Friday, October 21, 2011

TEACHING THE FINE ART {of doing good}

"The finest of all the fine arts is the art of doing good
and yet it is the least cultivated."
-T. DeWitt Talmage

Our daughters Sarah (9) and Michaela (12) enjoying the chance to kayak

Do you find that people tend to be more focused on grades and SAT scores than cultivating virtue in the youth of today?  Where do we go for the models of a high moral standard and well doing? 


I love what  Karen Andreola's shares in A Charlotte Mason Companion about the idea of training children toward virtue. 


"...Character is two sided and, according to his training, his character qualities are either nurtured into virtues or allowed to degenerate into vices. 

Pity is a virtue if it cares for another. Idle pity just says, "Too bad." Pity can turn into self pity, which is not a virtue. Truth-telling is a virtue, but if it is blunt and tactless- spoken without love- it is not a virtue. The only way to make the virtue grow is to train the child's conscience and instill in him a love for others. 
To breed vices, the most powerful agent is love of self, and this almost always begins in the cradle. The toddler who cries, screams, whines or whimpers for his own way (and continually gets it) can become the youth or adult who terrorizes his family with his fits of rage. " p. 58

Sorry Hailey, your placement in this post was purely accidental *cough.*

Our 3 year old daughter, Hailey, really wanted to do the climbing wall like the big kids


Karen goes on to explain that virtues must be inspired and cultivated.  A child cannot be punished into virtue.  Children need Biblical correction and they need to be inspired by heroes who embody the virtues of Scripture.  Well, I'll let Karen do the talking:
"... about family bickering.  The two main causes of them are selfishness and harsh judgement of others.  No punishment is of the smallest use to combat these.
In fact, punishment may awaken resentment and arouse greater spite against the person on whose account it occurred.  It will never diminish the selfishness.  Penalties will suffice for the moment, but another kind of correction is needed. 
Virtues, like flowers, grow in the sunshine.  You can cultivate them or draw them out with love and reason, but you can neither force nor whip them into existence.  Try to do so and the virtue you want will come forth in the guise of it's corresponding vice.  Instead of truth-speaking courage, you will get lying cowardice; instead of obedience, obstinacy."

Our 9 year old daughter, Sarah, on the archery range

She goes on to share that the best way to prevent bickering is to

train the child to find its happiness in giving others pleasure and to show him always how good and kind others are to him.

To let the names of mother, father, sister and brother stand for love and loving kindness to him."
If you have not always trained your children this way (and I am sure we would all admit we have not done this perfectly) she encourages the following:

"Never be cross, and never add harsh words of reproof when a child is sore under what it feels to be an injustice.

This is often difficult (YEP!  My own comment added)  to do because it is our natural response to control his temper with a stronger one of our own.  Yet I recommend you work against any tendency to overpower the child in this instance. 
Gently draw the belligerent mind to the fact that he is feeling very unhappy, {and} that this is merely the natural result of saying unkind things..." 

 It was nice to meet you in person Amanda!  Thanks for saying hi.  :)


She goes on to encourage a bedtime story hour to cultivate the child's virtues and discourage bickering. 

"When the boys and girls sit round the fire with mother or father, a series of stories might be told, evening after evening, bearing on instances of love and self-denial.  Then you will have the opportunity to ask, "Wouldn't you like the chance to do such a caring thing for another person?"  p. 59

This isn't the idea of avoiding certain media for "legalistic" reasons (and I will be honest- I very much dislike the use of the word legalism at all because in our day it often amounts to little more than one man's Biblical conviction pricking another man's conscience) but we are encouraged instead to look for opportunities to build good resources into our children's hearts and minds for the purpose of cultivating virtue and teaching children to do good to others.  And yes, to skip those that don't.  

Our oldest daughter, Faith (14), was part of the drama team that portrayed real Bible couriers bringing Bibles into restricted countries.  These pics are from their practice.

She does not recommend stores such as Pinocchio because although the character has good intentions, he has a weak will.  Instead she recommends good and virtuous models such as Heidi, Hans Brinker, The Swiss Family Robinson and the like.  Stories that entertain but also model kindness, courage, generosity, loyalty, honor and working together as a family.

Faith caught with Bibles in Cuba.

Rather than forcing a child to give up their rights, Karen encourages that the parent use the opportunity to

"draw the child's attention to any suffering or discomfort that may have been occasioned by his selfishness:  'Imagine the pleasure you could have brought to your little brother had you built that sand castle with him this afternoon, and had not sulked in your room bored because Sarah could not play after all.' 

This is making a mental picture for the child of what could have been.  Then be sure to allow the child the full benefit of the happiness an unselfish action brings. 

Of course, our best help is from the Word of God.  Asking our younger children to tell us the areas they struggle in and helping them to find verses to memorize; assigning our older children to write out lies the enemy may use and verses to combat them (our oldest just wrote out over 2 pages of common lies our Enemy uses and solid verses to respond with from her own study) and reading from God's Word- emphasizing the heroes He does. 

I sure love getting kisses from my girlies!  This is proof I was there- thanks for insisting Sarah.

"I have had long talks with my children about their power to render others either good and happy, or naughty and miserable, and the great responsibility this power brings us."- Karen Andreola

Don't you wish all parents had this talk with their children?  Me too.

Cousin time!

I hope you enjoyed these thoughts on teaching virtue by Karen and Charlotte.  May we all be at work cultivating the greatest art- the art of doing good.

Blessings friends,


Photos:  We've just returned from Homeschool Family Camp at Jenness Park. It is always a wonderful time to meet other like minded friends, enjoy fantastic food and be inspired in well doing.  On a funny note, you know what is usually not discussed at Homeschool Family Camp? Homeschooling. It rarely is.  Maybe it is because many of the moms have been at it a while and feel pretty set in what they are doing; maybe it's that we live and breathe education all the time and were ready for a field trip away or maybe it is because homeschoolers know that education is so much more than classroom lectures, flash cards and bored children. It is about family, the bringing up of souls while learning the skills of well doing along with the mental discipline mathematics and the like. And maybe we were in fact "homeschooling" together without needing to discuss it at all. :)


  1. (((HUGS))) :-D

    Seriously! I am always challenged and refreshed when I read your blog! Pretty sure I have told u that before.

    The Lord has continued to bring sweet Lydia to mind. I have been praying at all hours! He is in control. Amen!
    Kelly K

  2. First of all, thanks again for your always timely thoughts...I know, I say that a lot ;-) I think I need to grow a whole lot more than I am right now and wish I had a few awesome friends closer.
    Second, I haven't read Karen Andreola's book since I started homeschooling 6 years ago...I think I need to pull that one back out :-)
    Third, what a fun time that trip looked like. I feel very isolated at times(though I do have a co-op we participate in, just most of the ladies are not like-minded with us in many areas) and this would be such a fun time for us as a family I think.

    Anywho, I leave here once again feeling encouraged and thoughtful.

    Lots of love,

  3. I think it's time I get that book out and read it again. Thank you for a beautiful post and a timely reminder!!

  4. Thank you for this Rebecca!! We have been struggling with some of these virtues with a child or two and were not getting any results from our ways of handling it. These quotes spoke directly to our concerns and were what our hearts were already leaning towards though with much uncertainty.

    Praying that we would be faithful in teaching these lasting virtues.

    And the family camp sounds awesome and like such a blessing... to have many like-minded families and great opportunities to "school" together for that time!

  5. Oh the Lord is so good!!! Not half an hour ago I was talking with my husband about two things - what sort of Bible study to do with the children now that we have finished a book we were working through (Leading Little Ones to God), and how on earth to handle our 3-year-old son with his stubbornness. I don't know how to handle it, and nothing (NOTHING!) we have tried works a bit on him. I was even saying to my husband about what we might be cultivating in him for the future if we leave his behaviour unchecked. I said that we would have to pray for God's guidance because I would not have that kind of wisdom by myself. And here I am at this particular blog post at your blog! Amazing. Thank you so much for posting this! I feel encouraged about the task ahead with my 3-year-old, and can now pray into it specifically. Thank you! :)

  6. I have not ever commented here before although I have been reading for years. Your posts never fail to give me godly wisdom and insight into whatever we seem to be going through. We just started our "official" homeschool journey with our oldest in Kindergarten this year. I've gotten so many ideas and resources from your past posts. Your girls just shine with love. It's so refreshing to see such clear clean eyes and bright happy faces. You are such an encouragement and inspiration.

    On a more practical note, what do you and your girls do for exercise? I know that it is best for optimal health but I've never been one to exercise (I never sit still though) and find it a little difficult with a 5, 3, 19 month and 5 week old. We don't live in a place where we can walk. If we do we have to load up the van and drive somewhere. Suggestions?

    Have a blessed weekend and thank you for your blog.

  7. Kelly K- Thank you so much. I really appreciate you my friend.

    Angela- Good eye! They are. I love Jenness Park, don't you?

    Sommer- My friend. I wish I could give you a big hug. I KNOW that season. Know that I love you and look forward to seeing you soon. You will be at Reformation?

    Amanda- Thank you!

    Kelly @ In Everything- So thankful. It is always with much prayer and consideration- one reason I don't post daily ;)

    Alice- I love that study (Leading Little Ones to God). Praying for you Sister.

    Emily- Thank you for commenting! Exercise? We do aerobics 2-3 times a week as a group with a video (I have used Denise Austin for about 14 years); we might go on a family walk after dinner; and for Christmas I plan to get the little girls a mini trampoline with a handle to get us through the winter months. I like one on Amazon with a handle AND a counter. It is strong enough to handle 250 lbs. and I think the counter would bring out our competitive nature. ;)

    Blessings to you!

  8. What a wonderful post! Thank you, I needed that. Your words of wisdom are such a blessing.

    It looks like you had a great time at camp, we were wishing we could be there with all of you and are looking forward to being at Spring camp (we hope!).

  9. Gabe- Thank you my friend! We missed you at camp, but are exited to hear you may be up in the Spring. Love to you!