Friday, May 22, 2015

I am, I can, I ought, I will

As our kids began to reach school age, like most parents we began the agonising process of considering what the best form of education for them would be. We visited local schools and talked to other parents we knew about their experiences and how their children were getting on at the schools they’d chosen.

Out of left-field came the idea about home educating, and after months researching the legislation, practice, meeting local groups and listening to stories from other home educating families we took the plunge and opted not to take up the school place our daughter had been offered. Instead we threw ourselves wholeheartedly into the world of home education.
"Out of left-field came the idea about home educating..."
There’s a huge spectrum of approaches to Home Ed. Some people purchase and follow comprehensive curricula, whilst at the other end of the spectrum are families who choose a completely unstructured approach. We’re somewhere in the middle, and our educational philosophy is based on the Charlotte Mason approach.

Love this motto from Charlotte Mason
Charlotte Mason was an educator in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She left a huge body of work behind on her approach, which was very literature based and outdoors focused. Many schools and educators across the world follow her philosophy. As well as very practical aspects about learning styles and practical skills, a key feature of her approach is to help children and young people develop good habits, cultivating curiosity and interest in the world they encounter.

This post’s title is from one of Charlotte Mason’s mottos for her students: “I am, I can, I ought, I will”. The phrase sums up her emphasis on making good choices which come from the inside out, working from a deep level of identity, and focusing on abilities and growth. We like it so much we’ve framed it and put it in our hall!
"...cultivating curiosity and interest..."
As you can imagine, it’s not just children who can benefit from thinking this way. Personally I find it really helpful, as so often I’ve lived or still live my life the other way round. Perhaps the opposite phrase is “I’m Not, I Can’t, I Wish, I Won’t”.

“I’m Not” – so often it’s easy to define ourselves by what we’re not. Especially when we compare ourselves with others. That’s not to say that we can’t be ambitious or want to improve in areas of our lives, but that we can so often focus on the negative rather than accepting ourselves as we are. Embracing our inner buzzard so to speak! As a young singer, for a long time I wished I could sing like Martin Smith or Bono, both of whom have a much higher range than I have. I was so frustrated I couldn’t reach the high notes they could! These days I’ve learnt to embrace and enjoy the vocal range I’ve got, even as I’ve also trained my voice to reach a little higher than I could when I was younger.

“I can’t” – how often do we spend too long focusing on weaknesses rather than our strengths? Or do we talk ourselves out of being able to act when daunted by the size of the issues or tasks we face. Perhaps we overestimatethe shadows and underestimate our abilities. Rather than focusing on what we can’t do, maybe we need to spend more time considering what we can do – breaking our hurdles down into small steps. I find a quote from Francis of Assisi helpful in this respect, especially when facing the weeds on our allotment: “Start by doing what is necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
"Perhaps the opposite phrase is: 'I’m Not, I Can’t, I Wish, I Won’t'."
Are we stepping closer to our dreams or just wishful thinking?
“I wish” – I’m an advocate of dreaming big, I really am – in fact the subtitle of my book Life Space is “Give your dreams room to grow”. I do feel that many of us need to reconnect with our dreams and passions and make space for them. But we also need to be taking steps towards bringing them into reality in some way – to be awake to them. 

If we’re not taking action then we’re in danger of wishing our lives away. Or perhaps “I wish” is a way we excuse ourselves from taking ownership rather than changing ourselves or adapting to the circumstance: “I wish that circumstance or person would change”. 

We could do with being a bit more heliotropic to our dreams. Rather than wishing and staying static, adjusting our position to follow the sun around.

“I won’t” – like, “I can’t”, often we focus on stopping negative behaviours, like I’ll stop eating this or I’ll stop doing that. And there’s no doubt that this is appropriate at times. If your habits are affecting your health, if you’ve developed addictions to nicotine, drugs, alcohol or food then you do need to have strong “I won’t” element to your thinking. 

During Lent there have been years when I’ve given things up like sweet things (2014), alcohol (2015), books (2013)… but other times when I’ve chosen a more positive approach to give more, or take specific actions each day. 

Rather than defaulting to taking things away from our lives, how about focusing on positive or substitutionary behaviours? I will do this more, I will do that more. Sometimes we need to exercise rather than diet! I love this quote from Steve Maraboli: "Think of what makes you smile, makes you happy... and do more of that stuff".

So let’s ditch the I’m Not, I Can’t, I Wish, I Won’t approach to life in favour of the I Am, I Can, I Ought, I Will approach. Perhaps it’s a motto for you to frame somewhere too! 
"We could do with being a bit more heliotropic to our dreams"

Thanks for taking the time to read I Am, I Can, I Ought, I Will. If you've enjoyed it please share it with your friends on social media! Why not subscribe to The Potting Shed Podcast on iTunes for the audio version and much more (direct RSS feed is here).

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Angela Milnes said...

What a fab post. I love the picture frame. I do believe we are all children of god. That's my personal beliefs and it's important whether we believe this or not to love ourselves and know our self worth!

Angela xx

Angela recently posted "10 names I call my husband"

Unknown said...

Like it mate. I occasionally drop into your potting shed. Brave decision to go for home ed but I have a funny feeling you guys are gonna be brilliant at it! Hope life in the midlands is good for you - maybe next time I'm up there it'd be fun to drop by!

Lins @Boo & Maddie said...

I think it's so important to approach things with positivity - as a nation the UK are known for being generally negative/cynical but it's amazing how much more can be achieved with a simple outlook change. #BigFatLinky

Martyn Kitney said...

Great post! I'm so excited for you. I seem to be one of the only home ed dad bloggers in the UK. I'll tweet you in a minute. I think we could help each other out. Thanks for linking up with us on the #bigfatlinky hope to see you there this week