Many of you are making plans, doing research, and trying to get a handle on upcoming subjects even as you finish current ones. Some of you are preparing to enter those huge (often intimidating) vendor halls at homeschooling conventions near you. You might even be experiencing what we call around our house Bad Mommy Syndrome as you seek to figure out what needs to be changed, what needs to be tweaked, and what you need to stand firm on (“or should I?”). It’s easy to feel overwhelmed as different people recommend different directions you should head with your precious children.

In the midst of all the commotion, remember three words. These three words lay the foundation to the Charlotte Mason way of homeschooling. These three words can guide all those decisions that need to be made. These three words are understandable and paint a complete picture of home education. These three words will help you!

The three words are “atmosphere,” “discipline,” and “life.” Charlotte Mason used those three words to describe her approach to education. She said, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” Over the next few weeks we’ll take a look at those three words and see how they can offer help for your homeschool. Today, let’s talk briefly about “atmosphere.”

“I just don’t know what to do with my son,” Evelyn confided. “We’re constantly butting heads, which leads to a yelling contest and both of us storming out of the room. It’s a wonder we get any schoolwork done!”

Evelyn would find help in Charlotte’s counsel that “Education is an atmosphere.” We all know how the atmosphere at home can affect our day of school. In Evelyn’s case, an atmosphere of conflict is prevailing.

The fact is that much of what a child learns he picks up by watching and listening to those around him. Remember the saying, “More things are caught than taught”? The ideas that rule your life as a parent will rub off on your child.

So the question begs to be asked, “What ideas rule your life?” Is your child learning that anger is the way to respond to conflict, or is he soaking up an atmosphere of peacemaking? Is he being educated in the “art” of worry and anxiety, or is he learning to trust the Lord even in the small things of life? Does he think that learning stops when you get your diploma, or is he seeing your desire and love for learning as an adult?

It’s easy to get caught up in the reading, writing, and arithmetic and forget that our children are watching us day in and day out. Now, I don’t believe that Charlotte intended to dump a guilt trip on parents by stating that education is an atmosphere. She just wanted to make sure we realize that the ideas that rule our lives play a big role in what our children learn from us. The truth is that all of us need that gentle reminder every so often to nudge us back on the right path.

Next time we’ll take a look at how this key word, “atmosphere,” can affect your book choices and even your schedule.


  1. This comment about atmosphere hits home with me at the moment. My son and I are butting heads so much lately that I am starting to feel ill from the stress and worry that I may need to send him to school if only for my health! I am constantly working on deep breathing, meditation and quiet discussions with him (whenever cooler heads prevail) in order to maintain order and peace. It is such hard work, but will be so worth it in the end if we can just get through this difficult period!

  2. Steven Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective Families) advises us to think win-win. He says to seek first to understand — then to be understood.
    Of course this makes sense to always be lovingly concerned about the needs of the other person. In first meeting my family members’ needs they become more able/desirous to meet mine — a revolving door of returning the favor, so to speak. I can’t help but think that the key to success here though is that my needs must be communicated in order for them to know what they can do to (happily) give back.

  3. We have been dealing with the anger thing a lot lately at our house, too. The other day, tired of being provoked into arguments with my six-year-old, I decided to do an impromptu “heart journal” a la Lou Priolo’s The Heart of Anger (I highly recommend it). In my head I asked myself the four journal questions and, after a bit of soul-searching, came to the conclusion that I was allowing fear and pride rule when my buttons were pushed. I realized the opposite of these two things are love and humility. So I have been reminding myself, “love and humility,” whenever I feel my ire rise. In the last day or so I have added, “strength and courage,” to the list, because these two ideas are crucial in order for me to stay the necessary course of correcting the child while maintaining an attitude of humility and love!!

    Whew, this parenting/homeschooling gig is tough sometimes! But I’m glad to be living it– what better way to cure my own faults than by helping others grow?

  4. These moms are right on, we need to go back to real love. As a hsing mother of 10 I have found that well planned scripts save the day. I have received help from the above mentioned resources as well as Dr. Becky Bailey and the Love and Logic Group (both can be found through Google). I listen to Dr. Bailey’s CD’s while I’m on the treadmill and it helps me refocus and get control of myself so that I’m ready with a loving reply when a child is antagonistic.
    Things like, “When your voice sounds like mine, I’ll talk to you.” or “You’re frustrated. You may not hit when you’re frustrated. Hitting hurts. Let’s sit until we can come up with a better way.”
    During devotions we actually list “undesireable behaviours” in a column and then next to it we write “better way” behaviour. For ex. “Gimme that!” would be replaced with, “Put that in my hand.” Then we talked about a 3rd column and decided that there could even be a better way and added, “We you wanting a turn when I’m done?”
    I really believe that we can and should have a peaceful, loving aptmosphere in our homes and that it can be done.

  5. My son and I used to have conflicts because I did not understand his learning style. I assumed that he learned just like me, but I was too structured and sequential for his needs. After reading some books, I realized that he was not deliberately trying to provoke me by “not trying hard enough”, but that he had different ways of perceiving, remembering, and thinking. In fact, he commented to me the other day about a person whose learning style is very different from his, “I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in his head.” And, I gently chided him, “I bet he thinks the same about you!” In hindsight, many of our conflicts came from misunderstanding the other’s perspective.

    That is when I turned to Charlotte Mason. I discovered that her philosophy worked well for him as well as my daughter whose learning style is akin to mine. Switching over to Charlotte Mason’s ideas was a turning point for us. Slowly, over time, the atmosphere of conflict was transformed into an atmosphere of respect and an atmosphere of good humor.

  6. I would venture to say that we all have days where we feel like we’ve failed miserably. But sometimes, I know through my own experiences, that all of the sudden you have a real moment to poke your head up out of the busyness of life, and realize that you have wandered into a desert.

    You’ve somehow gotten yourself stuck in a rut. And, just like how your own body thirsts for water, you find that you’ve been thirsty for a long time, and you’ve somehow neglected to quench that thirst with time to fuel up your soul. I have learned that these are the times that I need do a little self-evaluating.

    If I’ve come to the point that each day has become a battle of the wills between me and my children, and I’m feeling a general un-rest about ….well, sometimes everything!!….then I’ve REALLY gotten myself into a rut. I begin with getting back into the routine of having my own quiet time every day, before our day begins. I take time to read God’s Word, release my anxieties and concerns to Him, and listen to His voice. I take notes and write down focus points that I can remind myself of throughout the day. I also make sure to allow God the time to search my heart and show me any areas of my life that are not pleasing and honoring to Him. I then take a few moments to confess my failures and ask for His forgiveness and guidance in making the necessary changes.

    Lastly, if I have wronged my children in any way by my attitude, words, or countenance, I admit that I’ve been wrong and ask them to forgive me. I have learned the hard way, but to God’s glory, that this act has served as a wonderful example and reminder to them that no one is perfect….we all make mistakes…and we can all be forgiven and set on the right path again. Each day His mercies are new.

    I pray that these ideas will be a help and hope for you today!
    Home For Him,

  7. This article was so helpful for me and addressed my current problem so adequately. The atmosphere in our homeschool right now is worry, worry, worry as I try to develop my son’s academic course for next year and appropriate activities for my soon-to-be- 3 yr. old, so that I can relax and enjoy the summer without all the worry and stress. One thing I realised recently is that my worries that my son (he’ll be 13) would not like what I was considering are because I was choosing what I wish I had had at 13. Once I realised that I stopped and asked myself:” What would HE like to read, study about and accomplish?” Now I have a whole new take on things and feel much better and more confident. I also asked him to review and choose his own math because he has incredible natural talents in that area that I don’t want to stifle. I watched him visibly relax when I gave him a hand in his own educational choices. When had I forgotten that he needed this? …Thanks for the reminders. They help so much!–Ang

  8. The best way to prevent me from Mommy guilt is to NOT hold myself up next to another homeschool family and compare.

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