Creating Good Habits

Creating good habits - a Charlotte Mason approach to creating good habits in our childrenI am a huge fan of habit building.

It is something I actively work on with our boys, but the benefit is for my sake, too. As they are growing and developing in character, I am too. Modeling is the best teacher, and this intentional work of building good habits has revealed a lot of my own lack. But despite my own lack, we press on.

I have been inspired by the writings of Charlotte Mason and by mothers I know who have taken the time to intentionally build up their children’s character. It is hard work, but it is an investment for the future and one I believe will be worthwhile.

A Charlotte Mason Companion  and For the Children’s Sake are two books that discuss habit building {both talk from the perspective of home educating children being best and discuss other aspects of homeschooling} but habit building is included in there and I appreciate them both.

Laying down the Rails is a very practical book that solely focuses on habit building. It lays out all of the habits that Charlotte Mason referenced in her writings and has quotes and a short story to illustrate the habit. I have appreciated owning the book but would not consider it essential.

We have been focusing on habit building since 2012. How it plays out has varied through the seasons, but I have found that I must be intentional about it or it simply becomes a good intention.

Using Laying down the Rails, and analyzing our own family dynamics and needs, I pick out our habits for the year all at once. This originally started out as a calendar year schedule, starting in January. There was a sense of new beginning and enthusiasm when approached this way. For practical reasons it turned into part of my school year planning, following a school year schedule. The first couple of years I did one habit per month. This worked well for us. It has since evolved into 6 habits per school year – one per each six week term. This also works well for us now. Bottom line – plan what will work within your own personality and family dynamics. But without a plan it is sure to fail.

When we started back in 2012 it was extremely involved. I had games, stories, object lessons and activities to go along with each habit. Every day we would do or discuss something related to the current habit. We had friends over for dinner whose job required diligence in that particular habit (ie. Nurses came over to emphasize the habit of Listening.) It was excellent for all of us. But that was also when we had the luxury of time and not so many other tasks to complete. It has since evolved into something a little less involved.
Quotes, Bible verses, and hymns are our primary focus point for our habits – all being utilized as copywork exercises and springboards for discussions. Games and activities still occur, but are much more organic in nature as opposed to me planning them out.

At the start of each month the boys fill out a blank calendar. This is both for calendar building skills and also where they are first introduced to their new habit. The new habit is written on the blank calendar page and they draw a picture illustrating this habit. This worked wonderfully and smoothly when we did one habit per month. It was an added complication when we switched to one habit per term, but we navigate through that.

All of the posts within this blog on the subject of habits can be found right here.



Quotes about Habit Building

Of course, Charlotte Mason has much to say about Habit building. Her words are encouraging and inspiring, and so I leave you with just a few of her thoughts on habit building.

This relation of habit to human life––as the rails on which it runs to a locomotive––is perhaps the most suggestive and helpful to the educator; for just as it is on the whole easier for the locomotive to pursue its way on the rails than to take a disastrous run off them, so it is easier for the child to follow lines of habit carefully laid down than to run off these lines at his peril.

Untitled-5The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days.

…habit, in the hands of the mother, is as his wheel to the potter, his knife to the carver––the instrument by means of which she turns out the design she has already conceived in her brain.

It takes a few weeks of work to build a new habit. Once the habit is in place, it must be guarded diligently to prevent a reversion to the old ways, but keeping watch is not stressful or difficult once the new habit is secure.

Whether habits are planned and created conscientiously, or allowed to be haphazardly filled in by chance, they are habits all the same. Habit rules ninety-nine percent of everything we do.

Untitled-6One last word about habit–the point of training children to have good habits is so that they’ll do things without being nagged or scolded. Then the mother isn’t constantly chasing them down with a barrage of commands and reminders. She can leave them alone to thrive in their own way once habit has secured a boundary for them to grow in.