Ambleside School’s educational philosophy and methods are based upon the ideas of British author, philosopher, and educator Charlotte Mason. She cared deeply about growth and, in fact, wrote an entire volume, The Formation of Character, all about how to help children and adults mature in character and Christ-likeness.

Each chapter in this volume is focused on one habit of character, with the first chapter entitled “The Philosopher at Home.” It tells the story of a young couple, Mr. and Mrs. Belmont, and their struggles to parent their five year old son, Guy. Guy has a habit of throwing temper tantrums at the drop of a hat. When he does this the whole house is inconvenienced by his screaming and sometimes violent behavior. They’ve tried various strategies, including: ignoring the problem to hope it will go away, sentencing him to his room until his fit subsides and he calms down, giving him attention and affection after his fit to help him know he is loved, and more. Nothing seems to work, and, in fact, Guy’s tantrums keep happening. His mother begins to carry so much anxiety about her son’s behavior that her health deteriorates, and dad finally decides to get involved. As the story unfolds, Mr. and Mrs. Belmont work together with the other adults in his life to help him learn the habit of mastering himself and remaining his best self when tempted to anger. You’ll have to read the chapter to see just how they and Guy do it!

Here are a few highlights from the chapter:

  • We as parents have great powers of tolerance for the bad habits in our children, which can hurt them later in life when their struggle to change their behavior will be much more difficult.

  • Charlotte Mason said, “The man who knows the power of habit has the key to regulate his own life and the lives of his household.”

  • To help our children grow, we need to humbly take responsibility for our own weaknesses and struggles as parents.

  • We can help children grow by allowing them to experience the consequences of their negative behavior on their relationships, and helping them see that there is a better way.

  • Our goal as adults should be to build a caring alliance with our children toward their growth, empowering them to play a role in the formation of a new habit. This was essential to Charlotte Mason’s understanding of Habit Formation.

  • Once an alliance is established, Guy and his parents work on the habit over a period of months and years, until all almost forget he ever had a problem with anger and loss of self-control.