Many moms come by our booth at homeschool conventions and tell me that they’ve purchased Polished Cornerstones. My follow up question is always, “Do you use it?” Nearly all of them say they haven’t. They don’t know where to start. It can seem overwhelming with nearly 600 pages of information on character training. Where do you start? How do you make it work? This product is too useful to let it sit on the shelf collecting dust. Polished Cornerstones first captured by attention when I attended a local curriculum fair in preparation for our first year of homeschooling. It looked inspiring and overwhelming (and beyond my price range!) but I found myself drawn to it. I put it on a wish list—for five years! There never seemed to be enough money left over after we purchased curriculum, so after five years I finally budgeted for the expense. It has been a great investment and has served our family well. While there are some activities for younger elementary, the majority of activities are suitable for ages 8 and up, with some definitely for high school and beyond. I’ve created a template for creating lesson plans that you can download here: Polished Cornerstones Lesson Plan Template. You will need one template for each week of study.
Planning First, I plan which months we’re going to use the book. Some school years we’ve used it every month and other years we haven’t used it at all. I don’t feel guilty that we’re not completing every activity or even one activity for every character trait. Doing something is better than doing nothing.
Second, I pray and ask God to show me the weak areas in my daughters’ lives. I talk with my husband too, because he sees things I don’t. I also look for areas that the girls might enjoy, like hospitality. I make a list and then narrow it down to assign one character trait for each month of our study. If one daughter needs it, we all study it. It’s good for all of us to grow in our character. I try to vary the topics between character and life skills. For example, last year we studied a woman who is organized, humble, courageous, and manages her money. Copy your choices on the lesson plan templates.
Next, I use the list of scriptures at the beginning of the chapter to choose one verse or passage of scripture to memorize for each week of our study. I base my choices on the ages of the girls, making sure that the concept and wording can be understood. Copy your choices on the lesson plan templates. I usually create a document that has all the scriptures typed out in the order we’ll use them. This page goes in the notebook that I talk about below. This makes it much easier to read together.
Then, I review all of the possible activities listed in the chapter to see which ones fit our family. Some require other resources you may need to purchase, some are definitely geared to older daughters, and others require Dad’s involvement. Some are spread out over a long period of time and others can be done in a matter of minutes. Some are scripture intensive and require lots of writing or thinking; others are more practical and are more “doing.” I choose three activities per week, based on the age of the girls, and varying the activities by alternating between writing and doing. Copy the number and letter of the activities, as well as the page number, on your lesson plan template.
Finally, I make a list of any resources or supplies we need for each unit. I also make a list any pages that I need to copy. Then, I order all the supplies and make all the copies for the entire year. Yep, I said the entire year. If I only prepare for the first unit I sometimes forget to order a book or make a copy which means we can’t do the lesson and we get behind. I put all the copied pages in the girls’ notebooks (and the list of scriptures to memorize) so that the pages are ready when we need them. Check off the column on the lesson plan when you’ve made the copies.
Creating a Notebook I bought each of the girls a 1-inch, 3-ring binder (with pockets) and divider tabs. I labeled the tabs with the character trait and then inserted the copies for each unit behind each tab. Over the years, they’ve kept the same notebook, adding more tabs for each new unit. We don’t always keep our units in order chronologically, but I ask the girls to date their work for future reference. You could even add 3-ring pocket folders to hold mementos, if needed.
There are reproducible pages suitable for each girl to keep record of her accomplishments. You could also keep records by copying your lesson plans after you’ve finished your study and placing those in each daughter’s notebook.
Class Time We usually spend about an hour a day, four days a week. (Until this year, we had an hour delay on Thursday morning because of late nights at church on Wednesday!) I only choose three activities because I don’t like being in a rush and that allows me space if something takes me longer than I thought. (The lesson plan template has space for four activities for those who can fit in more.) Each time we meet together, the girls bring their notebook, their Bible and a pencil. Remember to record the date you complete the activity on the lesson plan template. One year, we met with another family of girls once a week and worked together on some sewing activities in the “Godly Woman” unit. The girls enjoyed that very much.
Worth the Work This may seem like a lot of work. Really, it’s not too bad and well worth the investment. God has always been faithful to lead me to just the right character traits and just the right activities. We use our month of study to focus on instruction, but also on changing behavior. Then when situations arise, I refer back to the scriptures and principles we learned. Overall, I have seen a lot of growth in the areas we’ve studied. Our study of hospitality has yielded much fruit, as we often have guests who remark about how welcome they feel in our home.
I’m not saying Polished Cornerstones is the only character curriculum you should use, or even that it’s the best one out there. I will say that it is has worked well for our family and that we have seen much fruit. It is a flexible tool which parents can use to teach their daughter godly character.
Doorposts has a similar book, Plants Grown Up, to train sons in Godly character.