“Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life” ~ Charlotte Mason

“Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life” this was Charlotte Mason’s motto. This quote is based on Charlotte Mason’s 20 principles. In order to fully implement her method of education, you must fully understand these elements.

Education is an Atmosphere ~ When I think of atmosphere, I think of our surroundings. I think of our homes being neat and tidy in a way that a child can be free from distractions. I think of what we watch on television and is the child being fed appropriate content. I think of relationships and how we are interacting with each other. Are we kind, considerate and loving? I think of a rhythm of our home that a child can naturally flow from one thing of their day to the next. I think of nature and how beneficial it is to our mind, body and spirit. When I think of atmosphere, I think of peace, joy and calm.

When Miss Mason said that, Education is an Atmosphere, she did not mean a child should be isolated in what we may call a “child-led” environment, especially adapted and prepared, but we should take into account the educational value of his/her natural home atmosphere. We should use the opportunities in the environment he/she already lives in to educate him/her. Children learn from real things in the real world. It can cause a child to lose enthusiasm when we bring down his/her world to the child’s level.

Education is a Discipline ~ Discipline means we train a child to have good habits and self control. We all have habits. Bad habits are easy. It is best to be intentional in developing and practicing good habits. Good habits require more dedication and thought. There are daily things we all do that we all agree are good habits and have no trouble enforcing the development of these habits on our children such as brushing our teeth, taking a shower, saying please and thank you and other important life skills.

There are other areas of habit forming that we all might agree on, however, we take caution when enforcing the demands of developing such habits in our children. Charlotte mentions the habit of punctuality. Being on time is good. Being punctual is respectful to other people. Reasons for being late may be inherently good but do we fear offending a child for stopping to smell a flower instead of moving along? Do we let go of the fact that they are choosing to smell the flower instead of being on time and fulfilling their commitments? Charlotte seems to say that if punctuality is the habit we desire, we must insist on it, even though the reason for being late may be an inherently good one. Developing good habits takes hard work and persistence.

Education is a Life ~ Education should apply to body, soul and spirit. Our minds are living things that must be fed the food that sustains them. The mind needs and thrives on ideas of all kinds, so the child’s curriculum should be varied and generous with many subjects included. Too much of modern education is factual. But, as Charlotte says, “mere information is to it as a meal of sawdust to the body”. There are certain subjects that we must learn hard and solid facts such as Math and Spelling. But even these subjects, Charlotte suggests, will be better learned if one does so in a living context. She suggests, for instance, learning the lives of some famous mathematicians like Pythagoras rather than just learning their theorems. And spelling, in a Charlotte Mason education, is done in the context of copywork and dictation of real passages from living books.

Charlotte also cautions that we cannot just spoon-feed the ideas. They must come properly packaged in living materials like books and symphonies. So in the course of reading one long book, a child might absorb two or three ideas. It does not seem like a good rate of return at times, but there does not seem to be a shortcut. It is not the same for me, the parent/teacher, to try to present the idea and skip the surrounding material. The child must take it in for themselves from the context of the book (or piece of music or art).

Provide a large variety of living books. Ideas derived from living books spark curiosity and creativity. Fill the child’s mind with historical biographies of men and women who were instrumental in history, science, inventions and furthering Christian faith(or whatever your beliefs are). Children can go on adventures and exploration through literature.

Charlotte Mason felt strongly about children having loads of free afternoon time. During this time a child can act out what inspired them through their morning lesson readings. This time should be used for out of door exploration and adventures. The child can use this time to free read, practice instruments and pursue their own personal interests.

Provide your child with loads of field trips. Including field trips in your education plans will help your children have a balance including a variety of hands-on learning opportunities. From local history, nature trails and centers, drama plays and musical productions. These are all available in most areas. Children learn much by interacting and doing such things. All of these things can be done for little or no money. Your budget does not have to hinder you from exploring the world around you.

Every day real life provides the best learning tools for our children as they grow. Caring for someone who is ill will help the child to stretch beyond themselves and be a giver with compassion. Providing a meal for someone who just had a baby to help in their busy time or handing out a warm dish or cookies to someone in our community to say thank you or to just simply love on others will help a child develop a giving heart. Helping with home projects will teach life skills and a sense of pride that the child will not learn anywhere else. I could provide a multitude of examples but just by simply being immersed in daily life, a child is learning how to become the best version of themselves.

I hope this helps provide you with a better understanding of education being an atmosphere, a discipline, a life. Enjoy the process of raising up your children and whatever you do, do it with your whole heart. ❤


  1. Really made me wonder about the current commercialized way of learning in schools.

    In the olden days, India used to have gurukul system. The system required the child to leave his own house and stay at the house of his Guru or the master.

    The master would instruct the kids to learn and aquire skills by doing. The masters house provided the atmosphere that could help inculcate good habits, ethics and life skills.

    And it used to be unique to evry student of learning. The perfect and the same syllabus was not thrust upon any student. Ofcourse, they did have mandatory coursea but they were allowed to pick their area of expertise.

    In Indian apic, Mahabharat, there is a family of 5 brothers who all pick up different skills from their gurukul.

    Wonderful article and very thought provoking.


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