Habit Is Worth Ten Natures
The chapter "Habit Is Ten Natures" could really be retitled "Good Habits Are Worth Ten Times More Than Good Genetics".
OK, that would be a bit long. Really, though, this phrase persists around much Charlotte Mason literature and has always confused me. And, this chapter follows Charlotte's chapter on Nature Study. So, coming into the chapter, I thought maybe Charlotte was saying that habit was worth ten nature studies. But, that isn't what she is saying at all.
In fact, Charlotte reminds us at the beginning of this chapter on habits, that she placed the other chapter on Nature Study, before this chapter because, "the child - his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life - is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses;" and "put him in the way of making acquaintance freely with Nature and natural objects;" .
Charlotte first came to be interested in habits because she was frustrated in her work as a teacher. She found it hard to make an impact on a child who had bad habits. And she found that either children basically had good habits based on the care they had been raised with, or they didn't. The true impact was left with the parents.
Charlotte tells us that the child must not be left up to his own self. She says, "it is unchangeably true that the child who is not being constantly raised to a higher and a higher platform will sink to a lower and a lower." She compels us that our human nature in not invincible, that with gentle training it can be tamed, much as a horse being gently worked with froma young age, with bit, bridge, hand, and voice.
Habit grows stronger with exercise. Yet, if habit is to be used to lift a child, it must work contrary to our human nature. Sometimes mothers even raise their children up inadvertently with good habits - there are certain priniciples those mothers will not, under any circumstances, allow their children to neglect.
Charlotte argues that not only our outward actions are habits, but that "We think, as we are accustomed to think;". The child that has been trained to find reward and fun in their learning and reading - won't tend to be led astray by idleness. Just as our body becomes accustomed to use and un-use - so our brains become accustomed to being used or not, or being used in a certain way. Thoughts tend to follow a rut – our brain pathways have a way of least resistance.
Charlotte says that "the actual conformation of the child's brain depends upon the habits which the parents permit or encourage; and that the habits of the child produce the character of the man, because certain mental habitudes once set up, their nature is to go on for ever unless they should be displaced by other habits." "It is necessary that the mother be always on alert to nip in the bud the bad habit her children may be in the act of picking up."
Around our house, we deal a lot with doing things in a slow manner or a distracted manner, something Charlotte called dawdling. Charlotte said this was a habit of indecision, that the child and/or the parent needing to learn the habit of doing the next thing.
Charlotte then goes on the point out one of the biggest pitfalls in habit training - letting a habit slip. We often let habits slip because we feel sorry for the effort our children are making and feel they should have a break. Yet, as the child is making progress on the habit, it is becoming easier for him. This is the crucial time not to let the habit slip. Charlotte points our that we should be encouraged because habits actually become a source of pride and joy and make life easier in the end.
In order that we can train our children in habits we must train ourselves in the areas of "tact, watchfulness, and persistence".
Charlotte says that good habits begin in infancy - from a healthy schedule, to cleanliness, to neatness, to decency and modesty, to taking care and pride in possessions. She says a child of two can be taught to get out and put away her playthings in their place. She encourages moms to teach their children to not just put things away, but to put them away with taste. Have the kids arrange their playthings. Have your girls make flower arrangements. Have reproductions of classic pieces of art in their rooms. Have the children exercise each day. Drill them in good manners. Teach them proper pronunciation of their vowels and of their words. Have them listen to music and learn to sing and read music.
As I read Charlotte Mason, there is always a lot to think about when it comes to teaching and training my children. Yet, as she said earlier in the chapter, I must not let myself be caught up in indecision, but must demonstrate choosing the next thing to conquer in our lives.
If you are following Charlotte Mason's principles in your homeschool and this chapter applies to you in some way and want to make a link to your blog post, please do so below. Of course, you are always welcome to leave a comment as well.