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Welcome to week 7 of our Home Education book club! This week we’ll be reading pages 119-134.
Below are some journaling pages for you to use as you read the scheduled pages this week. I look forward to discussing this section with you guys in the coming days!
Resources Mentioned in this Week’s Video:
VII: The Forming of a Habit- ‘Shut the Door After You’
Charlotte explains in this section that indecision forms the habit of dawdling.
“The effort of decision, we have seen, is the greatest effort of life; not the doing of the thing, but the making up of one’s mind as to which thing to do first.” (pg. 119)
If our children are in the habit of dawdling, how do we break that habit? Charlotte says that neither time, reward, nor punishment will suffice.
“This inveterate dawdling is a habit to be supplanted only by the contrary habit, and the mother must devote herself for a few weeks to this cure as steadily and untiringly as she would to the nursing of her child through measles.” (pg. 119-120)
After a few (less is best) ernest words discussing the dawdling habit and the child’s duty to overcome it, a mother is to see that dawdling doesn’t occur for a few weeks on end. She does this with hopeful expectancy, not exasperated frustration.
Slowly the child will replace his habit of dawdling with promptness. But we mustn't relax our efforts once he gets there, otherwise all of his hard work will be undone.
“To permit any reversion to the old bad habit is to let go all this gain. To form a good habit is the work of a few weeks; to guard it is a work of incessant, but by no means anxious care.” (pg. 121)
Prompt action should be rewarded with time of leisure because he earned it.
Habit a Delight in Itself:
The forming of a good habit is a delight in itself for “the reward goes hand in hand with the labour.” (pg. 121)
And this is what mothers often forget. We assume that the habit continues to be as laborious as it was to begin with, but really the more often an action is performed, the easier it is to do it without much strain or effort.
“As a matter of fact, this misguided sympathy on the part of mothers is the one thing that makes it a laborious undertaking to train a child in good habits; for it is the nature of the child to take to habits as kindly as the infant takes to his mother’s milk.” (pg. 122)
But again, if we choose to loosen up in the cultivating of their good habit, then we are sure to undo all of the hard work it took to get there.
Tact, Watchfulness, and Persistence:
For example, if a mother wants her child to shut the door after him, “tact, watchfulness, and persistence are the qualities she must cultivate in herself; and, with these, she will be astonished at the readiness with which the child picks up the new habit.” (pg. 122)
Stages in the Formation of a Habit:
Charlotte gives an example of a brief conversation between mother and son regarding the habit of shutting the door. The Mother assigns Johnny the task of shutting the door any time he leaves a room, and she promises to help him remember to do so. From there, she gently reminds him (never reprimands him) any time he forgets.
“... but of two things she will be careful— that he never slips off without shutting the door, and that she never lets the matter be a cause of friction between herself and the child, taking the line of his friendly ally to help him against that bad memory of his.” (pg. 123)
After so many times of doing this, a habit is formed, just as the mother had hoped!
The Dangerous Stage:
But the mother must be careful not to loosen up her reminders to continue with the habit. She mustn’t feel as though “he’s tried so hard and now he needs a break just this once.” As soon as she gives way to that though, it is likely that he will take advantage of it and all of his habit forming will be undone. She MUST persist!
VIII: Infant ‘Habits’
“The whole group of habitudes, half physical and half moral, on which the propriety and comfort of everyday life depend, are received passively by the child.” (pg. 124-125)
The child does little to form these habits; instead they are impressed upon him by outside forces.
Some Branches of Infant Education:
Charlotte says that cleanliness, order, neatness, regularity, and punctuality are all “branches” of infant education, and that these things should be about him like the air he breathes.
It goes without saying that (for most people) cleanliness is a necessity, even down to any unseen odors, because even the odors he breathes can affect his health.
A Sensitive Nose:
It is important, Charlotte notes, to teach our children to learn to use their nose to their benefit.
“The sense of smell appears to have been given us not only as an avenue of pleasure, but as a sort of danger-signal to warn us of the presence of noxious matters…” (pg. 125-126)
This habit can be formed by encouraging them to notice different smells and the difference between fresh and stale or stuffy air.
The Baby is Ubiquitous:
Mothers should remember that babies notice everything and are constantly being impressed upon. They will base their decision making and behavior upon those things which they have seen or been exposed to. Considering this, mothers may be more intentional about keeping her baby and his space clean and tidy.
Personal Cleanliness as an Early Habit:
A child’s space deserves the same respect and tidiness as the dining room. Not providing this for the child degrades him. Our children should also be encouraged in the habit of cleanliness.
Yes, they can have their time to mess about and get dirty, but in teaching them to clean themselves well, we set them up for life. They should be taught to tend to the fingernails, eyes, and ears. They should also be given their own washing materials and taught to take pleasure in tending to themselves.
Modesty and Purity:
In teaching a child to bathe himself, we are also afforded the opportunity to teach them about modesty and purity, in addition to the care and self-respect that should be taken in regards to their private parts.
The Habit of Obedience and the Sense of Honour:
Helping our children understand that some things are prohibited is a safeguard against evil. And even more powerful is instilling in them a sense of honor and duty. By ignoring the possibilities of evil, we put our children at risk. But too much talk of it may have the opposite effect as well. We have to do our due diligence in discussing these things. And keeping our children active and busy with their interests greatly decreases their opportunities to get caught up in secret vices.
Order is just as important as cleanliness. Our children’s belongings shouldn’t consist of all our broken left overs. Instead, they should be taught that once something is broken it is spoiled and needs replacing. This may encourage them to take better care of their belongings.
Orderly habits are also paramount. We may be sentimental about the toys scattered on the floor, but allowing this habit to grow is a detriment to the children.
Everyone condemns a mother whose house is a mess, but some of the blame should be placed on her mother. “The habit was allowed to grow upon her as a child, and her share of the blame is, that she has failed to cure herself.” (pg. 130)
The Child of Two Should Put Away His Playthings:
Charlotte states that a child should be taught early to put his things away. Mothers should make it a game and he will learn to take pleasure in the task. Eventually he will find pleasure in orderliness and will be irritated with disorder.
“If parents would only see the morality of order, that order in the nursery becomes scrupulousness in after life, and that the training necessary to form the habit is no more, comparatively, than the occasional winding of a clock, which ticks away then of its own accord and without trouble to itself, more pains would be taken to cultivate this important habit.” (pg. 130)
Neatness Akin to Order:
Neatness is similar to order but leans more toward style and pleasing the eye. Children should be taught to appreciate things arranged in a pleasing way and they should be taught to give time and effort to the neat arrangement of their own properties and spaces.
Giving infants regularity is a benefit to them (and to their mother!). Sleep habits are a good example of this.
Habits of Time and Place:
Whether infant or adolescent, children thrive on a routine. As mothers we should make every effort to provide a routine for our children. Because, Charlotte reminds us, children are apt to be naughty when no stable routine is in place.
IX. Physical Exercise
Importance of Daily:
Daily exercise and use of the body in some way is so important for the development of our children. It allows a child to learn his body and strength of his muscles.
Drill of Good Manners:
Allowing children to play at acting out good manners and good form will prepare them for real life situations.
Training of the Ear and Voice:
Charlotte encourages mothers to teach their children proper pronunciation and word formation. She recommends teaching French to assist in the training of their mouths and ears.
The Habit of Music:
Taste in music, Charlotte says, is actually a habit picked up through what they are exposed to. She suggests that all children should be trained to sing and we do them a disservice when we neglect them this training.
Let Children Alone:
Lastly, Charlotte says, the purpose of all this habit training is that it enables the mother to let her children alone. Once implemented, she won’t have to stand over them with a running list of do’s and don'ts. Instead she’ll know that they can grow to fruitful purpose.
“The gardener, it is true, ‘digs about and dungs,’ prunes and trains, his peach tree; but that occupies a small fraction of the tree’s life: all the rest of the time the sweet airs and sunshine, the rains and dews, play about it and breathe upon it, get into its substance, and the result is-- peaches. But let the gardener neglect his part, and the peaches will be no better than sloes.” (pg. 134)
That concludes our week 7 readings! Next week we will cover the first portion of Part IV: Some Habits of Mind— Some Moral Habits, pages 135-154.