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Education is... a Discipline

11 June 2008


"Education is a discipline - that is, the discipline of the good habits in which the child is trained." (Vol 2, p. 247).


Elizabeth Foss is leading a summer study of Simply Charlotte Mason's Education Is... eBook. This is my second post in this series.

Just as Charlotte Mason has identified three components of education - Atmosphere, Discipline and Life, so has she divided the idea of the discipline of habits into four specific areas: moral habits, mental habits, physical habits and spiritual habits. A future discussion is scheduled wherein I anticipate delving deeply into each of these areas. However, today's focus will be on the discipline required to instill any habit, specifically 5 ways from Charlotte Mason to cultivate good habits.

I have tried to think these through regarding older children. It is quite easy to read about children throwing toys and the consquence being the loss of that toy but I don't see Marianna pitching her belongings around in a fit much anymore. :)
I think if it is a good and true theory it will apply to all ages, even (especially!) adults.

1. Pick One Habit

Quality over Quantity. Don't Overwhelm. My impulse is to grab a habit from each area. Let's have one spiritual, one physical, one... this may be an area to SLOW DOWN. I may not be able to plan 10 years of habit training in the remaining 5 school years but I imagine I can touch on some pertinent ones in that time!

2. Be Vigilent and Consistent

I truly liked the idea of following through by making certain I have the attention of the child, stating the command once, asking for a narration (repeat back to ascertain comprehension), and then applying the consequences. Why get myself worked up and jump straight to the consequences if I haven't yet caught the child's attention or the comprehension of what I'm asking isn't there?

3. Share Living Examples

Concrete rather than Abstract. Bring examples in that the child can relate to. Of course, anytime you hear the word Living in a discussion of C.Mason, think non-twaddle. The classic George Washington = Truthfulness was given as an example but I'd really like to come up with a modern (dare I say, living?) list of people that exhibit the qualities I'd be talking about, an example might be Olympic skier Rebecca Dussault.

4. Apply Appropriate Consequences

The emphasis is on applying Natural Consequences as much as possible as they are a reflection of real life. A wonderful point was made that a consequence that is overused it can lose its effectiveness. To combat this several options were given.

*Physical Stimulus - i.e. physically helping the child complete the task. The example given in Education is... was to repetitively and physically walk your child through the task of picking up toys even to the point of guiding her bodily. Obviously this won't work with a teenager quite so well. :) However, to take the idea of physical repetitiveness and apply it to a task a teen might have like sweeping the floor (or scrubbing the deck!) the consequence of neglecting to do so might result in doing the task twice in succession.

*Removing Obstacles - Is there something distracting the child from completing the task? For the older child a distraction might be access to books, music, the computer and other technologies (ipod, cell phone, games, etc...) Remove it until the task is complete.

*Adding Responsibilities - The classic for the older child. If you don't get your dirty clothes in the laundry YOU do the laundry the next day.

*Removing Privileges - Another oldie but goodie. The most pertinent point here, I felt, was the idea that the privilege lost should be connected to the action. The example in Education Is... was having the child stand through a meal or lesson instead of using a chair if that child continually disobeys the directive not to tip the chair back on two legs. Makes sense to me.

5. Encourage, Don't Nag

Nagging can be so easy to fall into, but a simple rephrase and control of the voice and expression can lead to an attitude of expectant encouragement rather than nag-nag-nagging.

Have you noticed that there is not much talk about the child and their actions but rather much discussion of the parental actions! This idea that 1/3 of Education is a Discipline really plays into the parent's lap. If I can apply these ideas to my own life I feel I'll be well on the way to guiding my daughter in the formation of her life!

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Vessel Make/Model: 35' Coronado
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S/V Mari Hal-O-Jen

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