Laying Down the Rails: A Charlotte Mason Habits Handbook
Laying Down the Rails


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Laying Down the Rails

(15 customer reviews)


Our bestselling book on habit training! Here, compiled into one volume, are all the habits Charlotte Mason mentioned in her writings with her thoughts and suggestions for cultivating each one. This work also includes Charlotte’s help for breaking bad habits, hundreds of inspiring quotes, and lots of practical tips. See full description

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Product Description

Discover the secret to smooth and easy days!

The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days.—Charlotte Mason

Charlotte likened good habits to rails on which our children’s lives could run smoothly. It is the parent’s business to lay down those rails.

Here, compiled into one volume, are all the habits Charlotte mentioned in her writings with her thoughts and suggestions for cultivating each one. This work also includes Charlotte’s help for breaking bad habits, hundreds of inspiring quotes, and lots of practical tips.

  • Complete—Details more than fifty CM habits with their corresponding passages from Charlotte’s writings, as well as her thoughts on the importance of habits.
  • Practical—Presents Charlotte’s writings in bite-size chunks with summary statements and quick personal review questions. Modern-day examples offer additional insight into applying CM principles today.
  • Organized—Arranges all the habits into five main categories: decency and propriety habits, mental habits, moral habits, physical habits, and religious habits.
  • Handy—Provides a Habits Checklist to help you track your child’s and your own progress in developing good habits.
  • Encouraging—Motivates and inspires you with wonderful quotes from Charlotte Mason and many other great men and women of history, like Helen Keller, Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill, William Shakespeare, Ralph Waldo Emerson, C. S. Lewis, Thomas Edison, and more!
  • Easy to Use—Acts as a quick and easy reference book with an Index that lists all the habits and the pages on which they are mentioned.

Also available: Laying Down the Rails Workshop video, the companion book of lesson plans Laying Down the Rails for Children, and Laying Down the Rails for Yourself.

What’s the difference between the Laying Down the Rails resources?

We have a page explaining what each Rails resource is, plus details on using all of the resources together for maximum effectiveness in habit training.

Practical Homeschooling Reader Award 2012–2013 Practical Homeschooling Reader Award 2014 Practical Homeschooling Reader Award 2015 Practical Homeschooling Reader Award 2017

Additional Information

Weight1.45 lbs
Dimensions11 × 8.5 × 0.75 in




E-book, Trade Paper


Parent Resource


These ideas, links, and tips that correspond to Laying Down the Rails may be helpful to you. Use them to enhance your study.

15 reviews for Laying Down the Rails

  1. ChristyH

    There were so many things that i underlined or highlighted that it is not even funny. So many little nuggets to mine. I liked how all the quotes for a topic were there all together. I recently started reading it again at a trouble spot we were having and it was nice just to go to the section I needed. Another thing that I really liked were the little “stories” at the beginning of some of the chapters. That helped me to take theory and see it in a practical application. I highly recommend this resource.

  2. Ann Voskamp

    One of the most productive homeschooling reads.
    Worth every penny and more.
    Needful, necessary stuff.

    I return again and again to this book, all underlined and dog-earred.

  3. Malissa VanZee

    This book breaks down into manageable sections exactly what Charlotte Mason talks about and gives practical suggestions as to how to implement them. A definite must read for anyone with kids, whether you homeschool or not. A definite God send!!!

  4. Melissa Gonzales

    I reccommend this HIGHLY, there is no other to compare to this resource! Thank you for the hard work…

  5. mama4x

    I saw the DVD teaching of this tonight at a monthly homeschool meeting. Wow! Looking forward to the book. 60 habits… “don’t let the list browbeat you” she said. “Read her 6 volume work, or read this.”

  6. amy in peru

    absolutely EXCELLENT resource.
    chock FULL of CM quotes, modern examples, practical suggestions, and a comprehensive checklist for use in everyday application!

    thank you!

    amy in peru
    fisher academy

  7. Donna Jo

    Love this book! Mine is all marked up in the margins. I love that you put in space for us to take notes. We have a local homeschool group that meets once a month to discuss a section or two from this book.

  8. Stephanie Cherry

    This book has revolutionized my parenting and equipped me to teach everything I was not taught as a child. It is a great mentor. The fact that honesty and obedience are habits that can be taught alongside cleanliness and the like was a great encouragement to me. This is a must have for every parent. Not only for homeschoolers.

  9. Sarah

    Hi, I was wondering if this is available in a Kindle-friendly format (besides pdf)? Thanks!

    • Doug Smith

      At this time the only electronic format we offer is PDF.

  10. Jasmine Hill

    This book is awesome ! Just what I needed as far as detailed advice on exactly what habits to teach in the areas of cleanliness, morality, mental habits, physical habits etc. If your not sure about it because of the cost, dont worry its worth it. And I am someone who has read many child rearing/homeschool books I was never really impressed with.

  11. Leslie

    Has the content of this book changed since the 2007 spiral-bound edition? Thanks, Leslie

    • Sonya Shafer

      Hi, Leslie. We changed only the binding. The content remains the same.

  12. Jamie

    I would highly recommend this to every parent. I’ve only been using really for a few weeks and I can see a vast improvement in my confidence as a parent and my communication with my daughters.

  13. Katherine Drake

    No need to reinvent the wheel here… just read the reviews. As Ann V. said, “Needful, necessary stuff.”

    I saw this first at a meeting of Mamas for the co-op we belong to. A year plus ago. I finally ordered it, after many months.

    And, feeling overwhelmed by my days, and sometimes, my children, there it sat in my pretty little “Mommy’s Homeschool Box.”

    Guilt (having invested the money into it… and the children’s books, besides… but not using it) and a touch of desperation (which was only beginning to set in… because for long I was certain that I could do this “mother” thing without help from a book) drove me to pull it out of its pretty little home, and actually put it to use.

    Blessedly, the lessons are SHORT, and add almost nothing to my load. However, the gains… the GAINS!… Oh, my.

    We have not been at this long. In fact, we are just getting into our second habit. But I am in awe at the results I’ve seen in just the short time we’ve been at it.

    Yes, Mrs. Ann. Needful, necessary things!

    I am excited to think of the changes in our home.. in our children… that having this focus in our school & life will bring. I’m also inspired, and I recommend this book to everyone.

    Be not deceived; these books are no magic pill. As with teaching our babes phonics, or multiplication, we must be consistent until they “get it”. We are showing them the way, until they can walk therein.

    But get it, they will and your days will be more peaceful, and your Mama soul will have rest, knowing… seeing… that these children put in your charge are going to “turn out okay”, after all.

    Get this book. And, invest in the two books for the children, too. Then, do better than I… delve in immediately, so you will reap all the benefits of Laying Down Rails for your children.

  14. Julie

    I was disappointed in this book because it is just a list of good habits, but has very little practical advice about how to train your child to form that habit. I was hoping for more practical advice and suggestions about child training.

    • Sonya Shafer

      I’m sorry you were disappointed in the book, Julie. It is a complete reference book of all the habits Charlotte Mason talked about along with her comments on each one. Chapter 2 will give you the general principles of how to form any habit, then the individual habits listed in the rest of the book present any other practical tips Charlotte gave for encouraging each of those specific habits. If you would like to, you can take advantage of our 30-day money back guarantee. Or perhaps the Laying Down the Rails workshop would be helpful to you. It pulls those main principles from the book and presents them in a very practical way. That workshop might give you the framework in which to glean and apply Charlotte’s other comments compiled in the reference book.

  15. Meggie

    I had more of a question, but I was wondering if this book is appropriate to apply for preschoolers?
    Thank you!

    • Sonya Shafer

      The principles of habit training that are explained in the book are appropriate at any age. Many of the practical tips that Charlotte gave are specific to school-age children, but some apply to younger ones. We have also collected her tips for preschool-age children and included those in a chapter of The Early Years: A Charlotte Mason Preschool Handbook.

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