Many homeschool parents spend hours pouring over curriculum. Worrying about choosing the perfect math book or science series. Are they doing enough? Will their child be prepared academically to succeed in the workplace or at college?
But are these the right questions to ask? Don’t get me wrong, we need to teach our children, and do a good job of it. By homeschooling, we are making a commitment before the government and before God to teach our children what they need to know. But what if your child gets to graduation day and all he has is academic knowledge? A learned bore with no manners at best or, at worse, a menace to society. Has he been well equipped to be successful in life?
A Charlotte Mason philosophy of education has been rapidly gaining in popularity over the past several years. Known for a gentle approach to teaching children using strategies such as living books, nature study, and copywork, the Charlotte Mason approach has become popular for its academic approach to education. But Mason herself was interested in the whole child, not just the academic nature. A big part of Mason’s approach to educating a child involved training them in skills that she called “habits.”
According to Mason, being well-trained in good habits could overcome many inherited natures. She believed that training a child early in good habits was a tool that parents could use to mold the child into a successful adult. Parents form habits in their children without even being aware of it. By making conscious decisions to reinforce the habits we want to see in our children, and by making sure we do not reinforce the negative ones, we can raise a pleasant child who is able to submit his own nature to positive authority.
Practical Tips for Habit Training
So, what does habit training look like practically? You are probably already training your child in good habits without even realizing it. Do you prompt your child to say “thank you” when given a gift, hold the door for someone, or say “excuse me”? You are training her in a habit of being polite. Spend some time thinking through habits that you want your child to have, then purpose to train your child in these habits. Choose one habit at a time to focus on. Discuss with your child the habit that you are working on, carefully explaining what you expect from him. It is important to be intentional and consistent in habit training. You need to be diligent to deal with the habit every time it occurs. This will take discipline on the part of the parent, but the reward is great. Habit training will result in the good character you want your child to exhibit!
Need some ideas for habits to focus on? Here are some to get you started:
Training the mind to keep focused on the subject at hand.
Keeping oneself and one’s belongings clean.
Behaving in a way that shows respect and consideration for other people.
Applying oneself with steady effort unto the termination of a task.
Giving liberally from one’s own possessions to another.
Restraining oneself to a set of values.
Committing information to memory.
Submitting to authority.
Overcoming feelings and thoughts to do what is right.
Giving of yourself and your time to help others.
Telling only what is factual.