“...we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his proper conditions.”
CM. Vol. 1, pg. 6
Just as earth's atmosphere is made up of a number of gases (mainly two), many elements go into the composition of an educational atmosphere. Many of which are present whether we like it or not. :) An educational atmosphere is composed of both persons and things. Persons include – a personal God (dynamic relationship exemplified by caregivers through regular prayer, natural mention in conversation, decision making, etc), parental example and influence (character, manners, habits), sibling relation and influence, other relationships – arbitrary (neighbors, the checker at the grocery store, playmates at the park, etc) or predetermined (nursing home facilities, extended family members, etc).
photo by: tsparks
We and the circle of people our children regularly come into contact with each compose a portion of our atmosphere so to speak. The various attitudes and habits combining to make up that mixture of air that we and our children breathe.
“We have already considered a group of half physical habits––order, regularity, neatness––which the child imbibes, so to speak, in a way. But this is not all: habits of gentleness, courtesy, kindness, candour, respect for other people, or––habits quite other than these, are inspired by the child as the very atmosphere of his home, the air he lives in and must grow by.”
CM Vol.1 pg.137
People have an incredible influence on the educational atmosphere, especially parents, in how they set the tone for learning, in particular when it comes to interpersonal relationships, but also in regard to expectations and standards of education. Is education a pleasant occupation? Is it satisfactory to put forth a minimum effort? What kind of knowledge is desirable? How do we go about acquiring that knowledge? Is there only one way to do things? How we answer these questions may be an indicator of what kind of atmosphere is present in our homes.
“How shall these indefinite ideas which manifest themselves in appetency be imparted? They are not to be given of set purpose, nor taken at set times. They are held in that thought-environment which surrounds the child as an atmosphere, which he breathes as his breath of life; and this atmosphere in which the child inspires his unconscious ideas of right living emanates from his parents. Every look of gentleness and tone of reverence, every word of kindness and act of help, passes into the thought-environment, the very atmosphere which the child breathes; he does not think of these things, may never think of them, but all his life long they excite that 'vague appetency towards something' out of which most of his actions spring. Oh, wonderful and dreadful presence of the little child in the midst!”
CM vol. 2 pg. 37
photo by: me :)
Many things influence the educational atmosphere, among which are healthy air and food, things of beauty: art, décor, music, nature, etc.; items of interest: maps, pets to play with and observe (aquarium), etc.; tools for observation: microscope, magnifying glass, binoculars, etc.; tools to create with and for expression: musical instruments, quality art supplies, woodcraft tools, sewing things, etc.
“..suppose that all this is included in our notion of 'Education is an atmosphere,' may we not sit at our ease and believe that all is well, and that the whole of education has been accomplished? No; because though we cannot live without air, neither can we live upon air, and children brought up upon 'environment' soon begin to show signs of inanition; they have little or no healthy curiosity, power of attention, or of effort; what is worse, they lose spontaneity and initiative; they expect life to drop into them like drops into a rain-tub, without effort or intention on their part.”
CM vol.3 pg.150
Atmosphere is vital.
However, atmosphere is not an end in education. It is a part of a three-fold philosophy of education and is simply one of the by-ways to impart a living education. “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.”
As a part of the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival community, I'll be musing over the other two parts of Charlotte Mason's three-fold philosophy in the coming weeks. Feel free to join us!
[read the first part of this post here]