I scrapped the previous installments in favor of this single post. Remind me in the future to edit myself a little better BEFORE publishing when I am still wrangling with thoughts. 😉
‘I am, I ought, I can, I will’––these are the steps of that ladder of St. Augustine, whereby we ‘rise on stepping stones of our dead selves to higher things.’
‘I am’––we have the power of knowing ourselves. ‘I ought’––we have within us a moral judge, to whom we feel ourselves subject, and who points out and requires of us our duty. ‘I can’––we are conscious of power to do that which we perceive we ought to do. ‘I will‘––we determine to exercise that power with a volition which is in itself a step in the execution of that which we will. Here is a beautiful and perfect chain… (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1, Part VI, pg. 330)
Charlotte Mason’s famous motto – I am, I can, I ought, I will” – began with the above passage. This entire section of Volume 1 is devoted to understanding the will of children, and how to direct it in a positive way.
“I am – we have the power of knowing ourselves.” We do have the power to know ourselves! Children are amazingly good at discovering whom they are, especially when not stifled by the standards and expectations of society. Parents soon discover a child’s personality is completely different from what may have been expected, or from that of another sibling. Each of us is unique in temperament, personality, interests, and goals. When we choose home education, we have more opportunities for enabling our children “to become” who they are meant to be. However, we must learn to say “yes” more than we say “no” to the interests and desires of our children. How often do we say “no” to an idea because it will be inconvenient for us? I know I am guilty of that! How often have I shut down a spark of interest in my children by trying to make it “educational” instead of just fun?
We can allow our kids a lot more autonomy than we often do for the sake of convenience. It’s always about offering choice and compromise. Yes, you CAN compromise with your kids! Not about everything, of course – safety, family rules, how we treat others…those kinds of things are non-negotiable. So, in what areas can we offer our kids more freedom to find out who they are? It’s something to ponder. I know I am trying to be more mindful in shaping my children’s sense of “I am” and the kind of people they will become. As a believer, I want them to find their identity in Christ and develop their talents for the future. I can’t do that if I am unnecessarily stifling their uniqueness.
“I ought––we have within us a moral judge, to whom we feel ourselves subject, and who points out and requires of us our duty.” We all have a conscience…a sense of what is right and what is wrong. As parents, we have an obligation to offer our children a moral compass to guide them in life. Some of us use faith and some don’t, but at the end of the day, we want to raise children who are kind, thoughtful, and compassionate (among other things). We have an obligation to those less fortunate than us – a duty to help our fellow man. We have the HUGE job of waking that sense of duty, obligation, and morality in our children. I believe we should be seeking opportunities to help both locally, and globally. Whether it’s a pet shelter or a homeless shelter, or donating money to victims of natural disasters…we can find ways to make a difference. We should be modeling, on a daily basis, what it means to do the “right” thing even if we are the only ones doing it. The only way to foster a sense of moral duty and obligation in our children is to lead by example.
“I can––we are conscious of power to do that which we perceive we ought to do.” When parents *do* lead by example, we show our children they “can.” We can do all things through Christ. Those are not empty words; we can! We can do anything we set out minds to do. It only takes the power to believe it can be done. Of course, that is not always easy. Parents must lead by example. I can wake up on time, I can get my work done, I can lose weight, I can read more books, I can help the others, I can speak kind words, I can, I can, I can. This is the step of conditioning your mind to do the work of the will.
“I will––we determine to exercise that power with a volition which is in itself a step in the execution of that which we will. Here is a beautiful and perfect chain.” When children are allowed “to become” who they are and recognize their uniqueness in the world with confidence (I am), AND when they see their parents willing to embrace the worth and dignity of every human being and choose to act right against opposition (I ought), THEN they will realize they also have the power of change and transformation (I can) and they will act on it (I will). Once any of us are aware of our true potential and power, there is no stopping us! Ask anyone who has lost a great deal of weight how they did it…what you will hear is that eventually they realized they had the power to change and so they did. They set their will to exercise and make healthy food choices. When someone writes a book or discovers something new, it was because of this same paradigm shift in thinking. We are, we should, we can, and we will!
This post is for me more than anything. I want my kids to reach their full potential, but there is so much unfulfilled potential in ME. There are things I want from life (goals & dreams) and I am the only one holding myself back!
I am created in the image of God. I do have an obligation to be a part of something bigger than me and to help other human beings. I can do all things through Christ…anything I set my mind to do. I will do them! I want the same mentality for my children. We are going to embrace this motto and try to live it in the day-to-day. Again, this is mostly for me, but food for thought for all of us. I leave you with this quote that always inspires me:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. -Marianne Williamson