It’s amazing how much our daily lives are shaped by our habits: getting up, getting ourselves ready, what clothes we put on, getting our children ready, taking care of pets, where we sit at the table, how we talk to our spouses, how closely we listen to our children.
Good habits are wonderful servants. Bad habits are tyrannical masters.
Charlotte Mason understood the power of habits in a person’s life, and she encouraged parents to make habit-training a part of the children’s education as a person. She believed that the good habits we instill in our children’s lives make up one-third of their education.
And her school methods were designed to reinforce those good habits. This brilliant melding of home school and home life are yet another reason I love the Charlotte Mason Method.
Habits Reinforced in Your School Day
Here is just a sampling of her methods and the habits they help cultivate in the students’ lives.
- Interesting Books—Living books that warm the emotions and fire the imagination make it much easier for the child to pay full attention and recall the lesson later.
- One Reading—Charlotte insisted on a single reading of the book during a lesson, because she knew human nature. We all have a tendency to mentally sluff off if we know we will have a second (or third) chance at the information. On the other hand, if we know we will have only one shot at it, we turn the full gaze of our minds on the matter, thus reinforcing the habit of full attention.
- Requirement of Narration—When a student knows he will be required to narrate what he has read or heard, he musters himself and pays more attention than if nothing will be required of him.
- Looking Closely—Nature study and picture study are two great ways to encourage the habit of observation. Both present opportunities for the student to look closely and carefully, and both make sure that what he is observing is worthy of his focus.
- Short Lessons—Stopping before the child loses attention reinforces the habit of “pay attention for the whole lesson.” The more often he pays attention for the whole lesson, the more that mind-set will become a habit. Then we can incrementally increase the lesson length with that habit in place.
- Small Amounts of Handwork—Whether in handwriting or handicrafts, the emphasis is on quality, not quantity. Assigning a small amount and expecting the student’s best work sets up and reinforces the habit of, what Charlotte called, perfect execution.
- Variety of Subjects—Covering several different subjects that use different parts of the brain and body in succession is one of the key principles to how Charlotte set up her students’ daily schoolwork. Sometimes a change is as good as a break, and that variety makes it easier to continue to pay full attention.
Did you notice how many of Charlotte’s methods focus on full attention and best effort (perfect execution)? You can get a lot done in a short time if you give full attention and best effort. Would your home school be any different if your children had just those two habits?
Habits are powerful, and the Charlotte Mason Method helps us instill the good habits that will give us smooth and easy days.
New Version of Habits Workshop
Over the years that I have been studying habit-training and presenting the Laying Down the Rails workshop, I have collected many interesting and helpful stories from moms and dads all over the country—fascinating stories that illustrate the truth of Charlotte’s tips on habits. As each story was added to the collection, it often found a place in the next presentation of the workshop, reinforcing and clarifying many of the key points.
Now we are happy to offer an updated version of the Laying Down the Rails workshop on DVD or CD. This version contains the same basic principles of habit-training as the previous version, but it includes those new illustrations and stories from the people I have met more recently.
The updated version is also included in our new Learning and Living: Homeschooling the Charlotte Mason Way 12-DVD set. If you would like to learn more of how habit-training is woven throughout Charlotte’s methods of teaching and learning, this series of DVDs is for you.