"I Am, I Can, I Ought, I Will."
Ambleside Online explains the motto in this way:
I Am . . . a child of God, a gift to my parents and my country. I'm a person of great value because God made me.
I Can . . . do all things through Christ who strengthens me. God has made me able to do everything required of me.
I Ought . . . to do my duty to obey God, to submit to my parents and everyone in authority over me, to be of service to others, and to keep myself healthy with proper food and rest so my body is ready to serve.
I Will . . . resolve to keep a watch over my thoughts and choose what's right even if it's not what I want.
In leading my sons toward the motto, I tell them outright what my expectations are, expose them to things (art, literature, poetry, music, etc.) that will encourage noble thoughts, and teach them of real people, past and present, who have lived out I am, I can, I ought, I will. Ultimately, my goal is that they will apply what they have observed to their own life.
In our homeschool days, I have introduced "I am" by teaching my boys that they have a role to fulfill in both our family and the world at large, and that they are dearly loved. We continue to work through "I can" by presenting academic and life skilsl challenges as something that they can accomplish although it may seem to take a long time and possibly be a struggle to master. In our history lessons, we saw that people of the past, such as David and Joan of Arc, lived out "I am" and "I can" and did great things because of it.
Here is where some Waldorf ideas/techniques come in. I also use the festivals and folk tales to encourage the boys to think about "I am" and "I can". For example, during Michaelmas, we talked about Saint George slaying the dragon. In the story we read, Saint George and the Dragon, we saw that he did not question if it was his duty to protect Una nor did he say he could not do it. I also try to model all four aspects in our daily life and guide the boys to do the same, usually without referring to the motto directly, but just in a "This is who God means for us to be" way.
We recently began to focus on "I Ought" and "I Will." We began with a poem study.
How Doth the Little Busy Bee
by Isaac Watts
How doth the little busy bee Improve each shining hour, And gather honey all the day From every opening flower! How skillfully she builds her cell! How neat she spreads the wax! And labors hard to store it well With the sweet food she makes. In works of labor or of skill, I would be busy too; For Satan finds some mischief still For idle hands to do. In books, or work, or healthful play, Let my first years be passed, That I may give for every day Some good account at last.
We also read about a busy squirrel who keeps his focus on preparing for the upcoming winter although many animals invite him to distraction in one of our favorite Nancy Tafuri books:
For Aidan, who is seven years old, we are reading Robin Hood for his narration exercise, a simple telling back in his own words what he has heard. This allows him to absorb the good deeds of Robin Hood and express in his own words what he remembers and admires in the story. Inevitably, Aidan applies the deeds to himself and acts out the story in his play time. Aidan is also a Wolf Cub in Boy Scouts, where there is a natural focus on the responsibility of each boy to his family and community.
It will be interesting to see how incorporating "I am, I can, I ought, I will" continues to guide our homeschool adventure. What a difference these eight words can make in our lives.