There are some places or events where the atmosphere is so focused and palpable that mental immersion in the situation is almost inescapable: the starting line of a marathon, a solemn religious service, a college classroom during a final exam. Whether it was your intention to be involved or not, when someone puts an extensive amount of effort into creating a specific atmosphere, you will have some sort of reaction. When the creator of the atmosphere is knowledgeable about the participants, they can make the environment most conducive to the preferred response.
In educating our children, we want to create an atmosphere conducive to effective education while encouraging an appropriate response from our children. We want them to love learning and to take on the initiative of lifelong learning. We hope that they are absorbing and applying what we teach. Sometimes, we just pray that we make it through this subject with our sanity intact. Kids are astonishingly resilient; they can learn and thrive even in less than optimal circumstances. But when we have the chance – we should do our best to immerse them in an atmosphere that allows them to begin from a position of strength.
To create that tangible atmosphere of education in our homes, we must be intentionally evident about our goals. Kids see what we do far more than they hear what we say, and they mostly listen to what we say when we think they aren’t listening. So in those two areas, what have your children seen and heard in your home atmosphere? Do they see us being intentional about how and why we provide their educational opportunities? Do they see you decide to learn a new skill even if you’re “too old”? Do they see us put in the practice to improve our handwriting, excel at our music or art, or repair the car ourselves? Have they heard conversations about ways to learn new things? Do they know that you spend hours making sure they have the curriculum, opportunities, and materials to have an excellent education? Let them see you learn and struggle and practice. Let them know that we are pouring our minds and hearts into creating an environment where they can best absorb knowledge. Let them see that it is fantastic to still be practicing and learning even as adults. Kids will catch the evidence if it’s there.
The atmosphere of our educational world should display an excitement level that is closer to a marathon starting line than a traditional religious service. Be excited! Learning has tedium to work through, but the atmosphere that we present to our children should be intentionally enthusiastic. This tends to be easier with younger children “isn’t it fun to look up why a leopard’s spots are this shape?” and more difficult in high school “let’s just review that formula again and see if it sticks.” Rather than whipping up artificial enthusiasm for specific subjects, work towards a lifestyle that is excited to learn even the hard things. Show that even when you’re troubled by a problem, you’re grateful and optimistic about the ability to find out what can resolve the issue. There’s no need to be an artificially bright Pollyanna; it’s possible to be frustrated and still have an affirmative response to the chance to learn something new.
Every created atmosphere expects a response. This is no different for creating an atmosphere of learning. You will spend years working to create an environment conducive to learning. You will teach and lead and show on an endless cycle. But one thing that we can do to encourage an atmosphere of education is to create the expectation of learning. Suppose you make it evident that learning is happening and show enthusiasm and excitement for educating yourself and others. In that case, you will naturally create an expectation of learning within your sphere of influence. Kids who grow up in homes where personal hygiene is modeled, taught, and expected from an early age have few struggles with those habits later in life. The same goes for eating sensibly, attending religious services, personal discipline, and more. Expectations form a comfortable reality for young children. Suppose the home’s atmosphere shows children that consistent progress in personal education is expected and practiced by every family member. In that case, they will be well-equipped for a lifetime of learning.
The atmosphere of education in our family and home will be based primarily upon applying these ideas of evidence, excitement, and expectation. Our kids need to know that education matters to us, and we can build an atmosphere that guides their hearts and minds into a lifelong love of learning and self-improvement.