Academics or Character Training?

Dear Kendra,

Quick question (or maybe not so quick) that I'd be interested for you to address on your blog when you have a chance. I've been reading more about starting homeschooling and over and over I hear that it is really better to just take it easy until the kids are a bit older (at least 6). Overwhelmingly I hear that focusing on character training and helping around the home are far more important than making sure they know all their numbers and letters, which I'm discovering they kind of pick up on their own. I know that your home school is fairly academic so I'd be interested in your opinion on this. And, I'd also be interested in knowing any ideas on character training for preschoolers. Perhaps you've already addressed this, if so please let me know where I can read about it.

Thanks heaps


Dear Michele-

This is a really great question.  Undoubtedly when we were just starting out I would have had a different answer, but time and children have brought us to a place in our lives where we have a little seasoned perspective.  Or maybe we're just getting old.

On the one hand, I don't think you really need to separate the two.  Academics bring out some of the best character training opportunities.  While teaching a child to read, one has to acquire great lengths of patience.  Oh, but you meant character training of the child, didn't you?

Really, there will be opportunities to teach your children stick-to-itiveness, long-suffering, humility, and patience.  Pencil allergies and aversions to word problems must be overcome.  Hanging in there and completing an unpleasant task, seeing even fun projects through from conception to clean-up, patiently hearing a younger sibling read veeeerrryyy slowly all help to form and shape character in our children.

On the other hand, there are some fun and deliberate things you can do to teach your children about Biblical character traits.  And while there are some terrific tools on the homeschool market, you really don't have to spend a dime.  You can make a list of all the Biblical character traits and color a poster of them together.  You can feature a character trait per day or week and spend some time studying the subject.   One year we made "character houses" for each child: I labeled a piece of paper with each one's name and as they exhibited a particular character trait, we wrote it down on a little rectangular piece of paper that served as a "brick".  Brick by brick we built a house on their piece of paper.

Lastly, you asked about delayed academics.  Yes, we believe that going slowly is the best way to teach.  Actually, that's not quite true.  We believe that going at the child's pace is the best way to teach.  After all, that is one of the definite benefits of home education.

Let's put it this way: I can spend two years trying to teach my six-year-old the concept of statistics.  But if I wait until that six-year-old is sixteen, he'll teach it to himself in two weeks.  Make sense?  We believe wholeheartedly with the Bluedorn's Ten Things to Do With Your Child Before Age Ten.



p.s. Michele dropped by my house to meet me when she was in the States a few months ago.  We had a great time!  Thanks for the Crunchies... we're all big fans of the hokey pokey.  And I put the chocolate covered pineapple in the fridge- yum!