CM on Habit-Training and Staycations

Dear Reader,

As I have indicated previously, I am going to breeze through a lot of Charlotte Mason’s fifth volume, Formation of Character. This post is my attempt to address all of parts 1 and 2 of that book.

The first part is a series of anecdotes about habit-training. They are quite interesting and I highly recommend reading them for yourself. I had a hard time putting them down. But what struck me most about this section was that for the most part the issues being dealt with seemed so minor. In one chapter, for instance, the child’s problem is that they are “sullen”; another is “sulky.” I suppose what surprises me is that we today do not usually view these as problems to be dealt with. Rather, we expect children of a certain age to be sullen and sulky. And that age moves younger and younger. When we think of training our children we tend to think of tangible things like getting them to hang up their coats. And Charlotte does include such things when she talks of habit training. But I think we have lost the idea that we can also train for much for subtle and yet much more important traits. Now my own children are all still below the teen years. And though I know kids of their age who are already at least “fresh”, they have shown no signs yet of teen-age attitudes. But it would be nice to think that such things are not inevitable and that we can train children not to be sulky or disrespectful though our culture just seems to accept that that is how they will be.

Part 2 of Formation of Character is a series of short essays, mostly written as conversations between parents, on education. I will admit that for the most part I don’t understand what they are about. I feel that I don’t have enough background in the topics of the day to get where they are coming from. But one of these essays, “Where Shall We Go This Year?”, did strike me. It is about vacations (or as Charlotte says “holidays”). She begins by talking about what makes a good vacation:

“Here is the whole secret of a successful holiday –the mind must be actively, unceasingly, and involuntarily engaged with fresh and ever-changing interests; and this is why, to take a holiday is by no means the easy thing it looks.” (p.91)

Surprising, isn’t it? We don;t usually think of vacations as needing to be intellectually stimulating. Our perception is either that we should be able to kick back completely and have no obligations and nothing pressing on us or else, if we have children, that it is all about amusing them. From what I overhear other parents say the Disney cruise seems to be the epitome of all vacations. The kids can be dropped off for the day to be amused by adults dressed in silly costumes while the parents lounge and only have to pick them up at the end of the day.

Charlotte also addresses the problem of how to have a holiday when one cannot afford to travel to foreign parts. She says:

” . . . the question is, can we stay at home, and, with the minimum of expense, and the maximum of convenience, get all the stimulus of foreign travel? Indeed we can . . . ” (p.92)

Her answer is to pick a county close to home and to explore all its little off-the-beaten-track sights and so to learn in depth the history and natural history of one small corner fo the world.

I suppose I am intrigued by Charlotte’s description of what a holiday should be because we are planning our own vacation in a couple of months to Florida. It has been a long time since we had a vacation that wasn’t at least in part about visiting relatives. Where we live Florida means Disney and many families seem to go there every year. But for me Disney is the last thing I want to do. The desire to go to Florida came form my ten-year-old who loves birds. All her bird books showed the nest ones in Florida so she has been asking for years to go. So while we don’t have every detail worked out our main goal is to see things in Florida that we can’t see here and particularly things God has made (as opposed to things people have made though the Kennedy Space Center is on the list to keep the male half of the family happy). So if you have any suggestions of things to see near Orlando we would be happy to hear them.


8 responses to this post.

  1. We just moved from Jacksonville, FL. If you plan to be near the coast, drive up or down it a little. Near Jax there were some reserves with no houses, etc. You could go on the beach though or take a hike. Maybe there will be something like that near you. I personally don’t like all the Disney hoopla either. There may be some historic places nearby too. We loved the old part of St. Augustine.


  2. Thanks for the info! I’m am not sure we’ll be as far north as Jacksonville but I will look into it.


  3. Posted by Hillary on December 15, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    Near Clearwater (not exactly Orlando but that’s where we flew into, so it’s a short drive) there was, 10 years ago, a little bird rescue-sanctuary and also a little rescue aquarium that taught about the wildlife that lived in the salt/freshwater estuary. I just did a Google search and apparently I am NOT up on the latest in kid media… Clearwater Marine Aquarium was a modest little place for two newlyweds w/o kids then, although apparently now there is some dolphin movie about one of the rescued animals and it attracts tourists who are dismayed it’s not a flashy high-tech place. I liked the aquarium and I think CM families would like it, too. The bird rescue is called Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, and you can read about it here: Happy traveling!


  4. We’re in the middle of planning a little vacation here, and I’m very thankful for the references you provided here–so interesting to think about as I think through our activities!


  5. This last summer we spent our vacation hiking and visiting state parks and my children, one 18, and the other 11, said it was the best vacation ever. It was a wonderful thing to have them love God’s world and find great joy in it!


  6. […] of you may remember that long ago I asked for suggestions of what to see and do in Orlando, Florida. We weren’t actually able to go a year ago as we had […]


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