It’s going to take me a little while to recreate my habits talk in this space. I wrote down the sequence of points I wanted to address and examples I wanted to use, but I wound up not using my notes at all, except to read a couple of Charlotte Mason quotes. But I recall pretty well what I said, and what questions were asked, and I’m gradually jotting it down to share here. I’ve gotten a lot of sweet notes from the moms in attendance, and it’s clear the topic struck a chord. Preparing the talk was a fun experience for me—it reinforced something I learned from Alexis O’Neill, a children’s book author and frequent school-presentation giver, in a workshop she gave for children’s writers last year. She was speaking about school visits, but her point speaks to a wide range of situations. She said, “You have to remember that you already know a great deal about your subject. Things you take for granted, your knowledge about publishing and writing, are topics of great fascination to your audience. There’s a lot you can say that comes just from what you already know inside and out. That’s what they want to hear.”
That’s a rough paraphrase from memory, over a year later. You can see her words really resonated with me. They struck me as applying to many things in my life besides writing. All of us have a wealth of stories and experience tucked in our minds. For the right audience, what you know through life experience—those aspects of life you take for granted because the ideas have become a part of the air you breathe—can make a compelling narrative. In the case of this habits talk, I hadn’t realized until I began preparing it that the degree to which my parenting style was influenced by Charlotte Mason’s ideas about habit formation was, even among my fellow homeschoolers, somewhat unusual. Honestly, I would have said that when it came to mothering, I was more influenced by unschooling philosophy and La Leche League than CM. And yet, sixteen years after first encountering Charlotte’s writings, I can see how profound and lasting her influence has been. On my parenting, I mean. On our learning style, sure; I’m keenly aware of her influence there—we’re living-books, narration, nature-study learners through and through. But the habit-training part? That’s the part I’ve internalized so thoroughly that I stopped really noticing it.
Well, this is a very meta post, isn’t it! Talking about the talk but not talking the talk itself. 😉 I’ll get there. It just struck me that Alexis’s insight is a great takeaway for our kids, too (and really, when you think about it, is closely related to CM’s emphasis on narration): there are topics about which you already know a great deal. When you share that knowledge with enthusiasm and conviction, people are interested. I love to hear a kid talk animatedly about some personal passion, some arcane subject that has captured his or her mind. That gorgeous light in the eyes, the tumbling words, the eager gestures. It’s one of the most beautiful sights in the world.
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