Thursday, July 20, 2017

Reflections on Home Education - Part III (Post 1)....

Let's continue our discussion of Vol. 1, Home Education, by Charlotte Mason contemplating Part III. You can find thoughts on Part II here.

'Habit is Ten Natures'
...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. (p.97)
Up to this point, Charlotte has outlined key ideas that she felt must be included in order to properly educate young children. Those being:

1. Nourishing Healthy Brains with exercise, rest, and nutrition

2. Children spending hours daily in the out-of-doors

3. Forming habits, which is the focus of Part III and this post...
The formation of habits is education, and Education is the formation of habits. (p. 97)
Charlotte proclaims that habit is the instrument by which parents work, such as the wheel to the potter and knife to the carver as quoted above. She boldly asserts that she has come, "to look upon habit as the means whereby the parent may make almost anything he chooses of his child." Let's break this down.

The title of Part III is 'HABIT IS TEN NATURES'. Not too far in, Charlotte explains what she means or how she qualifies 'nature' and 'habit'. This was a question that kept coming up in our meeting. The question lay more on the side of habit. Does habit equate to character trait?

Recently, I found a two part post by Brandy Vencel at Afterthoughts Blog, where she flushed out 'habit is ten natures'. I wish I would have thought to search and read these before our meeting. For those of you interested, here is Brandy's Part I and Part II. She gives much food for thought. I have not yet read Ms. Mason's Vol. V, Formation of Character, but expect it would also be extremely helpful in understanding this concept.

What I gather is that heredity plays a factor in our character. We are all predisposed to certain genetic tendencies, which make up our human nature. However, Charlotte warns that a child must not be left to this human nature because they will most likely take the easy way out due to a feeble or immature will.
This is precisely what half the parents in the world, and three-fourths of the teachers are content to do; and what is the consequence? That the world is making advances, but the progress is, for the most part, amongst the few whose parents have taken their education seriously in hand; while the rest, who have been allowed to stay where they were, be no more, or no better than Nature made them, act as a heavy drag: for, indeed, the fact is, that they do not stay where they were; 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. Wherefore, it is as much the parent's duty to educate his child into moral strength and purpose and intellectual activity as it is to feed him and clothe him; and that in spite of his nature, if it must be so....
The will of the child is pitifully feeble, weaker in the children of the weak, stronger in the children of the strong, but hardly ever to be counted upon as a power in education. (p. 102-103)
Instead, the educator should give the child control over his own nature, "to enable him to hold himself in hand as much in regard to the traits we call good, as to those we call evil."  In my mind, this is cultivating self-governance. Charlotte goes on to say that as strong as nature is, it is not invincible and should not be permitted to run rampant. So how does one help a child overcome his nature? By habit training! Charlotte suggests that as strong as nature is, "habit is not only as strong, but tenfold as strong."

I often say, "I am a creature of habit." I make decisions based on what I know to be true and due to a patterned thinking. Having habits in place helps ease the effort of decision. I don't have to think about it because it becomes automatic. For example, I cannot go to sleep in unkempt sheets. Therefore, I make my bed every morning so when I'm exhausted, I can fall into bed and sleep restfully without thinking about it. Making my bed daily is a habit.

Charlotte says all things are possible with habit training...

...there is nothing which a mother cannot bring her child up to,... (p. 105)
...anything may be accomplished by training, that is, the cultivation of persistent habits. (p. 106)
Good habits can override nature. Charlotte's Principle 2 states all children are born with the possibilities for good and evil. If we acknowledge that a child's character is not determined by heredity, then the first task of education should be a moral one. We must guide children in their tendencies away from evil and toward the good. Charlotte likens these possibilities or tendencies to branches on a road and she says it is the parent's job to send the child down the right track... put the child on the right track for fulfillment of the possibilities inherent in him, is the vocation of the parent. (p. 109)
Charlotte advocated for parents being intentional about habit training. She writes about particular habits throughout her six volume set. If you need help or encouragement on how to form good habits over and above her writings, a useful resource is Laying Down the Rails by Simply Charlotte Mason. Their parent reference guide outlines everything Charlotte said about each habit and gives practical hands on ideas on how to implement them.

Tomorrow I will continue with thoughts on the rest of Part III, including the Physiology of Habit and the Effort of Decision.

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