Lessons from Miss Mason
by Ana Willis
Lessons from Miss Mason by Ana Willis
Habit Training: The Key to Success
As a young mother, I naively believed my children would naturally become attentive, obedient, and orderly. “One day they will finally get it and I will be able to stop nagging them!”

We long for our homes to run smoothly. Homes where our children brush their teeth and pick up their clothes without us saying a word. They promptly answer, “Yes, ma’am” or “Yes, sir” when asked to do something without talking back or questioning why.

Homeschooling and parenting is exhausting and frustrating when kids don’t listen. This constant battle slows down productivity in our homes and homeschools, raises stress levels, and even hurts our relationship with our children.

Thankfully, there is a way to turn this situation around and secure for yourself smooth days ahead! How? Through daily, intentional habit training.

Charlotte Mason, a nineteenth century British educator, believed a third of our education is based on habits.

“Therefore, we are limited to three educational instruments—the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit, and the presentation of living ideas.”
– Charlotte Mason, Home Education
Habit Training Secures Smooth and Easy Days
“The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children. All day she is crying out, ‘Do this!’ and they do it not; ‘Do that!’ and they do the other.”
– Charlotte Mason, Home Education
Miss Mason tells us that we’re all creatures of habits in her Home Education series. Habits are regular routines we practice organically, like brushing our teeth. They are behaviors that have become automatic through repetition. While good habits are beneficial, bad habits are detrimental to our lives. But good habits don’t form overnight. It takes time, intentionality, and persistence in habit training. Habit training is easy to implement.

Consistency is the key to success in the formation of good habits. About half of what we do daily comes from habits we developed over time.

Miss Mason advised parents to focus on only one habit at a time for a period of six to eight weeks. She compared habit training to laying down the rails that would lead children towards given ends.

“We have lost sight of the fact that habit is to life what rails are to transport cars. It follows that lines of habit must be laid down towards given ends and after careful survey, or the joltings and delays of life become insupportable.”

– Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education

a mother smiling as her kids wash fruit in the kitchen with her
These carefully laid down rails take children from a bad habit to a good habit.

While Miss Mason recommended starting habit training by teaching first the habit of obedience, I find it better to start with the habit of attention. After all, if children do not know how to pay attention, how will they carry out an instruction?

Next, focus on the habits of obedience and truthfulness. Finally, work on any other habits your children need more help with. Whatever habit will benefit them the most should be your top priority. Many families might decide to first focus on manners or self-control after the habits of attention and obedience.

Keeping A Realistic Expectation During Habit Training
While habit training is easy to implement, each child is unique. Depending on the habit, some children may require more time than others to establish a new habit.

After the initial six to eight weeks, carefully evaluate if your children are ready to move on to the next habit. If necessary, let them continue to focus on the current habit a little longer. I also highly recommend looping—going back to something again—with some important habits every year or two as seems necessary. For many years, we revisited important habits such as attention and obedience as we saw a need for them.

Now, I have two teenagers and one pre-teen who are wonderfully obedient and independent learners. However, the habits of order, modesty, and managing one’s own body (yes, that’s a habit, too) still require extra training. This year, we have been working on religious habits. I now enjoy seeing my children spend daily quiet time with the Lord. They read their Bibles daily, listen to worship music, and pray on their own.

It is a blessing to see the fruit of our “pain to endow our children in good habits.” No matter how long it takes, the end results will not disappoint you.

“Consistency is the key to success in the formation of good habits. About half of what we do daily comes from habits we developed over time.”
Motivating A Child to Cultivate Good Habits
“‘Sow a habit, reap a character.’ But we must go a step further back, we must sow the idea or notion which makes the act worthwhile.”
– Charlotte Mason
We motivate children to cultivate good habits through living examples. By using stories, poems, Bible verses, quotes, and daily life situations, children learn the natural consequences of habits.

There are many wonderful habit and character training resources for homeschoolers. My favorite is the Laying Down The Rails series by Simply Charlotte Mason. I’ve been using this habit training curriculum with my children for many years.

Laying Down The Rails For Children provides open-and-go lessons for homeschoolers based on Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education.

This curriculum covers twenty-six habits divided into five different categories: mental, moral, physical, religious, and decency and property habits. That means your children will focus on a variety of habits like attention, self-control, good health, prayer, and manners.

It is amazing how these simple and short lessons help children to understand the natural consequences of their actions. I recommend doing a Laying Down the Rails lesson twice a week. The lessons are short, taking only ten to fifteen minutes, to keep children’s attention. Each lesson produces wonderful discussions and keeps children motivated to establish new habits.

As parents, our daily consistency in habit training is key. Our constant encouragement and hopeful expectations are great motivators for children to practice the new habit.

“It is a blessing to see the fruit of our ‘pain to endow our children in good habits.’ No matter how long it takes, the end results will not disappoint you.”
Habit Training Sets Children Up For Success
“The habits of the child produce the character of the man… every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.”
– Charlotte Mason, Home Education
While habit training might take arduous and diligent work from parents, it is sure to bring great rewards. In Galatians chapter 6, Paul reminds us that whatever one sows, he will also reap. We must not grow weary and lose heart in doing good. Habit training requires perseverance and patience. However, the payoff is incredibly fulfilling.

Habit training produces an orderly home, more productive homeschool time, and better relationships between children and parents. It also produces a peaceful and respectful atmosphere. Most importantly, habit training produces good character and discipline for children to succeed in every area of life.

The daily habits parents faithfully work on producing in their children today will never be in vain. It will bring forth adults who are honest, punctual, responsible, and kind—among many other excellent qualities.

3 pictures: top picture features two girls smiling, middle picture features two girls brushing their teeth, and bottom picture features little girl reading the bible
Habit Training Is Not Just For Children
It is never too late to begin the formation of good habits, even for us parents.

I will never forget how convicted I felt on our very first habit training lesson. The definition of attention read: “turning the whole force of the mind to the subject in hand.”  As I read those words to my three, five, and seven-year-olds, my heart sank. I felt sick with guilt and shame as tears began to roll down my cheeks.

As a mother, I didn’t know how to fully pay attention to my children without an undivided heart.

For many years, I had bought into the busyness trap and lived in constant multitasking mode. I was able to do many things at the same time, but none with excellence. Daily I juggled housework, homeschooling, full-time ministry, and my online business—my attention split in many directions. This only led me to severe burnout.

That lesson changed my life. I knew I needed good habits more than my little ones at that point. As my children began to learn and practice good habits, so did I.

Habit Training Resources For You
Dear friend, I share this not as someone who always had it all together. I experienced the life-changing power of habit training, not just in my children, but also in myself.

There are five books about habits I highly recommend to moms:

Laying Down the Rails for Yourself

Atomic Habits

Better Than Before

The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction

Habits of a Household

Give habit training a chance! It will bring more order and peace to your home and smooth days ahead for you and your children. Good habits have lifelong benefits in both our lives and our children’s.

If you want help starting with monthly habit training, join me in The Homeschool Sisterhood. To learn more about Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education, check out our Charlotte Mason Inspired Mother’s School classes. Watch my free masterclass here to discover how to run your home and homeschool on autopilot and download my weekly routine checklist templates for kids and teens.
Ana Willis

na Willis is a wife and homeschool mom of three turned homeschool blogger and speaker. She is also a women’s pastor and a passionate Bible and Hebrew teacher. She loves helping moms to find joy and fulfillment in their homeschool calling. Her goal is to help them go from stressed to blessed, nurturing restful homeschooling through a living education, and living a beyond blessed life. For the past 5 years, Ana has been mentoring thousands of homeschool moms through her blog They Call Me Blessed as well as the Charlotte Mason Inspired Online Conference and more.