Monday, May 18, 2009

Charlotte Mason - Moral Habits

I have been getting so much out of my Charlotte Mason reading. It is challenging reading since it is written in 1925 and since it has so many deep concepts in it. But, they are the kinds of concepts that I NEED so I can decide how to teach my children, and more importantly so I can gain assistance in how to raise them in a Godly and an well-rounded manner. I would highly recommend to any mother out there (including non-homeschoolers who want to play an active role in raising and educating their children) to read the original Charlotte Mason homeschooling series - starting with Home Education. A Charlotte Mason education is, surprisingly, to me, not so much an educational means centered around reading Twaddle Free books (although Charlotte does teach that), but is a bigger picture lesson of HOW to motivate children in their learning and character.

This chapter in Home Education is no less inspiring that any of the previous chapters I have read. Here are some highlights from the chapter:

Charlotte Mason Homeschooling Series - Home Education

Chapter 4 - Some Habits Of Mind - Some Moral Habits

Charlotte starts the chapter by re-iterating that not letting a habit slip is paramount in training our children. Yet, realizing that this task can seem daunting, she encourages us by reminding us that we mothers only need to keep a close eye on one habit at a time and to keep a general watch over habits already found.

With a child with some repetitive behaviors and lack of understanding of other's point of view, I find the one habit at a time concept to be harder than Charlotte writes, at least with her. Yet, whether I can take a more relaxed position with that child or not, it is still glaringly important that I not let habits slip with this child, or it only becomes harder for me. Perhaps you have a child with ADD or a developmental disorder, it might be harder because some habits are so ingrained in them, but don't tune out, these subjects are important to you as well.

Charlotte tells us that if we just choose 10 to 20 habits which we will fully work with our children on during their childhood - and if we take them one at a time and don't let them slip, that our children will be the better for it in their lives.

Charlotte also encourages us moms by mentioning that habit forming, if we stick with it, will actually become a habit for ourselves. That's right, if we stick with habit training with our children, it will become EASY because we will have formed a HABIT! Yeah. And, as she said in the last chapter, many a mom thinks she is going easy on her child (or herself) by letting up on a habit. Then the habit is no longer a habit and becomes hard work again. What an important subject which in the long run will make our lives easier.

The Valuable Habit - The Habit Of Attention

Our minds are never idle and are always busy thinking. Those thoughts, however, left to themselves, simple follow the law of association and flit from topic to topic. The habit of attention must be cultivated (doesn't come naturally) and be started to be trained as early and infancy by showing a child an object (such as a daisy) and having them turn their attention to it longer than they otherwise would. As we move on to school age children, Charlotte prods us to not let your child dawdle (space out) over their work (whether it be math, copywork, reading). When it has come to that, you know it is time to put that lesson away and turn to another lesson as much the opposite the first lesson as possible. Charlotte talks about this subject a lot. Keep lessons short. If a lesson isn't working, turn to another topic (reading after math for instance) so that the lessons are kept fresh. When planning your lessons - plan for alteration of types of lessons - ones that are brain heavy and ones that aren't. For instance - Math - Music - Copywork - Art - Reading - Science - Life Skills.

Teachers (us moms in the case of homeschooling moms) should be qualified enough to know how to change lessons enough to keep the child's attention and to bring various parts of the brain to work so the child is rested. This can be a challenge, I think, especially when we are new to a Charlotte Mason education, and haven't thoroughly thought these things through.

Charlotte teaches us that each lesson for the child eight and under should be twenty minutes or less. And, we should build natural incentives into the child's work so that if the child gets her lesson done well and early, that he should have free time for having done so.

I have found this idea revolutionary and have just now began implementing it. I find a half hour time period easier to remember - and if they get their lesson done early - the children can do what they want. Today, at least, this was motivation better than any treat.

Charlotte points out that as our children get older, we want them to be self-motivated to stay focused. Teach your child the value of sustaining their attention and how it will actually make their life easier as they will learn faster and get things done more quickly - freeing up time for leisure. Charlotte points out that (and I love this quote): "But truly, one of the most fertile causes of an overdone brain is a failure in the habit of attention. I suppose we are all ready to admit that it is not the things we do, but the things we fail to do, which fatigue us, with the sense of omission, with the worry of hurry in overtaking our tasks.

The Habit Of Application (Working Quickly)

Charlotte points out that even a child who naturally plods through their work can be trained to work more rapidly. Your little tortoise can be trained to move a little quicker every day. One thing necessary to encourage this is the aspect of something interesting ahead (the time out, the continuation of an interesting story, the right amount of length of a given lesson to not tire the child).

The Habit Of Thinking

What Charlotte means by thinking here isn't that loose association of ideas - for we all do that. True thinking is the noticing of the details, the understanding of cause and effect, the thinking ahead what will happen next or what is happening over there. We need to be cognisant of our need to help our children connect the dots. Teach them to think about things - encourage them to share their thoughts with you.

The Habit Of Imagining

Charlotte goes into the Twaddle concept here. She suggests that books be deep and leave a lot of room for the imagination. She says the book should include lives and cultrures and situations different from their own - but nonetheless real, not silly. Here she gives the example of Alice In Wonderland as a silly book and Swiss Family Robinson as a good book. She admits that there is some room for comedic and silly books (Bearnstein Bears comes to mind right now), but that they shouldn't be the mainstay of the child's reading menu.

The Habit Of Remembering

One point Charlotte makes here is that ideas need to be connected. Connect one lesson with a previous lesson. Another point she makes is that knowledge learned and never used is lost. We should continue to use our knowledge and exercise our brain so that we remember what we were once taught.

The Habit Of Perfect Execution

To me the habit of perfect execution goes hand in hand with the habit of application (working quickly). What good does it do us if our children can work quickly, but get their spelling wrong, have messy hand-writing, don't come to thoughtful conclusions, and get their math sums wrong?? We must emphasize and require both things. Part of this is our expectation and our not letting this habit slip as a mom, and then the other part of this is adjusting the curriculum (the lesson) in order to make it interesting and just the right size. In the long run, when we have taught them to give proper attention to everything they do, then our children will be able to do more, for longer, and with greater perfection than they would otherwise.

The Habit Of Obedience

Charlotte mentions how this is the essential habit. For we obey our earthly parents as we will obey our Heavenly Father. It is the "whole duty of the child". She mentions that those with overly harsh discipline miss true obedience and that consistent moral training "for it is right" is the way to train our children in obedience. As a natural reward, the children who are obedient are given a lot of liberty - a lot of freedom - for they can handle that.

The Habit Of Truthfulness

Charlotte states that lying can be caused by three situations (all serious):

  1. carelessness in ascertaining the truth
  2. carelessness in stating the truth
  3. deliberate intention to deceive

You can tell that all forms of lying are serious when you consider that a man's reputation and status in society can be permanently harmed by any of these.

In order to secure that your child learns this good moral lesson, train your child to give completely accurate statements. Teach her not to change a story to his own advantage, avoid facts, and stall. She can be humerous, but without embellishing facts.

A Habit Of Temperament

Charlotte reminds us about a few other areas for habit training. She tells us that temperament isn't born into a child, but is only a tendency, and can be trained in or out of them.

Do You Have Something To Share?

If you have applied any of these Charlotte Mason concepts in your homeschool and want to share about them, then please feel free to make a link to your post below with Mr. Linky. I'd love to hear about it.

I am reading through the Charlotte Mason Home Schooling Series each week, and am sharing on line for my own learning and in order to keep myself on task. I am posting something most Mondays. The next chapter is: "Lessons As Instruments Of Education". To read about other previous chapters, go to my Charlotte Mason category.

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