Building Good Habits in High School – Charlotte Mason Style

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Instead of my usual Friday Weekly Wrap-Up, I am offering you the following post. I did intend to write a wrap-up post but somehow when I sat down to pull  it together….these were the thoughts that were in my heart that I wanted to share. So I will postpone my usual Friday post and combine it with next week’s entry…in the meantime, enjoy my thoughts on building good habits.

It has been pretty quiet and ordinary this week which I thrive on and so do my boys. What contributes to our smooth and easy weeks are lots of good habits….even in high school we are still working on instilling good habits. I realize my habits are under their scrutiny and if I want them to have good habits I need to set a good example.

“Railroad tracks on which a train runs is a good analogy of the relationship of habit to our lives. It’s easier for a train to stay in the grooves of the track than to leap up and over the tracks to disaster. In the same way, if tracks of good habits are laid down carefully within the child, it will be easier for him to go along those tracks than to run off and endanger himself. The laying down of these tracks is serious business and directly impacts the child’s future. The parent should think about which tracks will be most beneficial for the child and lay those down so that the child can go along through life with the least friction. If the tracks are smooth and easy, the child will glide along at a nice pace and never even stop to consider whether he might rather choose another path.” Charlotte Mason. Volume 1, page 109

 We have been working with the boys on some new habits and this week a big milestone has been reached in our household. I no longer am doing any laundry for my children. The boys have now been trained to do their own laundry and this time I noticed that they did it without being reminded and it was folded and put away before I had to even mention it to them. Smooth and easy indeed.

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Habits worth having are worth all the effort. I think when our children are younger we look at the list of habits we want to instill and it can be overwhelming. Taking each habit one at a time and making it a little bit of a focus works over the long run.

“Doing a specific action over and over again forms a habit. Following a habit faithfully will make that action become second nature and difficult to shake off. Keep it up for ten years, and that habit has as much strength as ten natures, and can’t be broken without major unsettling of the person.” Charlotte Mason. Volume 1

Habits make things easier for our children. They have more time to put into activities they love when their chores are done without thinking, their possessions are orderly and in good repair, their clothes are clean and ready in the mornings, their schoolwork is done at the end of the day, they have had a healthy lunch and they are free to do as they wish.

“Mothers should avoid constantly hassling with their children over doing their lessons. For one thing, it’s stressful for the mother! It is worth her while to make sure that her children never do a lesson that they don’t put their whole heart into. This isn’t as impossible as it seems. The key is to be on guard from the very beginning that children never develop the habit of not paying attention.” Charlotte Mason. Volume 1

My biggest tool in this department has been Homeschool Tracker. Having a plan for each day gives the boys a beginning and ending point to their schoolwork. I know that during certain times of the day they are expected to work at their formal schoolwork and they know they need to pay attention and do their part to keep on track. The reward for them is time in the afternoons to pursue their own interests and projects. The reward for me is to see the attention and interest in their studies….going further with the assignments all on their own.

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I love this collection of things on the nightstand, the pocketknife and toy airplane seem to about sum up the teen years.

“Children must be prevented from getting into a mood where they say, ‘I’m so tired of math,’ or ‘of history.’ His interest must be stimulated. There must always be something pleasant for him to learn about.” Charlotte Mason. Volume 1

I struggle with this one since it is more about making a good habit on my part so the boys can do their part. I want to make things interesting for my boys so this means paying attention to their interests and trying to feed those interests. My biggest accomplishment lately is to have finally found a rhythm to our chemistry study. I can see it in their eyes now when they are telling me about their chemistry assignments. Their narrations are so much more passionate and from the heart. I was looking for a key and focusing more on the elements of the periodic table themselves and not the books has made all the difference. Wonder and awe at God’s creation is what lit the fire. This is the “living book” I was looking for all this time, the Book of Creation which is available to us each everyday. (These videos are a great asset.)

“This practice of telling back sounds simplistic, but it’s really a magical creative process where the person narrating ‘sees’ what he’s talking about in his mind, clear and vivid–after reading the material just once. I keep repeating the stipulation about only one reading because–let me say it again–it’s impossible to give our full attention to something we’ve heard before, and know we’ll hear again.” Charlotte Mason. Volume 1.

High school courses are filled with lots and lots of reading. My boys don’t have time to spend going over and over things so careful reading of their books is necessary just to keep pace. The habit of careful reading and the ability to narrate orally or in written form their work each week is a habit I am so glad we have developed. What a joy at our Friday meetings to hear their enthusiasm for their reading! True, not all of their books are equally interesting but this habit of careful reading and narrating makes surviving a book they don’t like much easier. They read it and respond and move on.

“Children taught this way are fun to be around because they’re interested in so many things, and they have worthy thoughts. They have a lot to talk about, and this kind of talk can’t help but have a beneficial effect on those around them–and on society. That pleasant sense of knowing about things worth knowing, and things that make life worth living, is like a delightful atmosphere.” Charlotte Mason. Volume 1

This quote is in the section right after building good habits and it makes me have tears in my eyes as I read it to myself on this February morning. I realize I am living in that “delightful atmosphere”.

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As you all know, my homeschooling days are numbered. The sand is slipping through the hourglass and soon our family’s homeschool experience will end. I try as much as possible to glean the joy from each day, not to waste a single hour by being too busy or too preoccupied with my own stuff to miss the little moments that happen right under my nose.

But even with all my deliberate intention on savoring each moment, the days pass by too fast.There is no rewind.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

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