Education Is An Atmosphere – Compost Not Topiary!

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The child breathes the atmosphere emanating from his parents; that of the ideas which rule their own lives – Charlotte Mason (Vol. 2, p. 247).

The Charlotte Mason philosophy hands us a guiding principle to fuel our homes and the education of our children; it was summed up in three words: Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.

Today I want to unpick what Miss Mason meant by ‘an atmosphere’

The following are notes from my recent Periscope broadcast on ‘Education Is An Atmosphere’.

In our 21st century ‘mummy wars’ culture we can so often hear the word ‘atmosphere’ as a threat, we feel intimidated and we run and hide under our huge pile of laundry away from bickering children and unwashed dishes!

I want you (for a moment) to put those thoughts behind you and open your heart and mind to what you’re actually doing in your Charlotte Mason influenced home school – and I’m sure most of you are doing it already!

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When Miss Mason talked about atmosphere she wasn’t talking about candles, quiet and classical music (although that may add to the atmosphere of your learning environment) she was referring to three things:

  1. The ideas that rule our lives, these spill over to our children
  2. The thoughts that fill their days, what do they draw from consciously and subconsciously?
  3. The authentic environment that surrounds them, our life grows upon ideas – how is the soil? Not fake or watered down to ‘child’s level’ but understanding that they are capable of great thought growing responsibility. Let them grow in a natural, not fake environment

Education as an atmosphere starts in our heart – the overflow is from us the parent; the way we see view our children (born persons), how we value their learning and living and taking responsibility for the ideas our children breathe in and the seeds that are implanted in their fertile soil

The difference between using Mason’s philosophy as a guiding principle in our homes as opposed to a traditional educational pedagogy is that we’re not seeing our children as a topiary project, clipping away when the growth doesn’t look like it should and trying to shape them to fit our family garden. What we’re doing is mixing ingredients for compost, we’re preparing soil to plant in, we water faithfully and watch our seedlings germinate and grow – as wild as the flower may look!

We’re getting our hands messy, we’re on our hands and knees turning soil – not dressed up pretty clipping an end result!

Mason quotes Coleridge (Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet, literary critic and philosopher who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets) who said “from a seed successive ideas germinate”.

Mason said this “ideas may invest as an atmosphere rather than strike as a weapon”; fill their atmosphere with living ideas, put them in front of delightful things, surround their days with worthy work, wonder and God himself knows where those ideas will land, what they will connect with and what they will produce

God himself knows where those ideas will land, what they will connect with and what they will produce

Ingredients in your mind compost:

  • Prayer underpinning and hemming everything
  • Passion for life and educating your children, reading, studying, learning yourself (mother culture)
  • Purposeful and intentional living – consider the thoughts you are surrounding your children with
  • Pursing peace at all times – this will impact the laundry pile, the battles we choose and the sleep we get. Daily questions ‘does this make for peace’? Maybe that is candles, classical music and moments of quiet – maybe it’s throwing the kids in the car with the skateboards, going to the park and being loud (she talks about that too – organ exercise!) You know your children…

We all know the natural conditions under which a child should live; how he shares household ways with his mother, romps with his father, is teased by his brothers and petted by his sisters; is taught by his tumbles; learns self-denial by the baby’s needs, the delightfulness of furniture by playing at battle and siege with sofa and table; learns veneration for the old by the visits of his great-grandmother; how to live with his equals by the chums he gathers round him; learns intimacy with animals from his dog and cat; delight in the fields where the buttercups grow and greater delight in the blackberry hedges.”  – Charlotte Mason Vol. 6, p. 96

 

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