I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Cultivating Character in the Homeschool Day

A simple system to cultivate character in your kids

Written by Krista Smith.

A while back, I shared the Ticket Journey to Obedience, the system I learned from a very Godly woman and incredible mother whose three children are all following Jesus passionately as adults.

And while I thought the Ticket system worked wonders for us in the discipline department, and while it took a lot of the power struggles and tantrums right out of our school day, I noticed that there was still something missing in the life-blood of our family: edification.

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” Hebrews 10:24 

I want to make our homeschool days resplendent with meaningful praise, not just hollow platitudes.

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Admittedly, The Ticket Journey has helped our children to feel the weight of their actions and to accept the consequences of those actions. But I've noticed that that it's a bit deficient in “Atta boy”s and “Atta Girl”s.

If I’m honest, it’s a lot easier for me to see my children’s faults because they’re bothersome to me, than it is for me to see the good things they do which may or may not affect me at all. These are the very things, however, I want to mark and foster in my kids. Encouragement, however, takes intentionality and effort on my part. A system helps too…because I love systems.

Creating a Character Chart

So, together, my husband and I whipped up a chart that is helping us to deliberately "mark" desirable character traits in our children. It looks a little something like this:

A simple system to cultivate character in your kids

The chart has three sections. For the outer two parts, I made colored ladders that are used to visually show improvement. In the center, I listed out some of the things that are most important to us as a family. These are character qualities we want to see growing and flourishing in our home every day--increasing and increasing year after year. Our list included these five character traits:

Christ-centered Lives

Examples of how my kids display this include:

  • remembering to pray
  • remembering to help those in need
  • reading their Bibles spontaneously (not out of duty or obligation)
  • excitedly telling me something they liked or learned from their devotionals


Examples of how my kids display this include:

  • giving their sibling the biggest slice of banana bread
  • picking up someone else's toys just to be helpful
  • giving their allowance to help a family in need

Good attitude

Examples of how my kids display this include:

  • not complaining about a meal they don’t like
  • doing chores without complaining
  • having a good attitude when transitioning away from a fun activity or when they are disappointed when a plan falls through

Good Work Ethic

Examples of how my kids display this include:

  • completing spelling practice without being nagged
  • offering to help with snow removal and then seeing it through to the end
  • doing chores with excellence
  • figuring out a hard math problem without a melt-down


Examples of how my kids display this include:

  • not interrupting me while I'm on the phone or while I'm talking to someone else
  • remembering to say please and thank you to the server at a restaurant
  • holding the door for others
  • saying something kind or encouraging to a sibling
  • using appropriate table manners that they've been taught

Next, I got wooden clothes clips, wrote each child’s name in marker on it and clipped it to the chart. And because my daughter wanted pinks and purples on her chart and my son wanted green and blue, we have a chart with both a boy's and girl's side.

Cultivating Character  

Now, every time I see specific character qualities displayed in my children throughout the day, I move the clip up and then tell them exactly what character I saw displayed and why I loved seeing it. This praise is neither a generic “good job" nor a sermonette. It is very specific and touches on just how proud I am to see such Christ-centered character coming out of my children’s hearts.

It works well to also give my kids a plastic pirate’s gold coin when they get their clip to the top. These coins are saved up for special things. For example, a child who banks 20 coins can cash them in for an extra movie night, a later bed time, or an elongated reading session with me before bed. These are specific incentives for my children to help reinforce and reward Christ-likeness. (Should you choose to use a similar system, be sure to adapt the motivations to your child's personality and passions.)

Seeing the Fruit of Character

The other day, while at the store with my kids, I lost my phone. It must have fallen out of my purse somewhere in route from my van to the store. But I never noticed. It wasn't until we returned to the van and went to call my husband that I realized the phone was missing. Panic set in as I tore the van apart and emptied out the contents of my purse. No phone. Then, I heard a small voice from the back seat. “Mommy, we need to pray!” my daughter said. Right there in the middle of the parking lot, with 8-year-old innocence, she launched a sincere prayer to the King who always knows exactly where my phone is at all times, even when I don’t.

Needless to say, I joined her in prayer and thanked her for helping me keep my eyes on Christ. When we got home, I moved her character clip up, saying, “Sweetie, today when mommy was frantic about my phone, I didn't even stop fretting long enough to pray. But I'm so grateful that asking Jesus for His help was the first thing on your mind. Jesus is so proud of you for that, and so am I!”

That's the kind of character, I'm hoping to cultivate. That's the kind of character I want to notice and affirm.

From one Mother to Another

I will admit that encouraging character can feel a little phony or forced at first. But do it anyway! Chances are, your kids, like mine, will blossom in a home where discipline is consistent and specific character-building praise is doled out with abandon.

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Krista Smith is blessed to be the mother of three beautiful children and is privileged to homeschool them using an eclectic variety of methods. She has a deep and abiding love for tan-colored coffee, spending time with her family, and seeing children find their forever homes through adoption. But above all of these things, Krista is, first and foremost, a lover and follower of Jesus Christ. So, may the Lord and His Gospel get every ounce of honor, glory, and credit for anything she writes, says, or does.


  1. I LOVE this concept so much I have been busily working on your spreadsheet all day (on and off of course)! This so aligns with my being a homeschooling momma and an Early Childhood Educator and my heart for Jesus:) Thank you for sharing this wonderful idea; I will be sure to let you know how it goes. Warmest regards, Ellen

    1. I'm so glad this was helpful to you. I'll be anxious to hear how it plays out in your home.

  2. Me too, Ellen! It such a simple thing, but it is so important! Blessings to you and yours 😊