SS #109 – Aristotle v. Behaviorists

The topic of this year’s retreat is habits. Habits are a homeschool essential because they is a life essential.

The question is not whether or not you will have habits, but rather what kind will you have. So we need to come at the question of habits intentionally and biblically.

We do a lot of reading to research and prepare for our retreat, and we’re starting with Aristotle, the first to emphasize habits outside of Scripture. In this episode we invite you to geek out with us on habits so we can get it out of our system and synthesize it into a non-intimidating, non-Aristotelian approach at the retreat itself.

Let’s jump in!

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Rethinking Habits Classically

  • [2:43] Our new retreat format
  • [10:35] Sad news: Pam will not be there
  • [13:54] Habits and perfection
  • [19:29] Habits are continual practices
  • [22:33] When habit-training becomes behaviorism
  • [26:10] Why we lose habits so quickly

Today’s Hosts and Source

Brandy Vencel

Abby Wahl

Mystie Winckler

Our Source

“We are made perfect by habit.”

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

In all your habits, don’t become a behavioralist.

Our New Retreat Format

Although there is a place for the 45-minute, talking-head, lecture-style retreat day, we decided that format really did not fit with our goals for the retreat or our community.

Our primary goal for the retreat is to allow our listeners to pull together a local group and have a refreshing community day. The 45-minute lecture style simply was not conducive to that because so many attendees felt thrown into the deep end unprepared. Also, the local group discussion time barely had enough time to get past the awkward stage of getting the conversational ball rolling.

Our new Homeschool Essentials series and retreat model fixes both problems with one elegant and fun solution.

Sad news: No Pam

Pam needs to cut back to focus on her family now that she has all teens who will be launching sooner than later. She wants to cut back the time she’s away from home and protect what time she has left to homeschool.

We are all still friends and we totally support Pam in this decision, but we’re going to miss her so much!

What Aristotle Says about Habits

The retreat will be a broader approach, but you’re our listeners, so you can be niche with us as we research and prepare.

With smaller pieces to chew on, the local discussion flourished as moms shared their insights and ideas for applying it also.

Built in contemplation and application made it so much more relatable and applicable. And table discussion flowed naturally from the more conversational tone of the sessions.

Lectures are everywhere online, but the new format makes it much more useable in a local retreat format. The Scholé Sisters retreat is informative, rich, meaningful, yet not heady and overwhelming. It’s just right for homeschool mom encouragement.

Habits make you perfect?

What is translated as perfect in some Greek, including some of Aristotle and some in the New Testament is not moral perfection, but telos – a thing brought to its purpose, to maturity, consummate virtue, nobility as the aim of education.

Think through the little tasks so that when someone asks if they can help, you have things you can delegate – writing a thank you note, buying paper plates, etc. When you know ahead of time what needs to be done, you can outsource it and allow others to help you.

Habits take continual practice

Habits are a use-it-or-lose-it sort of thing, not a sprint that we program and then run on without effort.

“It is not enough for people to receive the right nurture and discipline in youth. They must also practice the lessons they have learned and confirm them by habit when they are grown up.”


Habits aren’t determinative. It’s not something we set when they’re little so that we get the outcome we have decided we want for our children.

Habits aren’t automated programming

We’re creating a richer, deeper home education community and changing the conversation by giving ourselves a vocabulary and a connection.

A lot of teaching on habit training ends up being an attempt to circumvent decision by programming the kids like they’re a computer.

Modern habit teachers emphasize the automatic action angle, but Aristotle says habit is making the same decision, again and again. His goal is never to get out of decision-making, but to just get better, more skilled, at making the right decision.

Habits are about ordo amoris

The end goal of virtue is that you actually enjoy doing good, not just that you’ve performed a good act. It’s a heart matter, not merely a skill set.

Aristotle does talk about how punishment and pleasure do play a part of building habits, but he understands that those choices become actual virtue when it’s been internalized and then confirmed in action.

Habit training is helping everyone in your family, including yourself, to love what ought to be loved and to hate what ought to be hated, because we don’t naturally and instinctively love and therefore choose what we ought.

What’s missing in the modern habit stuff is a true understanding of human nature as fallen and sinful, but the ancient pagans knew that man was not naturally good. That’s a modern error, coming from Rousseau.

If we’re blank slates then we can be programmed. If we have a natural propensity to choose vain pleasure over what is eternally good and a draw toward sin, then habit training is obviously going to be a lifelong work.

Habits are hard work

The end goal of virtue is that you actually enjoy doing good, not just that you’ve performed a good act. It’s a heart matter, not merely a skill set.

It takes work to be excellent.


We can’t be impatient with habits

The end goal of virtue is that you actually enjoy doing good, not just that you’ve performed a good act. It’s a heart matter, not merely a skill set.

We want to download the right choices into our kids, but that’s not how habits work nor is it how discipline works.

Parenting takes years and years – two decades or so. And homeschooling is just intense parenting.

So we need to wrap our heads around lifelong pursuits of good habits not only for our parenting and educating, but for ourselves also.

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…
Read More SS #132 – Intellectual Habit Training

SS #96: Can Virtue Be Taught?

Yes, you can teach virtue. However, that doesn’t mean education can make people into Christians.  We must distinguish between training in good habits and a changed heart. Only God changes hearts, but he ordains discipleship (education) to train in the way people should go. Education does not save, so it will not make one morally…
Read More SS #96: Can Virtue Be Taught?

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

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