Habits are those patterns of behavior in our lives that have, through repetition, become ingrained and often unconscious routines. Good habits make our lives easier and better, bad ones make them worse and more difficult. A child, for example, having acquired the habit of neatness, enjoys a bedroom that is free of clutter. For a child without the habit of neatness, however, cleaning his room becomes stressful, defeating drudgery. An essential aspect of educating students, therefore, is to teach and encourage them in the formation of good habits. The importance and urgency we ascribe to habit formation results from the inescapable fact that any vacuum created by the absence of good habits is inevitably filled by corresponding and pernicious bad habits of behavior.
Good habits are formed through labor. We practice those things we desire as habits until they become effortless second nature. Few adults need to concentrate on holding a pencil correctly because it has become habit. For the five year old, however, the act of holding a pencil requires concentrated thought. Good habits ease our way. They are the rails on which the train of life runs.
The Habit of Attention
Perhaps no habit is more important in the education of a child than the intellectual habit of attention. It is the hallmark of an educated person. From the earliest grades, we train children at Ambleside to attend to whatever matter or material is before them. For example, by asking students to make a single reading of a selected text and then tell back what they have read, we help the child to develop and reinforce the habit of attention. This most valuable practice will pay back consistent and satisfying benefits throughout their lives in a wide variety of ways.
Education as a Discipline
It cannot be overstated that the Ambleside approach to education is a radical departure from long-established, mainstream classroom practice. At the core is the principle that each student is responsible for his or her own education and accordingly there is a decided absence of cajoling, entreating, bribing and otherwise convincing students that they ought to learn. As such, ownership of responsibility is transferred and the adventure of a lifetime of learning begins. Education becomes a desired discipline that students are naturally attracted to by the richness of discovery as they navigate great works of literature, music, art and science among many fields of study.
As this journey progresses, Ambleside teachers go beyond merely measuring academic performance, focusing also on the kind of person a student is becoming.
- Does he give focused attention to the task at hand?
- Does she put forth consistent effort?
- Is he thorough?
- Does she show proper respect to authority?
- Does he relate well to his peers?
In cultivating the habits essential to robust learning, Ambleside teachers equip our students to master all areas of study to the fullness of their God-given potential. In cultivating the habits essential to an abundant life, Ambleside teachers equip students to live full and satisfying lives, rich in devotion to God, service to others, and continuing personal growth.
For a list of habits, with an explanation of each, see our Resources page.
“But truly, one of the most fertile causes of an overdone brain is a failure in the habit of attention…it is not the things we do, but the things we fail to do, which fatigue us, with the sense of omission…”