Sunday, September 12, 2010

Building Habits

"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 her children. All day she is crying out, 'Do this!' and they do it not; 'Do that!' and they do the other."
~ Charlotte Mason

After a lazy summer of long days and little structure, I think we all feel some sigh of relief when the fall approaches with promises of cooler days, stronger routines, and new/revisited goals and plans. We have taken a gentle approach to finding our home rhythm again. I find it harsh to have the carefree days of summer come to screeching halt and have children begin a full-blown schedule and workload seemingly overnight. Doing too much too fast results in grumpy, tired family members, and instead of a sense of joy for new beginnings, there can be seeds of loss and resentment.

I have been adding something new to our routine every week to get us all back into the swing of chores, learning, and growing side by side. We have talked about building new "habits" this year...for now, we are working on attention and truthfulness. Re-reading many of Charlotte Mason ideas on habit training have been so inspiring to me ...I never took the habit training part of her writings as seriously as I am now (the pressure of five children will do that to you!)

"Educate the child in right habits and the man's life will run in them without the constant wear and tear of the moral effort of decision. Once, twice, three times in a day, he will still, no doubt have to choose between the highest and the less high, the best and the less good course. But all the minor moralities of life may be made habitual to him. He has been brought up to be courteous, prompt, punctual, neat, considerate; and he practices these virtues without conscious effort."

"Habit may be begun in a moment, formed in a month, confirmed in three months, become the character, the very man, in a year."

"We have lost sight of the fact that habit is to life what rails are to transport cars. It follows that lines of habit must be laid down towards given ends and after careful survey, or the joltings and delays of life become insupportable. More, habit is inevitable. If we fail to ease life by laying down habits of right thinking and right acting, habits of wrong thinking and wrong acting fix themselves of their own accord."

I know that in my own life that following Flylady for a long season really built solid work habits in my life. I had no structure, no routine and plenty of bad habits when Mike and I first started our journey together. Over time and with a willing heart, I was able to solidify habits in my home life that are "auto-pilot" house stays relatively picked up, laundry keeps moving, dishes are done. I have built daily systems in these basic areas which frees me to focus my mental and emotional energies on things that I love like cooking and sewing and decorating and thinking up new ideas.

It would be such a privilege to see my children grow in habits that would serve them and others...that would become instinctual and that they can be free to do all the other things that God has for them and not get bogged down in figuring out the basics.

Now I must build the habit of helping them build habits! It always starts with the mom! How can we expect good choices out of our children if we ourselves aren't taking the time and energy to teach them? For me this is a great challenge...I really *feel* my need for God's grace to help me in this, which is always the best place to be!


Jana @ The Homeschool Jungle said...

Inspiring! Don't you just love Charlotte Mason. She's on my list of favorite people.I linked up over at The Homeschool Jungle.

Michelle said...

We've gotten back into the swing of a schedule and chores for everyone. Even my four year old is enjoying the chart I printed off for her (so far, anyway). It really does help things run smoother around the house!

contented sparrow said...

oh, aimee, i couldn't agree more. i'm always so spurred on to be more diligent about habit training when i read charlotte mason. it makes perfect sense! thanks for your encouragement.

may i ask how you are specifically working on attention and truthfulness?

Aimee said...

For attention, I told my children about the CM concept of "short lessons" and that we would only be working on each subject for about 10 minutes. My oldest child immediately said, "Wow, that's short so we are going to have to really PAY ATTENTION!" I said, "WOW, Sam, you got it!!" He made the connection that if a lesson is kept short, then he really needs to listen up! So I am really really trying to keep my read-alouds and times of instructing short and I remind them that we are only doing this for a little bit so I expect them to focus. Another thing I am doing is making sure that when I ask something of them I am looking them directly in the eye and then asking, "do you understand?" That means I have to get out of my bad habit of calling to them from another room or trying to talk to them while they are watching a DVD or engrossed in a project. I must ask their for their full attention when speaking because then I must expect obedience. If I half-heartedly ask them for something that I am also not quite sure that they heard or understood, then I tend to not discipline/hold them accountable to my request. So to boil it down: 1.Short lessons coupled with narration 2. Eye contact and an agreement of understanding

For truthfulness, two of my children are struggling with exaggeration and lying...I am mainly talking to them about who God is in His Truthfulness and about the character of a person who is a liar vs. one of integrity. When i know they are slipping into that behavior, I try to remind them about those conversations that we have had and about the kind of person I know that they want to be...normally they apologize right then and I remind them that just like they have started a habit of lying, they can begin the habit of being responsible by being a truth-teller. It takes a great measure of my being alert and proactive in this which is difficult yet very good for me :) We'll see how it goes. Working on habits is certainly stretching me in my parenting way beyond what I know I am able to I have to really pray for the grace to walk in these steps!

contented sparrow said...

wow, aimee...thanks so much for spelling that all out for me. so much wisdom in what you are doing.

i've been thinking about timing their math lessons....setting up a timer for them to see...and whatever is not done when the timer goes off, gets done at night with Daddy. some days they lollygag and even a short lessons drags on and on and on and everyone gets frustrated. i'm thinking that if there's an end in sight, they would, yes!, be more attentive to their work and be diligent to push through.

these habits are really character training which is one of the biggest reasons I chose to homeschool. the sheer number of hours together to repeatedly pour God's wisdom into them. and by God's grace, teach them from my shortcomings (which are many!)

may your week be blessed, megan

Natalie said...

What a timely post for me to read! I just finished reworking our children's chore charts a few minutes ago. We fell away from our habits this summer- mostly because I did not want to take the time and energy to enforce them. It is definitely a lot of effort for the mama on the front end, to build habits, but the end result is worth it- to have trained up a child who is, as Charlotte says "courteous, prompt, punctual, neat, considerate; and he practices these virtues without conscious effort."

Thanks for the encouragement, Aimee. I love these quotes, too!

Melia said...

I just discovered your blog and this post is really speaking to me. This is my third year homeschooling and I'm about ready to enroll the little munchkins in public school. I'm so burned out! Like you, I like Charlotte Mason's philosophy but honestly I haven't read much or implemented much in the habit arena. I'm hopeful that focusing on building habits will help ellivate a lot of friction.

Do you have any advice about how to begin implementing good habits while still accomplishing school. I feel like I should just stop everything and focus on habits, but that's not realistic. Any recommended books, articles or Web sites?