Teaching Values

Help children learn timeless values.

Teaching values to home schooled students is no different from teaching values to children in the home or in typical school settings. Children learn values by observing and noticing the actions of their parents, siblings, grandparents, extended family and neighbors. They also learn values through the music they listen to, books they read, movies and television shows.

Teaching Values to Children

Just what exactly are values? Values go by many names. Some old-fashioned books use terms such as deportment or conduct. Newer texts refer to character education. The goals of all of these lessons are the same; to inculcate timeless values and behaviors in children so that they grow up to be good adults, parents, and citizens.

Set the Goal

The first step in teaching values to children is to set the goal. Are you teaching children how to behave in a group, such as a classroom or study group? Are you trying to teach children that certain behaviors such as lying, cheating or stealing are harmful? Each may require a separate goal.

Identify the Knowledge Gaps

Next, observe how your students are interacting and socializing. Do you notice any patterns of behavior? Where do they need help? If you're trying to teach your students that lying is wrong, you may want to identify instances where you observe a child lying. He may not be aware of the differences between telling tall tales, which he knows aren't true, and a lie that could be harmful to someone.

Find the Teachable Moment

Next, find what may be called the 'teachable moment.' That means identifying situations and using ongoing situations to teach the values you want to instill in the child. In the case of the child caught lying, you may want to gently and lovingly point out that stories and tales, while not true, are not lies. Yet saying "I don't feel good" and feigning a stomach ache just to get out of a trip to the dentist is a lie that could have harmful consequences, such as painful teeth later on by avoiding the dentist!

Using Stories

One important resource for home schooling parents teaching values is the use of stories. Throughout the ages, cultures have used storytelling to pass values from generation to generation. Myths, folklore and fairy tales provide engaging ways to share values without becoming didactic. Other sources of stories are movies and television shows. Popular cartoons can even become springboards for teaching values, depending upon the show.

Role Models

Role models are an important way for children to learn values. One idea for a lesson plan around teaching values is to ask children to select a biography to read. Provide a list of people that exemplify values you believe in. A biography of Helen Keller, for example, provides lessons around courage, hard work, and overcoming handicaps. The moral of her life story is "nothing can stop you if you keep trying", which may be a value you'd like your children to learn.

After the children read the book, ask them to write a book report. Then, ask them to present it orally. Ask questions such as:

  • Why did you choose this biography?
  • What did you like about this person?
  • What characteristic about this person would you most like to have?
  • How can you become like this person if you want to?

The results should be a lively discussion around the values and character traits of the famous person.

Additional Resources

For more about character development, values and citizenship, see:

Teaching Values