The Way of the Will | Principles #16-17

Today we are discussing the sixteenth and seventeenth principles of Mason’s Twenty principles. Principle #16 is: “There are two guides to moral and intellectual self-management to offer to children, which we may call ‘the way of the will’ and ‘the way of reason’”.  We’re going to focus on the first guide today, which is the “way of the will” which I also like to call, a parent’s best kept secret. Learn more in this episode!


Principle #16: There are two guides to moral and intellectual self-management to offer to children, which we may call ‘the way of the will’ and ‘the way of reason’. 

Principle #17 is The way of the will: Children should be taught, a) To distinguish between ‘I want’ and ‘I will’. b) that the way to will effectively is to turn our thoughts from that which we desire but do not will. c) That the best way to turn our thoughts is to think or do some quite different thing, entertaining or interesting. d) That after a little rest in this way, the will returns to its work with new vigour. (This adjunct of the will is familiar to us as diversion, whose office it is to ease us for a time from will effort, that we may ‘will’ again with added power. The use of suggestion as an aid to the will is to be deprecated as tending to stultify and stereotype character. It would seem that spontaneity is a condition of development, and that human nature needs the discipline of failure as well of success.)

Leading Thoughts

  1. The will’s function is ‘to choose’.
  2. The action of the will is not automatic – it requires development.
  3. There is a big difference between a child who is willful and a child being governed by the will (or having a trained will).
  4. Sometimes, our child won’t always choose to exercise their trained will. And the will is strained or fatigued. To help with this issue, Mason recommends four things: recreation, diversion, change of physical occupation, thinking of something else.

Listen to the podcast above to hear more!


“…choose this day the path of duty, however dull or tiresome, difficult or dangerous. The way of the will is a secret of power, the secret of self-government…” (A Philosophy of Education).

Right thought flows upon the stimulus of an idea, and ideas are stored as we have seen in books and pictures and the lives of men and nations; these instruct the conscience and stimulate the will and man or child ‘chooses’” (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…” (p. 137)


A Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason (pages 128-138)

Parents’ Review article from 1936 on The Way of the Will

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I hope you enjoyed this episode of the Charlotte Mason Motherhood podcast. Thank you so much for listening!

  1. Mason, Charlotte. Home Education. Simply Charlotte Mason, LLC, 2017.
  2. Mason, Charlotte. A Philosophy of Education. Simply Charlotte Mason, LLC. 2017.

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