This article is part of a series on Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles. If you would like to read the previous blog posts, start here.
Principles 5, 6, 7, and 8 are interconnected.
5. Therefore, we are limited to three educational instruments––the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit, and the presentation of living ideas. The P.N.E.U. Motto is: “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.”
Then Charlotte expands on the three parts of this motto:
6. When we say that “education is an atmosphere,” we do not mean that a child should be isolated in what may be called a ‘child-environment’ especially adapted and prepared, but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the child’s’ level.
7. By “education is a discipline,” we mean the discipline of habits, formed definitely and thoughtfully, whether habits of mind or body. Physiologists tell us of the adaptation of brain structures to habitual lines of thought, i.e., to our habits.
8. In saying that “education is a life,” the need of intellectual and moral as well as of physical sustenance is implied. The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore children should have a generous curriculum.
Today we will consider “education is a discipline.”
“Habit is Inevitable.” – Charlotte Mason
I am personally still working on how this works out in real, modern life. But basically, Charlotte Mason explains in her Volume 6 that when we give children the right sorts of lessons, and let children do the work, they will be delighted and learn with ease. Some things, they may still need to work at. Making yourself work through a difficult book, for example, takes a bit of doing. So children need to learn habits that will see them through. And when it’s a habit, it’s inevitable.
In my own life, I do the following things and I *try* to pass these habits onto my children:
- Set a timer for 10 minutes to read the difficult book (or do the chore you hate, or get the dull assignment done) then take a 10 minute reward, such as a short walk outdoors, or reading a book you enjoy, or drawing for pleasure.
- Do the difficult thing, not because you want to, but because it’s time to do it. So, clean up for 15 minutes after morning time – not because we like to, but because that’s the habit. We do it at that time every day.
When the school plan is a consistent habit or on a schedule, it’s harder for kids to argue against it. So at the beginning of each semester, I review with my kids what I expect each day/week and we do our best to stick to it. At the end of the semester, I review how things worked/didn’t work and try to do better next time.
The good news is: child rearing/homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint. So pick a strategy that works and trust it. Make small changes over time, but if your start with good habits in the beginning, there will be less to change as you go along.