CM 10: Audioblog- Amy Fischer Using Your Home Atmosphere as an Educational Tool
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Description: What did Charlotte Mason have to say regarding education for our early learners? What should our children be doing before beginning formal lessons at the age of 6? What if we live in an area that is required to begin school before our children are 6 years old? In today’s episode, Julie H Ross is joined by blogger and author Amy Fischer to address these topics and more to help you apply Charlotte Mason’s principles with your early learners.
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Amy’s Bio: Hi, I’m Amy. My goal for my kids is that they grow to be curious, thoughtful, self-motivated problem solvers, who can teach themselves anything they want to know. I’m a wife, a mom of three boys, and an American ex-pat living in the north-west of the UK. I have an MA in Education (which was an incredible amount of fun – I’m serious!) and worked for a few years in higher education before settling into stay-at-home motherhood. On the blog www.aroundthethicket.com, I share what I have figured out along the way so far, and the connections I make between the Charlotte Mason way and real life, with all its dirt, tantrums, and challenges. I am also the author of Before Curriculum: How to Start Practicing the Charlotte Mason Philosophy in Your Home.
Home Education by Charlotte Mason
Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason
School Education by Charlotte Mason
Ourselves by Charlotte Mason
Quote: “...my object is to show that the chief function of the child––his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life––is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses; that he has an insatiable appetite for knowledge got in this way; and that, therefore, the endeavour of his parents should be to put him in the way of making acquaintance freely with Nature and natural objects; that, in fact, the intellectual education of the young child should lie in the free exercise of perceptive power… vol. 1 Home Education, page 96
Psalm 104: 24-25 How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number— living things both large and small.
Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
CM EP 8, Amy Fischer Audio Blog
Julie – Welcome to the Charlotte Mason show, a podcast dedicated to discussing Ms. Mason’s philosophy, principles, and methods. It is our hope that each episode will leave you inspired and offer practical wisdom on how to provide this rich, living education in your modern homeschool.
So, pull up a chair. We’re glad you’re here.
Today’s episode of the Charlotte Mason show is brought to you by Medi-Share. Find out more about this affordable Christian alternative to traditional health insurance at medishare.com.
Amy – Using Your Home’s Atmosphere as an Educational Tool by Amy Fischer at aroundthethickett.com.
Sometimes you leave someone else’s house and you know that they have something special. They’ve created a home where a visitor is never an inconvenience. Where the mess your kids make is never any trouble. Where you feel welcome, comfortable, and able to let down your guard.
You sense the hospitality and friendships is deeply genuine and lingers with you after you’ve left. Well, it is hard to put your finger on exactly what is so special about that place. What you are feeling is the home’s atmosphere. We soak in the culture of the family and it impacts us. Even when we don’t realize it.
Just as the atmosphere of your friend’s home stays with you after you’ve gone, so the atmosphere of your home stays with your children long after they’ve grown up. So big is the influence of atmosphere on a child that Charlotte Mason names it as one of three, and only three, tools that can be used in a child’s education.
What does Charlotte Mason mean by atmosphere? Atmosphere at first appears so abstract that it hardly seems possible that it could be used as an education tool. A tool can be picked up, wielded with intention, used to achieve a purpose. How is it possible to use atmosphere like that?
To answer this question, it helps to understand what Charlotte Mason means by atmosphere. Perhaps the clearest discussion of the topic in her own works is in Towards the Philosophy of Education. Atmosphere is there about the child, his natural element, precisely as the atmosphere is about us. It is thrown off as it were from persons and things, stirred by events, sweetened by love, ventilated, kept in motion by the regulated action of common sense. Atmosphere in short is real life in the real world.
A child has endless and necessary opportunities to learn and grow, simply by living in community with other people and in the natural world around him. How does atmosphere educate our children? There are infinite things that shape our children through our home atmosphere. Let’s consider a few of them.
Number one. Our children become accustomed to how we evaluate things. The Parent’s Review magazine, which Charlotte Mason edited, discusses atmosphere at a link in the article, The Atmosphere of the Home. It’s worth reading in entirety, but one key idea of the article is that our children learn what to value through their home atmosphere.
When our children grow up and go out to see many sorts of manners, and many different standards of conduct, one of their safeguards will be in the idea they have formed of what is worthwhile. Pleasure and success and admiration. They will want all these until almost every one of them, some small triumphs will be given. And whether these are sufficient will depend on what they are accustomed to seeing valued.
Let us then covet one gift for our children. That of unworldliness. We are constantly valuing and devaluing things by our actions and words, often without realizing it. The question is, are we valuing that which God values or that which the world values?
Number two. Our children are molded by how they are motivated. Charlotte Mason compares the school where children are under pressure to perform well on an exam to a school where it is the children’s and the teacher’s desire to learn that motivates learning. In the first instance, there is stress, worry, and misbehavior. In the second, there is peace, a relaxed environment, and a joy in learning.
It is no surprise that children in the first setting effectively lose their internal desire to learn and that this stays with them into their adult lives. Children offered rewards for creativity are less creative. Children who grow up with extrinsic motivators have a lower sense of control over their lives. A recipe for unhappiness. Children have intrinsic desires to learn and grow. And offering rewards for learning or punishments for failure to do so, spoils it.
As a consequence, our children are led but a powerful tool for achievement later in life.
Number three. Our children are prepared for the real world by living in the real world. There is one crucial point to keep in mind about atmosphere. It should not be contrived. There is a lot of talk these days about helicopter parenting and even lawnmower parenting, where parents are extremely risk adverse. They hover over their children to catch them the moment they stumble, or else cut down any obstacle before their child can reach it.
But preventing our children from facing adversity, from trying something new and failing, from allowing them to take risks, means that our children never learn that they are resilient. They never develop the sense that they are capable of navigating their own lives. We weaken our children when we manipulate situations to protect them from challenges and setbacks.
Of course, we exercise wisdom. We keep them from situations that are actually dangerous. We’re clued into their relationships with others, both adults and children. And we use discretion. But by and large we practice mass inactivity in many areas. And through a wise “letting alone”, allow them to test their metal and develop strength by trying, failing, and succeeding on their own effort.
Our home atmosphere is the means through which our children develop their taste for what has value, what is worthwhile, and how they themselves cope with adversity. That’s why atmosphere is educational and that’s why it is so crucial that we use atmosphere appropriately. We can’t fake atmosphere, but we can develop it. The temptation with atmosphere is to assume that it is what it is. And there’s nothing much we can actually do about it.
To some extent this is true. We can’t fake our values. We may not think much about how we motivate our children, our own concerns and fears for the success and safety of our children is easily rationalized if we stop to consider them at all.
Despite the task that nature of atmosphere, it is possible to evaluate it. We need to take caution. It’s easy to answer questions like, what are my values? And, how do I motivate my children with what we want to be true, rather than what is true? So, in order to get an accurate idea of our home atmosphere, I suggest that we look at what our atmosphere produces. As Jesus says, for a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit, for men do not father figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man, out of the treasure of his heart brings forth good. And an evil man, out of the evil treasure of his heart, brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of his heart, the mouth speaks. Luke 6, verses 43 to 45.
What is the fruit of our home atmosphere? Do we see the evidence of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? If so, there is a good chance that our atmosphere is rooted in the right thought values and a respect for the personhood of those around us. Our home atmosphere will never be perfect, and that is valuable in itself.
My home atmosphere is far from where I want it to be. Chaos descends, my frustration comes out, the fruit I bear suggests I may be an “anger-and-impatience tree”, rather than a “love-and-self-control tree”. But even in our shortcomings and our failures, there is hope. We are not raising perfect children to live in a perfect world. When our children are grown and they leave the nest, they aren’t going to be living in community with perfect people. Learning to live with parents who fall short prepares them to live with friends, spouses, and their own children, who fall short. This is a crucial educational function of atmosphere.
Repentance from our shortcomings speaks volumes about our values. Does a reputation matter above all else? Or is humility before Christ and others of greater importance? Our children will take in our responses to our own failures. We can trust Christ to bear fruit in our homes as we make our home in Him. I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, bears much fruit for without Me you can do nothing. John 15 verse 5.
I take the promise in this verse deeply to heart. I do not have to worry about bearing good fruit. Our focus needs to be on abiding in Christ and walking in the spirit and the fruit will follow. A fruitful, nurturing atmosphere that is an effective educational tool in the lives of our children starts with us. We need to cultivate the spiritual disciplines that keep us in step with the Spirit. When we are off track, we repent. We model for our children, not perfection, but authentic faith. It’s this authenticity that helps our children grow into adults who can bear graciously with the shortcomings of those around them, and who can appropriately navigate their own failures and setbacks.
Julie – Thank you for joining us today on the Charlotte Mason show. I’m your host, Julie Ross, and I would love to meet you in 2020. I will be at all seven Great Homeschool Conventions, speaking as part of their Charlotte Mason track. Go to greathomeschoolconventions.com to find one near you.
If you want more information on what was shared in today’s podcast, go to homeschooling.mom for the show notes. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or Google Play so you never miss an episode.
Until next time.
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