The Way of the Will Chart

"He...measures Esau with a considering eye, finds him more attractive than Jacob who yet wins higher approval; perceives that Esau is wilful but that Jacob has a strong will, and through this and many other examples, recognises that a strong will is not synonymous with 'being good,' nor with a determination to have your own way." Vol. 6, p. 132
Last Tuesday at our PMEU meeting, a group of about twenty adults met to discuss our reading of Charlotte Mason's Towards a Philosophy of Education, Chapter 8, "The Way of the Will".  For those of you who are interested in really learning more about her philosophy, I cannot tell you how beneficial these meetings can be!  I heard many times that evening, "Now I get it - it's so helpful to work through this with others."  I agree, and another way I work through her works is by writing about our discussions here on the blog.

The role of the parent and teacher in this discussion of the will was what most impressed me.  We are to have a pro-active role in educating and guiding our children in the understanding of this way of the will. This chapter is a parenting manual, a teaching manual and a discipleship manual all in one. Here are some key points:
"the part of the teacher is to afford to each child a full reservoir of the right thought of the world to draw from." (p. 130)
"The ordering of the will is not an affair of sudden resolve; it is the outcome of a slow and ordered education in which precept and example flow in from the lives and thoughts of other men, men of antiquity and men of the hour, as unconsciously and spontaneously as the air we breathe." (p. 137)
 "The simple rectified will, what our Lord calls 'the single eye,' would appear to be the one thing needful for straight living and serviceableness." (p. 133)
 " Its function is to choose, to decide..." (p. 128)
  "Choose ye this day," is the command that comes to each of us in every affair and on every day of our lives, and the business of the will is to choose." (p. 133)
" 'Choose ye this day,' applies to the thoughts which we allow ourselves to receive." (p. 137)
Of course, everyone wants something practical, something to apply right away, something to use. My mind kept going back to this quote by Mason, "He learns to distribute the characters he comes across in his reading on either side of a line, those who are wilful and those who are governed by will; and this line by no means separates between the bad and the good."  I remembered that Laurie Bestvater referred to such a chart in one of her CLUSA lectures, "Paper Trails, CM's Ways with Student Work".  I contacted her and she graciously agreed to share it with you.  So, here it is!  Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.  A few notes on the chart:
-we don't know whether Mason used a literal chart or not
-used for history or literature readings
-student could work out for himself what being willful and willing might look like
-leads to awareness and discussions about the will
-for further understanding, please read entire chapter - "The Way of the Will"
Way of the Will Chart LB 2009                                                            


  1. It is so helpful to hear your thoughts here as well as to hear from everyone during the discussions. There is just so much to process.

    "This chapter is a parenting manual, a teaching manual and a discipleship manual all in one."
    I agree!!
    Bobby Jo

  2. Thanks for this post.
    I just wrote on this but didn't have the chart.
    I put a link out on CMeLearn to this particular post.

    Awesome, my friend!

  3. Ooh. this is, I think, the HARDEST part of a CM education... and of life... because it comes down to the root. Who we are as people seriously affects how we parent. My habits will very directly affect adversely or positively the habit training I hope to confer to my children.

    It is painful to be forced to examine ourselves in this way... but SO vitally necessary.

    I keep coming back to the whole subject of habit training... my own as well as that of my kiddos. Big work. Lifetime long.

    amy in peru

  4. Excellent post! Glad to have seen it!

  5. Ouch - I just saw myself under the Willful heading in the word "drifting."

    Thank you for posting the chart - and I hope your passport comes through!

  6. O.K. now I've reread The Way of the Will twice AGAIN! I never walk away from that chapter feeling confident. I think that chart could be helpful. Thank you, Nancy, for a very, thought- provoking post.
    p.s. the photo IS a rock/stone.
    the caption above it reads: "But the children ask for bread and we give them a stone."

  7. Wow Nancy, this is certainly a thought provoking post. I think I am going to have to spend a bit of time going through 'The Way of the Will' At one of my CM study groups, it was mentioned that a 'stong willed' child did not have a stong will at all, rather a weak one as they repeatedly give in to their own desires. Very interesting. A subject that deserves re-visiting. Thank You

  8. I can't wait to read the Way of the Will chapter.

    I think I am going to write out a chart for myself for starters.

    Wouldn't it be awesome for our kids to begin to do this automatically when they have struggles!


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  10. Not only is it helpful to apply the way of the will to guiding our children, but also to ourselves! It is definitely not an act of sudden resolve, but God can help fortify the will when our hearts and minds are turned toward our Father in heaven. I love Laurie's chart, and it makes me wish I had attended her talk!

  11. Thank you for sharing this--what a get-down-to-the-core-of-virtue kind of exercise! It gives me somewhere to start with my littles in terms of analyzing a historical or literary persons's character--we have discussed virtue and vice, but the importance of the development of the will in a CM education ties their own habit training to the reading they do in history and literature. (Not that I would hand off this chart for my 6yos to complete! But it gives me an organizing principle for our "grand conversations." :))

  12. Thanks for sharing the chart Nancy, very useful.

  13. I used this again for To Kill a Mockingbird. It was a good for thinking about characters and then defending them!