Wednesday, November 18, 2015

{From My Commonplace}

Some thoughts on habit training today from Miss Mason...


"Knowing that ... conduct and character alike are the outcome of the habits we allow: knowing, too, that an inspiring idea initiates a new habit of thought, and, hence a new habit of life, we perceive that the great work of education is to inspire children with vitalising ideas as to the relations of life, departments of knowledge, subjects of thought: and to give deliberate care to the formation of those habits of the good life which are the outcome of vitalising ideas.

 -- from Parents and Children, p, 255



"We who teach should make it clear to ourselves that our aim in education is less conduct than character."

 -- from Charlotte Mason's Toward a Philosophy of Education, p. 129

~~~

It's very easy to get caught up in training our children in good habits without remembering the end goal: virtue.  Conduct can (usually) be trained by repetition alone, but character requires the inspiration of "informing ideas" that make that conduct worth having.

Now all I need is to post that up somewhere in my home with flashing lights and bells...

11 comments:

  1. YES!!! Excellent quotes! I need me some flashing lights also! :-)

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    1. Glad to hear I'm not the only one! ;)

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  2. hi congratulations on the new baby. I came though a link from a cm blog and am only commenting as I am am older sibling who caried her little siblings on her hip for years just as your daughter does (in photo) this caused my spine to curve and my pelvis to be misalined. This has caused much pain and injury as an adult and I would not want your daughter/children to suffer this. The child should be carried close to the body and NOT sat on the hip. You can research this yourself and all practice the correct way to carry a child without straining your spine (something you would think they would teach when you have children but they don't) all the best and please forgive me for calling your attention to this but it is a real danger.

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    1. Thank you for telling me, Grace! I'm sorry you went through such a painful experience. That is helpful information for my older kids (and for myself, actually, since I have the tendency to carry that way too!) and I will be sure to look into it.

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    2. I am the oldest of 10...carry little siblings around alot, am 17 and have had this same thing happen. I've ended up with crooked hips....

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    3. Thank you for adding your experience too. I talked with my two oldest daughters this evening about how to hold the babies more ergonomically--now to work on training the good habit!

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  3. 'Less conduct than character.' I didn't really understand this when I first became a mum but it's so important - yes, flashing lights!

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  4. So needed to read this tonight! Thank you!

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  5. I was just talking with my mother-in-law about child training, and how it is ultimately "easy" to train behavior, but difficult to train the heart. And I have been struggling with just that thing! I've also been thinking a lot about MY motivation for wanting well-behaved kids. If I'm honest, my motivation often has little to do with the formation of their character, and more to do with the appearance of my parenting. now I am wrestling with how to instill an intrinsic motivation for good behavior...or for the development of good character. What comes first? Good habits->good character? Or good character->good habits? I'm going to have to go back and read this.

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    1. Great questions, Sarah! I find this whole idea just fascinating too.

      In terms of which comes first: I would say that we present them together and do our best to develop both. Likely the conduct will come before the character, because character is a lifelong process and a habit can potentially be learned in a month. ;) The good news is that a good deed done out of habit rather than out of a desire to act rightly isn't wasted--it makes for a much smoother life. So there's nothing wrong with working on habits for the sake of habits. BUT when we can, we remind the child of the reason for doing good in the first place: because it is right. And our ultimate goal is that they initiate right habits themselves. That's why character is the goal and not just conduct--because conduct often relies on externals.

      Now what might it look like in practice to train up conduct for the sake of character? In boys, for example, we appeal to what she calls the "chivalric impulse," their God-given desire to perform, to protect, to serve a worthy master, to do one's duty. We can do that directly at the very start, in stating what the reasons for a good habit are when we present it. But we also do that indirectly, through tales of heroes, biblical reading, and so on. We don't have to state the moral of these--the kids see it, even when they seem not to. ;) And beyond that, we can train by example, in being the "worthy master" that herself is accountable to an even worthier master. But it's a gradual process, and the conduct can be there long before the character is.

      Just some scattered thoughts. CM has so much to say on this topic, and I've been thinking a LOT about it since our study group went through the Twenty Principles study available at Afterthoughts. The section on Authority and Docility is just so great--lots of food for thought. I am nowhere near where I want to be, but at least I'm starting to understand what exactly my goals are for my children. And then hopefully *I* will get there eventually. ;)

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    2. Very articulate reply! Your last couple of sentences reminded me that I also rely on habit to try and change my character...but I think I often forget about the ultimate goal and give up before the habit is formed, therefore losing out in the character department as well. I am currently thinking of homeschooling specifically. I need to establish better habits as an educator, with the ultimate goal of changing my and my family's character, without "giving up" too soon.

      I really love your examples.

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