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’ specially 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. –Charlotte Mason
I asked my 10-year-old son what he thought he has learned by living in México. His immediate response of “that to get things, you have to suffer” was not what I was expecting. But he’s right. Everything is more difficult here, more difficult than you might imagine. So how can I, his mother, provide an atmosphere for education when just meeting the basic necessities of life takes so much time and effort?
How do I create an atmosphere for learning?
I provide options for investigation.
I am a teacher and as such have a natural tendency to provide my son with stimulating games and books at a variety of levels. When my son asked me what happened to the dinosaurs, I had a book already in my home library that offered a variety of theories. It was quite advanced scientifically so, I had him skim what was presented there, allowed him to ask me questions about things he didn’t understand and then asked him what he thought the answer to his question might be. When he said he still wasn’t sure, I was pleased to say that neither is anyone else. Did he learn something from his investigation? Most definitely. When we found a dinosaur print in La Yacata, he went back to the same book to try and identify the dinosaur that made the print. Again, he wasn’t sure that he had the correct answer, but finding the one right answer wasn’t the point in the educational experience.
I allow my son to be involved in economic decisions.
Each of our various business ventures have been family efforts. My son has a stake in what we decide to embark on and therefore, has a say in the matter. He also has obligations to make the venture as success as well. When we had the Crap Shoppe, he learned, mostly from his abuelita (grandma) about doing business and negotiation. I could trust him to make sales while I ran to the store or went to teach a class. This has served him well. He has just started his first outside-of-the-family job. He works from 9:30 to 12 Wednesdays in the mercado (market) selling plastic bags to the merchants. He takes a cart and goes store to store offering his wares. He works along with the nephew of the owner, but after the first day, he told the owner that since he did all the work, he should receive a percent of the sales rather than a fixed amount. The truth was in the pudding, since when the nephew went alone on Saturday, he sold next to nothing. My son now gets 10% of the sales.
I set an example.
Adapting to this new life has not been easy for me. I make social blunders all the time. It requires every bit of my focused attention to pick up the cultural nuances and make sense of them. I have stumbled along paths that are not remotely what I had in mind when the journey began. And I have learned from it all. I have pointed out to him that even those people who make me uncomfortable, laugh at my errors or are downright mean, have taught me something. In fact, these people have been some of my best teachers. And that as long as I don’t give up, I haven’t failed. As he moves towards adolescence, with the desire to fit in and just be one of the crowd, I hope that my example will serve him well.
I learn from my son.
We work hard for every little bit we have and no, things don’t come easy. There are hundreds of little disappointments that make a bit of success so sweet. When I am tempted to grumble and curse about a late night walk home because of a flat tire, my son says, “Mom, have you ever seen the stars look so beautiful?” and I can look at it as the grand adventure that it is.
Creating an atmosphere for education is not providing high-tech teaching material in a child-centered classroom. Rather it is providing an environment that fosters questions and inspires wonder. Nothing new has ever been discovered, invented or learned without it.