Do you ever feel like your knowledge is completely inadequate when it comes to the task of homeschooling your children? On the one hand, we can — and I’ve done this for a decade, so I know it’s true — stay just one step ahead. I am always about one week ahead of my oldest child. This works.
But then there comes the time when a child approaches with a question, and it’s apparent he’s trying to take a giant leap, and my one step ahead isn’t quite cutting it.
Know what I mean?
Education can be described as the passing on of culture from one generation to the next. It’s like the bequeathing of a fantastic inheritance for some … and feels rather like an IOU for the rest of us. I mean: What happens when you feel like you don’t have much to pass on?
Pass on is definitely the phrase we want. Charlotte Mason created her three-year Mothers’ Education Course to combat this ignorance. To turn us from mothers who don’t know into mothers who do — from mothers who don’t have much inheritance to bequeath into mothers who do. And this wasn’t just for the sake of the children — Charlotte Mason once explained that she hoped that the mothers who were able to do the course shared their wealth of knowledge with other mothers they encountered along the way. This self-education can spill over — be passed on — to many and not just our children.
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.
You may know there were four subjects. (Click here to read more about the content.) I’ll explain each briefly below, and then recommend a short list of books appropriate for the category.
If you’re into this project, do yourself a favor: pick one book from each category. Summer isn’t as long as you think!
The more I’ve studied the books Miss Mason recommended for Divinity, the more I see that she had a few goals for her selections accomplish. First, she was shoring up of the mother’s own faith through knowledge — so, for example, how her Bible came into being. Another was knowing how to pass on the faith — so, for example, a book on using a Prayer Book or catechism. And then there was ample background knowledge for Bible reading and teaching, especially regarding Bible history and culture.
Physiology and Health
In Charlotte Mason’s day, sick people were still cared for in the home, and so health was the mother’s domain, rather than the doctor’s. The doctor? He assisted and advised, but the mother did the round the clock nursing and rehabilitation. These days, we tend to feel like we need a doctor’s help (and permission) for every little thing. (I have a lot of opinions on this that I won’t go into right now.) Nothing wastes time in a homeschool day like running to the doctor for every cough, sneeze, and earache. The focus of these books, then, is to be able to understand the body and brain well enough to offer basic care in an independent way. Study in these things takes years, but every book read moves us in the right direction.
Mental and Moral Science and Education
In this category, Charlotte Mason, of course assigned some of her own books. This means her volumes go without saying. In addition to this, she assigned some of the best or most influential original works (such as Plato’s Republic and his Four Dialogues, along with Rousseau’s Emile). Another huge emphasis was the history of educational thought. The number of pages she devoted to the history of classical education was astounding!
Nature Lore and the Elements of Science
Mothers who know about nature and science can talk more naturally with their children as they walk along the way — no stopping for Google required. While I don’t think there is anything wrong with saying “I don’t know” and looking things up together, this part of the curriculum was very obviously trying to fill moms up to the brim with a real understanding of the world around them.
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