Character Education for kids
Recently we were offered the chance to try the online character education courses run by Role Models UK, but what is Character Education and why do we need to bother with this aspect of development for our children as well as everything else on the list? In this post we explore what Character Education means and our experience of completing Role Models courses.
DISCLOSURE: WE WERE GIFTED ONLINE LEARNING SESSIONS TO INFORM OUR REVIEW, BUT ALL THOUGHTS ARE OUR OWN
What is Character Education?
According to the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues which is part of the University of Birmingham ‘Character Education teaches the acquisition and strengthening of virtues: the traits that sustain a well-rounded and a thriving society. ‘
They say that ‘ Flourishing is the ultimate aim of character education’ and that this is all about not only being happy as an individual, but fulfilling your own potential. Character Education develops the traits needed for this which include things like leadership, confidence, resilience, self belief, motivation, morality, civil duty and responsibility and respect for yourself and others to name just a few.
This is not a stand alone part of the school curriculum and even if it were it would surely need to be supported and role modelled by parents to cement children’s character development. So for me as a parent these traits and virtues of character seem fundamental to developing my children into being the amazing grown ups I know that they can be.
I am also really conscious as a grown up who whilst confident isn’t very resilient. I am anxious and it is a struggle to let my anxiety not take over and dictate how I respond to the challenges of life. I don’t want this to be the reality for my children so I am very keen for them to develop these key skills and also to improve my ability to be resilient so that I can be a good example to them of how to surmount difficulty and overcome fear that may hold us back from achieving.
These are all skills that Role Models UK specialise in developing. So when Role Models UK got in touch and offered us all the chance to take part in their online training sessions and learn all about building resilience, managing feelings and leadership I jumped at the opportunity.
Role Models Courses – Our Experience
Role Models was founded in 2014 with a clear objective of developing and delivering character education courses for children. They say:
‘In the past, our society and many schools have focused almost entirely on academic attainment and rankings, largely ignoring life skills. A growing body of research shows that life skills can radically improve a child’s happiness, academic success and overall achievement in life. Our experience, and the wealth of positive feedback we have received, shows this to be true.’
So now Role Models offers both online and offline (at the time of writing offline courses are on hold due to COVID-19) courses for both children and adults that cover topics such as Leadership, Building Resilience, Confidence, Critical Thinking and Communication to name just a few.
Their aim is….
to teach a million children how to communicate well, collaborate effectively, think critically, solve problems creatively and lead brilliantly, so that they can shape their future and those around them
What courses did we try?
We were so lucky to be offered a gift of each child attending a 2hr online character building session and for me to attend the parents workshop as well. We were able to chose the sessions we wanted to attend and so I chose:
Building Resilience in children for me to attend and then the younger kids attended ‘Me and My Feelings’ and our eldest (9) attended ‘Leadership Skills’
How do the online sessions work?
When you enrol for an online session with Role Models (which by the way is extremely easy to do on their website) you are sent a confirmation email and then the day before the course you are sent the access code.
The courses are delivered via zoom and so you do need to make sure your internet connection is stable, but there were no connectivity issues.
The course tutor begins by saying hello to everyone and then places all the kids on mute whilst they deliver content, but they are very good at seeing when the kids want to say something and unmuting them and also the whole session is very interactive with the kids being set tasks and then sharing their results with the group.
What age are Role Models courses for?
The classes are aimed at kids from 5 upwards and they are split via age group so my 5 year old twins and their 7 year old brother were delivered the same content albeit at different sessions. I was concerned that our 5 year olds may find the sessions a struggle as concentration isn’t their strong suit, but actually they were very engaged.
One of the girls is quite developmental advanced for her age and she was literally transfixed for the whole two hours. In fact she wanted to do it again… our other little lady found it harder to stay focused but still tried to join in and definitely learnt something. So age wise I would have thought a child of 6 or over could do these sessions without the parent needing to handhold. However, having said that my mature 5 year old also did the session completely without my help or support.
Building Resilience in our children
The course I took was all about building resilience in our children and it was genuinely amazing! I really got some character education myself that day!!!!
I am not exaggerating at all when I say this as it has not only given me some great ideas for supporting the children’s character development but actually gave me some real takeaways for changing my parenting style through changing my thinking.
The course was very interactive with the chance to talk as a group and share experiences as well as being asked some really thought provoking questions. It was challenging but in a good way.
There was also tutor led input and learning all about how our brains process positive and negative experience was a real game changer for me. We are hard wired to see the negative. Did you know that? I certainly didn’t but when you start to understand that and learn that you can reprogram this for you and your children it is a real aha moment.
Since doing the Role Model course I have been really focused on building resilience in me and in the children and so we have all started doing gratitude journals and I have also been working through a great kids book on self confidence with one of my little ones who struggles with self belief.
My gratitude practice and a few minutes of mindfully considering how I will make the day great has hugely impacted my levels of patience with the children and I hope will rub off on them and inform the way they approach each day.
Honestly I can not recommend this building resilience parenting workshop highly enough. I have genuinely made changes in my life and my thought process as a result. If you can seriously try it!
Me and my feelings
This is a lovely and fun session for younger kids. It covers worry and confidence and helps them to see how worrying can hold them back.
What I loved was that it gave them some practical techniques that they could implement when feeling stressed or angry or worried. They then told me about the techniques and they have become part of how we as a family manage emotions.
One of our little ones really struggles with managing her emotions and big feelings and just ends up getting very upset but now when she gets like this we have a breathing exercise to do and it really works for her.
Role Models also offer 1:1 training sessions and bespoke sessions based on your child’s needs. I want to arrange a few sessions for my little one who finds these emotions tough going as from the original course results I just know Role Models can help her.
Our 9 year old attended this session and it’s such a great idea as it really helped him to understand how to lead without just being bossy and overbearing. This is not a skill we are born with we learn to lead I think. We may be born with a tendency to want to lead but it’s about leading so people want to follow and I love that he has had a chance to begin developing these skills.
Totally fabulous! Attending these courses has definitely impacted all of us and given us practical ideas and tools that the children can use to help them with Building Resilience, Confidence, handling worry and dealing with anger. I wish there had been this type of thing when I was growing up as I am sure it would have helped this anxious young lady enormously.
I would 100% recommend trying out these sessions if you can. Loved them!!!
Why should parents care about Character Education?
Attending the Role Models UK courses has led me to think a lot more about the elements of character education that I need to focus on with my children. Before this I was very much just rolling along and doing this intuitively I suppose, but having the children and me take a class has made me see just how important this is.
I know that having a growth mindset is heavily advocated and taught at my children’s school which is great and as a faith school there is a really big focus on community, pastoral care and the development of character traits such as forgiveness and kindness. The teachers are constantly role modelling positive behaviours and supporting the children with developing their social abilities when they are at play and working in class, but after hearing about the make up of our brains and how our fight and flight instinct causes us to natural look for danger and the negative I am convinced that all parents need to be thinking about character education for children.
I am seeing now how vital my role, as their parent, is in shaping the traits that they need to be successful and happy. I am not sure it is enough for me just to remind them to be positive and to trey etc… I am now convinced that I need to make discussions around character traits and activities that give them the chance to practise some of what they are learning part of what we do when the kids are not at school.
Their emotional and character development is just as important as their academic development. Some of this of course will come from things like being part of sports teams etc… I just want to be conscious of whether my children are developing these key character traits and be conscious of how my behaviour is or isn’t role modelling these traits that I believe to be vital and so enable their character education.