This "Nature of the Child" blog serves as a record of our at-home atrium journey.
I considered waiting to share our experience, because it’s not perfect—we certainly don’t have a complete set of materials, and I certainly have more reading to do. But I feel a tugging to share now, in our process. In our imperfection I find an invitation and the undeniable reality that “the only Teacher is Christ.”
Our materials are thrift shop finds or gifts. Our work is implemented directly from Dr. Maria Montessori’s writings and my limited Level 1 training with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. (We recently moved from Texas, where I started my training, to a remote mountain town in California, where we don’t have access to CGS.)
The photos here are staged using the actual materials from atrium. (I don’t think it’s possible to be a directress and blogger/photographer simultaneously.) I think these materials and photos are beautiful but unlike a messy room staged for an Instagram post, the real-deal atrium moments are infinitely more beautiful than any photo. It’s impossible to capture the peace, love, and true beauty that accompanies the moments in the atrium. Witnessing the child contemplate the supernatural is an experience of true wonder. If you’re a catechist or you’ve observed an atrium, you know.
First, what is the atrium?
The use of an atrium for catechesis is not a new idea. Atriums were used in the early Church.
Dr. Maria Montessori describes the child’s atrium in great detail. She also gives this brief description:
“I would keep it separate. I would have a separate room dedicated to the supernatural. Everything in this room would have a bearing on the spiritual life, and the general effect would be that here the soul of the child and all his activities would be centered in the life and personality of our Lord. The work in this room would of course include: Bible History, Church History, the Lives of the Saints, and the Liturgy.”
CGSUSA.org describes the atrium as:
“The atrium is a place of prayer, in which work and study spontaneously become meditation, contemplation, and prayer. The atrium is a place in which the only Teacher is Christ; both children and adults place themselves in a listening stance before his Word and seek to penetrate the mystery of the liturgical celebration.”
In our home, we have three bedrooms. We’ve transformed our guest room into our atrium. (When we have guests we will host them in our children’s room. At these times the kids will sleep with us. Having this space is worth the lost sleep we’re sure to endure.)
“We shall then probably have to create an altogether different environment and we shall also have to modify our own personal attitude toward the child. But the results will easily outweigh any sacrifices because, in thus giving the child the full opportunity to live his own religious life, we shall realize that religion will have much deeper roots in his soul, and will depend much less on the stimulus of the teacher.” -Dr. Maria Montessori
To signify that it is a special, reserved space, the door is kept shut all day. Before entering we stand before the door and quiet our minds and bodies.
Evey (4.5) was in CGS in Texas and has a naturally peaceful disposition—she does so well. Ronan (2.5) is new to the atrium and is very rambunctious. He loves to be loud and grab at things. Sometimes we need to stop and begin again. This is partly what I think of when I tell you that “it’s not perfect!” We are all learning in this process.
This week I will share on floral arranging and setting up a home altar.
You're welcome to join us in this process. I hope you're inspired just to start, wherever you are. You don't need expensive materials, and even a corner of your home will do as a special little oratory! I write as "just" a mother who is faithful to Church teaching and humbly in pursuit of living the Montessori way. I do not speak with any authority on Catholic catechesis or on behalf of CGS, who we love and greatly respect.