Written by Kari Patterson of Sacred Mundane
There’s a one-word banner I’m waving these days: Habits.
The word probably doesn’t kindle a fire of passion or enthusiasm in your soul.
Though you may not come alive when you hear the word habits, I will tell you this one-word anthem is revolutionizing our homeschool like nothing else has in a long time.
I stumbled upon this volume, Habits: The Mother’s Secret to Success, a selection of Charlotte Mason’s writings on the topic of character formation in children. I had been in a weary season, struggling with homeschool, behavior issues, and general overwhelm with life.
There was so much to do, where to begin? Our days felt haphazard and aimless. I lacked passion and zeal for homeschooling. I found myself wondering if I was even cut out for this home-education thing.
Within the first few pages, I knew this was what I’d been missing. Her words of wisdom rang true and clear, timeless. We began with baby steps, heeding her advice and implementing simple habits.
The keys for me to remember were:
- Don’t implement a habit you cannot completely reinforce for 2-4 weeks. Previously I would assign my children more than I was willing to reinforce. This led to constant frustration, overwhelm, and frequent negative interactions. To my amazement, scaling back and only requiring a few things, which I was completely devoted to joyfully and enthusiastically reinforcing, has brought success, giving us far more frequent joyful interactions. Hooray!
- Don’t ease up on a past habit as a “reward” for good behavior. Mason maintains that this is the fatal move so many mothers make. Let’s say Johnny has been doing an excellent job of picking up his dirty clothes, for two whole weeks. You’re so happy, that when you notice he left them on the floor, you kindly do it for him, “just this once.” But that actually undoes the habit-keeping, and will extend the amount of time it takes to actually make a habit. It will harm him in the end, because the sooner the habit is solidified, the sooner he’ll have mental-space for other things. Once something is habit you don’t have to think about it anymore!
- Reward with freedom, not food or money or toys. The reward for finishing math early is not a lollipop, it’s free time. It’s the freedom to do whatever he wishes with the time that’s left. The reward for finishing all his chores without being asked is free time, time to play outside or read or craft or Lego or whatever his heart desires. What a wonderful, wholesome, and refreshing reward!
So why do I bring this up at the holidays? Isn’t this the time when schedules and structure are tossed to the wind in the name of fun and festivities?
I’m finding that our simple habits are carrying us through the would-be chaos of the holiday season.
We drove 3,000 miles over a two-week period recently, and I found that keeping our simple habits in place, even as so many other things were different or unpredictable, helped us have a refreshing, renewing, joyful trip, returning back to our home-routine with relative ease.
So what will your Holiday Habits be?
That is, what simple habits will you reinforce to help your family navigate this often-hectic season?
Perhaps it’s a 4-part morning chore routine. Perhaps it’s always beginning something at 10 a.m. Perhaps it’s your read-aloud time in the afternoon. Perhaps it’s eating green vegetables at every meal. Perhaps it’s saying the Lord’s Prayer at breakfast. Perhaps it’s a nature-walk every day at 1 p.m. Perhaps it’s reading an advent book before bed.
For those of you who are naturally highly-structured, this may seem like a no-brainer.
But maybe just a few of you, like me, need a nudge to stake out healthy habits this holiday season. I guarantee we’ll have an easier time easing into January if we’ve not abandoned these things all month long.
Your turn! What helpful habits have you implemented with your children? What new habits do you think might be helpful to include this holiday season? Thanks for reading.
Originally published on Dec 17, 2015