment which was so lovingly provided for them.

Am I saying we should not protect our children from the ways of the world while they are growing up? Should we instead expose them to the evils of society from the time they are small, so that they will not be “hot-house plants”? Perhaps even send them to public school? Absolutely not! I believe wholeheartedly in shielding the young ones from evil and wrapping a holy blanket of protection around them. But they need to know the Who of it — the Lord.

If we only teach our children to be upright in their character so that they can lead a prosperous life, free of the consequences which sin brings, we’ve missed it by making it all about them, which is ultimately quite selfish.  We must teach them to love the Lord more than themselves — and to live righteously out of a joy of bringing Him delight.

You may be saying, “But my children gave their hearts to the Lord when they were very small, so this does not apply to me.” Helping our kids to cross over into the kingdom of heaven through that initial accepting of Jesus is one of the most wonderful moments for any believing parent. But we can’t just leave it at that and then assume character training will do the rest.

We must continue to teach them how to go on in their relationship with Him — how to increase in their love for Him, how to know Him more deeply each day than they did the day before. And, we must be vigilant in prayer on their behalf. It is a big job, but it can be done, as we depend on the Lord to help us.

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Character Building for Families