Everyone knows that character development is an essential part of home education. That’s why so many parents search for character building curriculum for their high school students. Your teen is unique, and so their character education should be too! We want to share with you the very best curriculum—one you design yourself.
How Can I Help Build Character In My High Schooler?
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Character Building Curriculum for High School
Let’s begin by defining character-building and considering a couple of definitions.
The dictionary defines character as the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual; strength and originality in a person’s nature. It comes from the Greek word, kharaktēr, which was a stamping tool used to give something a distinctive mark.
Building means the process of constructing, shaping, developing, or forming a particular thing.
When we put those definitions together, character building is about the process of constructing, shaping, developing, and forming the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.
As a parent, you have to think of yourself as the contractor in the character-building process. You look for people and resources, you lay out the plans, and make sure that the workers follow through. But you’re not the one who does the actual work of building.
Ultimately it’s your teens’ responsibility to cultivate that character in their own lives. We cannot do it for them.
Ann Frank puts it this way, “I understand more and more how true Daddy’s words were when he said: ‘All children must look after their own upbringing.’ Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”
So plan. Create a blueprint. Be intentional. But most of all pray for your teens through the process that they would desire to grow in Christlikeness—where character is ultimately found.
Designing a Character Building Curriculum for Your High Schooler
1. Tour Model Homes
If you’ve ever considered building your own home, remodeling it, or redecorating it even, you may have started by touring some model homes. Model homes help us to see the possibilities and give us a pattern to follow. In the character-building process, consider the models your teens have access to:
- You, their parents. Your teens are watching you. When you exemplify the character qualities you desire to see in their lives, they will learn more by your actions than simply your words.
- Mentors. Mentors can be people your teens know—such as grandparents, bosses, spiritual leaders at church—or people they don’t such as those they encounter through books and other media.
- People from the Bible. There’s no better book for teaching character through the real lives of people. The Bible doesn’t sugarcoat the sinful nature of man or hide their imperfections (just think about the story of David!). Instead, it reveals God’s grace in growing people to live righteously.
- Stories of historical figures. As your teens study history, help them to really think about how different people throughout history have displayed both poor and desirable character traits. What consequences did the actions of these people have?
- Biographies of missionaries. Men and women who have chosen to bring the gospel throughout the world often show a strength of character that can inspire our teens to do the same.
2. Lay a Solid Character Foundation
God’s Word is the solid foundation your teens will need if they want to build godly character in their lives.
John 15:4–5 says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (KJV)
And who produces the fruit? In Galatians 5:22–23 we learn, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” All of these character traits are the fruit of the Spirit, and cannot be produced without Him. (KJV)
This is why character formation begins with the Bible. We know that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16–27, KJV)
3. Build the Character Framework
Once you’ve laid a strong foundation, then you can build on it. This is the point to add in other resources such as biographies, literature, non-fiction, or any other resources that will help your students understand the character trait you are focusing on. This might even mean setting up a time for your teen to meet regularly with a mentor of some sort.
4. Don’t Forget the Wiring
God empowers our children though his unique wiring of them. He created them all with a different mixture of personalities, gifts, talents, interests, skills, and more.
Thinking about our building metaphor, we know that before the sheetrock is put in and all of the finishes, the wiring must be installed. It runs throughout the frame of the house.
What does this have to do with character-building? The character trait you’ve focused on will be manifested in a way that is often distinctive to your teen—in a way that is in keeping with his or her bent.
These versions of the Amplified Bible put it so well:
“Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
—Proverbs 22:6 (Amplified, Classic)
“Train up a child in the way he should go [teaching him to seek God’s wisdom and will for his abilities and talents], Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Amplified)
5. Create the Blueprint
Once you’ve thought through these steps, create a blueprint—a plan—to help your teen develop desirable character traits in his or her life.
Begin by thinking through what character traits you and your teens might want to focus on. Choose only one trait per six weeks. (You’ll find a list of 84 possible traits, as well as a place to write down each trait you pick along with its definition for the school year in our High School Character Building Workbook, shown below.)
You can use a variety of activities to help cultivate character in your teens from copywork and journaling to serving in the community. These should be activities that help you students learn and apply all they are learning.
We’ve created a resource to help you with each step of creating your own high school character curriculum. It includes these steps, worksheets, character traits to consider, an activities list, and more.
Your high schooler’s character-building curriculum should be as unique as they are! We would love to help.
Get the details of the High School Character Building Workbook Now!