This article is part of a series on Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles. If you would like to read the previous blog posts, start here.

Principles 5, 6, 7, and 8 are interconnected.

5. Therefore, we are limited to three educational instruments––the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit, and the presentation of living ideas. The P.N.E.U. Motto is: “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.”

Then Charlotte expands on the three parts of this motto:

 6. When we say that “education is an atmosphere,” we do not mean that a child should be isolated in what may be called a ‘child-environment’ especially adapted and prepared, but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the child’s’ level.

 7. By “education is a discipline,” we mean the discipline of habits, formed definitely and thoughtfully, whether habits of mind or body. Physiologists tell us of the adaptation of brain structures to habitual lines of thought, i.e., to our habits.

 8. In saying that “education is a life,” the need of intellectual and moral as well as of physical sustenance is implied. The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore children should have a generous curriculum.

First: Education is an atmosphere.

Charlotte says this does not mean that we dumb-down our environment for our children. Rather, “take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere.” 

In real life, the way this plays out is this: we made small changes to our home over time to create an environment that lends itself to valuing Christ and the fact that he wants us to grow in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man.

I made a list of how I want my kids to remember our home when they are older. It included things like:

  1. Mom and Dad taught me to love God.
  2. Mom and Dad read to me. 
  3. Mom and Dad liked to read.
  4. We had alot of books.
  5. We played outside alot.
  6. We learned alot about the natural world.
  7. Our house was full of hospitality.

Changes we made to reach these goals: 

  1. We read the Bible every morning, even if it’s not a “school day.”
  2. We always have a family read-aloud going.
  3. In the evenings, my kids see me reading. My husband and I often discuss what books we are reading with each other.
  4. We have thousands of books on all kinds of subjects.
  5. We visit the library often.
  6. We bought hammocks, cool chairs, and a fire pit to encourage outdoor time.
  7. We planted a garden. Flowers, because we don’t have enough sun for veggies.
  8. We found a group of friends that play in a creek every week and make it a priority to play with them.
  9. In the car, we listen to hymns and folk songs that are special to our family.
  10. We pick one composer every 12 weeks or so to listen to in the car. In the evenings, we may play some of his/her music as well.
  11. We spend money on dance and music lessons that enrich our kids’ lives.
  12. We invite kids from our ministry to join us for dinners, zoo trips, park days.
  13. We intentionally have people over to our house to play board games and eat dinner.
  14. We try not to spend much on modern entertainment. We do not have Amazon Prime or Netflix (at the time of this blog post). We will sign up for a streaming service for a month or so at a time if there’s a certain series or movie we want to watch, but in general, we try to spend our money on things that positively enrich our family – and most modern entertainment just doesn’t cut it.

These changes were made slowly over 16 years of raising kids and making choices about our lives and educational plans. Not all even in the same year. 

To make an environment that will enrich your kids, first, make a list of your goals. Then think of changes you can make to align your household routines to those goals…just a few at a time. They don’t have to cost money. In fact, if you stop spending money on things that don’t align with your goals, you will be saving money.

Education is an atmosphere. Make the atmosphere align with the vision God has given you for your family.

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