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Last week we began discussing the three words that lay the foundation to the Charlotte Mason way of homeschooling. These three words can help guide your decisions about curriculum choices, schedules, goals, and more. Charlotte Mason said, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” Over the next few weeks we’ll be talking about those three key words.
You’ll remember that “atmosphere” refers to the ideas that rule your life as a parent. Charlotte reminded us that “the child breathes the atmosphere emanating from his parents; that of the ideas which rule their own lives” (Vol. 2, p. 247). Today let’s look at how our personal ideas should affect our choices in curriculum and schedules.
When selecting books for your child, look for ones that will reinforce your priorities. Many people recommend a myriad of books for various reasons, but your choices should ultimately reflect the ideas that rule your life. For example, I personally don’t want my children soaking up details about false gods (mythology) until they have a firm footing in Scripture and can discern what they are reading from a Biblical point of view. Therefore, I bypass the classic mythology books written for young children. That’s just a choice based on an idea that rules my life. Other parents will have other ideas that are important to them. And the beauty of it is that we will probably all be able to find good living books that fit our personal criteria!
So when you are perusing those catalogs or wandering through those vendor halls this spring, be careful not to base your curriculum decisions solely on colorful covers or others’ recommendations. Make sure you select books that promote the ideas that rule your life.
One word of caution from Charlotte: When selecting books to help build character, look for ones that present good morals, but avoid those that present them in a goody-goody sugar-coated way. “It is inadvisable to put twaddling ‘goody-goody’ story-books into the hands of the young people: a revulsion of taste will come, and then, the weakness of this sort of literature will be laid to the charge of religion” (Vol. 5, pp. 211, 212).
As you determine your schedule, be courageous enough to make it reflect the ideas that rule your life — or maybe, the ideas that you want to have rule your life. Charlotte encouraged us, “Do not let the endless succession of small things crowd great ideals out of sight and out of mind” (The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 160). That’s a great quote to stick on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror . . . or maybe it should go on your calendar!
It is never too late to make a change. Yes, you can say No to one or more outside activities that are causing such stress on you. There is a huge difference between a life ruled by ideas and a life ruled by crises. I urge you to carefully consider all those sports, field trips, co-op groups, and mommy commitments that you feel are expected of you. Reclaim your home’s atmosphere and embrace those ideas that you value most.
And along those lines, may I also encourage you to build some margin into your schedule? You know what a margin is — that space around the text on a book’s page. Think how overwhelming it would be to try to read a page that had words from edge to edge, from top to bottom, with no margin! Well, some of our lives have become like that crowded page. We have left no room in our schedules for spontaneous opportunities to teach, unexpected moments to enjoy beauty, or immediate privileges to serve others. So if you want a home atmosphere that reflects those ideas, keep “margin” in mind as you create your schedule.
Next time we’ll finish up Education is an Atmosphere by looking at how we moms can either be thermostats or thermometers in our homes.