We’ve been discussing the three words Charlotte Mason used to describe her approach to education: Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life. The past three posts explored how the ideas that rule your life as a parent affect the atmosphere of your home. If you would like to, you can review that aspect of Education Is . . .
Today let’s talk a little about how Education is a Discipline.
Jan sighed. “We have to wait on my daughter for everything. She takes twice as long as the rest of us to get dressed every morning. If we have an appointment to get to, I have to allow an extra half hour for her to get to the van. And don’t even get me started on schoolwork! An assignment that should take her fifteen minutes will stretch into at least an hour. I’m at my wit’s end!”
Charlotte’s counsel to Jan would be a gentle reminder that “Education is a discipline.” By “discipline” Charlotte meant the importance of cultivating good habits in our children — habits that they would then continue into their adult lives. In fact, she likened these good habits to railroad tracks that parents can lay down in their children’s lives, allowing the child to run on them smoothly into the future with little thought or effort.
When we think of good habits, we usually think of training our children to make their beds and brush their teeth. But Charlotte maintained that the same principle we use to train a child in one of those habits could be applied to training a child to give full attention, to tell the truth, or to look for ways to be helpful. Habits don’t have to be restricted to chores. Habits can be powerful tools in shaping your child’s character.
Somehow we don’t equate “character” with “habit.” But the saying is true, “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character.” Charlotte challenged parents to apply that principle to building moral habits (like self-control, good use of time, and personal initiative), mental habits (like logical thinking, memorizing, and observing), physical habits (like fortitude and self-restraint in indulgences), and even religious habits (like regular devotions, thanksgiving, and thought of God) in their children’s lives. You can read about the habits she mentioned here in our previous series on habits.
Jan’s trouble is that her daughter has developed the bad habit of dawdling. Just think how your home life would be different if your children developed the good habit of giving full attention the first time you said something or the habit of obeying the first time you told them to do something. Yes, it is possible! But it takes discipline on our part.
Now, you may not usually couple “summer” together with “discipline” in your mind; but trust me, this season might be the perfect time to focus on cultivating a good habit within your child that will make life smoother for him and for you come next fall. So think about one habit that you might want to concentrate on, and we’ll talk about five ways to cultivate good habits next time.