Building Good Habits

I’ve done it. I’ve finally gotten to the end of a full week of homeschool (OK, 4 days. But they were four busy days!) without being overwhelmed by the mess by the time it was over! I have Charlotte Mason to thank for it:

The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children. — Charlotte Mason


No, silly! Not that kind of habit!

Of course, Charlotte Mason wasn’t just talking about housework, but we really can’t separate our outward routines from our habits of mind. As it turns out, the only way to teach good habits to my children is to grow some of my own first. I’ve broken some very bad habits in the past. Surely developing good ones won’t be so hard, right? Having never deliberately formed a good habit in my life, I thought it might be wise to start small, so I settled on a few easily attainable goals, and set about making habits of them.

While we were having our Christmas break, I used several of my days off to think about how our habits have been working for us, and failing us. Then I spent the last five days of the year establishing new habits (maybe we should call them habitlings, since we’re not really habitual about them yet) regarding my housekeeping. I wasn’t sure it would really work, once we started schooling in earnest on January 3, but after this week, I think we may have just hit on something. Here’s what I’m doing:

After breakfast, I do a quick walk-through of the house, putting away whatever is out of place, all the way from one end of the house to the other. The after-meal walk-through is my first intentional good habit, and I think it’s a keeper. I start a load of laundry at this time, too. After putting the dishes in the dishwasher (second good habit), we start school, no exceptions (third good habit). Housework doesn’t happen again until lunchtime, except for folding a load of laundry and starting another mid-morning.

We eat lunch around noon, then I fold whatever laundry is left, put it away completely (fourth good habit), clean up the kitchen and lunch dishes, then do another walk-through of the house putting things away. This includes making my bed. After that routine is done, I choose just one bigger task—mopping, deep cleaning a bathroom, reorganizing a closet, or whatever is really bothering me that day. After that one thing, I am finished with housework until dinner needs to be made. The fifth and final habit of doing one big chore every afternoon is going to take some getting used to, because by the time we’ve done everything else, I’m tired. So far, that’s the only habit I’m struggling with, but I do manage to do it nearly every day.

While I’m doing my chores in the morning and afternoon, the older kids have their own jobs, of course. Right now those chores are tidying up the zones I’ve assigned to them, then making their beds and putting away their own laundry. If David (7) wants a weekend video game, he can do extra housework to earn 15 minutes of game time per task (limited to one hour per week). Usually this chore is vacuuming, but he’s handy at all kinds of things. I can’t wait until I have more big kids! It makes such a difference!

What’s wonderful about the routine we’ve got worked out is that we have the whole morning, plus about an hour after afternoon chores to get our school work done. Our at-home days really are smooth and easy right now, and it’s because my kids not only know what to expect of me, but they know what I expect of them.

I’m already noticing a change in the way I think about juggling housework and schoolwork (and blogging!), and our good habits are actually starting to nag at me when I don’t get them done. I get something akin to a craving to do that walk-through after meals to restore order. Is that progress, or the beginning of an OCD? Who knows? I’ll keep you updated.


  1. I have thought about this a lot lately too, since I’m working outside the home. We really need to develop some good habits to keep things running smoothly. I always get discouraged at the thought of trying to get the whole family to go along with my routine. But… you’re right. I need to start with myself. Maybe I’ll pick one thing to start with and go from there. Thanks, Cindy

  2. I think I’m going to add the habit of folding my pj’s and putting them away when I get up, instead of waiting until I tidy up to get them off the floor. I’ve found that it only takes about 5-10 minutes after each meal to get things back the way they should be. It doesn’t take long if you do it every day! Hallelujah, because I hate housework. It leaves so much time to be productive.

  3. You make it sound so simple!!! Will definitely give this a try. Our pastor gave a great sermon about this being the year to make order a priority. Guess it’s time….

  4. It takes a bit of self-discipline the first couple of weeks, because at first, it takes a while to get the whole house done. Then after a couple of weeks, it’s easier, because you’re doing it every day so there’s not as much to do! Yay!