Homeschooling parents have a unique advantage because they can tailor design their children’s education. They can choose for it to be about more than just educating their children’s minds, but also about educating their hearts and souls, about teaching them how to be good people in the world. I am sure this is why many of us chose to homeschool, I know it was a big part in why our family chose this path.
The early years of childhood, in particular, are crucial in helping to nurture faith and virtuous behavior in our children. Although we can all grow and develop these capacities later in life, if they are firmly established in childhood, navigating those difficult and often confusing teen and early adult years can be made so much easier.
How do you effectively incorporate virtue learning into your homeschool? There are many ways, the most important (and most challenging for us parents) is to model good character – we need to show our children what kindness, courtesy, generosity, truthfulness, gratitude and so on look like. We need to try to live these virtues every day, so that our children are willing and able to internalize them.
We can use the language of virtue in our homes and family life. What does this mean? When you talk to your children, use words like courtesy and generosity, make it a part of your vocabulary. When your child shares his toy with another child, praise him for being generous, instead of saying something generic like “good job”. If siblings are arguing, instead of telling them to stop fighting, challenge them to work out the problem peacefully. If your child needs help when you are in the middle of something and they politely wait, thank them for being patient. Using these words in the correct context in your conversation will help to define what they mean for your children in practical terms, helping to incorporate them into their decision-making and behavioral repertoire.
We can create a curriculum of virtue learning to include in our actual school time. This can be whatever works for your family and the ages of your children. For our family we focus on one virtue each week, we spend a little time every morning defining the meaning of that virtue and discussing what it looks like in everyday life. We do crafts, sing songs, memorize quotations, read books, role play, do service projects, watch DVDs, all related to the theme of that week’s virtue. The point is to make it fun so that these somewhat abstract concepts become easier for your young children to understand.
Nurturing virtue in our children can be challenging without a doubt, but the rewards will not only be found in the developing character of your child, or in the strengthening of your family life, but society as a whole will benefit.
Kami, mom to two young boys, writes about homeschooling, family, crafting, and life in beautiful Hawaii on her blog Nurturing the tender years. She is also writing a series titled Nurturing virtue on her blog.