I spend a lot of time and energy thinking about Miss H’s education. Three seems to be a crucial age- for all that I hope she learns and she wants to learn. But I can’t forget Baby E. If children do the most of their learning from ages 0-3, then his stage is even more crucial than hers.
Forming positive habits is one of the most important aspects of the Charlotte Mason Method (read more about habit formation here). In Charlotte Mason’s first volume, Home Education, she discusses habits that infants should learn. By “infant,” she’s referring to children from 0-5 years old. While teaching habits to these little cherubs seems daunting, she says that they learn habits when their caregivers model them on a regular basis. These are also referred to as habits of atmosphere. By seeing to them regularly from infancy, they become lifelong habits that help guide them towards more successful lives.
I am not great at modeling all of these habits, but I’ll write more about working on grown-up habits later. For now, I describe the habits that Charlotte Mason suggests helping infants develop.
By cleaning children regularly, they learn to dislike dirty hands, dirt under the fingernails, etc. Having a sweet potato smile doesn’t bother Baby E a bit. Miss H was this way as a baby, but after awhile, she began to dislike any smudge on her hands or face. When she was about 15 months old, I bought fingerpaints for her to try. She started crying and wiping her hands on the ground (we were outside, thankfully!) because she didn’t want her hands to get dirty. It didn’t take her long to learn this habit!
To me, there is delicate balance between cleanliness and stressing physical appearance. Miss H’s hair gets tangled quickly, and I feel badly fussing about it all of the time because I don’t want her to become self-conscious or vain.
Modesty and Purity
It’s natural for children to enjoy living like they’re in the Garden of Eden, as Charlotte Mason puts it, but modesty is something they should be taught at an early age.
Order and Neatness
Ms. Mason describes order and neatness as two separate but similar entities. Order is putting everything back in it’s place, while neatness is making sure the places make sense and are visually appealing.
I’m working on these habits for myself so that my children can learn them from me, and so that our house isn’t a source of stress for us! Fortunately, Miss H has picked up some positive habits from other places. Recently, she came down into the kitchen and asked my husband, “Why are all the cupboard doors open?” Nate and I looked at each other and laughed. I am not in the habit of closing cupboard doors, but Miss H developed this habit very early on. When she was in daycare, the caretakers always remembered to close cupboard doors to keep curious toddlers out. So whenever Miss H, who was just past one at the time, saw an open cupboard door, she would say, “Uh oh!” and run to shut it. She’s been out of childcare for over a year now, and this habit has stuck!
Keeping a Schedule
This habit seems to be more for the child’s current well-being than future well-being. CM discusses the importance of keeping a bedtime and mealtime schedule so that children don’t become out of sorts.
Sense of Smell
CM explains that young children should learn to use their sense of smell as a warning signal of things amiss. I remember learning to trust my nose when I was pregnant, as my sense of smell was heightened. This was a completely new concept to me!
To be honest with you, I wanted to pretend like she never mentioned this one because it didn’t seem relevant to modern times, but after going to church this morning, I decided it might be more important than I thought! The speaker (a guest) spoke about Matthew 26, where Mary pours the expensive perfume over Jesus’ feet. The speaker then mentioned three or four verses in the Bible that describe offerings as pleasant aromas.
Teaching young children to use all of their senses is very important to help them develop observation skills that will lay the foundation of future learning.
Charlotte Mason doesn’t include this one with infant habits, but I think reading could also be considered a habit of atmosphere. When children see their parents read, or have their parents read to them, they learn to value reading. This is something that parents should start doing from day 1!
What habits do you think are important to teach from infancy?