Cultivating Good Habits

We have lost sight of the fact that habit is to life as rails are to trains. It follows that lines of habit must be laid down towards given ends, or the joltings and delays of life become insupportable.  (Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education, 101)

How we help students develop essential academic habits.

The Habit of Attention

Attention: the hallmark of the educated person

Charlotte Mason’s method secures attention by reading engaging books, keeping lessons short and focused, and by calling students to narrate what they have seen or heard. Narrating on a daily basis in all subjects develops the habit of close attention. The brain adapts itself to the need to attend since a lack of attentiveness shows up immediately in an inability to narrate with accuracy and thoroughness.

The Habit of Excellence

Excellence: putting forth one’s best effort, and caring about the subject at hand 

For Charlotte Mason, “The question is not, — how much does the student know?  when he has finished his education — how much does he care?”   We help our students to care by placing before them “a great feast of ideas” and calling them to respond with their own ideas in discussion and narration.  We spare them the distraction of external rewards (no stickers,  prizes, or privileges) so that growing in knowledge remains the focus and reward of their labor.

The Habit of Humility

Humility: self knowledge, the willingness to honor our strengths while facing our weaknesses

We call our students to know their strengths, pursue their interests, and develop a self understanding based on the truth that “we have gifts that differ according to the favor bestowed on us” (Romans 12:6). In an atmosphere of encouragement, students learn to face their weaknesses and humbly ask for assistance. They come to understand that mistakes are nothing to be ashamed of, but are a normal part of life and a starting point for growth.

The Habit of Curiosity

Curiosity: the fuel of all sound academic work

Curiosity asks: why? how? and what if? How does that plane lift off the ground? Why did those people act in that way? What if the opposite happened? Properly cultivated, curiosity leads from egocentrism to engagement with the world. We support the development of this habit by creating a safe environment where students are free to pose questions about all they read and observe.

The Habit of Responsibility

Responsibility: ownership and accountability

Students at Plumfield are responsible for their own work and must learn to manage their own attention, time, and productivity. This habit is built up slowly over time. In the primary grades, there is much supervision and coaching. Our young scholars narrate (dictate) what they have seen and heard, and practice basic skills. Middle school students are taught planning strategies and are held accountable for completing their work. Any work not finished must be completed on Friday during the student’s personal time. Fortunately, we seldom have to apply this consequence.

The Habit of Order

Order: the management of one’s own things

At Plumfield, each student is assigned an open cubby with color coded binders. Students are responsible for keeping these binders labeled and in order. Papers must be properly filed in sheet protectors. Students who struggle with order need much friendly support until they acquire this habit. Order also refers to coming to class with the materials needed for work. At the end of the day, students participate in keeping the school in order by doing assigned chores.