One of the most profound – and often under appreciated – methods of Charlotte Mason was here teachings on habits. How I wish I had known of this extremely influential concept when my children were younger, before they formed the bad habits we are now undoing.
Mason addresses the fascinating subject of attention - The Habit of Attention.
She explains that a child should stay focused on a subject, and not allow their minds to wander hither and thither with every interesting thought that pops into their brain. The thing is, our children have fascinating thoughts and ideas, but they must be taught to keep their minds focused on the subject at hand. This is a difficult task. A child must be trained – even with rewards – to keep their mind focused. A child that is not trained into this habit of attention will struggle through school and work for a lifetime. I didn’t realize this was simply a bad habit, but it is. The child should be aware of their fault in letting their mind flitter away and wander off. They should be taught that staying on task and keeping their minds on a subject is an amazing achievement, a great triumph about which they should feel very accomplished when they are successful at it. Let them know that if their mind’s wander, it is a choice they have made. It’s work to keep our minds on task. But with training, they can accomplish what few people do. If they can learn to focus their mind’s attention, they will find everything they pursue in life will come much easier for them.
In school work, short lessons helps to achieve the habit of attention. If the lesson is too long, they will find it difficult to develop the habit. As they begin to develop the habit of attention, you can begin to lengthen the lesson.
Each of my children has a small timer. They set it at a prescribed time for each subject. They then work diligently for that short amount of time and get a great deal done. They feel successful when they see how much more they achieve each week in that short time period. The timer’s are also motivation for them. If they work diligently, they can finish school sooner and be out to play earlier.
Aristotle said it best:
You are what you repeatedly do; excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.