"Education is an atmosphere-that is, the child breathes the atmosphere emanating from his parents; that of the ideas which rule their own lives" (Vol 2, p247)
"Education is an atmosphere" can be a difficult concept to translate into words. We comprehend the tangible and yet this foundation word for Charlotte Mason's approach to education is not something so easily concrete.
In our search for the tangible we may initially assume that Charlotte Mason could be referring to the physical environment. Sometimes as home educators we feel if only we had; the perfect room, the perfect circumstances, a thriving education would ensue. Whilst it is true that a little organisation can go a long way to help facilitate, education can thrive under all sorts of conditions. For three years we lived and learnt as a family of 10 in a 90sq metre home, with the majority of our books packed away. It wasn't ideal but much education still occurred. We have friends who lived in a tent for three years and successfully continued to homeschool.
Atmosphere refers to the family environment that our children are nurtured in, more easily explained as Family Culture; every family has their own unique culture, a culture that reflects what is 'near and dear' to them.
For some families this translates as an atmosphere full of arts and crafts, or an emphasis on nature and hiking, a family focused on sports. Our own home environment is a book environment, we are surrounded by thousands of books, and yet this isn't the 'full picture' of our family culture.
Certainly our book and movie loving and sharing has a definite influence on our family culture; the characters we 'adopt', the plots enjoyed, the lines quoted, which have all become entwined in our culture. The word and board games we play, the interest in vocabulary, these are all a unique part of our family. Underpinning all this though is our (PC & my) intentional goal for our family. (Well our goal firstly is spiritual but that's another post). Our goal is for our children to be thinkers and communicators; to challenge and analyze ideas met, to not just accept the status quo because 'society says.' To be able to communicate effectively both in the written and spoken language. The curriculum choices we make reflect this goal. Mostly though our educational atmosphere consists of conversations; conversations about ideas met, knowledge gained, conversations designed to encourage a love of learning and a quest for thoughts.