Charlotte Mason Motto – Education is an Atmosphere

Education is an atmosphere

‘When we say that education is an atmosphere we do not mean that a child should be isolated in what may be called a ‘child environment’ specially adapted and prepared, but that 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. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the ‘child’s’ level.’

Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason Motto- Education is an Atmosphere

I have seen the phrase “education is an atmosphere” in many Charlotte Mason books. I needed no further explanation; the quote encompassed it all—or so I thought! To explain my interpretation of that statement prior to reading this chapter I would have said, “A good learning environment stimulates a child’s education and facilitates holistic growth.”

The cult of aesthetics, still present today, holds the belief that parents should painstakingly provide an environment that is “perfect for the child”. Lovely surroundings of beauty, nice books and lots of cotton wool are used to shield children from the harsh adult world. Charlotte Mason believed this carefully constructed artificial environment is not beneficial to a child, for it makes them morally weak and prevents them maturing. She wanted a children’s environment to be one that nobody has been at pains to constitute (a natural environment).

This atmosphere was not meant to be “come what may”, but rather to be one where the child’s intelligence is respected, where their ability to acquire knowledge is encouraged and self-education is promoted.

At home it is easier to provide such an “atmosphere” rather than school. Why —because school can take the lessons to a child’s level in a watered down, sweetened condescending way. She encouraged her teachers to make sure that school had “the bracing atmosphere of truth and sincerity”. I agree home is a natural place for raising and educating our children. Home life offers many opportunities to learn about the things of the world.

At home there is a danger though that we can succumb to the “cult of aesthetics” —only providing our children with “nice things”. As the ‘mummy’ I want to shield them and make their life easy. This means that I may remove natural consequences for actions. For example, sloppy work becomes acceptable and hard work is not expected. As parents we can molly-coddle our children and this too produces children with a weak demeanour that are ill prepared for a life of renown.

Education is an atmosphere

Cultural “norms” need not be our benchmark. We need to set standards that respects them and prepares them for the future. A modern book that encompasses some of these ideas is “Boundaries with Children”.

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.

This chapter encapsulates much of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education. I have gleaned many insights into what we need for an inspiring education. Charlotte Mason reveals why the atmosphere that she proposes works.

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Comments

  1. joyfulmum  May 18, 2010

    I loved reading your explanation of what she meant by "Education is an atmosphere". It's helped me grow in my understanding of it. I sometimes think I've got a grasp on it only to realise that perhaps I hadn't in the first place! (especially after reading posts like this one:))

    reply

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