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AmblesideOnline's Patio Chats:
19. The Most Important Habit

We talked about the discipline of good habits earlier: "Did you know that paying attention is a habit you can intentionally encourage? Not only can you encourage it, but it's important for your child's education. When your child pays attention, your school time can be more effective, and time will go by quicker and more enjoyably. A child who's distracted by every little thing, or whose mind wanders all day long can make a few lessons drag on for hours."

Charlotte Mason thought that, educationally speaking, the ability to pay attention and focus was the most useful habit a person could have (this habit isn't just for kids!) Attention is tied to memory. How many times have you misplaced your keys because you weren't really paying attention when you laid them down? What if you could train yourself to stop and pay attention for two seconds every time your keys left your hands? You'd probably never misplace your keys again!

Let's transfer that to education. What if you could train your child to pay focused attention for two minutes every time you started a school lesson? Your child would catch every detail, which would be reflected in his narration, and remembering lessons would be a cinch.

What if you could extend that to four minutes next year?

What if you could extend it to fifteen minutes by seventh grade, and twenty by high school? Imagine how much material you could cover by never having to re-read, or stop to coax back your student's flagging attention. This could revolutionize your whole school! Two hours, boom, the day's reading is done, and it's done thoroughly and well!

And that, folks, is the beauty of training the habit of attention. Start small. This week, figure out your starting point. Are you at two minutes? Thirty seconds? Wherever you are, work at making it a little longer. You'll get there!

There some painless exercises you can use to build attention. Trying to remember what was seen in a shop window, listing from memory some random items you placed on a tray (this is a game often played at baby showers), remembering a scene from nature are some fun ways of encouraging better attention.

"A person's ability to pay attention is a good assessment of their competence." [from Charlotte Mason's Vol. 1 pg 137]

[Today's patio chat comes from Principle 15]

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