I talk a lot about great habits in my work as a homeschool advocate and mentor. Though I absolutely believe that respecting children means letting them become who need to be, I also feel strongly that children must develop great habits for a successful life. And while we all define success differently, most will agree that a solid work ethic and compassion for all mankind are habits that everyone should be encouraged to learn.
Growing great habits in children comes first from modeling great behavior ourselves. Children watch and learn continuously by what we do. Believe me, they notice – and begin doing it, too. Behaviors may be barely noticeable, like the simple act of saying ‘good morning’ to people we meet when leaving the house each day. Or they may be larger, like working a problem until it has been properly solved. They’re watching.
Great habits come from consistency, too, allowing habits to become cemented in our minds and become patterns in our bodies. Children raised with continually changing expectations face obstacles in this area. Those raised with consistency are on a much faster track to good habits, and benefit greatly by learning them early on.
Are parents ever perfect? Of course not! That, too, is a lesson for children, who also notice how we handle our imperfections and mistakes.
But overall, watching and learning from the earliest ages produces tremendous benefits throughout the growth years, and beyond.
So, what does this mean for your homeschool? The answer depends on your style of living.
It could mean rising at a reasonable time and starting school work without being asked. It might mean stopping to help a sibling who is struggling, or offering to watch a toddler while a parent tends to a different child. It could mean working through a problem until a solution is found, or not asking for help until all of the necessary steps have been taken (re-reading a lesson, checking a video, or whatever is required in your home).
Great habits could mean jumping in to help with laundry, dinner preparations or something else going on throughout the home. It might be about answering telephone calls or knocks on the door in ways that create as little distraction to others as possible. It could also mean moving from subject to subject throughout the day and placing completed work where you like it to go.
In our home, habits include starting school each day without being reminded. It means checking daily if a test, quiz or lab is scheduled instead of regular lessons. It means remembering field trip days and other activities, and planning work around time spent away from home. And it means letting me know before taking a break, instead of doing so without permission, since breaks and down-time are loosely scheduled throughout the day. But it also includes things like not watching television programs we do not allow and asking permission before visiting web sites or downloading video games without consent. It includes walking animals at specific times of day, closing doors to keep pets safe and our home clean, and picking up the torn bits of paper and tufts of hair the animals always manage to leave behind. It includes coming to my aid every time I return home with a car full of groceries and never failing to help when I am carrying a heavy load. It includes lowering voices if another is sleeping and turning off lights when one leaves the room. Our children diligently follow chore schedules I publish and the notes I leave throughout the house. And while it may not be popular in every home, our children know I require a particular style of dress and footwear depending on where we go, and remember to ask me [almost] every single time.
Every family is different, but principles learned in the home are easily applied any time they are needed. Starting early is helpful, but it’s never too late.