Podcast: Habits and Homeschooling

Brave Writer Podcast

In our last discussion on the Brave Writer podcast, we explored what it takes to feel good about home education and parenting, and we were left with a tantalizing idea: the key lies in habit formation.

Eager to learn more, we sent Melissa on a research mission to understand the ins and outs of habit building, both from personal experiences and contemporary habit science.

In this episode, we will:

  • delve into our own experiences with habit building,
  • explore Charlotte Mason’s influence on homeschooling,
  • and examine the latest behavioral science research on how our brains form habits.

So, let’s get started and discover how we can implement effective habits in our homeschooling journey.

Show Notes

Why are habits essential to homeschooling?

Habit formation plays a crucial role in the success of homeschooling, as our brains naturally default to habits, with about 40% of what we do being based on routine. In the context of homeschooling, developing positive habits can make life run more smoothly and help children experience the joy of learning. By consciously and proactively creating habits, we can create an environment that supports happiness, health, and our core values.

Charlotte Mason, a pioneer in the world of habit formation, believed that it takes roughly six weeks to form a new habit. With consistent practice and effort, habits eventually become automatic and unconscious, making everyday tasks easier and more efficient. For example, when children learn to write, they initially put in a lot of effort to form letters correctly. Over time, this skill becomes automatic as they develop the habit of proper letter formation.

In the context of homeschooling, habits can range from small actions that make life run more smoothly, to routines that help children engage in different learning experiences. These habits do not imply rigidity or strict schedules; rather, they provide structure and support that allow for organic learning and growth. By understanding and embracing the power of habit formation, we can unlock the potential for a successful homeschooling experience.

Building Positive Habits with Playfulness and Consistency

One effective approach to forming new habits is to build positive habits with playfulness and consistency. This approach was inspired by Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of being proactive in creating good habits rather than being reactive and coming down hard on negative behaviors. Here are some key aspects of this approach:

  • Identify the habit you want to form: Begin by recognizing a behavior that isn’t serving you or your child well and determine a healthier, more pleasant habit that would be beneficial to replace it with.
  • Be proactive: Rather than criticizing or punishing the negative behavior, focus on creating the good habit that would be more beneficial. This proactive approach can help foster a positive environment where habit formation is more likely to occur.
  • Make it fun and engaging: Create a game or challenge around the habit you want to form. By gamifying the habit, it becomes a fun bonding experience, making it more enjoyable and motivating for everyone involved.
  • Take it one step at a time: When forming a new habit, especially for children with challenges like ADHD, break it down into smaller, manageable tasks. Focus on mastering one task at a time before moving on to the next. This allows for a more manageable and effective habit-building process.
  • Be consistent but flexible: Consistency is important in forming new habits, but it’s also important to recognize that life can be unpredictable. Be consistent in your approach, but also flexible enough to adapt when necessary.
  • Focus on one habit at a time: Avoid trying to form multiple habits simultaneously. Concentrate on one habit until it is well-established before moving on to the next. This ensures that each habit gets the attention and practice it needs to become ingrained.
  • Celebrate progress and growth: Recognize and celebrate the progress made in forming new habits. By acknowledging and reinforcing the positive change, you help solidify the new habit and build confidence in the ability to form other beneficial habits in the future.

This approach of building positive habits with playfulness and consistency is an effective way to create lasting change. By being proactive, engaging, and focused on one habit at a time, you can help foster an environment where new habits can flourish and contribute to a better, healthier lifestyle.

Finding the Right Habits and Setting a Reasonable Pace

When deciding which habits to work on within a family, it’s essential to avoid feeling overwhelmed by trying to tackle too many at once. Instead, it’s best to focus on one habit at a time and build it up slowly.

  • Identify the source of clashes or conflicts: To pick the right habit to start with, consider where the most significant friction points are in the family. Are there constant struggles with siblings, or between a parent and a child? By identifying the source of the conflict, you can begin to focus on the habit that will help alleviate the issue.
  • Assess the pace of habit formation: It’s essential to establish a reasonable pace for introducing new habits. For instance, if getting ready to leave the house is a constant struggle, consider building more margin than you think you need. This could involve creating specific routines or organizing items (like shoes and coats) to make leaving the house a smoother process.
  • Adult preparation and responsibility: As parents, it’s crucial to recognize the role we play in creating the right conditions for habit formation. We need to be aware of our own needs and preferences and take responsibility for making necessary changes. For example, if a parent struggles with time management, they should work on improving their own understanding of how time goes by and make adjustments accordingly.
  • Training and practice: One key aspect of habit formation is providing children with adequate training and practice. For instance, if the goal is to have children be more responsive to requests to leave an activity, take time to walk through the steps of the habit and practice it several times before implementing it.
  • Honoring feelings and creating conditions for success: In the context of gentle parenting, it’s important to honor both children’s and parents’ feelings. By being honest about our needs and expectations, we can create conditions that promote success and prevent resentment from building up.

By focusing on one habit at a time, being aware of our own needs, and providing training and support for our children, we can successfully implement new habits within the family dynamic. This will ultimately lead to a more harmonious and fulfilling family life.


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