Laying Down the Rails

A friend (thanks Emily) let me borrow a dvd of a Charlotte Mason conference. I put it on to watch while I folded laundry. Needless to say the laundry never got folded. I had to pay attention to the video. So much so that I felt compelled to take notes. (Does that make me a geek or a freak?)

According to Charlotte Mason, the first step to educating children well is "laying down the rails" which amounts to giving them good habits for life. These habits or "rails" form the tracks for them to travel through life. These habits eliminate the need to ponder each decision every step of the way and make room for them to ponder more interesting and important topics. After all, who wants to waste time trying to decide whether or not to brush our teeth each day.

Charlotte Mason wrote six volumes detailing exactly how to go. I do not have time to read all six volumes. Luckily Sonya Shafer, who also led the workshop, summarizes the recommendations in Laying Down the Rails a Charlotte Mason Habits Handbook. I am working on getting this book from the library in hopes of getting more detail.

Meanwhile here is my take on what I got of the workshop.

There are three habits on which all others build; truthfulness, obedience, and attention. As for how to instill these habits. It takes about 6 weeks of hard work on a single focused habit to cement it.

The two key items to remember when teaching a habit are repetition and motivation.

For Repetition, she comments that is critical to correct errors immediately and consistently but it is equally important to reinforce only the correct path which means don't nag.

As far as motivation goes, she recommends finding a "living example" of the habit you are working on. Show the child that they can accomplish the task through "expectant encouragement" and provide natural consequences when the habit or expectation is not met.


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