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Education is A Discipline

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Good Habits the best Schoolmasters.––Not mere spurts of occasional punishment, but the incessant watchfulness and endeavour which go to the forming and preserving of the habits of the good life, is what we mean by discipline; and, from this point of view, never were there such disciplinarians as the parents who labour on the lines we would indicate. Every habit of courtesy, consideration, order, neatness, punctuality, truthfulness, is itself a schoolmaster, and orders life with the most unfailing diligence. A habit is so easily formed, so strong to compel.(Vol 2 pg 174) Education is A Discipline.

Charlotte Mason has much to share in regards to “Education is a Discipline.” When reading her writings it is very apparent that her definition of discipline is by no means merely contained to academics. One of the most daunting realisations as a parent is the awareness that we are responsible for all areas of our children’s formation and yet, daunting as this may be this acceptance brings an acknowledgement that this precious trust is from our Creator.  We can do no less than bravely step forth and do our best, faltering at times but striving to always move forward.

By Education is a discipline, is meant the discipline of habits formed definitely and thoughtfully, whether habits of mind or body. (Vol 1 Preface) 

Of Charlotte Mason’s three foundations of education, I confess to finding “Education is a Discipline” the hardest to consistently implement.  I am very aware of the benefits both in the short term and the long for self-discipline in all areas of our life, I strive to model and implement but alas consistency continues to be my weakness.  Re-reading Charlotte Mason’s volumes more frequently would be most advisable for those who struggle like I, as she is not only inspirational but her volumes contain much ‘plain common sense.’

Once I became aware of the impact we have on the lifetime habits of our children,  I became conscious that as I strove to; maintain a regular routine, to introduce healthy hygiene habits, to aid a child in forming a solid interior disposition and to led a faithful prayer life, our parenting was not a series of  isolated incidences of; “make your bed”, “brush your teeth,” “time for lessons to begin” and “Have you prayed today?,”  but all these pieces formed part of the whole person.  These moments have not just an impact on the ‘here and now’ but in the years ahead.

As home educating parents without external deadlines I believe it can become all too easy at times to fall into poor habits; to arise at irregular times, to begin our lessons in a lackadaisical manner, or to drop study at will for non sufficient reasons.  Indeed there have been periods of time when I have been gulity of this, and for a season this can be a necessity, but how long can a season be?  We need to be careful that we are not fostering years of poor habits.

Recently when our oldest left home it was apparent that there was no more time to form good habits.  The time was past and she left with her habits already instilled, for better or worse.  I encourage you to begin working on the formation of one habit today, remembering each isolated incident forms part of the whole child.

The well-brought-up child has always been a child carefully trained in good habits. (Vol 2 pg174) 

*Please do not be under the mis-assumption I ‘have it all together’ and my children are perfect, I do not and they are not, but still we keep striving.

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Related Posts:

Living History

Quality Literature

Education is an Atmosphere

Immersion in Quality Literature

Charlotte Mason and Dictation

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  • Linda

    Great post! I am constantly battling some of our 'bad habits', and they are so difficult to break once formed. But as you say, it's a matter of stiving for those goals. We'll keep working on it! 🙂

  • Amber

    Well said! We are working on delayed gratification ATM. Work first, play later and I'm trying my best to model this too. It is hard work all the time, but the reward is oh so worth it!

    • Erin

      You are building very solid habits with work first, play later. In time this method will become second nature to them and a lifetime habit!

  • Vicky

    One thing I've noticed is that the children may seem to have formed some lazy habits but, then, they seem to adopt the habits we modelled for them, when they become adults. In our family, this has been true of their faith, too – they absorb without seeming to and, then, they have their own, inner conversions (very exciting!). Seeing this happen has helped me to be less harsh on myself and to concentrate on my relationships – with God and with the family.

    God bless:)

    • Erin

      The scary part is my modelling is not always the best. Relationships are paramount I agree and yes seeing our young adults adopt our Faith as their Faith is so thrilling:)

  • Jeanne

    Fabulous article. Your last paragraph is especially pertinent to me. It is so easy to let standards slip – first one thing, and then another and then, suddenly, they've flown the nest. Just like that in the blink of an eye!

    • Erin

      Well writing from personal perspective there;)and yes, areas I thought I had time to fix, I didn't. For a season slip sod can be good, but the big picture was on me before I realised.

  • Vicky

    This is such a deep issue, Erin, and I don't think my first comment reflected that – in fact, I've been pondering it, ever since:)

    I'm wondering how dependent habits are upon discipline? You see, I am thinking of a situation where routines may be undisciplined but habits of love, consideration, courtesy, etc, may be rigorously upheld. Maybe, it's a case that discipline and habits are actually interrelated or, maybe, we are free to work on the habits we need to improve, irrespective of the discipline we choose for ourselves and our family. Does Charlotte Mason consider habits to be a form of discipline? I'm still turning that over in my mind.

    I've never done too well, as far as discipline goes, so it has been helpful for me to concentrate on forming loving relationships and trusting in God's mercy. I guess presumption might be a risk with that approach, though, if our hearts are hardened to change.

    Also, I wonder if, rather than changing habits in order to change our hearts, whether it might be equally valid to change our way of thinking first and, then, allow new habits to develop of their own accord – depending on the situation. Maybe, that also depends upon how stubborn our hearts are to change!

    Just some random thoughts and musings – thank you for a thought-provoking post:)

    • Erin

      I'm honoured that something I wrote has caused deep pondering. Now your questions in turn have had me pondering and struggling to articulate my thoughts:)

      I see habits and discipline all entwined, and originally habits will be instilled via discipline but my desire is before long your habit is synonymous with self-discipline.

      Obviously we as mothers have much opportunity and obligation to aid our children in the habits of love, consideration, courtesy etc, well really these are virtues, but for some children virtues come easily, some children need consistent pruning and training in some virtues. Yes, you make a good case these are probably all entwined. Although we as mothers have to exercise self-discipline ourselves to help cultivate these virtues/habits, how easy is it to pretend at times we didn't see something that needs correcting as we are simply too tired of having to deal with it yet again.
      a little free booklet you may enjoy is Free and Easy Days, wonderful parenting advice, just what I needed as a new parent (and older one)

      Charlotte Mason has three main precepts Education is a Life, a Discipline, an Atmosphere. Her definition of discipline is not of an authoritarian parent but of a loving parent aiding the child in establishing healthy habits interior and exterior for life.

      Like you I'm not the best disciplinarian, not in an authoritative way it just goes against my personality and my parenting beliefs, however I do see the benefit of creating self discipline within my children, which will be of aid across all spectrums of their lives.

      The older a person is the harder it is for new habits to develop, not that they can't. just harder work.

      A thought I'm now pondering (you've created this thought;) How much of the interior self-discipline is influenced by the exterior self-discipline?
      Gee we could write blog posts on this:){}

  • bookworm

    I wouldn't give up hope for the children who are now adults. I think discipline can be something you cultivate all your life. Sometimes, our children don't realize how important self-discipline is until life gives them a few setbacks.

    • Erin

      Very true, I know I'm still working on discipline in my life, however I regret not aiding my children better as they also, like myself will be starting with a handicap. Although their handicap will not be a large as mine. It is harder to reteach.

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