Saturday, March 5, 2011

An Education within Our Atmosphere

Olivia, at age 9
"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, Volume 6: A Philosophy of Education, p.94).

I've been thinking a lot about this.

"We certainly may use atmosphere as an instrument of education, but there are prohibitions, for ourselves rather than for children. Perhaps the chief of these is, that no artificial element be introduced, no sprinkling with rose-water, softening with cushions. Children must face life as it is" (Charlotte Mason, Volume 6: A Philosophy of Education, p.94).
David, at age 6
And this ...especially this.

When the first thoughts entered my pea-brain of educating my children at home, I pored over catalog upon child-centered catalog, wishing and dreaming to make my home into a miniature haven for my wee flower fairies.  The only thing to stop me was money.

I had none.

Fiona, at age 4
And so, I made do with what I did have: a library card and a love for the classics of children's literature.  In the mornings we played at making words and sentences, at making sums and finding differences, but in the afternoon!  Oh, when the baby was in deep sleep, we climbed along Charlotte's finely woven web, dipped a toe into the flowing river inside Charlie's chocolate factory, and whisked away with Dorothy to the wonderful Land of Oz.  Not all at once, of course, but what a ride that would be!

The next and first official year of our home-school, a boxed curriculum bored us to tears and put us to sleep within weeks, draining entirely  like a vampire any previous love of learning from us.  Swiftly, I drove a stake into the heart of intellectual death and created my own curriculum based on the things we loved: reading classic novels and studying the marvelous creation all around us.  Sure, we still learned to read and figure well, but the core of our day was spent in turns piled together on a sofa, out-of-doors, and at the library.
Ian, at age 1

 So, when I stumbled upon the Ambleside Online website, during a web-search for "study nature," I was ripe for the Charlotte Mason-picking.  But, as they say: Life happens, and life surely happened to us.

Over the next serveral years, our wee life together would be flipped, turned, spun, and battered--talk about children facing life as it is!  In those moments of the past, had I been given the choice, when everything they knew was changing in painful ways, I would've padded every bruising corner with a cushion and doused every betraying scent with rose-water.  My mother's heart desired to protect my children from the emotional tsunami that threatened to engulf us all.  I see now, that God allowed our life's circumstances to educate my children far better than any curriculum found anywhere.

Olivia, 13
And as we walked the circumstantial road of our new life together, treating each of my beloved babes as the unique persons God intended them to be and not patronizing the depth of their respective understandings, they learned eternal lessons:

They learned of the humanity of their mother.  Although I had previously tried to keep it from them, they learned that I felt pain and cried sometimes, and sometimes often.  They learned that I couldn't handle the circumstances of my life, that I needed help through much prayer to our God and more humbling of myself among man.

David, 10
They learned that God provides.  Throughout our painful time of bouncing around from family home to strangers' home and stretching ourselves as thin as possible, God provided-and generously-for our needs, finally bringing us to a near-perfect place of rest in this modest home-of-our-own.  They can see how we were upheld and protected through years of manipulation and pressed advantages and that we were preserved for a purpose.

Not finally, but I'll stop here, my children learned that this broken and deceitful world desperately needs a Savior.  And that's an education that can press no deeper nor soar no higher, producing hearts and hands reaching toward a more noble pursuit than this earthly life.

I agree with Ms. Mason indeed: rose-water and soft cushions are highly overrated.  Give me life, as it is.

Fiona, 8
*The first series of photos were taken only six months after our family was torn apart from the effects of long-term addiction.  The second series is recent.  It is both heartbreaking and encouraging to me to compare how much time has changed them: physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Ian, 5


  1. It doesn't hang on the wall or come in a box. I'm so thankful, Laura, that your children are finding the One thing needed. If we don't undergo, we can't overcome.

    p.s. I thought for sure you were going to use Charlotte's word 'miasma.'


  2. And what awesome children you have, Laura! You are such a great mother!!!!!!!!! You are teaching them well, and more importantly, they are learning to have a personal relationship with the Lord! Awesome!

  3. A heartfelt and stunning post. May you all grow together in Him on and on. And how beautiful you all are as well. I wish your children and mine could get together and play (or whatever they would do). I can see them together somehow. Be well, dear mother. Be well.

  4. I admire you so much Laura. You are doing a great job with your beautiful children :-)

  5. This is just the sort of thing that CM was talking about....not just prepared for "education" but for life. I think that as moms we learn so much from just working at implementing the ideas as much as we can, when we can.

    Enjoyed your post....thanks for putting it in the carnival.

  6. What an awesome Mum you are, so wise in your guidance.{}

  7. LOVE this post. LOVE it.

    It is SO right on. Thank you for sharing...

    I'm so glad that certain phases have their end, yet that the lessons learned are for a lifetime.

    I especially love the mixtures of illustrations you used ;) Charlotte, Charlie and Dorothy to vampires and tsunamis... phew!

    thanks for submitting this to the cm blog carnival

    amy in peru

  8. Love this! Thank you for being real! Amateur moms like me need more stuff like this to read. Looking forward to learning more from you :)


I'm gonna shut up now. Please, tell me what YOU think.