The Role of Discipline in Education
Each of us has in his possession an exceedingly good servant or a very bad master, known as Habit. The heedless, listless person is a servant of habit; the useful, alert person is the master of a valuable habit. The fact is, that the things we do a good many times over leave some sort of impression in the very substance of our brain; and this impression, the more often it is repeated, makes it the easier for us to do the thing the next time. We know this well enough as it applies to skating, hockey, and the like. We say we want practice, or, are out of practice, and must get some practice; but we do not realise that, in all the affairs of our life, the same thing holds good. What we have practice in doing we can do with ease, while we bungle over that in which we have little practice. – Charlotte Mason, Ourselves
Hello friends! Come join me as we discuss another Charlotte Mason principle that will encourage, convict, and inspire you. Charlotte Mason has a way of doing that 😉 Grab a mug of your favorite tea, pull up a chair, and enjoy as we dissect Charlotte Mason Principle 7: Education is a Discipline.
If you are just joining us and need a refresher or are a Charlotte Mason newbie, take a peek at our brief overview of our Charlotte Mason 20 Principles. You’ll find each Charlotte Mason method we’ve dived into linked to their appropriate principle.
Principle 7: Education is a Discipline
By “education is a discipline,” we mean the discipline of habits, formed definitely and thoughtfully, whether habits of mind or body. Physiologists tell us of the adaptation of brain structures to habitual lines of thought, i.e., to our habits.
Charlotte Mason stresses throughout all her written teachings on education the importance of establishing good and worthy habits in the home. Teaching consistent, good habits strengthens a child spiritually, mentally and physically for a lifetime of success.
In Towards a Philosophy of Education, Charlotte writes,
“Education is not after all to either teacher or child the fine careless rapture we appear to have figured it. We who teach and they who learn are alike constrained; there is always effort to be made in certain directions; yet we face our tasks from a new point of view. We need not labour to get children to learn their lessons; that, if we would believe it, is a matter which nature takes care of. Let the lessons be of the right sort and children will learn them with delight.(Point 1) The call for strenuousness comes with the necessity of forming habits; but here again we are relieved. The intellectual habits of the good life form themselves in the following out of the due curriculum in the right way. As we have already urged, there is but one right way, that is, children must do the work for themselves. They must read the given pages and tell what they have read, they must perform, that is, what we may call the act of knowing. We are all aware, alas, what a monstrous quantity of printed matter has gone into the dustbin of our memories, because we have failed to perform that quite natural and spontaneous ‘act of knowing,’ as easy to a child as breathing and, if we would believe it, comparatively easy to ourselves. The reward is two-fold: no intellectual habit is so valuable as that of attention; it is a mere habit but it is also the hall-mark of an educated person.” (Point 2)
Let’s break this down.
1 – We are encouraged here that a living education– and what a beautiful term that is- will inspire a child to conduct the work of learning themselves. I have seen the fruits of this play out in our own home and it truly is a glorious thing. Children are inquisitive and usually prone to a love of independence, sometimes to a fault in their early years. Cultivated well, though, these proclivities that are inborn in our children can be utilized to set them on a good path for whole person development. And the Holy Spirit takes care of the rest.
2 – The habit of attention. In our current culture this habit is sadly lacking, even in many of us as parents and educators. We are constantly bombarded with information, flashy videos, and instant gratification even for educational purposes – for example, I’m much quicker to look up the original Greek or Hebrew of a Scripture on my phone than to go get my Strong’s concordance off the shelf. I have allowed myself to fall into a habit of convenience and one that lends itself to distractions. <- We’re all still works in progress, friends. So let this also be an encouragement that we simply have to keep laying down our self at the foot of the cross and standing aside as the Holy Spirit continues to refine us.
Being able to attend to the work at hand without getting distracted is something we must model as well as teach. So attend to your work and to your children – because mama, they need you to show them nurture and love and guidance and we cannot do this if we fall into the habit of inattentiveness. We must discipline ourselves as we disciple our children if we are to lead them in the way they should go.
Cultivating the Habit of Discipline
Godly Habits in the Home
Part of teaching healthy habits is training ourselves to be good examples as teachers and keepers of the home. As followers of Christ, we can and should model a daily quiet time of studying Scripture and praying. Including our children in these moments allows us to guide them in developing their own daily quiet time habits.
Training children in the discipline of selflessness begins with us. Teaching them about healthy Biblical relationships by modeling thriving marriages, excellent friendships, fiscal responsibility, forgiveness, mercy, grace, and service are just the beginning. As your children grow, begin to include them in the service areas you enjoy and allow them to venture out into service areas they are drawn to.
Encouraging your young children to hold doors, return shopping carts, and get things from too low or high shelves for others when they are young will help train them to think of these things on their own when they are older.
There are so many opportunities given to us to learn and love and serve if we work to cultivate the habit of esteeming others above ourselves. The point of education for our family is to cultivate the knowledge needed to serve others in the way the Lord has planned for us. And the habit of discipline is the necessary tool to build that base of Biblical knowledge, prayer, and learning.
Every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend. ~Charlotte Mason
Giving a child chores even when they are young develops a strong sense of responsibility and ownership. Children should master their particular chores before giving them additional responsibilities. Encourage them with thanks for doing their job well, and correct gently but firmly for jobs not done or done poorly.
Dependent upon age, even very young children can pick up their toys and put them in a bin. As the child gets older, their responsibilities should build upon one another until over the years, they can plan and make a meal or fix a broken tool.
Raising children today to have a good work ethic is imperative, but it is also more difficult that in previous generations. The most common chores and life lessons used to be taught outside. Mowing, taking out the trash, raking leaves, cutting firewood and building fires, etc. – for many people today these are not practical due to urban living. But there are many other opportunities to help your children learn the value of hard work and with a bit of creativity, you can help them flourish even in the most urban cities.
“There is an attunement in living which is described in different ways: being and doing, vision and action, worship and service, faith and works. Since the Renaissance the world has been getting more and more out of tune because the value of action has been emphasised almost to the exclusion of vision. We are afraid of the word contemplation, which is the act of seeing. In order to get the harmony right again these two sides of life must each have their due place.
Charlotte Mason knew the necessity for this harmony. She grasped the implication of Wordsworth’s phrase ‘we are educated by our intimacies’ and incorporated it into her philosophy of education, which is nothing less than the working out of a way of life. An intimacy is formed by seeing and acting, even if the acting is the act of knowing. By seeing is here meant a power of the mind which has to reach the outside world through one of the senses. It is a spiritual power which can see significance. But this swift and sword-like power so often becomes blunt and rusty for want of use. In a child this power is strong and active, and if it is kept in full use we are educated by our intimacies and the depth of significance increases with the years.” – ‘It All Comes Down to Education’, by Mary Hardcastle (C.M.C.), Volume 53, no. 7, July/August 1942, pgs. 209-218
When we endeavor to train our children in habits, we do so because we have a vision for their lives that we have thoughtfully gleaned from prayer and study of The Word. The quote from the article linked above (by the way, you will benefit greatly from taking the 5 minutes to read the entire article here) is a beautiful reminder that this vision is an imperative step we must take before we begin doing the act of educating.
Take the time to revisit the vision each year, or quarter, or even month and then refocus on the training and teaching of habits and the development of character.
Some of the Charlotte Mason Character Traits she focused on are:
- Paying Attention
- Healthy Temper
For a wonderful modern resource, our family has greatly benefited from Our 24 Family Ways as our children have grown and we revisit these often.
The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days. ~ Charlotte Mason
We do both ourselves and our children a great service by practicing the discipline of good habits in education and in life. Remember to begin with one habit focus at a time and build upon it and don’t be discouraged when there are setbacks. We all have them and they are merely obstacles to overcome.
- What are some good habits you want to instill in yourself?
- What are some good habits you want to instill in your children?
- What are some habits you would like to replace? The best way to “break” a bad habit is to replace it with a good one.
- What are some habits in your children you would like to replace?
Write out your answers, then begin to write out a plan. One step at a time, with small goals for each week until you have achieved success! We know it’s a lot of work but we also know that with the Lord’s help you can do it!