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    Mother’s Education Course: Summer 2016

    May 25, 2016 by Brandy Vencel

    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:

    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
    A summer reading plan -- with options -- based upon Charlotte Mason's Mothers' Education Course. Consider this your summer reading challenge!

    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.

    four socratic dialogues

    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:

    Signs and SeasonsFirst Studies of Plant LifeEric Sloane’s Weather Book

    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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  • Reply Mothers' Education Course: Summer 2018 | Afterthoughts July 24, 2018 at 7:32 am

    […] Mothers’ Education Course 2016 […]

  • Reply Mothers' Education Course: Summer 2017 | Afterthoughts July 24, 2018 at 7:31 am

    […] Every year, I pattern my Mothers’ Education Course Summer Reading List after Charlotte Mason’s original work. As my understanding of the course deepens, I become pickier about the books I recommend. I feel like this year’s list is the best so far, and it’s not because the books are “the best” but because I think this list captures the heart of what Charlotte Mason was trying to do with her course. With that said, there are some great books in my former lists, so if you want to check them out, here is the 2015 Mothers’ Education Course Summer Reading List and the 2016 Mothers’ Education Course Summer Reading List. […]

  • Reply The Summer 2016 Mother Culture Reading List | Afterthoughts July 24, 2018 at 7:29 am

    […] know, I know: I published a Mother’s Education Course booklist last week. So what’s the deal with another list? Stick with me a bit, and this will make […]

  • Reply Deanna August 9, 2016 at 7:48 am

    I just found your blog while researching philosophy and methods for homeschool. I will homeschool my 10 year old this year, but I’m not a newbie (homeschooled her older siblings for 8 years total). I am pretty familiar with Charlotte Mason…mixed CM into the older kids’ day, I gravitate towards her educational thoughts, makes sense as does classical. Anyway, I’m finding myself leaning far more towards CM with a bit of classical mixed in for my 10 year old. If I found your blog in the beginning of summer, I would have been all over the Mother’s Education posts of yours. End of summer, no time now, but will keep several of these titles in mind for maybe throughout the year. Thank you for your efforts with maintaining your blog.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 9, 2016 at 9:16 am

      Welcome to Afterthoughts, Deanna! I’m glad you’re here! 🙂

      You know, you might also like my podcast, Scholé Sisters. From the sound of it, we cover topics that would be right up your alley. 🙂

      I will pray for you as you start a new season of homeschooling. ♥

  • Reply Kate July 21, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    Hi Brandy! Could you recommend a book for learning how to pray? My prayers are very clumsy and stumbly, I have a feeling that God doesn’t mind, but it occured to me after listening to a podcast on the Circe website that if imitation is a good way of teaching our children how to write and recognise good writing, I could apply to same principle to prayer.

    • Reply Lynette May 9, 2017 at 7:37 pm

      A Method for Prayer by Matthew Henry might provide those prayers to imitate that you were looking for almost a year ago.

      Valley of Vision would be a fabulous option as well.

  • Reply Zoe June 9, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    I recently finished Island of the Colourblind – so good! I’ve loved all the Sacks I’ve read so far.

  • Reply Even STEM kids need English » Simply Convivial June 8, 2016 at 7:53 am

    […] carving out my own reading time is one of the habits I’m building, I’m expanding to the Mother’s Education Course model Miss Mason lined out in order to keep myself well-rounded. I’ve modernized the topic […]

  • Reply Art Middlekauff June 4, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    I rejoice with you that received Charlotte Mason’s “The Saviour of the World Volume 1” as a gift. That edition was transcribed by Deborah Hough and she did a marvelous job. I am hoping that she will continue with volumes 4-6. It is so nice to be able to read the poems on a printed page. Another way to enjoy Mason’s poems is alongside the Bible text itself. I have found that I have been the most moved by the poems when I have just read the associated passage in the Gospel as part of my devotional reading. All six volumes of “The Saviour of the World” can be read in this way (for free) as described here:

  • Reply Mama Rachael May 31, 2016 at 10:38 am

    I struggle to do planned reading. I love the idea, for sure, but I’m finiky about what I want to read at the moment. I don’t do well having more than 1 book to read at a time. But maybe I just need to bite the bullet and make a plan….

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 1, 2016 at 3:36 pm

      Did you see today’s Mother Culture list? It sounds like that approach would be more your style. 🙂

      • Reply Mama Rachael June 1, 2016 at 4:25 pm

        Just saw it in my email… I look forward to reading!

  • Reply Nermari May 28, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    This list is very inspiring! I am, however, still a “newbie” at this, so I’ll be just focusing on CM’s Volume 1. And if possible, some of the books I picked up last week at the conference.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 29, 2016 at 10:19 am

      Hey! Did I meet you at the AO conference? Your name seems so familiar!

      Anyhow: good choice! You can’t go wrong with Vol 1! I’m rereading it again so that I don’t let my youngest fall through the cracks and I can’t believe how helpful it’s been even though I’ve read it a number of times before. 🙂

  • Reply Bonnie May 28, 2016 at 9:03 am

    Love the list! I read “A Mind for Numbers” last summer in conjunction with taking the Coursera course co-taught by the author herself, Learning How to Learn. I think you will find it is not at all ‘too specific’, but that it is more about learning how your brain learns and using that knowledge for all subjects (even if you originally thought you were only good at Fine/Liberal Arts topics instead of STEM). Excellent chapters on incorporating “diffuse thinking” time into your study habits (CM’s concept of allowing children time to process knowledge rather than scheduling tons of activities). Also, great chapters on procrastination, why we do it, and how we can form habits to make it easier to do what we ought rather than constantly using will power alone.

    I highly recommend doing the Coursera course in conjunction with the book, because you just get so much more. Incidentally, the next time it is offered live on Coursera, it starts June 6th.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 28, 2016 at 9:18 am

      Wow, thanks, Bonnie! I had no idea about the Coursera opportunity! It sounds amazing! ♥

  • Reply Melissa May 26, 2016 at 5:11 am

    I just posted a list here…

    …and then I read everyone else’s list and want to add to my own, ha! So many great books, so little time ;-p

  • Reply Dawn May 25, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    Sigh. I bought the Smith book despite not liking the first I read. Is actually meant to tell you they when I saw you last week bc I just knew you’d be intrigued, too. Like ANNE though I must end before I begin. ? I am reading I Promessi Sposi along with Jen though And it is fantabulous.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 25, 2016 at 9:37 pm

      Smith sucked you in, too, hm? Well, if it is bad we can all get together for another bonfire. 😉

      • Reply Jen Snow May 26, 2016 at 5:47 am

        Yes, please. Bonfire that is. Even if it’s not a bad book in the end….I’m sure we could find some twaddle to burn or something right?

        Okay, I just want an excuse to hang out with you beautiful people again. That is all.

        • Reply Dawn May 26, 2016 at 6:31 am

          Me, too. You’re not alone, Jen.

  • Reply Jen Snow May 25, 2016 at 11:31 am

    I will admit that I have been eyeing the new James KA Smith book too, even though Desiring the Kingdom was kinda meh in the end and I figured I didn’t really have time to bother about reading anymore from him after that. 😛 But the fact that it claims to discuss the same ideas in a more readable way…yeah, I’m curious. Also curious about Imagining the Kingdom after it appeared in a stack of recommended books on worship and liturgy that our worship pastor (an ordained Anglican priest) had that he said shaped his ideas about shaping worship services. And I wanted to be done with Smith…sigh. Probably not this summer though. I’m figuring this is mostly going to be a novel kind of summer because we’re still doing school for the first part, and traveling for the second part and most of my reading time is likely going to be afternoons while my kids are at the pool or while in the car…not really the place for dense reading. I’m leading the I Promessi Sposi discussion so obviously will be reading that. I want to finish Athanasius’ On the Incarnation. I *might* either re-read Consider This Slowly or CM Volume 2 which is one of the ones I’ve not read yet (5 is the other). But we’ll see if anytime for denser reading materializes. Ha!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 25, 2016 at 9:36 pm

      “I wanted to be done with Smith…” Oh, me TOO! It’s almost embarrassing, admitting I want to read this book, after I whined so much about the other one. But…it sounds so promising it is hard to ignore.

      I guess I didn’t realize you were leading the I Promessi Sposi discussion! I spent the whole first half of that book thinking, “Just get MARRIED ALREADY.” I was annoyed. But then somewhere in there I warmed up and now I’m at the end and in love. ♥

      • Reply Dawn May 26, 2016 at 2:05 am

        “It’s almost embarrassing, admitting I want to read this book, after I whined so much about the other one. But…it sounds so promising it is hard to ignore.”
        THIS. This is why I bought it. That and it was on sale. 🙂

        But yes – another bonfire should the need arise.

        I forgot to say that I am also reading Island of the World s-l-o-w-l-y. After a particularly tragic part I am in need of a break, but I am enjoying it immensely.

        AND – I started reading Anne of Green Gables for the FIRST TIME on my flight to TX. NOW I “get” why everyone is in love with Anne. SWOON!

        • Reply Jen Snow May 26, 2016 at 5:50 am

          Oh my goodness. It makes me feel SO much better to know that y’all are eyeing it too. At least I’m in good company. Now…to dump it in the Amazon cart when I order birthday books for the Boy or not….that is the question….

          I’m loving I Promessi Sposi already. Kinda glad that the way it’s worked out for that to be my slow-simmer read this summer. I think it’s going to be a good one, and not quite so much a doozy as Paradise Lost was. 😀

          I’m so glad that you are loving Anne, Dawn. I got a little worried there this weekend when you said you’d never read it. Our friendship is now secure. <3

          • Dawn May 26, 2016 at 6:31 am

            I’m relieved to know that, friend. 🙂

          • Brandy Vencel May 27, 2016 at 8:57 am

            Oh my goodness, you guys crack me up.

            But seriously: my real life best friend and I first bonded over a mutual love for Anne of Green Gables when we were in seventh grade. Seriously, that book can cement friendships. 🙂

          • Jen Snow May 27, 2016 at 1:50 pm

            True – about Anne that is. Dawn, you are joining my sisterhood on a whole ‘nother level. 🙂

            And…true confessions…I added You are What You Love to my Amazon cart last night when I ordered a couple of birthday books for my son. We shall see how *that* goes.

          • Dawn May 27, 2016 at 2:29 pm

            Ha! (to Jen)

            RE: Anne cementing friendships – much like the lovely relationship she shares with Diana, isn’t it?

          • Jen Snow May 28, 2016 at 5:06 am

            Oh my goodness, yes. Bosom friends. Really kindred spirits. <3

    • Reply Hillary June 24, 2016 at 1:07 pm

      So about the James K.A. Smith book – I knew I had read some discussion of it (here at Afterthoughts, it turns out) and then today I read an article about it here , which makes it sound quite different than the Amazon description did. Almost like two different books, I thought. It is on my wishlist now…

      • Reply Brandy Vencel June 24, 2016 at 1:55 pm

        Oh wow! That DOES sound different! I really, really want to read it, but I’m trying to make myself read some other things that I *need* to read first. Discipline like this is so hard! 🙂

        • Reply Hillary June 24, 2016 at 2:23 pm

          This is probably not where I suggest that reading it now would actually be a helpful, altruistic, public service project if you reviewed it and told us which review more closely matched the book’s contents… is it? 🙂

          • Brandy Vencel June 24, 2016 at 2:40 pm

            You are a bad influence on me … and I thank you for it. 😉

  • Reply Hannah Elise May 25, 2016 at 9:07 am

    I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the LDN book. I’ve heard it mentioned in thr Recovering Kids FB group, but haven’t read much about it. I’m working my way through Andrew Hall Cutler’s Amalgam Illness now, in preparation for removal of my amalgams this winter and subsequent chelation. I’m thinking it will deepen my understanding past the basics that were outlined in Fight Autism and Win.

    As for my summer reading list? Well, I’d like to add some of your nature study titles to the list, if budget allows, as my list is weak in that area and the titles you listed sound intriguing. Already on the shelf, though, are books such as:
    How to Read a Book (Mortimer Adler)
    The Road to Serfdom (F. A. Hayek)
    Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (Anthony Esolen)
    A Nation of Farmers: Defeating the Food Crisis on American Soil (Sharon Astyk & Aaron Newton)
    No Map to This Country: One Family’s Journey through Autism (Jennifer Noonan)

    As well as, hopefully, rereads of:
    Living the Sabbath (Norman Wirzba)
    Grace Based Parenting (Tim Kimmel)
    The Four Loves (C. S. Lewis)

    We’ll see how much of it actually happens. 😉

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 25, 2016 at 9:34 pm

      The Road to Serfdom was the first econ book I read as an adult…and still one of my faves. I love your whole list!

  • Reply Angela May 25, 2016 at 7:29 am

    Great suggestions! I also read James K.A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom last year (your blog was the second suggestions I’d seen for it). Good, but not light! A few months ago, I started reading City of God by Augustine, I was making progress, but was perplexed regarding a few theological issues. One of my pastors recommended Two Cities, Two Loves by Boice, which brings the ideas of City of God into a more modern setting. I’m waiting for it to arrive! Happy reading!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 25, 2016 at 9:34 pm

      Hmmm…I hadn’t heard of your Two Cities book…I’ll have to go look it up!

  • Reply Anne White May 25, 2016 at 7:16 am

    I have to finish several books right now before I can go on to new ones. (I am bad about half-reading things and then picking up something else)…Endings before beginnings…

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 25, 2016 at 9:33 pm

      Oh, Anne, I hear you! I have been SO bad about that in the past. I’ve really been trying to habit train myself in this area, but it is so hard! I’ve been doing better, but still starting far too many books at once to finish them all…

  • Reply susan in st louis May 25, 2016 at 4:34 am

    Thank you! 🙂

  • Reply SarahD May 25, 2016 at 4:09 am

    I was looking forward to your summer list. Last summer I bought one of your suggested divinity reads, The Deep Things of God by Fred Sanders, and it turned out to be a very influential read for me. You cannot go wrong with a primer on the Holy Trinity. Thank you!

    There are a few on this list that I might delve into. I’m totally interested in the LDN book. I’ve wondered about that approach to the mystery diseases too.

    Also it’s funny that our pastor is also teaching a short series in adult SS on biblical theology from a book called According to Plan on redemptive historical biblical interpretation (or seeing Christ in all of the scriptures). ?

    Thank you! for posting the Banerji homeopathic book. I was just about to ask you if there was one.

    The JKA Smith book looks intriguing also. And the Plato, of course. And you mentioned another book I’ve seen referenced elsewhere and would like to check out–Endangered Minds.

    I’m determined to make headway in a theology book I started a year ago called The Coming of the Kingdom. My personal goal is to finish it by summer’s end, taking notes along the way.

    Thanks again. I always love this post.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 25, 2016 at 9:31 pm

      Endangered Minds is great! I have another book by her — Failure to Connect — that I keep meaning to read. Too many books, too little time, I guess.

      • Reply Carol May 27, 2016 at 4:20 am

        I enjoyed Sack’s book, Uncle Tungsten, so would happily read another but I’ve had ‘The Brain That Changes Itself’ by Norman Doidge on my TBR for ages and it fits in with what I’ve been reading in CM’s Parents & Children regarding neuroplasticity. Slowly reading Augustine’s Confessions & will take the rest of the year to finish; maybe start a C.S. Lewis ? Weight of Glory. I’m hoping to borrow a copy of Norms & Nobility from a friend – a book I’ve wanted to read for awhile. Just finished ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ and tossing up whether to finish ‘Testament to Youth’ – I had to take it back to the library when I was about 3/4 through but was feeling I’d had enough of her. Health – I’ve dipped in to a few books but nothing’s really enticed me…

        • Reply Brandy Vencel May 27, 2016 at 8:53 am

          Ooh! I have never heard of The Brain that Changes Itself, but I’m intrigued by the title! I think I will need to put that one on my list…

      • Reply SarahD May 28, 2016 at 6:01 pm

        Just realized the homeopathy book is not Banerji (I didn’t click the link and the print was tiny). Do you know if the banerji’s have a book?

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