Last year at this time, I published my first Mothers’ Education Course booklist. My idea at the time was that those of us who want to take our summer reading seriously would do well to align our reading with Charlotte Mason’s model in her Mothers’ Education Course. You can read more about her course here.
If you want the brief version, Charlotte Mason’s Mothers’ Education Course had four main subject divisions:
- Physiology and health (with an emphasis on caring for children)
- Mental and moral science and education
- Nature lore and the elements of science
So, before I share my list, let me explain a few things. First, this list is different from last year’s list. I only say this so that you realize that if you’ve never done this before, there are even more options than you imagine. Ha. Second, I try to closely align my suggestions with books that Miss Mason used in her own program. In fact, in some instances, I recommend an exact book that she used! Lastly, please do not think that I am reading all of these books this summer. I’m not! This is my idea of a course, built both from books I plan to read this summer or in the future, plus books I have already read. I consider this post a list of options to choose from, not a recommended reading list for the summer — I certainly couldn’t read this many books in one summer and still have a balanced life.
The divinity category attempts answers to basic questions of biblical history and theology, as well as questions about passing on the faith to our children.
In the first year of Charlotte Mason’s Mothers’ Education Course, a lesser-known volume by Charlotte Mason, The Saviour of the World Volume 1, was assigned. This book was one we talked about fairly extensively in the Scholé Sisters podcast with Art Middlekauff. I didn’t have a copy at the time, and before I could buy one, my sweet friend, Holly, gave me one as a gift. I’m very excited to crack it open this summer! This book is Charlotte Mason’s own poetic commentary on the Gospels.
This little book, Seeing Christ in All of Scripture, is only available on Kindle. The good news is it’s inexpensive. The bad news is that you can’t write in it. This is really disappointing if, like me, you believe marginalia is good for the soul. One of Charlotte Mason’s main focuses (foci?) in her course was to view the Old Testament as part of a progressive revelation from God. I’m pretty sure this basic hermeneutics text will assist in that goal. I have it on my Kindle, ready to go for summer.
In addition to reading, I’m adding a podcast that will function as a mini-course on Genesis. When I was in seminary, my very favorite class was Genesis. I read Genesis between 30 and 50 times that semester, and it never got old. It is still my favorite Old Testament book. My pastor has been teaching a basic Biblical theology course called Deeper that has been covering Genesis lately, and I intend to keep up via podcast.
Physiology and Health
The LDN Book is one I’m reading as research for The Low-Energy Mom’s Guide to Homeschooling. I think it’s a little too specialized for Charlotte Mason’s original course, but it’s what I’m actually reading in this category, so I’m putting it on my list. It’s a fascinating book about a generic drug with a lot of potential for treating what I think of as the mystery illnesses — bipolar, MS, chronic fatigue, etc. I’ll be writing more about it later.
The focus of this category is actually supposed to be the care of children, including nursing them when they are sick. It’s hard to add anything to last year’s list, which contained many of my favorites, but I will say that as I have spent this last year learning to use homeopathy to treat basic illness and injury, I’ve found that the book I end up referring to again and again is Homeopathic Medicine at Home. It’s really the charts that make it so handy — I can quickly use them to match symptoms to remedies when I’m unsure.
A podcast that fits in this category, and one that I listen to occasionally, is The Healthy Moms Podcast.
If you want to go an entirely different direction, I’m pretty sure everyone should read at least one book by Oliver Sacks. My pick for my next read by him is The Island of the Colorblind. This book will not directly help us better educate our own children, I don’t think, but I’m convinced that Sacks wrote living books, and his questions about what it means to be human are good ones for us all to ponder.
Mental and Moral Science and Education
Charlotte Mason’s goal for this category was to show the principles of education, as well as methods based on these principles.
My first pick for this category is one that Charlotte Mason herself put into her course: The Four Socratic Dialogues by Plato. I agree with Charlotte Mason: understanding education means we need to go all the way back to Plato to get a foundation. She classified this book as “theory of education.” If you’re wondering which dialogues are included here, it is Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, and Phaedo. I’m excited about this book because all I’ve read by Plato is The Republic.
Another book on my list, which I’ve had on my shelf for a while now, is A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley. This is another one that I think might be too specific to have made it on Charlotte Mason’s original course list, but is still good reading. I’m always trying to work on my ability to teach math.
Of course, if you haven’t already read Charlotte Mason’s volumes, that is a good place to start. Those volumes were, almost all of them, assigned over the three years of the MEC. One way to study Charlotte Mason, of course, is to use my Start Here study guide, read Volume 1 of Newbie Tuesday, or get something else out of my shop.
Another book on Miss Mason’s original list dealt with training character and the educational aspects of habit. I’ve been considering You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K.A. Smith as a good fit here. I’ve read another book by Smith on a similar theme, but I’m curious whether this particular volume more closely fits the topic.
Nature Lore and the Elements of Science
The MEC notes say that the purpose of this category is to awaken children’s interest in nature and to give them their first ideas. I suppose that in order to do this, the mother must Know About Things? And that is the logic behind the assignments? This is my best guess. This category covers geology, botany, astronomy, etc. My guess is that the best use of time, for those of us who use AmblesideOnline, is to read some of the upper level science books. Not only are they a wonderful science education for us, but this will also serve as pre-reading.
Have I mentioned how much I love the new science? We are finishing up our second year and it has been amazing!
So, my thought is that these books would all be good choices:
What Are You Reading?
And how do you plan your summer reading? Pretty soon, I hope to publish a less-intense version of a summer reading list. This sort of endeavor is not for everyone. But for those of you who relish a challenge … enjoy!
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