Charlotte Mason wrote:
The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children (Vol. 1, p. 136).
Now, here are the habits she had in mind:
- Even Temper
- Perfect Execution
*all of the above is quoted from Simply Charlotte Mason.
It all sounds wonderful, but how do we train our children in these habits? I don't know, which is why I have hesitated to post further on the subject of habits. I will tell you this, Red excels at building good habits in her very young children. I think that this is because she has tremendous self-discipline. She keeps her expectations fairly simple, she has confidence in her role as parent, she gives consequences calmly and consistently. Treats and special outings are just that, so the routine in nourishing food and proper nap and bedtimes, and exceptions are carefully considered.
What I see from Red's example is that educating children who already have the habits of orderliness and obedience, cheerfulness and attention is much, much easier. They can continue to practice these habits and virtues while learning practical and academic skills because school begins just when you call them, they work until they are finished and then go off to play nicely in the yard or at the Lego table. They eat the healthy food you serve, take a little rest in bed and then go off to sports or classes, after which they thank you for taking them. They greet father cheerfully when he arrives, help clean the baby's hands after dinner, dress themselves for bed and enjoy their story and prayer time. Are these dream children? Red's kids are like this. They are not smothered by authority, and they have their struggles in areas of virtue and vice, but they are delightfully child-like, gracious and grateful.
My children lack some of these good habits, and our life is a daily struggle as a result. I have tried to help them to be self sufficient, and they want to be, but it is tough to do this when you can't find your shoe (pencil, notebook, hairbrush...). Sometimes we have misplaced things, and other times they have been stolen by a wandering toddler, but either way it is defeating.
When I have to go on a search for paper before we start a watercolor project, the thing often falls apart before it even begins. They may have wanted to practice the habit of attention, along with the watercoloring, but it is too hard when mom is hopping in and out of the room, there are too many temptations to fall off your chair and make everyone laugh, or someone goes to get a glass of water and spills it, or they fight over who has the red brush.
They do have the habit of obedience to my verbal commands, which is a really good start. I learned from Baby Wise to require "Yes, Mom" after all commands, and this, together with the confidence that they will obey, works amazingly well. I have made an excuse of the fact that we have babies and toddlers around, which makes it hard to do anything without interruption, and that we have spent so much time in survival mode. However, it would be to everyone's benefit, especially if more babies are in our future, if we all learn better habits. I say all because the truth is that I have struggled to teach many of these habits because I do not myself possess them.
While still enforcing the habit of obedience, I also need to transition them to doing the right thing on their own, something as simple as continuing with brushing your teeth if mom has to step out to change the baby, rather than picking up a bottle and spraying water all over the bathroom the moment her back is turned. This is not too much to ask of a 5 year old.
However, Red is in her babymoon, and while I am hoping that she will join a conversation, she may not have time to write all I need to know about habit training. We have lost one too many shoes this weekend and I am at my wits end. Also, I have concluded that good health habits are crucial to getting through cold and flu season in a large family with small children. So, I have been doing some looking on one of my favorite homeschooling websites and I have found wonderful resource, it is a series of blog posts on Charlotte Mason-style habit training at Simply Charlotte Mason. Go and read, and let's discuss it. I need your help, because home-educating my brood is going to be impossible if they do not have these habits!