Habit a Delight in itself.

…the forming of habits in the children is no laborious task, for the reward goes hand in hand with the labour; so much so, that it is like the laying out of a penny with the certainty of the immediate return of a pound. For a habit is a delight in itself; poor human nature is conscious of the ease that it is to repeat the doing of anything without effort; and, therefore, the formation of a habit, the gradually lessening sense of effort in a given act, is pleasurable. This is one of the rocks that mothers sometimes split upon: they lose sight of the fact that a habit, even a good habit, becomes a real pleasure; and when the child has really formed the habit of doing a certain thing, his mother imagines that the effort is as great to him as at first, that it is virtue in him to go on making this effort, and that he deserves, by way of reward, a little relaxation––she will let him break through the new habit a few times, and then go on again. But it is not going on; it is beginning again, and beginning in the face of obstacles. The ‘little relaxation’ she allowed her child meant the forming of another contrary habit, which must be overcome before the child gets back to where he was before.” Volume 1 page 121.

Fruit from our Farm Pick-up, Amazon Fresh and Wegmans in a big mess.
Tidied into bowls
Keeping clean, empty counters has been a new habit for me for the last year or so. It brings me peace and happiness (and fortitude to prepare yet another meal!)
Putting away small appliances and dishes washed-by-hand takes only an extra moment or so.

What are some of the good habits you have in your life? How do they bring you delight and pleasure, even in the very doing of them, not just in their result?

Now that the new school year has started, with fresh eyes think through one habit you most need to develop? What bumps in your day could be helped by a good habit put in its place?

What is the contrary habit to your good habit that you need to overcome? What reward do you get from your contrary habit that you need to let go of to really establish your new habit?

What reward will you get from your new good habit? Think through the delights that your habit holds, in doing them and in the result.

What “penny” will you need to give to create your new habit and what will be the “pound” (dollar) you will receive in return?

This summer I read The Power of Habit and found much that confirmed Mason’s theories on the power of habit in our lives. It was inspiring and worth checking out of the library. I hope to blog more about it when my Charlotte Mason reading group gets to the habit section in Volume 1.




This post is part of our Friday series: “Spaces to Think” You can read the others here.







“If mothers could learn to do for themselves what they do for their children when these are overdone, we should have happier households. Let the mother go out to play! If she would only have courage to let everything go when life becomes too tense, and just take a day, or half a day, out in the fields, or with a favourite book, or in a picture gallery looking long and well at just two or three pictures, or in bed, without the children, life would go on far more happily for both children and parents.” – Charlotte Mason, Vol. 3, pg. 34

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Playing in Rome. Not a every-day kind of “Mother-Culture”!

Camille wrote on this quote in her post on Mother Culture and Creativity. If you missed it, go back and read it now!

Play is so important in all of our lives that I thought it was worth posting this quote again for our “Spaces to Think” series.

Here are some things to ponder:

What is the difference between real play and escapism?

Have you been seeking to escape your work and life or finding life-giving ways to enrich it through play and leisure?

Why is play not self-indulgent?

What do you do if you have a few extra minutes in your schedule? Is this life-giving to you?

How can you have more courage to set aside time for your “Mother-Culture”? It is often heroic, isn’t it– The lining up of babysitters or planning quiet activities for your children, so you can have the chance to “play”?

What activities does Mason mention for the mother to do when things have become too tense? How are they different from the normal recommendations for women to go shopping or to the spa? Or might even these be a good option?

Look back at your past week. Did you get enough rest? Enough Mother-Culture? Then, look ahead, and plan a pocket or two of time! We can’t hop on plane to Rome, but what can we do?


This post is part of our Friday series: “Spaces to Think” You can read the others here.


We’d love to hear your thoughts or questions about the quote below!

Spaces to Think: No. 3

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This week our “Space to Think” Quote comes from the beginning of Volume 1:

 “Mothers owe a ‘thinking love’ to their Children.––‘The mother is qualified,” says Pestalozzi, “and qualified by the Creator Himself, to become the principal agent in the development of her child; … and what is demanded of her is––a thinking love … God has given to the child all the faculties of our nature, but the grand point remains undecided––how shall this heart, this head, these hands be employed? to whose service shall they be dedicated? A question the answer to which involves a futurity of happiness or misery to a life so dear to thee. Maternal love is the first agent in education.’

We are waking up to our duties and in proportion as mothers become more highly educated and efficient, they will doubtless feel the more strongly that the education of their children during the first six years of life is an undertaking hardly to be entrusted to any hands but their own. And they will take it up as their profession––that is, with the diligence, regularity, and punctuality which [we] bestow on [our] professional labours.

That the mother may know what she is about, may come thoroughly furnished to her work, she should have something more than a hearsay acquaintance with the theory of education, and with those conditions of the child’s nature upon which such theory rests” (p. 2-3).

In your “space to think” consider the following:

  • What area of your family life is most in need of “a thinking love” right now?
  • Is there a time of day that is troublesome for your children?
  • A routine that’s not working? Morning habits, bedtime habits, cleaning up after a meal, returning home from an outing, emptying sports bags, book bags, etc
  • A physical space that creates issues: an overstuffed closet, a pile of toys in a playroom, the lack of a place for mother or children to be alone to think, pray, read?
  • A conflict between siblings? Between parent and child?
  • Are hearts, heads, and hands duly employed each day?
  • How could you deal with this issue with diligence, regularity and punctuality that you would use to tackle a “professional” problem?
  • Are you furnished with the training you would need to handle the issue?
  • What would make your action or resolve “a thinking love” for your child, rather than just a thinking action or just a loving one?

When I had my first baby, I would often call my husband at work, upset about some issue I was having with my little one. I was overwhelmed and tired and lonely and wanted to do it ALL the RIGHT way! I would call and go on and on and on..! And finally one day, he kindly stopped me and said,

“Amy, you are a creative and intelligent woman, I think you can solve this problem.”

I was stunned!

But he was right, I had just left a teaching position where I dealt with over 100 students a day and faced many difficult issues. When a problem would arise, I would tackle it with creativity and intelligence. Why hadn’t I thought to do that with my little one?

Our families don’t need our fretting and complaining–they need our “thinking love”!

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To read more about “Space to Think,” check out the first post in the series:

Spaces to Think No. 2

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Today’s quote comes to us from Charlotte Mason’s Volume 6. I have been pondering it since Kerry Forney shared the quote to a group of us in Philadelphia at our workshop, Learning How to Live!.

But our fault, our exceeding great fault, is that we keep our own minds and the minds of our children shamefully underfed.

The mind is a spiritual octopus, reaching out limbs in every direction to draw in enormous rations of that which under the action of the mind itself becomes knowledge.

Nothing can stale its infinite variety; the heavens and the earth, the past, the present, and future, things great and things minute, nations and men, the universe, all are within the scope of the human intelligence…

Volume 6 p. 310

Questions to consider:

  • Are you keeping your mind underfed?
  • What are you feeding your mind?
  • How is the mind a “spiritual octopus”?
  • Take a moment to ponder the infinite variety of the universe, “things great and things minute”?
  • Is there a new scope of human intelligence that you’d like pursue?
  • Have you had enough “Spaces to Think” this week? This weekend as you plan out your week ahead, can you plan for space to feed your mind?

sawtooth oak

Spaces to Think


On Fridays, we plan to share with you quotes from Charlotte Mason that we’ve been pondering over the past week. For now, we’re calling these posts, “Spaces to Think.” We hope they will give you space in your full day to consider a golden nugget from Mason!


To begin the series, I’ll share with you where we found the idea of “Spaces to Think.”


A few years ago a friend accidentally stumbled across a short, yet lovely piece in the L’Umile Pianta from June 1922, “Education is the Science of Relations,” a summary of a talk given by Miss Parish.

“What Miss Mason’s teaching gives us is really the philosophy of life, the art of living. The realization of our ideal depends upon Proportion. We must have a just sense of proportion, we must have harmony. The old painters new this…We must not think only of developing the body, nor on the other hand of only the mind, but must keep the balance true. We must not overcrowd our lives and live in a perpetual hurry. We want spaces in life to think. Thinking is most important in life.”

I need to hear this again and again. It is too easy to fill our days with busyness, to be pressured to take on more than we should and be left hurrying from one thing to the next. When our schedule is overcrowded, our interior life shrivels.

The analogy to proportion in art and decorating is a helpful one. The summary continues…

“We should not care to have every bit of our walls covered with pictures as beautiful as each might be by itself. Miss Parish told us she had recently slept in a room containing 90 objects! Let us have spaces.”

Yes, let us have spaces!

We have the chance now in the hot, lazy days of August to stop and consider Proportion in our lives.

Do we keep the balance true?

Do we have spaces to think?

When in our day do we stop just to think and do we have a physical space to go to think?

How can we find space in a home of 4 children and a newborn with laundry to be done, meals to be made, spills to be cleaned, emails to return, swim lessons to make and a birthday party to plan?

At a particularly stressful time, I found it helpful to actually create a visual “time budget.” Mystie Winkler writes about it here. Yes, I had a daily schedule for our family, but I so often wondered where did my time go each day? A helpful thing with the time budget was that it also required me to include travel time so that I saw that each event outside our home actually required more time than I had realized.

Why was a “Time Budget” helpful?

I learned that I do accomplish a lot each day! But also in seeing my time laid out, I could see places we needed more space. It helped me to evaluate whether some of our outside activities were really worth so much effort. I also saw blank spaces in my day that I could take better advantage.

The summary from the L’Umile Pianta ends, “…We want a unifying principle to guide us.” Mason shares with us more than an educational plan but an entire “philosophy of life, the art of living” if we make the space to consider it.



Quotes taken from the L’Umile Pianta: For the Children’s Sake. June 1922, p. 23-23. Transcribed from the Charlotte Mason Digital Collection, Redeemer University
The L’Umile Pianta was the magazine published for the alumni of Charlotte Mason’s teaching college in Ambleside, England