But what is meant by atmosphere, discipline and life? Three different aspects of an adequate education, but what exactly are they anyway?
Atmosphere, it seems to me, is like the air we breathe. It is the surroundings and feelings and circumstances that we interact with on a regular basis. CM says that the atmosphere must not be engineered for children, but that there are opportunities for learning within day-to-day living without structuring a specialized "child-environment."
Discipline appears to be training, especially in good moral, physical and intellectual habits.
By life, I think she means a diet of ideas from a large variety of books and things, things and books.
Each one of these, taken by itself, does not provide a well-rounded education. We cannot expect the child to fully become the person God wants her to be merely by standing by and watching her interact with whatever comes her way. CM said that this "atmosphere only" approach tends to lead children away from initiative and effort, and into the expectation that life will just happen for them with no intention on their part. As for a life of ideas only, CM points out that a constant focus on ideas leads to intellectual exhaustion. And if we lean only on discipline as the way to educate a child, we must be wary, because it is so easy, in our attempts to develop the faculties of the child by drill and rote learning, to lose the exposure to noble and heroic ideals. Miss Mason illustrates this well:
The father of Plutarch had him learn his Homer that he might get heroic ideas of life. Had the boy been put through his Homer as a classical grind, as a machine for the development of faculty, a pedant would have come out, and not a man of the world in touch with life at many points, capable of bringing men and affairs to the touchstone of a sane and generous mind. It seems to me that this notion of the discipline which should develop 'faculty' has tended to produce rather one-sided men, with the limitations which belong to abnormal development. (CMSeries Volume 3, p. 151-152)
So each one of these is important: atmosphere, discipline, life. But each one is only a part of education. Without the other two, education is incomplete. And what is education? CM says it is the science of relations, the child forming relationships with a great variety of things, and making connections between one thing (or idea) and another.
Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life. I have been studying CM for two years now, and I am finally beginning to understand the motto. Perhaps within the next two years I will be able to unravel what she means by this:
These three we believe to be the only instruments of which we may make lawful use in the upbringing of children; and any short cut we take by trading on their sensibilities, emotions, desires, passions, will bring us and our children to grief. The reason is plain; habits, ideas, and circumstances are external, and we may all help each other to get the best that is to be had of these; but we may not meddle directly with the personality of child or man. We may not work upon his vanity, his fears, his love, his emulation, or any thing that is his by very right, anything that goes to make him a person. (CMSeries Vol. 3 p. 182-183)Whew. All these ideas are intellectually exhausting. I think I'd better get to bed.