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Friday, March 29, 2013

Thoughts on Atmosphere.

*see caption below

A couple of weeks ago now, the whole week long, I couldn't stop myself from thinking about how foreboding it was that the upcoming blog carnival should be on 'atmosphere'. Not because of how constantly perfect ours is, on the contrary, it was because atmosphere has always been one of our (my) constant struggles. And if it isn't for you, I truly congratulate you. It must be nice.

Conveniently, at our place, a lot of our atmosphere troubles have to do with how habits come into play, and that's the current week's topic, so I'll spare you the details. It was nothing but wishful thinking as applies to the current topic of this post, that caused this post to be two weeks late as it is, according to the carnival schedule. I wanted it to be more. Oh well. Someday, when I'm all grown up, and have more time to write, I'll share more of our personal atmospheric details with you all.

So. Atmosphere.
It is what we breathe.
All that we communicate, what we take in and what we put out, is what our atmosphere is made up of.

It is there, about the child, his natural element, precisely as the atmosphere of the earth is about us. It is thrown off, as it were, from persons and things, stirred by events, sweetened by love, ventilated, kept in motion, by the regulated action of common sense. 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 greatgrandmother; 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. And, what tempered 'fusion of classes' is so effective as a child's intimacy with his betters, and also with cook and housemaid, blacksmith and joiner, with everybody who comes in his way? Children have a genius for this sort of general intimacy, a valuable part of their education; vol 6 pg 97 care and guidance are needed, of course, lest admiring friends should make fools of them, but no compounded 'environment' could make up for this fresh air, this wholesome wind blowing now from one point, now from another.

“a child's natural element, thrown off by persons & things, stirred by events, sweetened by love, ventilated, kept in motion by the regulated action of common sense.”

The child's natural conditions... As parents we are always working (or at least we should be) for the best natural conditions for our children. Proper relations with mother, father, brothers, sisters, baby. Play; rough and tumble, pretend w/ furniture forts. Special visits from grandparents. Dealings with friends from the neighborhood, pets, and the great outdoors all contribute to the child's natural conditions; “no compounded 'environment' could make up for this” fresh and wholesome air.

Atmosphere is all of these things.

And compared with this, no hand-made, specially contrived, child-appropriate 'environment' could ever even come close!
We can't create an artificial environment and be able to maintain it in our homes, even if we did want to. Still, too often, too much time is spent trying to make the classroom or our schedules 'just right', when what we really want is to make sure there is grace, time and enough air to breathe. To ensure the people and things are true to life and that there's always a wide variety of stuff to know.

It's not all about force fitting an artificial world to fit the child. We want the real child to be able to function in the real world. There's no use, “sprinkling with rose-water, softening with cushions. Children must face life as it is; if their parents are anxious and perturbed children feel it in the air. "Mummie, Mummie, you aren't going to cry this time, are you?" and a child's hug tries to take away the trouble. By these things children live and we may not keep them in glass cases; if we do, they develop in succulence and softness and will not become plants of renown.”

Plants of renown. That's it. That's what we want. Choice plants that, come what may, thrive.

There are two courses open to us in this matter. One, to create by all manner of modified
conditions a hot-house atmosphere, fragrant but emasculating, in which children grow apace but are feeble and dependent; the other to leave them open to all the "airts that blow," but with care lest they be unduly battered; lest, for example, a miasma come their way in the shape of a vicious companion. v6 p99

This has been another 'thinking out loud' post, along the lines of chapter 6 of CM's Homeschooling Series, Volume 6, Towards a Philosophy of Education.

*Please pardon the watermark... I did that for the other blog, and didn't take the time to re-edit!! ;) 

1 comment:

Celeste Cruz said...

Love this point: "Still, too often, too much time is spent trying to make the classroom or our schedules 'just right', when what we really want is to make sure there is grace, time and enough air to breathe." Certainly neatness and order are helpful, essential really, but this brings me back to that masterly inactivity quote posted on AO's FB page today: "The next element in the attitude of masterly inactivity is good humour––frank, cordial, natural, good humour. This is quite a different thing from overmuch complacency, and a general giving-in to all the children's whims." There is discipline (the routines, the good habits of mind and body that help to run our days), and then there is atmosphere, which involves a measure of grace. And that grace, the delightfulness of home life, makes our days more smoothly in its own way. Thanks for this post! Lots to think about. I have to admit that atmosphere isn't my strength either. ;)

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