Friday, August 18, 2017

Reflections on Home Education - Part IV....

Charlotte continued Part IV of Vol. 1, Home Education with further discussion of habit training. You may remember she began writing about habit training in Part III, of which I wrote much in Post 1 and Post 2. Early on in Part IV Charlotte advocates for habit training in order to make life easier for mother, saying...
...habit....falls in with our natural love of an easy life.
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.  All day she is crying out, 'Do this!' and they do it not; 'Do that!' and they do the other. (p. 136)
Shortly thereafter, Charlotte acknowledges the difficult task of habit training and basically encourages us to put one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.  She says mother must acquire the habit of habit training so that it becomes not a burden, but rather pleasurable. Also, if we are performing habits ourselves because they are delightful and we value the results, then our children will pick up these habits upon observation and share in our delight.

You may also remember at the end of Part III, Charlotte wrote about "Infant Habits', or those that are easily taught at a young age to children learning to mimic mother in the home. Those infant habits being order, regularity, and neatness, which a child would obtain by example, through having a daily schedule or routine, including regular meal times, bath time, and bedtime. Also, in abiding by the rule of everything has a place or EHAP, which makes for a tidy home, picked up at the end of the day. In Part IV, Charlotte adds a few must have habits...
We have already considered a group of half-physical habits - order, regularity, neatness - which the child imbibes, so to speak, in this way. But this is not all: habits of gentleness, courtesy, kindness, candour, respect for other people, or - habits quite other than these, are inspired by the child as the very atmosphere of his home, the air he lives in and must grow by. (p. 137)
Next, Charlotte writes about mental habits, including the habit of attention, application, thinking, imagining, remembering, perfect execution, obedience, and truthfulness. She tells us that even children who have been trained in infant habits, can have difficulty transitioning to mental habits in the school room.
Even the child who has gained the habit of attention to things, finds words a weariness. (p. 141)
Habit training also falls under Charlotte's principle of Education is a Discipline, in which she is referring to the importance of instilling good habits in our children.

Habit of Attention

What is it?
Attention is hardly even an operation of the mind, but is simply the act by which the whole mental force is applied to the subject in hand.  (p. 145)
Why is it important?
First, we put the habit of Attention, because the highest intellectual gifts depend for their value upon the measure in which their owner has cultivated the habit of attention. (p. 137)
How do we obtain it?
In the first place, never let the child dawdle over copybook or sum, sit dreaming with his books before him. When a child grows stupid over a lesson, it is time to put it away. Let him do another lesson as unlike the last as possible, and then to go back with freshened wits to his unfinished task. (p. 141)
I have written much about the methods used in Charlotte's schools in regard to the habit of attention, namely in a post titled, Do You Really Know Charlotte Mason?..., which you can find here, so for the sake of this post becoming extremely lengthy, I will not re-write those methods outlined in Part IV.  One thing I missed in that post and picked up this time around was Charlotte's mention of the importance of a schedule for the student.
In the first place, there is a time-table, written out fairly, so that the child knows what he has to do and how long each lesson is to last. This idea of definite work to be finished in a given time is valuable to the child, not only as training him in habits of order, but in diligence; he learns that one time is not 'as good as another'; that there is no right time left for what is not done in its own time; and this knowledge alone does a great deal to secure the child's attention to this work. (p. 142)
Oh, how true this is! For years, I held Ruben's schedule, doling out one subject at a time. He would constantly ask questions like, "How much longer?", and "What do we have left?", which quickly grew to be an annoyance. Last year, I used a spiral bound notebook, giving him daily assignments all at once. What a game changer! Not only did the annoying questions stop, but he also gained greater independence. I saw the beginning signs of ownership. In addition, it greatly improved the habit of orderliness. Giving the child a schedule or at the least, allowing him to see the time-table, is very important!

Under this section, Charlotte also writes about the importance and effect of natural rewards and consequences. She talks about emulation and the negative effects of affection as motivation, which can lead to manipulation. Charlotte points out that the habit of attention goes hand in hand with maturity, stating...
....attention is, to a great extent, the product of an educated mind. (p. 145)
Lastly, in the section Habit of Attention, Charlotte shares some cautions and reasons for the development of inattention. These being over pressure and a lesson being too difficult for the child.

Habits of Application
Aim steadily at securing quickness of apprehension and execution...(p. 149)
.....steady, untiring application to work should be held up as honourable, while fitful, flagging attention and effort are scouted. (p. 150)
Habit of Thinking

What is thinking?
....let us mean a real conscious effort of mind, and not the fancies that flit without effort through the brain. (p. 150)
Here Charlotte gives an example from Archbishop Thompson in his work, Laws of Thought, which demonstrates the teaching of cause/effect and compare/contrast.  Charlotte states this type of teaching should be an important part of every school lesson.

Habit of Imagining

Charlotte writes briefly about the importance of alternating the lessons. In particular referring to a specific type of children's literature, stating that a little non-sense reading is all right, but too much is a pity when there's so much better out there, like tales and heroic adventures.
"They must have 'funny books', but do not give the children too much nonsense-reading," (p. 152)
"But let them have tales of the imagination, scenes laid in other lands and other times, heroic adventures, hairbreadth escapes, delicious fairy tales in which they never roughly pulled up by the impossible - even where all is impossible, and they know it, and yet believe." (p. 152)
Along with imagining, Charlotte closes this section with thinking, which she states comes by practice.
....thinking, like writing or skating, comes by practice. The child who never has thought, never does think, and probably never will think... (p. 153)
The child must think, get at the reason-why of things for himself, every day of his life, and more each day than the day before. (p. 154) 
Charlotte further advises that in order to aid in the child thinking, instead of waiting for the child to ask "why", the parents should ask "why". Then allow the child to ponder and think.

Habit of Remembering

Here, I will let Charlotte speak because there's so much goodness...
Much of what we have learned and experienced in childhood, and later, we cannot reproduce, and yet it has formed the groundwork of after-knowledge; later notions and opinions have grown out of what we once learned and knew. (p. 154)
 ...give an instants undivided attention to anything whatsoever, and that thing will be remembered. (p. 156)
But it is not enough to have a recollection flash across one incidentally; we want to have the power of recalling at will: and for this, something more is necessary than an occasional act of attention producing a solitary impression. (p. 157)
Let every lesson gain the child's entire attention, and let each new lesson be so interlaced with the last that the one must recall the other; that, again, recalls the one before it, and so on to the beginning. (p. 158) 
To secure such a record, there must be time; time for that full gaze of the mind we call attention, and for the growth of the brain tissue to the new idea. (p. 158) secure right-of-way to that record...imprinted on her brain, the path should have been kept open by frequent goings and comings. (p. 158)
To acquire any knowledge or power whatsoever, and then to leave it to grow rusty in a neglected corner of the brain, is practically useless. Where there is no chain of association to draw the bucket out of the well, it is all the same as if there were no water. (p. 158)
The link between any two things must be found in the nature of the things associated. (p. 159)  
Habit of Perfect Execution

In regard to perfect execution, Charlotte writes about the people of her own country being guilty of letting their children perform slipshod work under the notion that they will eventually improve. However, she states this about the Germans and French...
....know that if the children get the habit of turning out imperfect work, the men and women will undoubtedly keep that habit up. (p. 159)
This is why she says...
No work should be given to a child that he cannot execute perfectly, and then perfection should be required of him as a matter of course.  
She closes this section by writing about the importance of finishing what you start.
The child should rarely be allowed to set his hand to a new undertaking until the last is finished. (p. 160)
Habit of Obedience

According to Charlotte, the whole duty of a child is obedience, which is also the whole duty of man. God not only calls children to obey their parents, but he calls us to obey Him. She says, parents are the appointed agents to train up the child. The habit of obedience should be taught from birth. It must be a gradual building up and cannot be militant or bullied. If a child is always taught to obey, the child will always obey. In order to do this, mothers must be diligent and have follow through.
To secure this habit of obedience, the mother must exercise great self-restraint; she must never give a command which she does not intend to see csarried out of the full. And she must not lay upon her children burdens, grievious to be borne, of command heaped upon command. (p. 164)
Charlotte further states, that children trained in obedience should be given liberty to learn how to direct their own actions. I don't know about you, but I sure wish I could have a do over.

Habit of Truthfulness

There are three ways to be untruthful and all are vicious, says Charlotte.

1. Carelessness in ascertaining the truth
2. Carelessness in stating the truth
3. Deliberate intention to deceive.

However, children can be allowed the first two occasionally, but absolutely not the third. It is important for mothers to train their children in the accuracy of statement in order to avoid the first two if possible, as exaggeration and embellishments do tempt children. Again, mothers must be reverent in their duty.

Charlotte says children are not born with tempers, but rather tendencies and parents have the ability to train it out of them.
The root of evil, is not that these people were born sullen, or peevish, or envious - that might have been mended; but that they were permitted to grow up in these dispositions. (p. 167)
It is the force of habit that tendency becomes a temper; and it rests with the mother to hinder the formation of ill tempers, to force that of good tempers. (p.167)
Parents can change the child's thoughts before a bad temper has time to develop and become a rut by taking them outside or distracting them with a given task.

There is so much wisdom in Home Education! I wish I had read it before I had children or when they were younger, but one cannot wish for time that has past. I must simply move forward with this knowledge. How have you applied Charlotte's ideas to older children? How have you attempted to reverse bad habits, now that you have gained wisdom? I'd love to hear your ideas. Please feel free to share and open up discussion in the comments below.

No comments:

Post a Comment