As I've been preparing for our year I picked up a book called "Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning". I really love Charlotte Mason philosophy of education and this book has been very enlightening. One of the chapters called "The Way of the Will" was particularly illuminating. Not so much with regards to education, but with regards to my own spiritual struggles. That being said, I want to add here quickly that this book could be very enlightening to anyone with children, not just those that home school. But this chapter could be enlightening to anyone!
Children have a will that is underdeveloped. (And after reading this I believe, so do I.) I was curious when Charlotte spoke of the importance of developing and training the Will of the child.
First of all, what is the Will?...
The Will is part of the soul of every man. But can we define it? If the Will is such an intrinsic part, how is it that so many people go through life without a single definite act of "willing"? Doing what everybody else seems to be doing (convention), fitting in with the crowd (custom), seem to steer the course of the average man. He may get up, dress, breakfast, follow his morning's occupation, eat his fast food lunch, and relax in the evening with this television without any act of choice.
What we do know about the Will is its function to choose, to decide. And you may have noticed that the more difficult the decision--and the weaker we may sense our will power to be--the more strenuous an effort it takes to decide. All around us opinion are provided for us. Advertisements bombard our senses until we gravitate toward convenience, convention, and covetousness. To follow the crowd and the way of least resistance seems to be all we need to get through the day.
But what is necessary of every man is character, and character is as Charlotte speaks of it--finely wrought metal beaten into shape and beauty by the repeated action of the Will. We who teach should make it clear to ourselves that our aim in education is less good conduct than good character. We may mold good conduct in our children, but it is of value to the world only as it has its source in character. To have a strong, virtuous character, we need a strong, vigorous Will.
Every assault upon the flesh and spirit of man is an attack, however insidious, upon his personality--his Will.
It is discouraging how crime and promiscuity have risen, but there will always be persons of good Will among us--God's remnant--who resist the general trend. Our duty as parents and teachers is to turn out into the world persons of good Will.
Parents keep a child's Will weak by constant suggestion. By suggestion Charlotte means deciding everything for our children--with nagging reminder--instead of giving them little bits of responsibility, room to fail, and consequences to face. Some called it "feeling the pain of decision."
What we do with the Will is voluntary. What we do without the conscious action of the Will is involuntary (habit). the Will's function is to "choose", and with every choice we make, we grow strength of character.
The power to Will is a slow growth, but it grows stronger as it is put to use. Charlotte tells us that the Will is the controller of the passions and emotions, the director of the desires, the ruler of the appetites. The Will builds its muscles as it is exercised. Every time a child represses the urge to have a fit, to hang his head in self-pity, or snatch something he wants away from another child, his Will is exercised and grows stronger. (Adults as well? I think so.)
It should be pointed out that a turbulent (impatient, fitful) person is not ruled by Will at all, but by impluse, passion, and desire. To lose control is a sign of a feeble Will.
The simple Will, what our Lord calls "the single eye", would appear to be the one thing needful for straight living and serviceableness. But always the first condition of the Will, for good or ill, is an object outside of self. By degrees we may come to realize that just as "to reign" is the distinctive function of a king, so "to Will" is the function of a man. A king is not a king unless he reigns, and a man is less than a man unless he Wills.