How to Choose a Character Training Curriculum

How to choose a character training curriculum

by Jeanette Whittaker 

Using Biblical principles to choose a character-training curriculum for your homeschool


Thankfully, families within the homeschool community recognize that cultivating the character of their children is a top priority in their homeschooling efforts.

The challenge, though, is achieving this goal in daily teaching amidst the challenges of school work, laundry, dishes, care for family members, and more.

I recall a conversation in which a well-organized mom voiced her dilemma: “I know I want to build character in my children, but we also have to learn the lessons in our curriculum. I have a hard time knowing how to accomplish both of those goals.”

Good news, parents! If you consider specific foundations in your thinking, you don’t have to sacrifice character-building for the sake of accomplishing the academics your students need to master.

It helps to realize that education is much more than knowledge or learning. Noah Webster’s definition is helpful in informing our thinking. “Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations.” American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828.

Defining Character

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary definition of character helps our thinking as well. “The peculiar qualities, impressed by nature or habit on a person, which distinguish him from others.” By extension, we could say that Christian character is the mark of Christ made upon the heart of the individual, revealed in his actions.

Employing the habits necessary to impressing these desired qualities requires intentional, consistent effort on the part of the parent. We are helped in this effort by focusing on why and how we teach rather than placing all the emphasis on what we teach.

Lessons that require the student to exercise thinking rather than rote learning will be immensely helpful. Your child was asking the question why from the high chair, before he had words to express his thinking. He pushed food onto the floor simply to find out if it would fall.

If you cultivate the reasoning capacity of your children all along the way, they will treasure learning and take it to heart. The process of thinking will shape and mold their character as they consider cause and effect relationships, as they compare and contrast, and as they draw conclusions.

As you discuss ideas, rather than simply memorize facts and information, you are shaping their capacity to evaluate and consider. The natural extension of this learning is to record important ideas and express thinking in sentences, paragraphs and more.

The process of thinking requires a discipline of the mind. The process of writing cultivates qualities of attention to detail, diligence, discipline and control.

As you pursue an intentional view and method of character-focused education, you may spend more time engaging with your students and accomplishing your lessons. There may be less busywork, and you may have to find a way to fold laundry while asking your student to think and reason, but your investment will be well worth your time.

As you consistently spend time thinking together and writing, you’ll be building your own personalized education. The lessons will be not only be recorded on paper, they’ll be taken to heart. What better way to shape and mold attitudes, build a character for independent thinking and lifelong love for learning, and make a difference in your child’s future?

So, take a close look at the curriculum available.

Does it?

* Emphasize ideas over information

* Analyze or simply memorize

* Present ideas

* Explain subject matter based on underlying principles

* Encourage mastery

* Express the subject matter as a reflection of the Character of God

Pilgrim Institute has been helping parents along this pathway for three decades. We would love to walk alongside you in your homeschooling journey.


Pilgrim Institute recommends: 

The Education of James Madison (audio download) by Marie Elaine Swanson Just $3.00

No more remarkable example can be found of colonial education at its best than the education of James Madison, “The Father of the Constitution.” This work is devoted to tracing its outlines so that we may see why such outstanding results were obtained in the lives of so many students of Madison’s generation who were similarly educated.

the education of James Madison audio download



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