In Parallel: Atmosphere and Habits

Over the past few weeks we’ve explored Charlotte Mason’s educational tool of discipline from various angles: the limits of this tool, how habits work on our hearts, and even how to approach building good habits. After this week I’ll depart from habits for a while, but not until we take a look at how habits integrate with another of Charlotte Mason’s educational tools: atmosphere.

I sometimes think that atmosphere suffers from inattention and even misunderstanding. It’s not as straightforward as the educational tool of life (read to your children! Read, read, read!) and it doesn’t offer the same sort of payoff as habit training (smooth and easy days!). It feels less tangible and harder to use in a way, partly because atmosphere is what it is. We might be able to cultivate it, but we certainly can’t fake the culture in which our children live and move and have their being. Our children are constantly learning through the examples set before them alongside their experiences that come as they live life.

So how do we cultivate atmosphere? While there is something to be said for our own intellectual life and mother culture, we can also look to our habits. What do we make normal for our children through our repeated actions? To what do we give our attention, time, and money? What has value? Not ideally, but in reality?

I write those questions and I know I’m not happy with my own answers. There is need for reflection, repentance, reorientation, and much growth.

This week I have two articles – one recent, one from 1897 – that get us thinking about the influence we have on our children through the atmosphere created by our habits, attention, values, and faith. 

To Read In Parallel:

How Do Our Kids Stay Christian?: Cameron Shaffer discusses what churches need to do to raise kids in the faith, and it has a whole lot to do with raising up parents in the faith.

Christianity is taught, not caught, but how it is taught affects whether kids hold onto it. Parents who successfully inculcate steadfast faith and love of God joyfully demonstrate the importance of their own faith on a daily basis.

Is the faith of parents sincere? Do they value and talk about their faith? Does it visibly inform their decisions? Does faith characterize their regular, daily behavior and conversations, or is it compartmentalized to worship services and being around church people? Do they acknowledge their shortcomings without hypocrisy? Do parents clearly love God? Do they delight in Jesus?

The Atmosphere of the Home: M.F. Jerrold. I’ve shared this article on the blog before, but it deserves to be read many times over. Perhaps the greatest way we influence our children is by demonstrating what has value through our actions.

There are many important aspects of home-life from first training to highest education; but there is nothing in the way of direct teaching that will ever have so wide and lasting an effect as the atmosphere of home. And the gravest thought concerning this is that in this instance there is nothing to learn and nothing to teach: the atmosphere emanates from ourselves–literally is ourselves; our children live in it and breathe it, and what we are is thus incorporated into them. There is no pretence here or possibility of evasion; we may deceive ourselves: in the long run, we never deceive our children.

What atmosphere emanates from your personal habits? How have you seen the impact of your habits on your children, especially when it comes to raising them in faith?

A letter from me to you, every week.

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