Character Training and Books

Character training is something that continues all of our lives. Every situation and circumstance we encounter builds, tears down, repairs the character of our person. Children are even more susceptible to this process, I think; they are more fragile and yet more resilient. It’s important to give them worthwhile examples as best we can. There is perhaps no better substitute than having a role model in the flesh, but I think that having books with characters that exhibit good traits is wonderful as well.

I won’t even try to pretend my character is flawless. I have points I struggle with daily. However, my experiences with virtuous characters in books has helped in ways that my introverted self prevented me from learning from others in the real world. Also, with my own kids, I can see how books have helped shape what they understand about good character traits. Some they try very hard to emulate; others I wish they would.

Slimbook by lacybekah, on Pix-O-Sphere
The first book I might recommend to use in character training is the Bible. There are many curricula available for character development on the market. Some are very well done; others not so much. I’ll leave that to you to decide if they are good or not to use in your home. But I’m not going to actually suggest books for character training. This world is made up of very diverse cultures and beliefs. We cannot possibly experience them all, and especially not {all} in real life. Nor would I hope that we would!

By using books, fiction or nonfiction, we are able to present and discuss a situation before actually being in that situation. There are many situations that I’ve read about that I have never encountered myself; reading about it helps us all by giving an outside perspective. Sometimes we experience a situation in a book so well, and understand the strengths and weaknesses of the character who went through it, we can take it for ourselves. Doing what is right, in any circumstance, would be a treasure we find and keep.

A worthy idea is like a room in a beautiful home. It becomes a place all our own where we can store the treasures we want to keep. Information is just stuff. Christine, Charlotte Mason Basics: Living Books

While discussing these situations and issues that we may {or may not} confront in our real lives, we can see that there really isn’t “do this/don’t do this” in the books. But isn’t that the way it is in life? There are absolutes, yes. But there also times when one “right” is the “wrong”. Reading good books helps us get a feel for what we would or wouldn’t do in that case.

good books by sisterlisa, on Pix-O-Sphere

There isn’t really a substitute for a real life role model but sometimes really good ones can be found in books. Here are some ways to find books that will help instill good character traits in children:

  1. Think of books you yourself have read that were influential in your life. Did the books have role models you would like your children to emulate? Introduce these to your children.
  2. Ask individuals with admirable character qualities for book recommendations. Of course I am not suggesting taking their list and handing it over to your child. Pre-reading is always a good idea.
  3. Search out books that have situations that you know your child will encounter. Pre-read these and then, if they are suitable, read along with your child.

Of course our example will likely be more influential to our children’s character than any book could be, but sometimes a good book goes a long way in this respect.

What are some books you would recommend to help solidify a good character?

North Laurel (2 Posts)

Blossom- "North Laurel" to the online world- lives in Ohio with her husband and two teens, homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way with Ambleside Online. She is graciously allowed to be a moderator for the Ambleside Online Forum. North Laurel loves to read, be on the computer, and learn. You can read her blogging about homeschooling, book reviews and life in general at North Laurel Home & School.


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Stuck in the Middle {Ages}

Well, I wouldn’t say stuck, exactly, but we are smack in the middle of our year-long study of the Middle Ages!

I thought this would be a great time to share some of our favorite books and projects covering this time period. For more information on our quasi-subjectless approach, take a look at September’s post, School Without Subjects.

We started with Beowulf in early September and are about to launch headlong into The Magna Charta this month. We’ll linger over this for a few weeks as it’s a great time to pause and discuss the importance of this early document.

Along the way we’ve made a crossbow and a catapult, and attended two homeschool classes at a local science museum on castles and medieval siege machines (I love it when synergy happens).

Following are our favorite images, videos, and a list of the books we’ve loved so far.

Here is my youngest’s attempt at a crossbow:

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Here is the video he used to make it: How to Make a Paper Crossbow (Some younger children may require supervision).

At our class on castles, we labeled all the parts of a castle and drew aerial views of our own castles.

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Here’s a super simple diagram of a typical castle if you want to create your own:

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Image courtesy smithsonianmag.com

For more in-depth information on the parts of a medieval castle, check out Castle Architecture.

At our siege machines class we made a catapult:

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These are great fun to make and play with. For instructions on how to fashion a similar catapult made of large popsicle sticks, rubber bands, a soda cap (we used a liquid medicine measuring cup) and glue, check out Tongue Depressor Catapult over at The Boring Dad. You can use marbles for your payload, but we stuck with pennies — less painful on impact.

After reading The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green, we thought we might try our hand at making a bow and arrow. Not having the supplies or time to make a proper working model, we opted for a Mini Bow and Arrow using popsicle sticks, q-tips. and dental floss! Again, young children will need help or supervision.

There are many great books covering this time period — both fiction and nonfiction, but here are just a few of our favorites thus far (hopefully some of these are new for you!):

One Thousand and One Arabian Nights by Geraldine McCaughrean

Queen Eleanor, Independent Spirit of the Medieval World by Polly Schoyer Brooks

A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver by E.L. Konigsburg

The Boy Kight: A Tale of the Crusades by G.A. Henty

Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz

Cathedral and Castle by David Macaulay

We treated these primarily as read-alouds for our 10 year-old. Six or seventh grade and up should read independently.

Do you have a favorite medieval book or project to share? Drop us a line in the comment section — we’ll give it a try!

Angela (23 Posts)

Angela is co-founder of Mosaic Freeschool and a homeschooling mom to two never-been-to school kids. Born in Southern California and raised on the East Coast, Angela had a bit of an unconventional education, but did not consider homeschooling seriously until her first child was born. Believing that young children learn best from those that love them most, Angela and her husband John chose homeschooling for their two boys. She is dedicated to the advancement of alternative education choices, creating the web-site Raising Autodidacts in 2011 to further explore the idea of fostering the self-taught individual. In June of 2013, she started an instructional writing service called Gathering Ink .


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Free Classics List by Grade Level

Free Reading List of Classics by Grade Level @hsbapost

The Heart of Wisdom approach recommends immersing your children in living books or classical literature. We believe you should read the greatest classic—the Bible—the only real, literal, living book, daily, and attempt to read several classics throughout the year.

Free: Choosing and Using Resources

Free Choosing and Using Resources Booklet (31 pages PDF)
Includes Classics by Grade Level

What is a Classic?

What is a classic book? The answer depends on who you ask. A classic to a Christian can be quite different from the world’s definition. In a broad sense, the term classic is applied to anything accepted either as a model of excellence or as a work of enduring cultural relevance and value. The differences between Heart of Wisdom’s classical list and the classics included in classical secular education are the book lists.

Classics According to Secular Classical Education

Encarta defines classical education as the study of Greek and Roman literature, one of the oldest forms of education known.  In classical education, a classic is any ancient Greek or Roman literary work of the first or highest quality.

The modern classical approach focuses on the Great Books of the Western World (GBBWW). Virtually every book in this collection is required reading in a liberal arts curriculum, and includes works of art, science, philosophy, poetry, prose and history from the time of the Greeks until the early 20th century. Plato, Herodotus, Virgil, and Aristotle are some of the main authors. This list was developed by Mortimer J. Adler and Britannica Editors. They believed these books were the core of Western learning and culture. Most of the books on this list were written by non-Christians, men like Aeschylus, Apollonius, Aquinas, Dewey, Euclid, Euripides, Freud, Hippocrates, Homer, Marx, Plato, Ptolemy, Muhammad (the Quran or Koran), Thoreau, etc.

Classics According to Christians

Heart of Wisdom and other Christian suppliers suggested books lists include models of excellence or  works of enduring cultural relevance and value, and do not include mythology nor books by the ancient Greek philosophers.

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***Share the meaning of Easter with your children with A Sense of the Resurrection: an Easter Experience for Families.***
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