Wednesday, July 13, 2011
The spiritual upbringing of my children is one of my top priorities. Proverbs 22:6 is a verse that is constantly playing in my head. "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it". In my opinion that is one of the greatest lessons of the Bible. It's the sole responsibility of parents to foster spiritual development in their children.
Not only does spiritual development involve your child knowing Jesus (don't get me wrong, that is VERY important), but it also involves character development and training your child to have values and morals. Reading Bible stories and memorizing Scripture will help a child to know Jesus but it won't necessarily lead a child to live like Jesus, which is the very life He wants us to live. In order to live like Jesus we have to learn about the virtues Jesus (and many other religious figures) exemplified. We have to learn to live by these virtues and that doesn't always come naturally.
As a homeschooling family, we have chosen to make character development the core of our Bible studies. My husband is a religious studies student and is the mastermind behind Project Conversion, in which he is practicing a different religion every month for a year in an effort to increase knowledge about the major religions of the world. In just 6.5 months, my children have learned more about world religions than most adults know. This experience is so valuable. My girls love Jesus and know all about Christianity and now they also know about and respect Hinduism, Baha'i, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhism and are beginning to understand Mormonism. Instead of knowing what makes each religion different, they can tell you about the virtues that unite us all. Seeing this amount of acceptance and respect in a 5 and 6 year old is amazing and our prayer is that it continues for the rest of their lives.
A lovely Baha'i family gave our family a book entitled The Family Virtues Guide by Linda Kavelin Popov. This is an incredible book that will hopefully bring out the best in our family. The book is based on the Virtues Project that was founded in Canada in 1991. The Family Virtues Guide is "a tool for parents to use in guiding and teaching their children so that the content of their character is a first priority." But this isn't just a book used in guiding your children. If followed correctly, your character will also be strengthened. "Many find that as they use this simple tool to parent their children, they are at the same time re-parenting themselves." The first few chapters of this book explains the author's view of children and tells you how to use TFVG. It's built on the premise that children are not born as a blank slate. Each child is built with all the virtues, it's the role of the parent to assist the child in bringing them to light. Popov states that what a child becomes is a result of a combination of 4 things: nature, nurture, opportunity, and effort.
The second part of the book consists of 52 virtues. How you choose to use this book in your family is completely up to you, depending on the ages of your children. We plan to tackle one virtue each week. Each of the 52 virtues contains 4 pages. Page 1 explains the virtue and contains an inspirational quote from one of the Holy Books of a world religion (Christianity, Baha'i, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism). For the weeks that contain a quote from a Holy Book other than the Bible, I plan to also show the girls a Bible verse that corresponds (trying to point out similarities in all faiths). Page 2 of each virtue tells us why we practice it. Page 3 tells us how to practice it and gives discussion exercises. Page 4 tells us about signs of success and gives us a daily affirmation to review every day of that particular week.
We received The Family Virtues Guide a few months ago and I've read it twice already. My husband and I spent a some time talking about how we planned to implement the project into our family. Finally, just last Sunday we had our first family meeting and introduced the first virtue we would be covering. The girls were very receptive to the concept and I've already caught them "practicing" their virtue.
I only wish I would've come across this awesome book a few years ago. According to the author "Much of a child's character development is complete by age 7." Oh my word. Our oldest will be 7 in just a few months...and we have a long way to go.
How are you training your child in the area of character development? I would love to hear feedback regarding what is working for you.