Mother’s Education Course: Summer 2015

I said in my Mother Culture Booklist post that I would also do a Mother’s Education Course list. I also said that I recommend the Mother Culture approach when you have small children. So please keep that in mind as you read. This is more intense than the other, simpler goal of 30 minutes per day and three “levels” of reading, and it’s not for everyone.

Mothers' Education Course

If you recall, Charlotte Mason’s Mothers’ Education Course had four main subject divisions:

  1. Divinity
  2. Physiology and health {with an emphasis on caring for children}
  3. Mental and moral science and education
  4. Nature lore and the elements of science

For myself, I’m also adding a fifth category: fiction and literature.

For each category, I’ll include a few suggestions, and then explain what I’m planning to read.



The divinity area answers some basic questions of biblical history and theology, as well as questions about passing on the faith to our children.

A good example is From God to Us, which I had to read in college. It answers the question of how we got our Bible. There were parts of it that I found dry and boring at the time, and I haven’t taken the time to reread it as an adult. This is the revised and expanded edition. That could make it better, but that could also make it worse. :) It’s a good starting place if you’re interested in the question of where the Bible came from and how we went from parchment scrolls written in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, to a printed book written in English.

Did I mention this is now over 400 pages. They weren’t joking when they called it “expanded.”

If you’re interested in the question, but don’t want to devote that amount to time to it, How We Got the Bible: A Visual Journey is a book that looks promising.

Clint Arnold was a professor where I studied in graduate school, so I trust him, and seeing images of the documents would be great. This is on my wishlist.

By the way, if you’re in Southern California, the Dead Sea Scrolls are in Los Angeles this summer, so you might want to go check them out while you can!

Some other suggestions for this category {I don’t mean easy, necessarily} might be:

Pilgrim TheologyThe Deep Things of GodRediscovering Catechism

I have a personal interest in the doctrine of the incarnation right now, and so my pick for this category for the summer is basically the original on this subject: On the Incarnation, by Athanasius.

The introduction is written by C.S. Lewis, and I’ve heard it’s very good. I’m excited to read it!


Physiology and Health

I’m sort of a health book junkie. My first two children had a lot of “issues” when they were preschoolers, so I read a lot of books on health and nutrition and diet. Also, my husband has an extensive library on the subject due to the nature of his work. I cobbled together some of my favorites, but also I can’t help but start with the podcasts I listen to regularly. I don’t listen to every episode. That would be too much! But I do pick the topics that interest me the most. The podcasts are:

Since the focus of this category is really the nurturing of children, I can’t miss the opportunity to mention this resource: Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child. While there is a lot of good reading in it, it isn’t one you’d sit down and read cover to cover. Instead, it’s a resource book. A lot of us have books like these in which we can look up vomiting or chicken pox and get some idea of what to do about it. What makes this one unique is that it isn’t limited to a pharmaceutical approach. Instead, it also explains the Bach Flower Remedies, herbal approach, and more. I love it for its breadth.

Here are a few books in this category that are good options for the summer:

Cure Your Child with FoodVitamin K2 and the Calcium ParadoxDeep Nutrition

As for me, I’m going to continue with a book I’ve been reading veeerrrryyyy ssssllloooowwwlllyyy because school and all that. It’s Move Your DNA and it’s all about movement.

I think a lot of it dovetails nicely with Miss Mason’s love for Swedish Drill.


Mental and Moral Science and Education

So, I might own a few books in this category, it’s true. I put a number of them in the Stiff category in my mother culture post, so here I’m going to name some titles that weren’t in that other list.

Liberal EducationConsider ThisBegin Here

As for me, I will continue with Arithmetic for Parents, which is just a wonderful book on teaching math.


Nature Lore and the Elements of Science

This summer, I’m reading aloud to my children from The Fairyland of Science by Arabella Buckley. I have a beautiful antique copy of this book, and it’s been waiting for some attention for a number of years. I’m not saying that it isn’t worth it for me to choose my own title — because I will — but honestly I have learned a lot of basic science and nature lore by reading good children’s science books aloud, so don’t underestimate that approach.

Here are some nature and science books to get you started:

Last Child in the WoodsNapoleon’s ButtonsThe Disappearing Spoon

I have a number of unread interesting science books lying around, so it was hard to make a decision. I think I’ve finally settled on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Fiction and Literature

So this is the category I added. Obviously, there is a whole world of literature and fiction out there, so I’ll just show you a few titles that are still sitting unread on my fiction and literature shelf that I am going to choose from, and then in the comments you can tell me what you’re reading yourself! That will be fun because then I can buy more books I do not have time to read.


Bleak HouseEmmaNathan Coulter

Of course, I already told you that what I really want to do is revisit the Galaxy …

Are you building a summer reading list? Do you use categories? Share all about it in the comments!

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  1. says

    A lot of great book ideas. Are they still working on the Mother’s Education project at AO?

    I’m setting aside the books I’ve been slowly reading since last summer, ahem, in order to get some books pre-read for school this fall. Right now, I’m reading Science Matters, Ideas Have Consequences, and The History of the Ancient World by Bauer. I have a couple of other books to read once I finish these…or at least once I finish the first two I mentioned. It might take me a good part of the summer to read The History of the Ancient World. :)

    • Brandy Vencel says

      Yes, AO is still (slowly) working on an MEC. Science Matters! That is on my list for…eventually. :) I bet you will love it. I hear such good things!

      • says

        I’m only just barely into the book, but already it discussed a concept in chapter one that is mentioned in chapter one of Ideas Have Consequences. I had never heard of the concept before reading about it in Science Matters and then to see it mentioned in Ideas Have Consequences, pretty neat. :)

  2. says

    I am definitely in the “Mother Culture” stage, but I just started reading a fascinating book by William Zinsser called Writing to Learn. Someone recommended another book by Zinsser, and I went and borrowed this one…the only one my library had. The book’s main point is that “Writing is how we think our way into any subject and make it our own.” That idea certainly resonates with me. Zinsser is a very engaging writer as well.

    • Brandy Vencel says

      Wow! I have never heard of that books before, Nelleke! I’m going to go look it up…it’ll probably end up on the wishlist. :)

      And I totally agree with that view of writing. That is how I ended up blogging in the beginning — because I needed that process in order to get my thoughts thunk. :)

    • Brandy Vencel says

      1776! Oh, how I love that book! I read it aloud a few years ago, when the children were FAR too young for it. Si and I loved it, though. :)

  3. Andrea says

    Oh how I appreciate you and your posts, your encouragement, your challenges and letting us in on how you journey on the homeschool route. Thanks! I’ve got some books lined up for the summer, mostly in the education genre. We farm full-time in summer so summer gives me the least amount of time to read. When you’ve got light until 10pm it’s hard to pull oneself from the field work.

    • Virginia Lee says

      Summer is my least reading time as well. Except for fiction. I do read a bit of that in the summer. My biggest reading time is winter. In CO it goes on for 6 months at least and I HIGHLY dislike the cold. So we are inside more and that means more books read.

      Is AO still putting together a Mother Culture course?

      • Brandy Vencel says

        In summer, it gets miserable in the afternoons, so it is prime reading time for us. But winter here is nice outdoor weather most of the time, so I suppose it’s a trade-off. :) All of that was really to say that I totally get it.

        And yes on the MEC. We are just slow. :)

        • Dawn says

          Woops. Sorry. I’m so used to seeing Amy Jo rave about it on the AO forum that I think of it as a known title like, say, the Bible. :) The title is Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics: Teachers’ Understanding of Fundamental Mathematics in China and the United States by Liping Ma. There is a new version-which is expensive- but I purchased the first edition for a reasonable price. I believe that it is a book that is essentially her dissertation while obtaining her PhD at Stanford, and it reads a bit like that: it is enlightening and incredibly informative, but it is not an easy read for someone who is not math oriented (ie like me).

          • Dawn says

            Sorry. Clearly this should have been below your response below. I have another response I wanted to add here.

            I wouldn’t say it is your “fault” that building an official MEC is slow going. To do it well – to do it properly – it has to be approached systematically and that takes time – no matter who is in charge of the project or how many people are involved. But when it is finished? It will have been worth the wait.

          • Brandy Vencel says

            Definitely worth the wait, I agree. I admit that I have trouble finishing projects, though. I have had a review to post in that Forum for three months now. Someone get me a rock behind which I can hide myself!!

          • Brandy Vencel says

            Well, that is what I get for doing FAR too much skimming lately on the Forum. :)

        • Virginia Lee says

          Come on, Brandy. Here I was holding my breath. Guess I’ll stop doing that now. 😉 And of course all that nice stuff Dawn said. :)

    • Brandy Vencel says

      One word: audio books. :)

      On the other hand, it’s probably nice to be fully present for much of your time outdoors. I was thinking about that this morning on my walk. Should I listen to the iPod? Or listen to the birds? I think I’ve chosen to alternate. :)

      • Heather M says

        Sometimes I listen to podcasts outside, but really I try to be present there–taking in the smells, the sounds, that’s what is really refreshing. I notice more that way. But, I admit I’ve been known to listen to a podcast in order to motivate myself to do a dreaded task like weed.

  4. Dawn Duran says

    Great collection of books, Brandy! It could contribute to an MEC for quite a while until the official AO version is ready.:)

    I do have From God to Us and did find it dry. I didn’t finish…but it is a good idea to pull it out and read from it in bits again as a part of an MEC. I like it. I read Athanasius in 2013 with the Lewis intro and enjoyed it very much. I am working on Augustine’s Confessions but it is slow going.

    I haven’t been able to read my copy of Move Your DNA with all the other books I’m balancing, but I’m more tempted than ever to do so now.

    You are REALLY tempting me with this Math book, Brandy. Please convince me that it is worth the price tag. I have Liping Ma’s book and it is enlightening but incredibly dense reading. But I strongly desire to have my son fall in love with math in a way that I never did.

    “…then I can buy more books I do not have time to read.”
    I’m so glad it’s not just me…

    • Brandy Vencel says

      I will try to write more about the math book as I go on, Dawn. I haven’t heard of the Liping Ma book — wanna share the title? It is possible both books answer some of the same questions, which means you might not want to spring for the one you don’t have…

      ps. it is DEFINITELY not just you. :)

  5. Amanda says

    I would love to join you reading St. Athanasius this summer! Already bought the Kindle version. :) I do tend to be heavier into the Divinity category… Right now I’m finishing up Simply Christian by N.T. Wright (with our church small group), What’s So Great About Christianity by Dinesh D’Souza (on my own), and I’ve been joining two Orthodox moms and a fellow Anglican reading through the Apostolic Fathers. Plus a few smaller things on Eastern Orthdoxy, just because. :)

    I need to finish The Disappearing Spoon, still, and then I’d like to start The Soul of Science by Pearcy & Thaxton.

    For fun/fiction, I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s “The Signature of All Things,” about a brilliant woman botanist at the turn of the 19th century. (That counts for nature lore, too, right? Lol)

    Almost finished with “The Best Yes,” by Lysa Terkeurst, which I think falls into Mental/Moral Science. It’s been great to go through that with my CC moms. I can’t decide what to do next… Leisure the Basis of Culture, and Teaching From a State of Rest are at the top of my list. :)

    And then there’s the pre-reading/re-reading of all my kiddos books for the coming year. To Kill a Mocking Bird is on that list – yay!

    • Brandy Vencel says

      Hey! I think my husband is reading that D’Souza book right now! Reading through the apostolic fathers sounds lovely! I saw that opportunity on FB a while back when they first mentioned it, but I was afraid that if I joined another book club my husband would have me institutionalized. 😉

      Not that you asked for my advice, but Leisure is the theoretical while TfR is practical. The tendency would be, I think, to read TfR first because it is *easier* and while I definitely see the argument for that, since theory and belief often precede practice, I would be tempted to read Leisure first, were I you. {Which I’m not. Ha.}

  6. says

    I’m reading Arithmetic for Parents right now too; math is not my forte, but I’m slowly trying to reclaim it and understand it’s beauty. That little books helps; our math lessons are becoming much more productive and so much less stressful. I’m excited to check out your other resources too, especially the science books. (Which is the next subject I’m going to try to reclaim!) Thanks for giving direction!

    • Brandy Vencel says

      I’m glad you’re enjoying it, too! I love that one of his goals is to help non-mathy people better understand math. :)

  7. Heather M says

    My divinity category is usually pretty sparse, mostly because I can hardly stand modern writers (maybe I’ve been reading the wrong ones). I can’t stand formulaic writing of a point, anecdotal story to illustrate point and in general taking way too many words to say the same thing over and over. Reading the church fathers sounds like a great idea. I know have Augustine’s Confessions loaded on my kindle. I’m slowly reading the following: Nourising Broth by Sally Fallon, Adler’s How to Read a Book, Husband Coached Childbirth (my husband and are working on being Bradley Birth instructors), and Desiring the Kingdom. I am a binge fiction reader, but

    • Heather M says

      Oops pushed the button too soon…anyways…I just finished LOTR for who knows how many times so I’m in the market for a new fiction read. Thanks for the encouragement to branch out in categories I don’t think I would have done it without the prompting a that it can be slow and steady.

      • Brandy Vencel says

        We are reading The Two Towers aloud right now! It is tempting to just stay in Middle Earth forever, isn’t it? :)

  8. says

    Well, somehow my comment about what I’ll be reading this summer turned into a blog post. I hope it’s ok to post the link here (or just click my name):

    I also wanted to give a recommendation for the Mental and Moral Science and Education category: Life Under Compulsion by Anthony Esolen. I bought and read it after you posted about it on Facebook. Let’s just say I have thirteen pages of quotes in my commonplace and more to add…

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