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    Books & Reading, Mother's Education

    Mothers’ Education Course: Summer 2017

    June 5, 2017 by Brandy Vencel

    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?

    Summer List for Charlotte Mason Mamas

    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.

    The Question of CanonAgainst the GodsA Long Obedience in the Same DirectionThe Good News We Almost Forgot

    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.

    Your Teenager is not CrazyDon’t Just Sit ThereThe End of AcneThe Family Herbal

    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!

    Plato: The Great Philosopher-EducatorThe Glass CageJohn Milton: Classical Learning and the Progress of VirtueVittorino da Feltre and Other Humanist Educators

    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.

    The Edge of the SeaThe Land of Little RainThe Sense of WonderThe Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling

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  • Reply Mothers' Education Course: Summer 2018 | Afterthoughts June 9, 2018 at 8:57 pm

    […] Mothers’ Education Course 2017 […]

  • Reply Rochelle August 17, 2017 at 11:53 am

    I am also two chapters from the end.
    I feel that so far he has left out, and only because he comes from a Christian perspective and speaks on the attributes of the Living God, that Satan has “stolen” ideas from God and that this is evident is many places in Scripture. It’s not a huge deal, I guess, but I was hoping for some allusion to this idea. After all, we are told in Scripture via the Ten Commandments that worship of another god is a sin against the Living God and later in the prophets that “Is there another god beside me? Indeed I know not one.”
    I am really enjoying this book though, even though at times it reads like a dissertation — is it — and hope and pray the Lord will use this knowledge so that I can speak with people about Him using this history lesson.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 17, 2017 at 2:32 pm

      Ooh! I was totally thinking the same thing! Or that when things are borrowed, they become corrupted over time if they are only based on memory. I remember reading an article years ago on Greek mythology and all the biblical parallels — the angle in that article was basically that the stories had been passed on until there was a grain of truth left, but the rest was corrupted. So, the Garden of Hesperidas, for example — sounds kind of like the Garden of Eden, and the author thought that was why.

  • Reply Rochelle August 17, 2017 at 8:59 am

    Anyone read Against the Gods?
    I’m almost through — it was my bathtime/ waiting for the husband to get out of the shower reading time lol
    I’d love to chat with anyone on the subjects. I’m also finished, like I mentioned, and I may write the author because I notice he left something out as a consideration, but must read to the end before I email him 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 17, 2017 at 9:48 am

      I am almost done, but not quite — we had some things this summer that kept me from doing all that I had planned. But I’m pretty close! I think I have two chapters left? Anyhow, I’m curious what you thought he left out. I’ve really enjoyed it, but sometimes I don’t know what to think!

  • Reply Scholé Sisters Live: Summer Learning | Scholé Sisters July 13, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    […] Brandy’s Mother’s Education Course […]

  • Reply Annie June 13, 2017 at 6:05 am

    Asking here if you, Brandy, or any of your readers might have a few good suggestions for me. In addition to my own mama reading, our family is mentoring a classically educated (and highly intelligent) 12 year old girl this summer who will be living with us to help get her out of her shell, so to speak. She does NOT like the outdoors and would prefer to stay inside and read all day long, to the detriment of her physical, social, and emotional health (hitting that moody teen/puberty phase and already not going well for her at home). Her parents thought a little farm therapy this summer would be good for her, but I would also like to get together a small group of 12 and 13 yr old girls while she’s with us for a sort of weekly book study that would give her an outlet for reading but would also challenge her and provide good conversation material. Not having early teenage girls myself, I have no idea what books to even consider. Any suggestions?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 13, 2017 at 9:05 am

      I wonder about Freckles by Gene Stratton-Porter! I say this only because it has a nature lore theme to it…

      I think the Anne books by LM Montgomerey give SO MUCH fodder for talking about life. We’ve been reading through them here and there is so much wisdom in them! Same for books by Louisa May Alcott. Actually, if she hasn’t read Jack and Jill by Alcott, I think that is a must-read for homeschool families. There is much to learn there about bearing up under suffering.

      • Reply Annie June 13, 2017 at 9:01 pm

        Great ideas! Thanks so much, Brandy ❤️

  • Reply Laurie June 8, 2017 at 10:16 am

    I really enjoyed this post.
    As this is new to me, is there a list that falls under Divinity that would show easier to harder reads in this category?
    Thank you ?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 8, 2017 at 3:55 pm

      Not that I know of — and I know I haven’t written one. 🙂 With that said, if you were choosing from the four books above, I’d recommend A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson. He writes for lay people and is easier to understand, I think.

  • Reply Lady M June 6, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    Time….time…..where is the time. I will have to spread these out over the year, not just the summer, haha! We still do lessons over the summer and camp, etc. At least we don’t have a graduation this year! Excellent list, though!! I look forward to many of them!

  • Reply Mama Rachael June 5, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    Oh, my. Yes, yes, yes. I want so much to do this, and I’m going to try. I’ll make my book selections based on these categories. But I also want to try and read from the books we already own… we own many, many, many bookcases worth. Of course, Hubby just graduated with his PhD in Philosophy, so he’s got some good books I’ve not read. 😛

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 5, 2017 at 4:58 pm

      Ha! I bet he does!

      You know, that’s how I became knowledgeable about weird health stuff — my husband was getting his MS in holistic nutrition and I just started grabbing his books. I didn’t read them, all, but I read about a third, and it was a fantastic education for me … from our own bookcase. 🙂

      • Reply Jill June 11, 2017 at 3:56 am

        I didn’t know your husband has a degree in holistic nutrition – that’s awesome! If you could recommend one book on the subject, what would it be? I ask because this is an intense interest for my husband and I too, and people often ask us for book recommendations 🙂

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