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.”

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.

Principle 5 is more like an introduction to the next three principles, so I’ve grouped 5 and 8 together here.

Mason uses a metaphor throughout her writing – that curriculum is like a feast. The feast of curriculum should be generous and contain a wide variety of foods. In principle 5, she continues this comparison. Just like our stomachs need food to live, our minds need a wide and generous curriculum to thrive. Our minds work best when fed the best ideas by the best authors.

Ideas are central to a Charlotte Mason education – much more important than specific dates and facts. Although facts will support ideas, memorizing a list of facts is not actually useful unless your educational goal is winning Jeopardy. But absorbing ideas, seeing how those ideas pop up in Great books, and seeing the Great books talk with each other will help a soul and mind grow. 

Put all these three together: Atmosphere, Discipline, Life. Introduce excellent ideas in a disciplined, rich atmosphere: This is the beginning of a wonder – full way to teach children. 

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