S6 E11 | Keys to Character Training (Jeannie Fulbright)
What is more important to our children's future than good character? The good news is, there are several keys you can implement to ensure your children develop strong character. In this podcast, Jeannie Fulbright will share the teaching of Charlotte Mason on character development and the simple but effective methods that actually enable God to be the author and director of your children's character.
Jeannie Fulbright, a 24-year veteran homeschooler, is the author of the #1 best-selling, multi award-winning Apologia Young Explorer science series: Exploring Creation with Astronomy, Chemistry and Physics, Botany, Zoology, and Anatomy & Physiology. She is also the author of the action-packed historical time travel book series Rumble Tumbles Through Time, as well as preschool science books and activity kits, the Charlotte Mason Heirloom Planner, and many high-quality Charlotte Mason based products. Jeannie and her husband Jeff became empty nesters in 2019. All four of their children all went to the University of Georgia on scholarship (homeschooling works!). For more than 20 years Jeannie has traveled around the country speaking to homeschoolers at conventions, covering a plethora of topics from Charlotte Mason to marriage and prayer.
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Jeannie Fulbright [00:00:04] Welcome to The Charlotte Mason Show, a show that discusses Charlotte Mason's philosophy, principles, and methods. It is our hope that each session on The Charlotte Mason Show will mentor you in the Charlotte Mason model, inspire you with ideas, and offer practical ways to implement Charlotte Mason's unique and effective methodology in your homeschool. I'm your host, Jeannie Fulbright, and I am so glad you joined me today. Today's episode is brought to you by Medi-Share. Find out how this affordable Christian alternative to traditional health insurance can help you at Medishare.com.
[00:00:36] We all want our children to be kind and compassionate and considerate and respectful. We want them to be reverent. We want them to be merciful of others and loving and forgiving. Really, we just want our children to walk in the fruit of the Spirit. And all of this feels hard because we live with our children and we see their flaws. But that's the key, is that when we see their flaws, we have the opportunity to gently and lovingly come alongside and redirect their mindset, redirect their behavior. And there are several keys to training character, which I'm going to share with you today.
[00:01:26] But keep in mind as you listen, that as Heraclitus, the philosopher, said, "Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character." So it really does take time and it does take patience. And I think as parents, oftentimes, it is so easy for us to lose patience, especially because as homeschool parents, we're with our children every day. And I think homeschool parents are more likely to train good character in their children because they are with their children every day and they want to be with people who have good character. We're spending all day long with our children, and because we're spending all day with them, we would like them to be people we want to spend all day with. And therefore we do take time and we do take pains to talk with them, to help them, to mold them into the kind of people that anybody would want to spend their time with.
[00:02:28] And so I would say it's easier for the homeschool mom to train character in their children because they recognize character flaws, wrong thinking, unkindness, bad habits of thoughts and deeds readily. Whereas a mom that only sees her children for a few hours a day can miss some of those character flaws that begin to become ingrained because they are not trained out of the child because the parent doesn't even realize the child has those character flaws. So take heart. The fact that you are homeschooling, the fact that you are spending a great deal of time with your children means that you are going to do a great job of training them in their character. And I think this is really one of the reasons that God has called our children out of the world, caused them to be homeschooled because he has a tremendous plan for their lives, something great and wonderful that they are going to do, that they are going to accomplish. They are going to be people that are leaders in this world. And we, as their parents, we were chosen to be their parents. And we have the opportunity to help God shape the person that he desires and knows and wants for them to be.
[00:03:39] But again, character training takes time and it takes patience. So let's talk about a few of the keys to character training. The first key, I believe, is the key of faith. And Charlotte Mason talks about this a lot in her writings: faith in our children, faith in ourselves, and faith in God. Number one being faith in God. And she calls this the divine life, the belief that God is actively involved in the shaping of our children, that His Holy Spirit has constant access to their thoughts, and he is constantly moving and shaping who they are, what they think, how they believe. And we, as parents, our job is to come alongside the Holy Spirit and allow him room to work by giving our children the tools that the Holy Spirit can use to begin to form their character.
[00:04:43] And I'll talk to you about those tools, but the most important thing is that we know we are not alone in shaping our children's character, that God is intently and very much involved. He is their supreme teacher. Charlotte Mason's foundational philosophy was this of the divine life— that the Lord, that the Holy Spirit is their supreme teacher. We are secondary. And if we trust and believe in this, we will not have anxiety. We will not be fussy, we will not come down overly hard on them when they have erred. And we will be gentle parents because we know that God is working on our behalf, in their hearts and with them. And if we believe this, if we truly internalize this truth of God working in our children's hearts, God being their supreme educator, God being the one who moves in their thoughts and in their lives more than we do, then we can, I would say, relax, and we could be humble. We can seek him and ask for his his intervention when we see character qualities or character flaws that concern us.
[00:05:59] And so trusting in God, having faith is the first key to developing character in our children. Because if we think it's all up to us, we are going to become anxious parents and overly strict and overly angry and overly upset and overly concerned when we see the natural and inevitable character flaws that our children are going to develop each year as they grow into the man and woman of God that God intends for them to be. These things will crop up because we live in a world that is fallen and our children are human, and they are going to show signs of pride and signs of selfishness. And they're going to have whiny phases, they're going to have angry phases, they're going to have mean— bullying. And we, as parents, will see this and not become overly concerned, but seek the Lord and use the tools that he has given us to help change their hearts and change their minds.
[00:07:08] And so, faith. Number one tool that you need to develop. And ask the Lord for faith. You know, the Bible says we have not because we ask not. If you have a hard time believing that God is truly the one who is going to shape your children's character, ask him to give you faith, to give you that faith. He is the author and perfector of our faith. And he will provide you with everything you need to be the parent that he wants you to be, to shape the people that he has destined for something great for the purposes that he has for them. And so he wants to give you that. He just needs you to ask for it. And so if you're lacking in faith, he's the author and perfector of it, and he will perfect that faith in you. And that being the number one key. Once you have faith that God is working, you can be led by him. You can be guided by Him in what to provide, what tools to provide your children to help shape their thinking, to shape their minds.
[00:08:07] The second key really almost equal to faith is the word of God. The word of God is truly the most important living book we can use in our children's life. It is so powerful. It is more powerful than our own words. When we find a character issue in our children, we can lecture until the cows come home. But if we find a passage of Scripture that we can speak into our children's lives, that will begin to form in them ideas that germinate and grow new ideas. The Bible is a living book, and living books—as Charlotte Mason talks about—have ideas. They're filled with ideas that are capable of growing greater, more, and unique ideas in our children's hearts and minds. The Bible is the foremost of all living books. It is living and active and sharper than a double-edged sword. It is capable of separating our children's wrong character flaws from the goodness that God has and desires in them. And that's the Word of God can do that more than your words. You can't do that, but God can. And He does it through his word.
[00:09:25] Often times, when we would see character issues in our children— I had one child who had a tendency and probably had to do a little bit with ADHD, but he had a tendency to talk incessantly and interrupt any conversation we were having with a long monologue of his own thoughts. This just constant, constant thinking, constant ideas, just filtering through. And he was dominating every conversation in the family with his talking. And, I mean, he was precious—a precious child, a precious heart—but just overly talked. And my husband found this wonderful scripture that— and I can't remember exactly. It's in Proverbs. It says, "Even a fool who keeps himself silent is counted among the wise." And we just talked about that verse one night when we were all sitting around. We used to sit around in our backyard. We had a little seating area that we all sat around the— we had a fire. We still do, but they're all grown and gone, so they don't sit around the fire pit. It's just me and my husband now. But back then, it was all the whole family. We would congregate around the fire pit and talk as a family. And my husband would say this verse and we would discuss it. We discussed what does it mean that a fool who keeps himself silent is counted among the wise? And we would just discuss the Scripture. It would be a family discussion.
[00:10:54] We were not aiming the Word of God like an arrow at a child or anybody in our family. We weren't using the Word of God against our family. We were bringing out a proverb or a scripture, and we did this periodically throughout their lives. We would have a scripture that we would all dissect and talk about and think about ways that this could be applied in other people's lives and notice it. And it just became sort of one of our family scriptures that we talked about. It was something we always would bring up when it was relevant to a discussion or something that was happening. And there were several scriptures like that in our lives that— especially through the Proverbs. My husband was— during that time in our lives, he was reading the Proverbs very intently. And it just so happened that so many great Proverbs were great for the training of character. And so many proverbs— we as a family ended up memorizing because of this way of discussing it, just talking about what the Scripture means and allowing the Word of God to apply itself to embed in your children's hearts and begin to form character. Because that's what Scripture does, not just verses, but Bible stories.
[00:12:08] For example, when there was a problem with whining and complaining, we would read the story about the Israelites in the desert and what God did when they were complaining. And we would talk about what complaining is to God, and it's a lack of belief in God. And when we discuss Bible stories, when we try to understand the depths of the Word of God, we come to realize how powerful it is in shaping the character of our children. The Word of God is capable of applying itself; it's capable of working truth and character in our children's hearts. The Word of God is powerful. It's more powerful than anything else we can do to shape our children, to shape their lives, to affect their lives. And when we see a character flaw in our children, the most important thing that we can do is—in our prayers—pray scripture over them, pray scripture because God's word is powerful and has the power to change issues and problems in our children's lives and in our lives as well.
[00:13:13] I always chose a scripture that exemplified the character quality that my child was not exhibiting, and I would write that scripture down and I would just pray it over my child. And here's the thing, is that God's word is so powerful that it will accomplish what it was set forth and what it went out to accomplish. And we have to have faith in that and believe in that, even if we don't see it right away. We have to believe that God is going to accomplish his will in our children. The Word of God is the number one way to change your children's character, to grow their character, to make them into the men and women of God that God desires them to be. The Word of God is the answer truly to most character problems we see with our children.
[00:14:00] Another wonderful way to do that is through memorizing scripture. Charlotte Mason often talked about memorizing scripture and how important it is because a scripture that a child has memorized, they will be able to call upon in times of need. It is stored in a part of their brain that is different from any other part of the brain. It is there permanently and they will remember that scripture when they need it. I have heard so many stories of people who— a Scripture came to their mind to pray at an opportune time.
[00:14:31] I grew up in Austin, Texas, and I was in a Bible study, and this lady in the Bible study was talking about how she had grown up in the church and she was kind of fell away from God. And, you know, she was just living her little mom life and she knew about God and she knew scriptures from when she was a child, but she really wasn't living for the Lord. And then one day there was this issue in their neighborhood where people were— this group of men were breaking into homes through the garage door. And it was pretty scary. It was happening all over her neighborhood. It was a really nice neighborhood in Austin. And then all of a sudden she started hearing noises in her garage one day, and she had her little children in her home with her. And it was through the garage and she was in the kitchen. And she could hear, she could hear it. She could hear people trying to get into her garage. And this was very frightening. And all of a sudden, this scripture came to her head that she had memorized as a child. And it was, "He will give his angels charge over thee to guard you in all your ways." And she started saying that Scripture, "He will give his angels charge over me to guard me in all my ways." And then after like about a few minutes, the sounds stopped. And she called the police. And when the police got there, the crowbar that they had been using in all these garages had gotten lodged, strangely lodged in her garage door. And it bent. They couldn't get it out. It had gotten stuck there supernaturally. There was no reason the crowbar should have been stuck in that garage door, but she had called upon that scripture in her mind. It was in her heart. How amazing is that?
[00:16:13] Think about all the time that we have with our children right now and all the scriptures that we could be memorizing daily to hide in their hearts. And of course, Psalm 119 says, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." And that's really the key is that character is about walking in righteousness, walking in a goodness, in the fruit of the spirit, but also in just a love for others, a compassion for others, a gentleness, just a merciful spirit towards people, but also it can help us in areas of protection. She called upon that scripture— this friend of mine in the Bible study called upon that scripture, and God protected her through that. God's Word is so powerful. It is the most powerful thing. It is God. It is how He has revealed Himself to us in this world.
[00:17:09] So I would say number one, faith. And number two, the word of God. These are ways to train our children's character. Find scriptures that you— character building scriptures that you, as a family, memorize together. And even if you don't see the fruit of it while they are young, that fruit will develop in them. You will see the fruit of it when they're men and women. And I'm telling you, there were so many character issues— things I was concerned about when my children were even in high school and stuff we had worked on. But when they grew up and they left home, it was like all of that stuff I had taught them became who they were. And for some reason when they lived under my home—they lived with me—it was as if when they were living under my roof, they didn't feel the need to exhibit this strong character. But when they left home and they were independent, that is when they realized who they were compared to the rest of the world. And they began to exhibit the character qualities that we had trained their whole lives, which was such a blessing for me to see, because I thought, "Okay, all those years of reading scripture, praying with them, of praying over them, of talking to them, of just the character qualities we discussed." I was so worried they were going to go out into the world and just be who they were when they were living in my house. But actually they weren't.
[00:18:41] The ideas that we impart to them— and Charlotte Mason tells us this over and over again— we impart good ideas to our children. We give them good ideas, and those ideas are implanted in their very soul. And they will begin to germinate like a living organism, and they will begin to bear fruit. They will grow and grow and reproduce after their own kind. Our job as parents is to implant those ideas. The Word of God being the foremost idea we plant into their soul, which will grow fruit and we will see it, especially as our children become men and women, adults. You will see all of those ideas that you implanted bear fruit. So do not despair, especially with your high schoolers, because high schoolers are going through such a crazy time of hormones and just the world and upheaval. And they seem to be defiant and they seem to be exhibiting issues that we can't believe after all we've done to train their hearts. But when they leave home, their true soul, the true things that you implanted in their soul, they will grow. They will grow into fruition. We just need to step back, silence ourselves, and allow the Holy Spirit to do his job, which is his job to train our children's character. Our job is to present ideas. To plant ideas. To give them a moral foundation in the Word of God and also living books, which I'll talk about in just a second. But that's our job. Our job is not to shape the child. Our job is to impart ideas that God then— the Holy Spirit uses to shape the child.
[00:20:29] And so let's talk about living books. Let's talk about the other ideas that we use to help our children grow in character. So Charlotte Mason talks a lot about fables, myths, and moral stories. There are so many wonderful living books which have such a strong moral story that can truly change our children's way of thinking, that can grow them and change their belief system. And we don't even have to— and in fact, Charlotte Mason would encourage us not to expound upon the moral after we've read the story. For example, if we read the story of Joseph from the Bible to our children or another story, say, Heidi or Little Britches, we don't need to expound upon the moral of the story because that's God's job. He wants room to develop in our children the character qualities from those stories that he wants to develop. While they're doing something that doesn't require a lot of thought, they start thinking about the story that we read or the story that they read, and if we actually intervene after we've read the story of Joseph and say, "Now, wasn't Joseph amazing? Joseph showed character by blah, blah, blah, blah, blah," instead of let's just read the story and allow the Bible to interpret itself through the Holy Spirit.
[00:21:52] This is again back to the first key— is the Divine Life, allowing the Holy Spirit room to work in our children's hearts. And much of that is by our silence, by our letting alone, letting alone the children to think it through on their own and allow the Holy Spirit room to work. Charlotte Mason talks about this a lot. She calls it masterly inactivity or wise passiveness— using wisdom to choose to remain passive, to be silent, to allow the Holy Spirit, who has constant access to their thoughts, to believe and have faith that the Holy Spirit is going to work out that moral lesson in their heart. They may come up with something even more profound than our clumsy words—as Charlotte Mason often says—could even interpret. The Holy Spirit has something more powerful to work in our children's lives. He knows our children's hearts better than we do, and he knows even more how a story may be interpreted for that child to shape their character in a way that we don't understand. This is really powerful.
[00:22:59] This is a really powerful truth that I wish I had known when my children were young, and although I homeschooled all four of my children using the Charlotte Mason model and I see the fruit of that, there are so many things I wish I had truly understood, and this concept of the divine life that the God of the universe wants to have access to my children's thoughts, and that He is the one who wants to shape their character, and that I need to stand back and believe and have faith that he's doing it— that what has given me so much more peace, I think, so much less anxiety as a homeschool mom to know that God's doing it. God's in control. He is the one who is raising my children. I'm just the copilot. I am cooperating with God, but not God himself. God is the one who is the shaper and educator and lover of my children's soul. He loves them far more, far more than I could ever love them. My love is finite; his is infinite. His plans for them are infinite, wonderful, and great. My plans for them are pretty temporal. This is an important concept for us to grasp and believe and understand, and then we will have more peace. And I think a peaceful parent is going to be a better parent all around.
[00:24:19] The way to peace, as a parent, is faith. Faith believing that God is going to do it. So I talked about moral stories. There's so many wonderful ones. I mean, I mentioned Heidi and Little Britches and Little House on the Prairie, and there's lots of stories in there and there's morals. And also, of course, Bible stories are fantastic. Charlotte Mason talks about myths and fables and legends and heroic figures. My husband loved to read to the children at night before bed, and they would all gather together on one of their beds. And my husband would begin reading some story that he— would either be the Miller books. I don't know if you've heard of the School Days with the Millers, or there's several Miller books that are wonderful stories of families and children getting into trouble, and they were wonderful moral stories. He also read the YWAM series of books about the different missionaries. We would study one country and all the missionaries that went to that country and thereby teaching them geography while they were going to bed at night and learning about missionaries and just how they trusted in God and believed in God. These were powerful stories that shaped who they were and what they believed God could do in their lives.
[00:25:31] Another book that we loved, which is no longer being printed. But you can still act. You can still buy it. It's the Bill Bennett's Moral Compass. There are so many great stories in that book that my children still talk about today. It just taught you a lot about character. There are so many character stories in that Moral Compass book. So really, stories, stories, stories. What stories do is they impart ideas to our children. They give them a foundation, a foundation for truth, a foundation for justice, a foundation for what's right, what's good, what's noble.
[00:26:10] And that is how we train our children's character— with faith, believing that not only does God desire to shape our children's character, he plans to shape their character, and he's going to shape their character. And the more we get out of the way, the better he will be able to shape their character. And through the Bible, through memorizing Scripture and reading the stories of the Bible and allowing God to use those stories to shape their character. And wonderful stories, just tales of people trusting in God, heroic figures who are acting nobly, and the rewards and benefits of acting nobly. Stories, the Bible, and faith. That is how we train our children's character. And I have seen the fruit in my own children, even when they left home and I was concerned. I've seen the fruit. And I promise you will see the fruit too. Have faith. Believe God's going to do it and trust in him to do so. Have a blessed rest of your week and thank you for listening. I hope to hear from you online if you have any questions. I would love for you to go to my website, JeannieFulbright.com and contact me. Or also you can contact me on Facebook or on Instagram. And I look forward to hearing from you.
[00:27:30] Thank you for tuning into The Charlotte Mason Show. If you want to learn more about Charlotte Mason, go to my website at JeannieFulbright.com. There you can find my blog where I discuss so many of Charlotte Mason's principles and how to implement her philosophy in your homeschool. You can also take a peek at my Charlotte Mason Heirloom Planner, which is much more than a planner. It's a Charlotte Mason mentor that not only teaches you Charlotte Mason principles, but it keeps you focused on the things that are important each week, such as habit training, nature study, and scripture, read-alouds, praye,r and self-care, which often gets neglected. And I would love to meet you in person at a Great Homeschool Convention where I'll be sharing a lot of different Charlotte Mason topics. To sign up, go to a GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. Thanks again and have a blessed and bountiful week as you fulfill your call to educate your children at home.