For Their Own Good: I Am, I Can, I Ought, I Will, part 3

Charlotte Mason motto: I am, I can, I ought, I will

Last week we looked at the I am part of the motto and the importance of seeing your child as a person. This week let’s talk a little about how you can help your child realize I can.

You’ve probably seen it with your own children. Little sister is naturally tidy. She keeps her toys and books in their places and makes her bed without being told. It’s just her nature.

Big sister, on the other hand, does not find orderliness so easy.

And with those varying personalities and natural tendencies in our children, it’s tempting to make allowances. We hold different expectations for the two children. We expect little sister’s room to be as neat as a pin, but we overlook a few dirty socks on the floor of big sister’s room. Because, after all, it’s harder for her to be orderly.

The four phrases of Charlotte Mason’s motto for students provide a healthy tension, if you will. We must keep all four parts in mind in order to maintain a balance. Our children are individuals with unique personalities and strengths and tendencies. But respecting their natural bent does not mutually exclude their forming good habits. Some children may struggle more than others with forming the habit of orderliness—or obedience or attention—but we should not allow their personalities to dictate our expectations.

Charlotte explained that habit can be stronger than natural tendencies. “Strong as nature is, habit is not only as strong, but tenfold as strong” (Vol. 1, p. 105).

She went on to give illustrations of habits that can be instilled in children, contrary to natural tendencies—habits like cleanliness and courtesy. “Such habits as these, good, bad, or indifferent, are they natural to the children? No, but they are what their mothers have brought them up to; and as a matter of fact, there is nothing which a mother cannot bring her child up to” (Vol. 1, p. 105).

For Their Good Always

I was reminded of this balance between the individual and the expectation as I read through Leviticus and Deuteronomy recently. Our Heavenly Father knew each Israelite’s unique personality, interests, and bent because He created each one that way. Yet He had certain laws that He expected them all to adhere to, certain expectations for all of them regardless of individuality.

And it is the same with our children. It might take extra effort for some of our children to form certain habits. But extra effort will not break their spirits if we approach the habit training from an attitude of loving shaping. We can sympathize with their efforts while still expecting those necessities to be accomplished.

It will help if we keep the objective in mind. Why did God require the Israelites to obey His law no matter their personalities? “And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always” (Deuteronomy 6:24). He knew that His law was for their good.

And when we hold high expectations of good habits for our children, no matter their personalities, it is because those habits are for their good. Some habits may present more of a challenge to some of our children, yet we keep working to help them instill those habits because we know that those habits will be valuable to them as adults. Plus they are learning right now, discovering what they are capable of doing as they tackle those challenges. I can!

This is not about shaping our children in order to make us mothers look good. Not at all. The shaping that we do with habits and ideas should be motivated from and designed to make that child the best person he or she can become for the glory of God. For their good.

Next week we will look at the third phrase of the motto: I ought.

Get SCM to a Convention Near You

We have received so many sweet notes from you all, telling us how much you want us to come to your local homeschool conventions. Thank you! It’s nice to be wanted, and we regret that we can’t be everywhere at once to meet all of you.

Just to give you an inside peek into the workings of SCM, we usually have to plan way ahead for conventions. In fact, we’re already discussing possibilities with some convention organizers for next year. And conventions where we can present workshops as an added service to the attendees usually get top priority.

So if you are eager for SCM to come to your area homeschool convention, contact your convention organizers and let them know that you would like us to come and speak. Most organizers love to hear what homeschoolers in their area want to see at the convention.

We have a list of workshops that we have presented at conventions around the country, if you want to pass along specific suggestions. And we will be happy to provide workshop samples to convention organizers as they contact us.

Another alternative would be to host a DVD seminar.

The bottom line is that we’re eager to spread the message of Charlotte Mason and how her methods can make your homeschool simple and effective. We would love to come your way!