When you think of the word "habit," do you immediately think of something that is a bad habit? I know I do. Usually I think of the bad habit I had as a child and young adult of biting my nails. Or my bad habit of worrying about the future. But I've been thinking a lot lately about how some habits can be good. Like my new habit of getting up early before the kids to have some quiet time. I know it's become a habit now, because I usually don't have too much trouble getting myself out of bed in the morning. Whereas before the habit was established, it was pretty painful to drag my body out of bed at 7:30 a.m. I don't think of myself as someone who's very good at establishing good habits. It's so much easier to get attached to the bad ones. To get stuck in a rut. Or to not even notice bad habits, because they become so ingrained. But the fact that my new early morning quiet time habit has been so beneficial for my day-to-day state of mind has gotten me thinking about good habits in general, and more specifically: what good habits can I add to my life? Some of the ones I've come up with for myself are watching less TV, surfing the Internet less, and reading more books.
Encouraging good habits in my kids is also on my mind. I'm looking at it in a more positive way, trying to establish GOOD habits, rather than trying to get rid of the BAD. I'm guessing some of the bad will naturally slip away as the good ones take over. Charlotte Mason, in her educational philosophy, wrote about how important it is to establish good habits in children. While her list of habits is quite extensive (and thoroughly overwhelming), her advice was to pick a few of these, or even just one, to work on at a time with your children. For Lucy, I started out with the habit of attention. The first year of homeschooling often dissolved into frustration on my part because Lucy had such a hard time paying attention to the lessons. So this year we've been talking a lot about attention, and polishing her skills of attention using narration, and by having shorter lessons during which I encourage Lucy to focus her full attention for just a short period of time. There are many other habits that need polishing as well, but that one has been most important for us this year so far, because it's making school more relaxing and enjoyable for both of us!
In the book Endangered Minds, which I quoted from extensively in an earlier post, I came across a good quote about habits. "For children, habits of mind soon become structures of the brain -- and they absorb their habits, either directly or indirectly -- from the adult culture that surrounds them" (138). I'm sure Charlotte Mason didn't realize it would actually effect the growth of their brains, but according to recent brain research, she was onto something! It's the second part of this quote, though, that really strikes me. That children learn their habits, either good or bad, from the adults around them. Wow, that puts a lot of pressure on me to be a good example, doesn't it. Now I'm more determined than ever to start working on increasing my own good habits, because the little eyes are watching my every move.
To inject a little more Charlotte Mason here, she also talked a lot about how important a child's environment or atmosphere is to his or her development -- not just academically but also for the development of character. I'm trying hard to provide this atmosphere, though I still have a long way to go. I'm grateful to the Charlotte Mason method for making me more aware of habits and their effects.
For more information about the importance of atmosphere and habits, visit Simply Charlotte Mason. There are some great free books you can download.