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Welcome to week 8 of our Home Education book club! This week we’ll be reading pages 135-154.
Below are some journaling pages for you to use as you read the scheduled pages this week. I always love discussing these topics with you guys!
Resources Mentioned in this Week’s Video:
Part IV: Some Habits of Mind-- Some Moral Habits
A Science of Education:
Charlotte believes in a mother’s amazing and natural intuition as a priceless asset for the educating of her own children. However, she also believes that there is a science of education that does not come through intuition that a mother would do well to acquaint herself with in order to give her children the best and fullest education.
Education in Habit Favors an Easy Life:
We’ve seen in previously read sections what a powerful force habit can be, which can be very encouraging and also a great asset if we understand and implement it. And best of all, the power of habit falls within our “natural love for an easy life.” (pg. 136)
“The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children.” (pg. 136)
However, when we consider all of the habits we’d like our children to be versed in, the thought of it is fatiguing!
Training in Habits Becomes a Habit:
But just like Charlotte mentioned before, every tick of time has its own moment to tick in, and as mothers we must focus only on one habit at a time, while keeping simple watch over those habits that have already been formed. If the thought of too many habits to teach is overwhelming, a mother should choose a special few that she would like to focus on at the moment and build from there.
“The child who starts in life with, say, twenty good habits, begins with a certain capital which he will lay out to endless profit as the years go on.” (pg 136)
And mothers who feel somewhat discouraged by the idea of habit training should take comfort in two facts:
As we train our children in habits, we ourselves are forming the habit of this training as well, which will become easier as we move forward… even a pleasure!
A child’s most dominant habits are those that we take no pains about… they’ve formed naturally through exposure to our daily lives.
Habits Inspired in the Home Atmosphere:
We read in the last section about physical habits formed through the atmosphere a child is brought up in: order, regularity, neatness. But, Charlotte points out that these are not the only habits formed in this way-- gentleness, courtesy, kindness, candor, respect, etc.-- all of these moral habits are picked up through the atmosphere that a child is exposed to at home.
I. The Habit of Attention:
The power of attention is so very important because “the highest intellectual gifts depend for their value upon the measure in which their owner has cultivated the habit of attention.” (pg. 137)
For example, any professional in his career field can easily hear a story and pick it apart, taking with him the most important facts. Try this on an uneducated person and the difference is clear.
A Mind at the Mercy of Associations:
So, Charlotte says, it’s imperative to dig into the nature and function of attention.
Our minds are never idle, they are constantly in some state of motion. Rarely do we actually have control over the train of thought our minds ride along, the most we can do with them is give them some sort of direction as we grow and mature.
We see this randomness of our thoughts reflected in our dreams or the way children jump from subject to subject when engaged in conversation. But these jumps they make in conversation are always associated in some way, whether we see it or not.
Our thoughts follow a natural law of association. “This law of association of ideas is a good servant but a bad master.” (pg. 138)
We need this ability to relate ideas to other ideas, but we also need to have the ability to think “what we choose when we choose.” To focus when necessary and process new information.
“A vigorous effort of will should enable us at any time to fix our thoughts. Yes; but a vigorous self-compelling will is the flower of a developed character.” (pg. 139)
When a child can’t focus on their lessons, it’s often because he is at the mercy of the thousands of random thoughts floating through his head. We may think it’s harmless, but when left unchecked, he will form a “desultory habit of mind, and reduce his own capacity for mental effort.” (pg. 139)
The Habit of Attention to be Cultivated in the Infant:
In infants we see the amazing power of observation, but their habit of attention is lacking… they flit from thing to thing because there is so much to see and do! The mother must step in and give the infant reason to stop and focus on some new discovery for a few minutes longer, in order for the child to become more acquainted with it. From here their power of attention can grow alongside their power of observation.
Attention to ‘Things’; Words a Weariness:
However, as children enter school age, they make the transition from needing to focus on things to focusing on words, which is most often a weariness to them. But mothers should be vigilant not to make lessons too cumbersome for the child at this stage.
“When a child grows stupid over a lesson, it is time to put it away. Let him do another lesson as unlike the last as possible, and then go back with freshened wits to his unfinished task.” (pg. 141)
If he continues to procrastinate, the lesson must still be done, of course. But we should make these lessons as light and bright as possible.
Some principles of education a teacher should know:
Best subjects for the student’s age
How to make these subjects attractive
How to vary lessons
How to incite a child to effort
How to prevent the substitution of any other natural desires for that of knowledge
Time Table; Definite Work Given a Time:
Charlotte recommends having a written daily schedule within clear view of our children so that they know what tasks are required of them throughout the day. For children 8 and under she suggests no more than 20 minutes per lesson, and these lessons should be varied based on their types: “a ‘thinking’ lesson first, and a ‘painstaking’ lesson to follow,-- the child gets through his morning lessons without any sign of weariness.” (pg. 142)
Lastly, a reward for hard work should be a natural consequence of the child’s good conduct and diligent effort.
A Natural Reward:
So what is this natural reward for hard work? Well, Charlotte says, when a child is diligent and finishes his lesson before the allotted time is up, naturally he has the remaining minutes to do with as he pleases. He has earned those minutes to enjoy himself! When he dawdles, however, and spends all of his minutes doing sloppy work, he wastes those extra minutes and does not earn any free time.
Emulation is the effort to match or surpass a person or achievement. Charlotte says it’s good to implement some sort of “good marks system” for our children in order to encourage them to put their best effort forward. Although this was (in Charlotte’s time) and is (in our time) often objected against (because it’s assumed it may cause jealousies or bitterness in the children who don’t receive good marks), the fact is, good marks are given to those who work hard in the adult world as well. It would be better to prepare our children to work hard to earn their good marks!
“If a system of good marks be used as a stimulus to attention and effort, the good marks should be given for conduct rather than for cleverness-- that is, they should be within everybody’s reach: every child may get his mark for punctuality, order, attention, diligence, obedience, gentleness; and therefore, marks of this kind may be given without danger of leaving a rankling sense of injustice in the breast of the child who fails. Emulation becomes suicidal when it is used as the incentive to intellectual effort, because the desire for knowledge subsides in proportion as the desire to excel becomes active.” (pg. 144)
Affection as a Motive:
While it’s good for children to want to please their parents with hard work, we should be careful not to bring this idea before them too often. Otherwise it can become an unhealthy habit on both ends. We want them to be motivated by the results of hard work, not by guilt or the need to please someone.
Attractiveness of Knowledge:
Children are naturally curious and there is a great attractiveness in knowledge to them. Often times when this thirst for knowledge is diminished in a child it is the fault of the educator (something Charlotte tells us she will touch on in later sections.)
What is Attention?:
Attention is not a faculty of the mind or even an operation of the mind. Instead, it is the “act by which the whole mental force is applied to the subject at hand.” This act may be trained into a child as habit by the parent through “means of a sufficient motive.” (pg. 145)
As a child gets older and matures, he should learn to “bring his own will to bear” and make himself focus to get his work done, no matter what distractions may present themselves. The ability to do so should be a great triumph to him! As mothers we should encourage this skill by praising him for doing his duty.
However, we should also remember that each child is different and can only harness the power of attention in proportion to their individual intellectual power.
“... whatever the natural gifts of the child, it is only in so far as the habit of attention is cultivated in him that he is able to make use of them.” (pg. 146)
The Secret of Overpressure:
It’s important for us as mothers to be sure we don’t force a child to do a lesson that they don’t put their heart into. The truth is, the lessons that most stress a child are those they weren’t paying attention to in the first place. In contrast, the lessons they complete with ease are a delight to them.
The Schoolboy’s Home Work:
Charlotte uses the next few sections to discuss the matter of homework and how as parents we can still be of use to our children as they get older and have more independent work. Many parents complain that their children spend every waking hour doing school work, but in reality, Charlotte says, there are ways to prevent school work taking forever.
Wholesome Home Treatment for Mooning:
Typically the drawn out time it takes for a child to complete his homework is not the fault of the lessons but of the child. He may be in the habit of dawdling over his work because he hates to do it. But a parent can cure him of this quickly! Provide him an allotted time, Charlotte says, of 1.5 hours to finish. If he does not, make your disappointment clear, but do not reprimand him. If he does finish, however, you can begin some fun activity together as a family. He’ll be surprised to find (with this incentive) that he is completely capable of finishing all of his work within the time limits you have set.
Charlotte states that children under 14 should not be given homework to begin with. Instead, it’s possible to complete lessons for these early ages during the morning hours.
Rewards and Punishments Should be Relative Consequences of Conduct:
The dealing out of rewards and disciplines to help a child achieve attentiveness has a scientific aspect, Charlotte explains. There is a certain natural law these rewards and punishments should follow, and they should reflect whatever similar repercussions there would be in the “real” world. These are important lessons for children to learn.
Natural and Educative Consequences:
This continual cycle of dealing out rewards and punishments for a job done in a particular manner takes a great deal of patience on the mother’s part. She must be diligent and consistent, rewarding a child for good work and disciplining a child for shoddy work. And while one child may earn his 10 minutes of free time, we must not allow the other child who did half the work the same luxury. This is a detriment to the lazy child because we are encouraging him to put forth the same lacking effort in the future.
II. The Habits of Application, Etc.
Rapid Mental Effort:
Children can be taught to think more quickly and efficiently over time. And it’s the teacher’s duty to pull them along in this. Every day a child should be challenged to practice rapid mental effort in some way, and each day he will likely move a bit more quickly than he did the day before.
Zeal Must be Stimulated:
We shouldn’t allow our children to complain about their lessons, Charlotte says, because it easily becomes a habit. Instead, their zeal must be stimulated… lessons should peak their interest! And a mother’s duty is to encourage hard work and natural curiosity while discouraging bad attitudes and complaints.
III. The Habit of Thinking
‘A Lion’ Operations Included in Thinking:
Real conscious thinking and drawing conclusions requires the ability to trace cause from effect or to trace the final effect of a cause, Charlotte explains. Much like the guide in the story she uses as an example, who knew from the sight of condors in the sky that a lion must be ahead of their caravan on the trail they were taking. Our children should be using these same thought processes in every lesson they are given.
IV. The Habit of Imagining
The Sense of the Incongruous:
All of the lessons given to a child will stretch his thinking in some way. And the types of lessons should be alternated so that he takes turns between using mechanical efforts, intellectual efforts, efforts of imagination, and efforts of reasoning.
While nonsense books like Alice in Wonderland have their place and are wonderful books, they should not be the only type of book a child reads. Comedies and silly books should also be provided in smaller portions.
Commonplace Tales; Tales of Imagination:
Commonplace stories of everyday life also have their place but leave little to the imagination. Children should have access to a large number of books that make them use their imaginations.
“... let them have tales of the imagination, scenes laid in other lands and other times, heroic adventures, hairbreadth escapes, delicious fairy tales in which they are never roughly pulled up by the impossible— even where all is impossible, and they know it, and yet believe.” (pg. 152)
Imagination and Great Conceptions:
The purpose of imaginary tales goes far beyond amusing children. These types of stories help us to think outside of ourselves. And these are often the types of stories that lead people to do marvelous and self-sacrificing things. What a shame it would be for any generation to go down in history as the generation that had no imagination.
If a child’s lessons do not come alive to him, then his lessons have failed.
“... like every other power of the mind, [imagination] is the merest germ of a power to begin with, and grows by what it gets; and childhood, the age of faith, is the time for its nourishing. The children should have the joy of living in far lands, in other persons, in other times-- a delightful double existence; and this joy they will find, for the most part, in their story-books.” (pg. 153)
Thinking Comes by Practice:
Just like any other crafted skill, thinking comes by practice. A child who has never thought will never think.
“The child must think, get at the reason-why of things for himself, every day of his life, and more each day than the day before.” (pg. 154)
Rather than giving an immediate answer when a child asks why?, a parent should turn the question back to the child and ask him why? The child should be allowed to turn the thought over and over in his head. If he can’t think of an answer, the parent can give it and the child will remember forever. But there will also be times when a child can draw his own conclusions and discover the why himself
That concludes this week’s reading! Who knew there was so much to think about in regards to thinking? Charlotte blows my mind more and more every week!
Next week we will be reading pages 154-168 and wrapping up Part IV. See you then!