Mother's Education

On Mother Culture

July 21, 2014 by Brandy Vencel

This series wouldn’t be complete without Mother Culture. After all, we’ve talked about Miss Mason’s continuing self-education and how she educated her teachers, the Mothers’ Education Course, and more! If we’re going to be thorough, we simply must touch on Mother Culture.


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So what is Mother Culture, exactly? Mother Culture is actually the title of an article that appeared in Miss Mason’s Parents’ Review magazine in Volume 3 — that means 1892-1893! I’ve seen the term thrown around elsewhere, but for our purposes, since our interests here are historical, we’re going to take our description straight from the original article.

Mother Culture is, simply put, an act of the mother in which she continues her own education throughout her mothering years. This is a way the mother feeds ideas to her own mind, keeping it nourished and growing. Its primary purpose seems to be better serving others:

There is no sadder sight in life than a mother, who has so used herself up in her children’s childhood, that she has nothing to give them in their youth.

If the mother keeps growing, she continually has something to offer to her children:

[T]hough she may do much for her children, she cannot do all she might, if she, as they, were growing!

The article leaves no room for a mother who says that she is just oh so busy that she does not have time for reading and learning:

They not only starve their minds, but they do it deliberately, and with a sense of self-sacrifice which seems to supply ample justification.

So how much time should be devoted to Mother Culture? The article recommends thirty minutes out of every twenty-four hours:

Can any of us say till we have tried, not for one week, but for one whole year, day after day, that we “cannot” get one half-hour out of the twenty-four for “Mother Culture?” — one half-hour in which we can read, think, or “remember.”

Does Mother Culture have a curriculum? Here is a description I’m sure you will all find pleasant and welcome:

The wisest woman I ever knew — the best wife, the best mother, the best mistress, the best friend — told me once, when I asked her how, with her weak health and many calls upon her time, she managed to read so much, “I always keep three books going — a stiff book, a moderately easy book, and a novel, and I always take up the one I feel fit for!”

Some of you look at the Mother’s Education Course and you can’t wait for something like that. But I know that others of you look at it and it’s just another insurmountable thing you Can’t Do. I’ve been in both camps.

I didn’t read anything other than my Bible the first year that I was a mother. I was just so overwhelmed and lonely. By the end of that year, I knew it’d be the death of me if I continued that behavior, and so I started to read again.

When I had lots of really young children, the MEC would have overwhelmed me, too. But I had a stack of books — usually at least seven because I tend to be overboard with the book stack — and I did what this article advised. I picked up what I felt I was able to read. I read while nursing or rocking a baby — basically whenever it was possible.

I read when I had time alone. It helped. I was me again. I had thoughts in my brain that were bigger than diapering and feeding and changing and all the minutia of daily life with babies that we can lose ourselves in. The higher thoughts were a lever that lifted me up and helped me see a bigger picture than my small self with its small personal concerns.

Now, my children are older. A curriculum has been good for me. I’ve read through all of the first six years of AmblesideOnline with my oldest, and it has been an absolute joy. It’s been amazing.

What I’ve learned is that there is a time for reading a lot, and a time for reading a little, and though we should never stop learning and growing, it takes wisdom to know how much is appropriate.

Next time, we’ll discuss the role of magazines in continuing education. This one should be interesting!

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13 Comments

  • Reply There's No Substitute for Reading (Get Your Fall 2019 Mother Culture Habit Trackers!) | Afterthoughts September 3, 2019 at 12:29 pm

    […] that she thought kept a woman on the path of growth and maturity in the midst of busy motherhood. (You can read more about this article here.) Here’s the basic gist of the […]

  • Reply More on Mother Culture | Practical Pages April 11, 2019 at 7:55 am

    […] of After Thoughts wrote a lovely post On Mother Culture where she encourages mothers to devote time daily to Mother Culture.  She recommends that mothers […]

  • Reply A Mama's Continuing Education: Oh, the Endless Possibilities! | Afterthoughts February 27, 2019 at 11:01 pm

    […] bare minimum variety that I found anywhere, the one suggested for mothers in the most difficult years of mothering (meaning the diaper and toddler years) was to have three books: a hard one, a moderately easy one, […]

  • Reply How She Learns: My Personal Continuing Education Journey | Afterthoughts October 25, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    […] I’ve already told you that I think the possibilities are endless. There are a million creative ways that we can continue learning while we do this wife/mom/homeschool/insert-other-job-name-here gig. So today, I’m going to tell you what I actually do. Keep in mind that it looked almost totally different when I had four little children, three of whom were under the age of four. I was lucky at that time to get in that 30-minute-per-day minimum. […]

  • Reply The Summer 2015 Mother Culture Reading List | Afterthoughts July 25, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    […] do remember Mother Culture, don’t you? This term, first appearing {so far as I know} as the title of a Parents’ […]

  • Reply The Summer 2016 Mother Culture Reading List | Afterthoughts July 25, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    […] Mother Culture. You can read details on Mother Culture here, but the bottom line is to have three books going at all times, and read a minimum of one […]

  • Reply The 2017 Mother Culture Reading List! | Afterthoughts July 25, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    […] It’s that time again! For those of you who are new around here, let me briefly explain. Each summer, I compile two lists of recommended reading. The first one this year is the Mother Culture Reading List. This is totally a Charlotte Mason thing, and if you want to know more about it, I wrote a post on Mother Culture that you should check out. […]

  • Reply SS #21: Amusing Ourselves to Leisure | Scholé Sisters March 31, 2017 at 2:08 am

    […] Mother Culture […]

  • Reply Beyond Surviving – Hidden with Christ February 14, 2017 at 8:39 am

    […] she encouraged mothers to find 30 minutes every day to spend reading, thinking, or remembering.  One mother said, ” I had thoughts in my brain that were bigger than diapering and feeding and changing and […]

  • Reply CTLP Ep 23- Cultivating Your Mama Culture with Brandy Vencel | Bold Turquoise January 12, 2017 at 12:00 am

    […] Here is one of Brandy’s posts on the idea of Mother Culture. […]

  • Reply Reading to Grow | May 1, 2015 at 5:38 am

    […] Charlotte Mason believed in a generous curriculum, full of good quality books that contained living ideas. She also believed in the importance of self-education for mothers. The term mother culture became associated with this. I like what Brandy had to say about mother culture in her post On Mother Culture: […]

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