Charlotte Mason’s motto was: “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” Meaning “the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit, and the presentation of living ideas.” She called these the three educational instruments. This week, we will cover the idea of Education is a Discipline. You can find this topic in Volume 6 – Towards a Philosophy of Education, Book 1, Chapter 6.
The truth is, we are forming habits all the time, whether good or bad. The types of habits we acquire, and help our children acquire, can literally make us successful, or have us sending our kids packing to the local public school. When I say the habits we “help our children acquire,” I mean all the habits, not just the good ones.
Yes, parents can (and do) foster by bad habits in their children by inactive, permissive parenting.
If we fail to ease life by laying down habits of right thinking and right acting, habits of wrong thinking and wrong acting fix themselves of their own accord. We avoid decision and indecision brings its own delays, ‘and days are lost lamenting o’er lost days.’ (Vol. 6, book 1, chap. 6, pg. 101)
I am as guilty of failing in this area as any parent, but I do now that habits matter. When you are together 24/7, even a small bad habit can become a glaring problem. Homeschooling tends to magnify any issues that need to be worked out in a family dynamic. So the question becomes, how do we foster good habits in our children, the kind of habits that will help them succeed in receiving an education, while eliminating the bad ones?
The short answer: lots of work for Mom & Dad (at least for a season).
The benefit: children who successfully manage themselves, their education, and their lives once they reach adulthood.
That’s got to be worth a little work, right??
Parents need to decide what habits are worth cultivating in each of their children. Obviously, many of these will be the same for each child, but we all come with our own unique gifts and abilities, which need to be considered.
Bad habits are usually the beginning step. Habits have been forming for years, and many of them are not good. Whether they are habits of laziness, sloppiness, bad attitudes, etc. Choose ONE bad habit that you want to work on, and begin replacing it with a new, good habit. It will not be easy work, because forming any quality habit goes against our desire for having things “easy.”
We admire the easy carriage of the soldier but shrink from the discipline which is able to produce it. We admire the lady who can sit upright through a long dinner, who in her old age prefers a straight chair because she has arrived at due muscular balance and has done so by a course of discipline. There is no other way of forming any good habit, though the discipline is usually that of the internal government which the person exercises upon himself; but a certain strenuousness in the formation of good habits is necessary because every such habit is the result of conflict.
The bad habit of the easy life is always pleasant and persuasive and to be resisted with pain and effort, but with hope and certainty of success, because in our very structure is the preparation for forming such habits of muscle and mind as we deliberately propose to ourselves.
We entertain the idea which gives birth to the act and the act repeated again and again becomes the habit; ‘Sow an act,’ we are told, ‘reap a habit.’ ‘Sow a habit, reap a character.’ (Vol. 6, book 1, chap. 6, pg. 101-2)
Those are powerful words from Charles Reade. The full quote is:
Sow a thought, reap an act,
Sow an act, reap a habit,
Sow a habit, reap a character,
Sow a character, reap an eternal destiny.
What habits are you reaping? From your habits, what kind of character do you have? What about your children? Education is about far more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. Education is about acquiring the tools needed to meet your destiny. You will be known by your character.
It is more important to be honest, than to be smart. It is more important to be kind, compassionate, loyal, generous, and loving than it is to learn anything a school can teach you. If your habits enable you to learn, AND shape your very character, that makes habits a cornerstone and of great importance. Based on the amount of time it takes most adults to break bad habits, we should realize that it is even more important to shape good habits and character in youth.
This is merely an introduction into the importance of habit training for any family following the Charlotte Mason method. I feel that it is essential to really understand the three educational instruments, as Charlotte explained them. They were revolutionary for her time, and they are still successful today. This is the second blog of a three part series. The first, “Education is an Atmosphere” can be found here.
There will be a more detailed blog in the coming weeks regarding habit formation.