SS #132 – Intellectual Habit Training

This is the second in our four-part series on Charlotte Mason’s chapters from School Education that cover the training of physical, intellectual, moral, and religious habits. Today, we’re discussing the training of intellectual habits. First, though, we need to go through Charlotte Mason’s paradigm for thinking about these things.

Habit Training with Charlotte Mason Series

Episode 1: Training Physical Habits

Listen to the podcast:


Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher

Your thinking happens by habit

  • [2:48-19:15] Scholé Everyday segment
  • [20:28] We are all under authority
  • [26:04] There are limits to our reason
  • [33:57] Where does knowledge come from?
  • [38:58] Charlotte Mason’s warning
  • [41:27] Intellectual Habit: Attention
  • [47:00] Intellectual Habit: Concentration
  • [48:44] Intellectual Habit: Thoroughness
  • [51:20] Intellectual Habit: Intellectual volition
  • [52:38] Intellectual Habit: Accuracy
  • [55:33] Intellectual Habit: Reflection
  • [59:42] Intellectual Habit: Meditation
  • [1:02:53] Don’t be stingy!

Today’s Hosts and Source

Brandy Vencel
home educates her crew and somehow managed to slip in 4 episodes of straight Charlotte Mason.

Mystie Winckler
home educates her crew and refuses to accept Brandy’s CM labels and kudos.

Abby Wahl
home educates her crew, cooks, herds sheep, and gets in trouble on IG when Brandy makes her quips into memes.

Today we are basing our discussion on Charlotte Mason’s School Education, chapter 11.

“Our thinking is not a separate thing from our conduct and our prayers, or even from our bodily well-being. Man is not several entities. He is one spirit (visibly expressed in bodily form), with many powers. He can work and love and pray and live righteously, but all these are the outcome of the manner of thoughts he thinks.”


Scholé Everyday: What We’re Reading

The Christian Family
The Fourth Turning Is Here: What the Seasons of History Tell Us about How and When This Crisis Will End
Healing Complex Children with Homeopathy

The Christian Family, Hermann Bavinck

Writing at the turn of the twentieth century, Bavinck shows how vital and fundamental family stability and hierarchy are to our living out the gospel personally and being effective in the world.

The Fourth Turning Is Here, Neil Howe

Abby let us know we’re still going to be in cultural crisis for another ten years.

Healing Complex Children with Homeopathy, Angelica Lemke

Brandy is getting extra niche in her niche interest.

You have control over your thoughts

Reflexes shouldn’t be dignified with the name of opinion. We are not victims of whatever thought or reaction bubbles into our head. We can notice our thoughts and train our thoughts.

None of us has our own personal truth. For both knowledge we gain and opinions we hold, we should seek to examine them by objective truth. Then we can keep what stands the test and toss the rest, continuing to learn and grow.

Reason can’t always be trusted

Our reason works without our conscious thought often, so do we really get credit for being thoughtful and intentional and smart when all we did was let nature work and our intuition take over?

We all know how often we go to bed with a difficult question to settle. We say we will sleep upon it, and, in the morning, behold, the whole question has worked itself into shape: we see all its bearings and know just how to act. We are so accustomed to take wonders as matters of course, mere everyday events, that it does not occur to us to be surprised.

We even say, the mind is clearer after sleep, regardless of the fact that we have no labour of thinking at all in the morning; all comes straight of itself. When we come to think of it, most of our decisions arrive in this unlaborious way. We really cannot say that we have thought such and such a matter out: the decision comes to us in a flash, by an intuition, what you will. The subject is a large one, but all I care to stipulate for here is that children should be taught to know that much of our reasoning and so-called thinking is involuntary,––is as much a natural function as is the circulation of our blood, and that this very fact points to the limitations of reason.

Our minds – our reason – are not infallible guides nor objective standards. Reason will come up with reasons to defend anything we want to defend or justify anything we want to justify.

You can control your thoughts, and so can your kids.

What a revolution should we have in our methods of education if we could once conceive that dry-as-dust subjects like grammar and arithmetic should come to children, living with the life of the Holy Spirit, who, we are told, ‘shall teach you all things.’

Attention & Concentration

Yes, attention can be trained. You might not have ADHD; you might just be addicted to your phone.

Some do have ADHD, but that is no excuse. Instead of accommodating and excusing our kids because they have a weakness, we therefore know where we need to work harder, not where we ignore and let them be. The weak spots are where we need to give extra effort and support so they can at least be less weak, even if they won’t be as strong as others.

The label should be a call to focus and work, not give up and excuse. The label is not an easy out.

Attention is being passively receptive, while concentration is active, direct effort.

Concentration wears you out faster than attention, but even with concentration and focus our stamina can still be trained and improved.

Thoroughness & Willingness to Think

Thoroughness is a dissatisfaction with incomplete knowledge, but desiring to get to the bottom of a topic.

Simply looking at a dictionary is a basic habit that helps build both thoroughness and a willingness to think, partly because it makes it easier to actually think about a thing. You have something to go off of instead of just whatever you can pull from your head. You can check your definitions and thinking, and then springboard from the concrete definition to connections and examples.

Charlotte Mason next discusses what she calls “intellectual volition,” meaning a willingness to consider, to think about a matter for more than a moment. But it also includes the ability to direct our attention, to choose where our focus is pointed. This can include the skill of being interruptible, to allow something or someone more important to break our flow and attentive obsession on a project or book.

We want to be in control of our attention, rather than at the mercy of our attention.


We need to be watchful with our kids that they speak with clarity and accuracy. We don’t want to indulge a tendency to exaggeration or a sloppy habit of not really saying what they mean. Not everyone in their life will give them the benefit of the doubt like their mom or fill in the gaps like their siblings.

We want our kids to be prepared and ready when they speak to people who don’t have the family context and familiarity with our kids. They should be intelligible to others, so we’re handicapping their ability to move into adulthood if we don’t require them to be intelligible at home.

Home is the training grounds for life, not the place where all rules and manners are off and everyone lets it all hang out.

Reflection & Meditation

Reflection is the ruminating power innate in children that we often lose as adults. Scrolling is the opposite of reflection. Reflection requires us to spend much time with an idea, without distraction and without anxiety.

Ruminant animals ruminate while resting, bringing something back for further digestion. We have to have ideas inside that we can pull out and turn in our minds. In a way, perhaps this piece is scholé – not the collecting, but the thinking and mulling.

Meditation, according to Charlotte Mason’s categorization, is more active than reflection. Meditation is following the rabbit trails, making the connections, and thinking about ways to apply the ideas in your own life.

We do not sufficiently recognise the independent intellectual development of children which it is our business to initiate and direct, but not to control or dominate.

Charlotte Mason

Mentioned in the Episode

Charlotte Mason’s School Education (Book 3 the of Home Education Series)
The Institutes Of The Christian Religion: The Four Books – Complete and Unabridged
The Charles Dickens Collection
The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure
The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen
Digital Minimalism
The Fallacy Detective: Thirty-Eight Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning

SS #115 – Indoctrinate Me

We’ve all heard it said, and maybe even said it ourselves: “I don’t want to tell my kids what to think, but how to think.” Is that possible? What is indoctrination, and is it always bad? Indoctrination has a negative connotation in society today, but what if that’s only so parents refrain from teaching their…
Read More SS #115 – Indoctrinate Me

SS #110 – What is a human?

You can’t educate a person – or even be an educated person – without having an answer to the question, “What is a human?” Understanding begins with definitions, and definitions point us to the telos of a thing, the purpose of a thing. Humans have a nature and purpose. If we are to educate humans,…
Read More SS #110 – What is a human?

Want to talk about the ideas presented here? The conversation is happening inside Sistership.

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