Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Part IV: Some Habits of Mind- Some Moral Habits

This chapter is a piggy-back on the last one...more about habits! I was pretty fearful to begin this section, because I knew there were some pretty direct "Mama, here's what you SHOULD be doing with your children" pronouncements. I tried, as I read, to see Miss Mason's advice clearly and to see my own children and myself as we are. As a fairly Type-A person, and a homeschooler to boot, I want my children to be well-behaved, good examples of the good habits we're working to instill, and I tend to see the flaws and what I haven't done so well:/ But, there was no need to fear! I think we're doing pretty well around here, all things told, and I now have some constructive ways to work on things which need polishing. I think viewing everything with a lens of grace is helpful.

The main areas of habit discussed here are attention, rapid mental thinking, imagining, remembering, perfect execution, obedience, truthfulness, reverence, and sweet temper. I could certainly go on and on with anecdotes and thoughts about each of these areas, but here are a few things which stood out to me. 

Attention is clearly one of the main areas Charlotte Mason would have us work on with our children. They should be working towards giving their whole focus to the task at hand, to not letting their minds wander, and we should carefully observe them to see when they are seeming fatigued by their lessons and initiate a change of pace. I really love this way of being with children, and I find it to be quite respectful of their personhood. Sometimes we all need to switch gears, do something else, and come back to the task when we are refreshed!

Tied into this idea of full attention to a lesson is the idea of remembering and tying one lesson into another, so that they form a linked chain. We all remember things better when there is a story involved, when things fit together and aren't just random facts. Beginning the day's work with a reminder of where we left off seems natural and a perfect time for the child to recall, with detail, what happened yesterday, before we begin again. 

Another habit which links in nicely here is perfect execution. Only require the child to do what he or she can do perfectly. Five perfect letters is better than 20 which are so-so. As the brain and hand muscles fatigue, things start to go downhill. 

The habit which gave me the most to think about is obedience. Here's Miss Mason:

If the parent realize that obedience is no mere accidental duty,...that he is the appointed agent to train the child up to the intelligent obedience of the self-compelling, law-abiding human being, he will see that he has no right to forego the obedience of the child, and that every act of disobedience in the child is a direct condemnation of the parent (161). 

Right next to that passage, I wrote "WOW." I wholeheartedly agree with the goal of raising a self-compelling child, one who knows how to be obedient to those in authority, mainly God and His Church, and that parents are the ones chosen by God to live out this duty, to do the hard work of disciplining children. But the more I ponder this, the more I think about how God disciplines us, how He treats His children. The whole notion of "first time obedience" feels of a piece with the baby training notions in Babywise, for example, where the tiny child, we are told, needs to know "who's in charge" and that crying won't bring mommy into the room. It feels...harsh to me. I think there's a question of application here. If I ask my 3 year old to bring me something, 90% of the time, he will. 10% of the time, I may need to go over and remind him that when Mommy asks him to do something, he needs to listen. And then I give him anther chance and he does it. I think one can train obedience with gentleness, and I think seeing a child's work-in-progress obedience as a condemnation of me is more strident than it needs to be. I am in charge. God has placed me here. But we all fail and need grace to try again, and small children are no different. 

What do you think/ What stood out to you in this chapter?

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