Character vs. Curriculum

ABC's“Today was such a rough day. I made the right choice though. Instead of doing arithmetic, I did character training. I just knew today was going to be a busy one. Choosing character was definitely the best choice.”

At the time, this comment completely baffled me. I didn’t understand the contradiction. Why couldn’t you do bothteach your curriculum and teach character? It seemed to me that this mommy was looking at the situation all wrong. To me, she was doing her child a disservice by not teaching them, using character training as a safe fallback.

In reality, things aren’t so clear-cut. I’ve come to realize this as my children get older and our lives get more busy. There are days you are going to need to put off the writing assignment in order to work on your child’s character. Moments will come when you would actually be doing your child a disservice by forcing them through those lessons instead of getting their hearts back in the right place.

This doesn’t mean curriculum and character are at odds, however. In fact, I would say they go hand-in-hand. Through teaching our children the importance of good penmanship (yes, I’m one of those) they are learning patience and grace. Through arithmetic we learn logic and reason. In all branches of study there is character training to be gained. All areas teach us diligence, self-control, patience, and so much more. Education is not only for the mind, but also for the soul and heart.

Granted, there are moments – sometimes days – when we need to stop everything and focus on the underlying character issue at hand. Hopefully those days are few and far between. In the mean time, consider looking at your education through a whole new lens. It isn’t just another opportunity to learn the ABC’s, but a possibility of teaching character.

Time to Chime In: Do you find curriculum and character to be at odds? Share your thoughts!

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10 thoughts on “Character vs. Curriculum

  1. I completely agree that character training can usually be built in to existing curricula. I also admit that there are days when we have to stop in the middle of class for a little in-depth character training. I’m not usually one to put character training in place of something else, though, so it just makes our school day longer! Fortunately, our days are flexible enough to accommodate that. For people with less flexibility, it makes sense to choose one or the other when necessity arises, but building into your existing educational experiences can (hopefully) lessen the need for that.

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  2. So often I hear character training as a euphemism for punishment so I’m happy to hear it being discussed as part of what it is… Education. One of the reasons we chose homeschooling is that it gives us the flexibility to focus on our priorities. If a person has perfect handwriting (we’re teaching cursive etc as well) and can label a world map (which will change anyway) and perform a science experiment and so forth, but has not learned how to see the world from another perspective, forgive, care for those less fortunate, be humble, try to see everyone the way God sees them, what good is that education?

    Whether it’s taking time to discuss something we saw while at the grocery store or taking a day to help someone else, we can do what’s important. With all the yucky, angry, rude politics lately, we’ve taken a break to focus on the actual people the politicians are talking about because love does not dishonor others. Other races, income levels, or belief systems. Love always protects, it doesn’t throw entire groups of people into the fire of public shaming. Love is not self seeking. It is unfortunate that so often the people we know who are the most vocal about being Christian also show the least love.

    With homeschooling we can take time out to remember the most important instead of being always focused on cramming curriculum in our kids (we do that too.)

    If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

    4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

    13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. It’s unfortunate that the people we know who are the loudest about being Christian as so often the ones failing to show love.

    If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

    4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

    13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

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  3. I think Character Training is built into…well, everything. But I do think there are times we need to stop whatever we’re doing – curriculum, reading, playing, laundry…. to focus on character training. To really focus on what it is we’re teaching them in regards to character. Which reminds me…I’ve been meaning to get out my book on habit training (Laying Down the Rails)… perhaps I should reach for it now…

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  4. Character building seems to be the topic at our house all day long. My six year old son rather play instead of do work. We learn how to be a team together until work is done.. We learn how to press through when learning gets hard. We learn how to speak calmly to one another when we are ready rip each others head off. We learn to ask questions when we need help or don’t understand something. We use our words instead of whine. We share our things and respect each others things. We do our school work before play. There are consequences for being lazy. The list goes on and on. So to answer your question. Yes character building and school lessons should be taught hand in hand. I am always looking for great Character Building Lessons! Any ideas?

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  5. This whole thread is one of the main reasons we stuck with homeschooling for our son. I am happy to report that he is in his 4th year in college right now and on the all ACC academic honor roll while playing division I football. I am currently in the process of writing a blog post about his story because he and we struggle so at the beginning. We discovered he had dyslexia in 4th grade and literally could not read. This is very common in little boys. What we learned from all this is that character building was truly his salvation. In our area, our homeschool group found a wonderful tae kwon do school and all total we had about 20 students and parents taking the class together. The range of ages for the group covered kindergarten to over 53. Many think of martial arts as a strictly physical activity, which it is predominantly, but the mental challenges were wonderful. This particular school emphasized respect, responsibility, manners and harmony as key concepts. Our son truly blossomed in this environment and 5 years later, he and I received our first degree black belts together. More importantly I watched a timid young boy who seriously lacked self confidence because of his reading deficiency, gain confidence in a truly grounded, godly manner. I share this because one of the mothers in our homeschool group was extremely creative and came up with this idea as a character building activity. What started as a experiment for our children turned into a wonderful experience for the parents too.

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