Thursday, October 20, 2011

Habit Formation

These days a curriculum suggestion makes my eyes roll back in my head. I'll talk books with you all day, I adore books. But curricula has worn me out. Still, I find myself watching homeschool leaders, just waiting for a resource to encourage and excite. Newly found: Simply Charlotte Mason. I downloaded the free e-book Smooth and Easy Days, read it all in two days, made notes in the margins, and picked a new habit to begin forming in my children. Did I like it? Loved it and ordered Laying Down the Rails.

I am familiar with Charlotte Mason. I've read several of her books, and books by people who've read her books. Though I won't be pinned down to any one "type" of educational philosophy, I am rather partial to Charlotte Mason. The pages of Laying Down the Rails aren't strictly new ideas, but the ideas are rearranged and pertinent quotes on one habit gathered into a few short pages. The book is motivational.

The first habit I chose to cultivate is neatness. Thinking of all those clothes on the floor and wrinkled math pages it seemed an excellent first choice. I'm afraid we have rather a hard uphill climb. We fell off the wagon after the first few days. Really, thirty or so days of such concentrated effort is tiring. Then I read all that Sonya Schafer included under that sub-section, and realized I myself have a good bit of work to do.

The idea of habit has suddenly pervaded our days. Kara and I sat down to spelling last week. I had an epiphany, we had fallen into a habit. When I dictate sentences, she spells every word correctly and leaves out every capital letter. I wait; she erases, adds. I may leave a meaningful silence, but, telling: I never mention the capital letters. A habit.

This is not a terribly bad habit, but I think we can change it. I explained my theory. I endured the reproach, "you keep talking about habits these days." I outlined how we will change our approach to spelling. I want her to think about the capital letter at the beginning of the sentence, and the beginning of the name, not later. This will require that she concentrate. If she can't fully concentrate on spelling the spelling lesson will be over. A spelling lesson cut short!

This is why you must know your child. When Ally, who would love a world in which there was no spelling (not just lessons, mind you, simply words that never needed to be spelled), heard the new plan she laughed aloud. "I would have just done the first sentence wrong every day." She would have, and walked away a merry soul. Kara, however, writhes on the floor begging for just one more opportunity and promising greater powers of concentration. I think we have a good chance.

The idea of habit has permeated my days, and I've yet to finish the book. That is the power of an idea.

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