Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Chapter 3: Education is a Discipline

I had mixed feelings about this chapter. There, I said it.

I believe in discipline. I think habit and will training are essential. But I'm not sure we really get at the heart of how and why in this section by Maryellen St. Cyr. Here are some of the key points and notes I made, and then some thoughts I had.
  • Children (and adults!) should be making continual progress in advancing their intellectual and moral power.
  • Educators (and parents!) need to be careful not to label a child as inattentive, lazy, unkind, careless, etc., as though that is his destiny. This can lead to rationalizing bad behavior.
  • Habit forming is huge. Good habits are tools in the development of one's "intellectual, spiritual, and physical development in relationship to oneself, God, and others."
  • Children must be held responsible and accountable for learning and the work at hand.
  • The list of habits to be attended to (pg. 91) is formidable. They are broken into categories: intellectual, moral, physical, religious, and miscellaneous.
  • We are parents/educators are either actively or passively forming habits in our children, everyday, for good or bad.
  • The development of the teacher is to be considered as well. Am I growing in attentiveness, tidiness, etc.?
  • Training of the will: give children opportunities to make choices, allow them to stand behind their work and assert if it's their best effort or not. Consider the atmosphere of the home/school and how it might be contributing to the choices the child makes. Good in=good out.
  • Fortifying the will: Opportunities to exercise one's will in the service of others rather than self. 
  • "The parent/teacher is able to be the initiator of the thoughts the child should think upon, the desires he cherishes, and the feelings he allows. These thoughts should give the child control over his own nature." (p.98)
  • "The educator should be knowledgeable as to how to incite the child to effort through her desire of approbation, of excelling, of advancing, of knowledge, of love, and of duty." (p.99)

So, those are some interesting points, but I could have used more elaboration. This was only one section of a book, so copious examples weren't possible, I'm sure, so I may have to dig deeper into Miss Mason on my own and do some further thinking. For example, what does it mean to ask a child to "be responsible for their learning"? I think this has more to do with an older, more independent child than the little ones we are teaching in our families, but perhaps there's a way to begin this now. What does that look like? The whole realm of habits and laying down rails of good behavior is huge for the parent/teacher with little ones at home, and that is outside the scope of this book. I think we should plan a discussion of the hows and whys of habit training when we finish this book study:)


  1. Lots to say about this chapter...

    First, we always hear the CM principle "the child is a person" and all that goes with that: he fully deserves the respect that any child of God deserves, he has a will that must not be manipulated, etc. But this chapter had a good reminder that unlike other child-centered theories that nearly deify the child and his innocent state, CM still recognizes the role original sin plays in the whole relationship between parent and child: the child's will is weak and still needs strengthening, still needs training, still needs bringing up, the child cannot just be "left to their nature." (90) And the correction required to strengthen the will should take the form of habit training and natural consequences.

    I also gathered some useful strategies from this chapter. For example, I realized that I often explain a rule or habit but do not train thoroughly enough before requiring independent completion (I'm thinking of the masking tape example in this case). I sometimes move too quickly to the "natural consequences" stage, allowing that to take the place of re-training and reminding. We would make better progress on some of the habits if I took more hands-on time training in them and made my expectations clearer.

    I also got a lot out of the few examples they gave regarding children who don't follow the rules or are lax in their habits. The children who didn't tidy their desks in a timely manner had to stay in or stay late to do so. The children who turned in sloppy work had to redo it, whereas the children who did their copywork properly the first time were finished immediately and able to move on. The goal is perfect execution the first time. If the child doesn't perform perfectly the first time, then it must be done the second time, or the third... But what must NOT be done is accept work/behavior that is below the standards that were laid out. This just leads to habits of laziness in the child. I found this to be a great reminder. A few quotes that speak to this that I really liked:
    "It is imperative to make the child suffer for his poor choosing, or he will increase in inaccuracy and sloppiness." (95)
    "The natural consequences for the student acting irresponsibly should not be an acceptance of the attempt because of a mere act of volition. For in this way, the child is sowing habits of laxity and slothfulness, which may bring a lifetime of reaping...But instead the teacher and parent should make every effort to get the child to do what she ought to do at the earliest possible age." (98)

    That said, this chapter definitely weighted toward school-aged situations and did not provide much guidance of how habit training and natural consequences would look for pre-school children and toddlers. The last bit of my final quote definitely encourages this kind of training to start early, but it doesn't really mention *how*. I suppose to make these strategies more age-appropriate for our situation, the rules/habits would be simpler and clearer, the training stage would take longer and be more hands-on, and then the consequences would take into account the temperament of a toddler...

    By the way, people always recommend Simply Charlotte Mason's Laying Down the Rails for a hows and whys discussion--have you read it? (I haven't yet.)

  2. Okay, if you can believe it (!), I left something out that I wanted to mention:

    "Charlotte Mason admonished the parent and teacher to use tact, watchfulness, and persistence in forming habits with a twofold policy:
    - Never let the child slip from his responsibility in the habit.
    - Never let the matter be a cause of friction between you and the child (let her suffer the natural consequences). (94)
    That pretty much sums in a couple lines all that I just wrote. :) I think I need to post that somewhere in my house!

    That said, I was wondering about that last one: what if the natural consequences are just not enough to urge the child into creating the good habit? What if my child just doesn't mind staying in to tidy their desk, so it happens day after day after day?