Monday, March 7, 2011

What's In Our Atmosphere?

The Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival this week is to be themed on Charlotte's idea that education is an atmosphere.  I'm not going to delve into what this means.  I'll assume you're either already familiar with the idea, or else refer you to Charlotte's own words about it in volume 6 of her series, pages 94-99, or Sonya Shafer's thoughts about it, if you'd rather.  Or, check out the CM Carnival tomorrow -- I'm sure there will be at least a few different perspectives on it there with some excellent thoughts. 

What I want to do is share some personal thoughts about how this concept applies in my own home, from both a perspective of some things that need improvement, and also some things that are going well.  I'll begin with the negative "needs improvement" category, since it will make me feel better to end with the positive.  I can use all the positivity I can get right now. :)  But I hope that the discussion of my "needs improvement" items can help you feel better, if you also struggle with this sort of thing.  You aren't the only one.

My first thought in revisiting this concept of atmosphere was that it's sure good for me to review, because our atmosphere needs some major help!!  I think I pretty much always feel that way when I'm at the point where most of the sickness I experience in early pregnancy is behind me and I'm left to assess the damages with slowly returning strength and awareness.  That's where I'm at right now.  I'm thankful to be feeling much better, yet I'm often very tempted to let the stress of the neglected state of things (so many of which affect atmosphere to varying degrees) really get the best of me.  When I don't handle it well, that by itself does nothing to improve the atmosphere of anything, and it can actually drive me back into sickness because I do foolish things, like worrying about it or trying to do too much at once.  This can affect my rest/sleep and/or eating habits negatively, which don't help anybody's health, especially a pregnant lady's.  Not that it's an excuse, but it happens because I have so many things I want to address, and they all (of course) seem to need addressing at once!  Right now there's an extra complication in that we'd really love to be able to move out of this house BEFORE this baby is born (!), and I got very overwhelmed Saturday about the whole mess as I saw it.  Didn't help that I was too tired already from the aforementioned trying to do too much.  So in the middle of the night I found myself sick and tired and unable to sleep.  Dumb.  You'd think by my sixth time this far along in a pregnancy I'd have this stuff figured out, huh?

Thankfully, my husband was very patient with me and helped me yesterday by listening to my difficulties and helping me problem solve.  I especially appreciated it because problem solving isn't really his favorite activity, and because he had a lot he needed to do himself.  He even helped me come up with an idea for yet another very basic temporary schedule (I should quit calling some of them temporary -- they're all temporary around here), which should theoretically help with the main areas I need to regain control over (assuming I ever had control, ha) regarding the functioning of our house (clothing, food, cleaning, organization/order, and school), and as a result also help me to more easily help other things in both myself and the children that aren't quite as tangible or schedule-able, such as attitudes and character habits which are either just suffering recently or somehow seem to be quite lacking. 

So my hope is that at least that part of the atmosphere around here will indeed improve after all, and the children just might learn to live like civilized humans and I perhaps won't have to apologize to their future spouses after all for my inability to teach them habits I lack myself... Or maybe I should just apologize now...?  Wouldn't that be easier? ;)

When I get negative about things, like anyone, I can blow them out of proportion a bit.  Not a lot, mind you.  Okay, maybe sometimes.  However, these things really have suffered.  Some of them had been suffering a while even before I got sick, which just makes it that much worse.  So... it's time to talk about the things that are going well now. :)

A little bit ago I was reflecting to myself on how far "behind" certain ones of the children are, compared to where I want them to be in certain areas, lamenting to myself about this, and blaming myself for getting so little accomplished during the past several weeks (no, I didn't remind myself at this point how big an accomplishment my body is working on in helping a baby develop -- sometimes I do remind myself of that in early pregnancy, but talk about accomplishment that doesn't feel like it, ha), as though I had time to spare.  But then I suddenly thought that there was another perspective I could look at it all from.  I can't remember what prompted the thought, but I think it might have been the sight of one of my children engrossed in some educational activity of his or her own accord, or of a book one of them had recently finished reading without any requirement from me.  Both of those sights have brought it to mind at some point, but I don't remember what was first.  But when I reviewed the concept of education being an atmosphere, this came to mind again. 

When I thought about what the children HAD accomplished during that time -- things which they may not have had time or inclination to do had I been well and leading them in other directions -- I saw, not a lack of education, but only differences in what was actually learned, or the angle from which it was approached, than from what I had set out in my plans.  And who's to say whether I'm right about what's important, anyway?  Certainly I can see that it really doesn't matter whether they learn this or that in this or that arbitrary year, for the most part, when it's all said and done.  When I looked more carefully, I had to smile, because I knew some of the truly important things were being absorbed.  I saw children who had pursued independent learning activities with eagerness, who had mastered challenges and accomplished projects they set for themselves, who had more time for creativity, for art, music, free reading, etc., than they tend to get when things are more structured.  They also got more educational time with their dad than usual, because he stepped in and did far more reading aloud than I did, and also helped out some with overseeing other things.  I think the reading was especially nice, as it was a bonding experience for them all.

Many of the things that were accomplished by the children during this time happened because of atmosphere.  An atmosphere that I helped contribute to, even if it was mostly before I was sick.  The careful selection (and editing where needed) of books, the games and supplies we provided, the example of learning and enjoying it as a natural part of life, the limiting of exposure to less worthwhile pursuits -- all these contributed.  So I HAD done something more than I thought to help them during this time, and I'd even done it ahead!  I suddenly felt like I got something right!  Yes, education is an atmosphere.  I'm thankful to God for this bit of encouragement, which helps me believe that with His help I can keep making improvements.  I want to be sure that our atmosphere includes more of some other important elements, not just in the area of academics, but in all of that atmosphere of life education.  Even if everything doesn't fit in or turn out just the way I think it ought to all the time.  Or ever.  Wait -- ever?  Can't I get something my way sometimes?  ;-)

This post is part of the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival, hosted this week at Fisher Academy International.


  1. How wonderful that your husband helped you out! You certainly have an atmosphere of blessing all around you. So, you're moving and you're in the middle of a pregnancy? I think you have special circumstances that require grace all around - the most wonderful of atmospheres!

    Ring true,

  2. Aren't husbands great a problem solving:) Their speciality.

  3. It's so easy for us homeschool moms to beat ourselves up at how "behind" we are! Your children, by the way, are adorable. :)

  4. Thank you for all your encouraging comments, ladies. :)

    You're right, Nancy, with your perspective on a gracious atmosphere. Thanks.

    Erin, my husband doesn't consider himself good at problem-solving, but he was good enough to help me this time anyway!

    Thanks about the children, Jamie -- I think they're super-cute, but of course I'm biased. ;) They are precious blessings.