Purple piggy bank

My youngest daughter is earning money toward a trip. Ever since she learned about the Oregon Trail, she has wanted to go visit some of its destinations in person. She is saving coins in a bright purple piggy bank. She usually earns only one or two coins per day, but each time she drops one into the slot she checks the overall level. Little by little the pile is growing. Little by little she is learning a valuable lesson: small, constant touches can add up to something great.

It’s the same with many things in life. Charlotte Mason encouraged parents to approach habit training with that mentality. She described the benefits of cultivating good habits in our children and outlined how it could be accomplished, then she reminded us:

“Not all this at once, of course; but line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, as opportunity offers” (Vol. 1, pp. 328, 329).

Habit training is best achieved through small, constant touches, which add up over time into something great.

She said the same regarding our task of strengthening our children’s wills to do what is right and instructing their consciences to know what is right:

“But the will is the man, the will chooses; and the man must know, if the will is to make just and discriminating decisions. This is what Shakespeare, as great a philosopher as a poet, set himself to teach us, line upon line, precept upon precept. His ‘Leontes,’ ‘Othello,’ ‘Lear,’ ‘Prospero,’ ‘Brutus,’ preach on the one text—that a man’s reason brings certain infallible proofs of any notions he has wilfully chosen to take up. There is no escape for us, no short cut; art is long, especially the art of living” (Vol. 6, pp. 314, 315).

I love that last reminder: “art is long, especially the art of living.”

We have been assigned a long-term project. Shaping and molding our children in the art of living cannot be accomplished in one fell-swoop. Nor can it be accomplished well in a haphazard, once-in-a-while manner. Faithfulness is required. Small, constant touches will add up over the long haul.

I’ve noticed the same thing with Charlotte’s technique of short lessons in a variety of subjects. Those short lessons add up! Over time our children’s knowledge accumulates, just like the coins in the piggy bank. And because the lessons are short and varied, they do not quench our children’s innate desire for learning; if anything, they stimulate a desire for more knowledge! Line upon line, those small, constant touches are adding up to a lifelong love of learning.

If, perhaps, today you find yourself weary, check to make sure you are following the “small” part of that principle. Long, drawn-out lessons can become a tedious drain and usually don’t amount to more learning, for our children’s brains can process only so much at a time. Trust the principle: small, constant touches add up to something great.

But also keep in mind the “constant” part. Faithfulness is crucial. If it helps, think to yourself, Just for today.

Just for today, give your children your full attention and loving direction.

Just for today, insert a refreshing change of pace by doing a picture study or music study in the midst of lessons.

Just for today, remind the children of the habit you are focusing on and work together to practice doing it as often as possible.

Just for today, take two minutes to read a poem together and enjoy how the poet used words.

Just for today.

Then tomorrow when you wake up, think to yourself, Just for today.

Day upon day—line upon line—small, constant touches can add up to something great.


  1. The translation is more work than we first thought it would be. However, just one article per week is doable and we already have great feedbacks. Please pray that the websites will be a real blessing for many families in Romania, in the German speaking part of the world and in Indonesia.

    Please check the link for “Austria”, I think there is a mistake.

  2. Sonya,
    This is a great post. I like to read the book Little One Step to remind my kids that even when they feel like they can’t make their goal to keep taking little steps, and before they know it their destination will be reached. It always serves as a great reminder to me to keep being faithful in the small things, little by little, and eventually my children will be grown with a good foundation under them.

  3. Thanks for the reminder. My children have been so sick we haven’t done school since Christmas. I’m too much of a perfectionist. If we can’t do our whole school day, because they’re not feeling well I don’t want to do any of it. But after reading this Even a little bit a day would add up. My perfectionism is going to have to go. Kind of like Dr. Seuss Marvin K. Mooney. 🙂 (My 4 year old loves that book, although probably not a living book, we like the rhymes.) On a side note, a couple hours from us is a wonderful museum for learning about the Oregon Trail. Children and adults alike love it, called the “Oregon Trail Interpretive Center” in Baker Oregon. (I believe that’s what it’s called. Been awhile since I’ve been there.) If she ever gets that dream of hers fulfilled, you don’t want to miss this place. My parents took us there many times as children and we never tired of it. I’m planning to take my children there when we get to that module in history, but it’s going to be awhile as we’re only on Joshua through Malachi right now. And it’ll be a really long time if we never have school……

  4. Thank you for your faithfulness in writing your CM posts every week. They are filled with great reminders (ie-keeping it simple) and renew our vision for teaching our children. Thank you for the encouragement!

  5. I have three young boys and we have been homeschooling CM style for 8 years now. Little by little is an excellent word of encouragement. It becomes so easy to panic at the thought of all that “needs” to get done. I have felt guilt over the years at the gaps that could be forming in my children’s education. As I have learned from Miss mason’s writings, atmosphere makes up one third of a child’s education. Several of my own habits have been changing lately as I seek to remain steadfast in His love, seeking only to provide a home in which healthy habits will be formed as the foundation of their education. Little by little I see complete education forming before my eyes. Thank you for the post. As always, a pleasure to read. Simply Charlotte Mason has been an invaluable resource in our home for years now and I was thrilled to hear the news that you will be speaking at this year’s KC Conference. I look forward to it! God Bless!

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