An Atmosphere

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Some homeschooling can be like raising plants in a terrarium ~ glass-covered and insulated, protected and contained.  A constant atmosphere of nurture and provision.

This should be good, right?

Here are some of Charlotte Mason’s views on “Education – an atmosphere” ~

The bracing atmosphere of truth and sincerity should be perceived in every School; and here again the common pursuit of knowledge by teacher (mother) and class (child) comes to our aid and creates a Current of fresh air perceptible even to the chance visitor, who sees the glow of intellectual life and moral health on the faces of teachers and children alike.” vol 6 pg 98

Thanks to Ms. Mason’s principles of using “living books” and narrations, I have seen my children glow and thrive on great words and ideas! As we read aloud, we go on a journey together, follow ‘rabbit trails’ of interest, discover eras and personalities, and are challenged and inspired by a character’s moral choices.

As they grow up in a rich atmosphere of literature-based study , they discern some  popular novels as poor literature and they even call it “shlock”, giving reasons why the book is ‘badly’ written!

The art of narration has been an excellent training for my children to express their understanding of what they have read.  It has also led to them expressing their thoughts and views about things.  We sometimes have animated discussions at the dinner table!

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“We foresee happy days for children when all teachers know that no other exciting motive whatever is necessary to produce good work in each individual of however big a class than that love of knowledge which is natural to every child.” 

Homeschooling the CM way allows for young children to explore, describe, discover, and express their delights and interests. A parent can feed their child’s wonderful enthusiasm, showing interest and involvement.  I have purposefully been involved in my children’s lives, encouraging them, facilitating them in their hobbies, assisting them in their entrepreneurial involvements.

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 (unwholesome atmosphere) come their way in the shape of a vicious companion.” vol 6 pg 99

May I encourage new homeschool moms of young children to forsake the “glass-domed” complete-package, tick-off-every-box, test-every-term, textbook-based curriculum and simply trust the vital atmosphere of “living books”.  Allow a  child to live and breathe words and ideas from great stories, classics, autobiographies, narratives and inspiring illustrated books.

Yes, disciplined studies are important, but should not dominate the whole day.  Keep these lessons short and sweet.  Then, retire to a comfy spot to read together.  Snuggle with your young child and allow the moments to be intimate and rich.

All to soon, they will reach high school, where knowledge and skills become more intense.  Here you want to inspire them to learn more independently, follow their schedules promptly and complete their tasks and portfolios with enthusiasm and excellence.

Still, make time to read their literature and maybe set-work books, read aloud together, so that your learning journey with them continues.

Teenagers want to measure themselves against their peers, bounce thoughts and opinions off others, discover that, now that they feel and think differently as young adolescents, these physical and mental changes are “normal”.

I pray for my children to find good friends from “like-valued” families.  I pray that they grow independent and morally strong, firm in their faith and convictions, becoming deep, sincere, thinking young adults.

No terrarium here.  The glass shelter must be removed.  Our homeschooling atmosphere must be inspiring, to allow for confident emergence and vigorous growth!


I will share this post in the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival coming March 19 – Education is an Atmosphere (Chapter 6) You can submit your posts to: charlottemasonblogs (at) gmail (dot) com!


13 thoughts on “An Atmosphere

    • @Kylie, I found those ticked boxes so reassuring, but now I prefer theme and book lists and my month planners. This approach is broader and less stifling, but my “planning” part of my brain is at peace and I still can get most our learning done. It just takes a little longer, and after over 14 years of homeschooling, I have never regretted taking that route! However, with my eldest facing nation-wide final exams in November, we are working quite strictly according to our schedules!


  1. A year ago, when we took them out of school, we basically did all the tick boxing of curriculum and structured our day like a school day. What I learnt is that we needed a ‘breath of air’. I learnt about Charlotte Mason and lapbooking around January, We do our own thing a lot more now, plans are subject to change and they have fantastic friendships. The children are learning a lot more and already have learnt how to pick their own topics and ask their own questions. I think that is a much richer and more meaningful education for them and I can see them retaining the information and adding layers to it. I am amazed at what they can achieve when I step back from planning a curriculum to supporting and enabling their learning.


    • @Gina, what wonderful wisdom and balance! Our joy is experiencing that liberty as their ‘teachers’ and watching our children mature and grow. A mom once said that “we grow ourselves out of a job” as our children become self-learners. Blessings!


  2. How beautifully written, Nadene. I enjoy your blog, your posts, and I benefit from your experience.

    they even call it “shlock”, giving reasons why the book is ‘badly’ written!

    I love that!


  3. As a new homeschooler, I am already seeing how if I ” simply trust the vital atmosphere of “living books,” the children do indeed grow–in such beautiful ways. The combination of living ideas with plenty of time and space to think about those ideas creates such a fertile atmosphere for learning. Thank you for the encouragement!


    • @Celeste, how wonderful that you can trust this “way” so early in your homeschooling because your children will benefit from the rich and deep and wide content and the glorious inspiration of living books! Blessings as you continue the journey!


  4. Pingback: Charlotte Mason- The Real Maverick | Maverick Mom

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