Motivation Within #1 Revisited

Charlotte Mason

Image via Wikipedia

Revisiting my archives ~

Charlotte Mason introduced a now famous motto,

“I am, I can, I ought, I will.”

Notice – every phrase starts with “I”.

Intrinsic motivation is found and sustained within the person.

Internal motivation does not need incentives from others.

When education is “an atmosphere, a discipline, a life,” Charlotte Mason points us to a higher form of education;

not just a learning process,

not related to classrooms, studies or methods,

not stars charts, percentages, grades and results,

but an attitude of learning

assisted by a character devoted to education as a part of the individual’s life.

Charlotte Mason called upon parents and teachers to inspire their children.

Star charts, sweets, stickers, grades, gifts and rewards are all lovely, but these are external motivation. Children enjoy these rewards because adults recognize and approve of them, and this kills their own love of learning and discovery.

These activities are “extrinsically motivated“.  The reward comes from outside the child and it has to be provided by someone, and has to be continually given for the child to stay motivated.

While it works, and for some children, has exceptional results and is enjoyable, it does not bring about the character traits I am trying to instill in my children; namely to bring them to desire to do their best and meet the highest for themselves.

I read an excellent article Motivating Learning in Childrenadapted from “Early Childhood Motivation from National Association of School Psychologists at

“Young children learn from everything they do. They are naturally curious; they want to explore and discover. If their explorations bring pleasure or success, they will want to learn more. During these early years, children form attitudes about learning that will last a lifetime. Children who receive the right sort of support and encouragement during these years will be creative, adventurous learners throughout their lives.”

“Since intrinsically motivated activity is more rewarding in and of itself, children learn more from this sort of activity, and they retain that learning better. Intrinsically motivated children are more involved in their own learning and development. In other words, a child is more likely to learn and retain information when he is intrinsically motivated – when he believes he is pleasing himself.”

They go on to describe behavioural characteristics that show a high level of motivation in a child.  (And beneath each point I have added how Charlotte Mason’s principles encourage a high level of motivation.)

  • Persistence –  A highly motivated child has the ability to stay with a task for a reasonably long time.

Ms. Mason advocated fairly short lessons.  She encouraged children to complete their work perfectly, with excellence.  She believed in discipline and developing good habits.

  • Choice of challenge – Children who experience success in meeting one challenge will become motivated, welcoming another.

Ms. Mason’s education was built upon “Living Books”, exposing children to great ideas communicated by great minds, allowing the child to make relationships of these ideas.  She wanted minds to nourished upon great ideas. She did not want the educators writing ‘twaddle’ and simplify books for children.

  • Dependency on adults – Children with strong intrinsic motivation do not need an adult constantly watching and helping with activities.

Ms. Mason insisted that the educator moved out of the way.  “Teaching must not be obtrusive.  Avoid lectures. Don’t get between the child and great minds.”  (Vol. 3, p. 66)  She did not want teachers to explain too much, nor give grades, or rewards.

  • Emotion – Children who are clearly motivated will have a positive display of emotion. They are satisfied with their work and show more enjoyment in the activity.

A Charlotte Mason education provided children with short, happy lessons, and afternoons free for leisure.  Her education included great music and art, a love and appreciation for poetry and nature.  She encouraged the development of good habits.  Through narrations the child expressed his thoughts and ideas.  She said schoolwork should, “convey to the child such initial ideas of interest in his various studies as to make the pursuit of knowledge on those lines and object in life and a delight to him.” (Vol. 2, p. 247)

We need to differentiate between motivation through incentives or by inspiration.

We need to prayerfully ask the Lord to show us how we can inspire our children to say, “I am, I can, I ought, I will”

There is so much more!  Next post, I would like to discuss strategies to intrinsically motivate our children.

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6 thoughts on “Motivation Within #1 Revisited

  1. Pingback: Motivation #3 Turn Those Frowns Upside Down | Practical Pages

  2. Pingback: Motivation Within #2 Revisited | Practical Pages

  3. Thanks so much for the post, Nadene! YOU are encouraging as always. One point I would like to make…perhaps you can address this in a future post. How moms must be/stay inspired in order to inspire the children! I know there is Mother Culture. Perhaps you will be able to elaborate on that a bit.


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