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Mondays with Miss Mason–On Habits

January 2, 2011

Greetings and welcome to the first Mondays with Miss Mason!

If you are new to Charlotte Mason-style education, I invite you to see an earlier post full of helpful links and resources to learn more about her and her philosophy of education.

For this first gathering, I thought I would start with something on my mind this time of year–Habits.

Now if you are like me, when I first heard about Charlotte Mason and habits, I thought things like brushing my teeth, eating healthy, etc.  Of course, those may be habits that are good to form, but Miss Mason’s concept goes well beyond that to cover most all of our behaviors from mental habits such as attention to physical habits such as cleanliness and spiritual habits such as prayer.

She says that education is fully 1/3 a discipline or a habit. Just think of it–by forming the proper habits for things like paying attention and perfect execution, a child is a third of the way to being educated. On the other hand, if your child is forming poor habits in these areas, then they are a third of the way on the opposite end and working uphill.

From her book A Philosophy of Education (Chapter 6, Part 2–emphasis mine):

We have lost sight of the fact that habit is to life what rails are to transport cars. It follows that lines of habit must be laid down towards given ends and after careful survey, or the joltings and delays of life become insupportable. More, habit is inevitable. If we fail to ease life by laying down habits of right thinking and right acting, habits of wrong thinking and wrong acting fix themselves of their own accord. We avoid decision and indecision brings its own delays, “and days are lost lamenting o’er lost days.” Almost every child is brought up by his parents in certain habits of decency and order without which he would be a social outcast. Think from another point of view how the labour of life would be increased if every act of the bath, toilet, table, every lifting of the fork and use of spoon were a matter of consideration and required an effort of decision! No; habit is like fire, a bad master but an indispensable servant; and probably one reason for the nervous scrupulosity, hesitation, indecision of our day, is that life was not duly eased for us in the first place by those whose business it was to lay down lines of habit upon which our behaviour might run easily.


Am I laying down the lines of habit upon which my children may have easier, and hopefully, better lives? Am I training them in habits of kindness, obedience, and attention?

From a day-to-day living standpoint, am I training them to clean up after themselves? This one strikes really close to home. Confession time–I am not a good housekeeper. Apparently the habit I learned as a child was wait until someone tells you to clean up or does it for you. Somehow I still think some little fairy is going to come and clean the dishes in my sink or make my bed or pick up all the toys strewn about my floor.  It is hard going at this point in life to try to train yourself in these habits as well as bring your children up with them. I envy those whose mothers formed in them the habit of order and cleanliness. I want to make the lives of my children easier by laying down those rails today.

Charlotte Mason has a lot to say on the subject of habit formation. Much more than I can cover here, but I encourage you to read more at Ambleside Online or from Simply Charlotte Mason and Sonya’s free resource Smooth and Easy Days.  If you are looking to go deeper, her book  Laying Down the Rails is a comprehensive guide to pretty much everything Charlotte Mason ever said on the subject.

Are you writing about Charlotte Mason, habits or New Year’s Resolutions? Leave a comment with the link.

See you next Monday .  . .

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2011 5:19 pm

    Habits are the perfect thing to write about right now, what with everyone chattering about resolutions and all! Charlotte was right, but we are human. I do well with this if I can focus on one habit at a time – one for me to work on and one for each child. The long lists can be overwhelming, can’t they? Thanks for sharing this timely post!

    I recently wrote about Mason’s thoughts on composition/narration in my post “Scintillations From Their Own Genius”, if you are interested!


    • January 5, 2011 2:59 pm

      Thanks Nancy! I’ll check out your post. We’re just getting ready to tread slowly into narration waters as my son turns 6 today!


  1. Mondays with Miss Mason–On Thinking Practice « Mothers of Boys

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