Last week we started a discussion based on Charlotte Mason’s reminder that the goal of learning is growth: “Children learn, to Grow”; not just to know (Vol. 1, p. 171). And we took a lesson from Frog and Toad that growth is a natural process in the right conditions. Growth will happen if we focus on three essential things.
- Provide the right atmosphere.
- Pull the weeds.
- Nourish the plant.
Today let’s talk a little bit about providing the right atmosphere. What does that mean? And what does it look like in our homes?
Provide the Right Atmosphere
On a recent trip to the mall I was reminded once again how different stores can create different atmospheres. I’m not talking about their fixtures or what color they have painted the walls. (Ask my husband; I probably couldn’t tell you even one color they used.)
The real atmosphere has to do with the way you are treated. In some, you are welcomed; in others, you are considered a nuisance. In some, you are viewed as a person with a brain; in others, you are assumed to be a fool. In some, you are a target; in others, you are a person.
Atmosphere. It’s hard to identify what exactly creates it, but I think Charlotte Mason helped us begin to understand when she explained that the ideas that rule your life make up the atmosphere around you. The ideas that rule the store owner’s and manager’s and workers’ lives create the atmosphere that you experience as you walk into their store.
In the same way, the ideas that rule our lives as parents create the atmosphere that our children experience as they live in our homes. “The child breathes the atmosphere emanating from his parents; that of the ideas which rule their own lives” (Vol. 2, p. 247).
Therefore, the question begs to be asked, What are the ideas that rule your life? Those ideas will affect everything that happens around you, and your children will learn from the atmosphere you create.
Natural, Everyday Situations
Charlotte thought that the natural, everyday situations that present themselves in home life are ideal ground for a child to grow in—not contrived, artificial educational experiences, but ordinary life.
“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 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. 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; 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” (Vol. 6, pp. 96, 97).
But you know, it occurred to me as I read that passage, that the same set of experiences could happen in two different homes and create two entirely different atmospheres. Think for a moment of the circumstances she mentioned:
- Household chores,
- Romping with father,
- Interaction with siblings,
- Scrapes and skinned knees,
- A baby in the house,
The household chores and romps and interaction in themselves do not create the atmosphere. What creates the atmosphere is how you approach those everyday happenings. Take just the visit from great-grandmother that Charlotte mentioned. In some homes, such a visit would indeed teach veneration, honor, and cherishing of the elderly; in other homes, the visit would be considered an inconvenient disruption and grounds for complaining. Same circumstance, entirely different atmosphere.
You see, more than anything else about your home, the ideas that rule your life will create the atmosphere that your child learns from and grows in. So rather than poring over more curriculum catalogs, maybe we would do better to spend a little time considering the ideas that are ruling our lives.
Provide the right atmosphere and your child will grow.