Books & Reading, Educational Philosophy, Home Education, Mother's Education

The Summer 2018 Mother Culture Reading List! (Plus: A Habit Tracker to Get you Going)

May 16, 2018 by Brandy Vencel

It’s that time again! At the end of each spring, I publish two reading lists: The Mother Culture Reading List and the Mothers’ Education Course Reading List. As the title says, this first one is the Mother Culture list.

Mother Culture is your life blood as a mom (after Bible reading, anyway) — it is a way of making sure that while your children are learning and growing, you are, too. The original article on Mother Culture from 1892 puts it this way:

Then it is that she gets overdone. Then it is that she wears herself out. Then it is that, in her efforts to be ideal wife, mother, and mistress, she forgets that she is herself. Then it is, in fact, that she stops growing.

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.

charlotte mason mother culture

The only way to rescue yourself from this situation is to read.

There are some basic guidelines for Mother Culture spelled out in the article:

  • Always have three books available to yourself: a stiff book, a moderately easy book, and a novel.
  • Read for 30 minutes per day.
  • When you go to read, pick up the book you feel fit for.

Naturally, you’re going to grow if you read good books for 30 minutes per day. I find it handy to have these categories stocked ahead of time because sometimes I sit down and I don’t have the brain power for anything other than opening a good (but simple) novel that is already waiting for me.

Make sense?

The purpose of this list, then, is to (1) inspire you with books to add to your category stacks and (2) challenge you to read from one stack (whichever you feel fit for, remember?) for 30 minutes per day all summer long (don’t forget to download the habit tracker below).

As usual, I try to make this list “safe” by only recommending books that I’ve either already read and approved, or own and plan to read in the near future.

For the “Stiff” Stack

I’ve changed my criteria for this stack a bit. It might be that the book requires a high reading level — that you must concentrate to extract meaning from the page. But I added a secondary level: maybe the subject itself is hard. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, for example, isn’t super difficult reading, but the stories are gut-wrenching and it’s difficult to come to terms with atrocities done by your own government. I could never categorize it as “moderately easy.” Make sense?

The Four LovesOn Liberty • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee • Modern Times • American PravdaThe Riddle of Amish CultureSix Easy PiecesOn the Holy Spirit

Moderately Easy Books

These books aren’t as tough as stiff books, but they’re still full of ideas that will grow your soul and challenge your mind. If you choose Chesterton, you will also get a good laugh.

Not Tragically ColoredHow Children LearnTremendous Trifles • Humble Roots • Better Off • The Wright Brothers • Rethinking School • Deep Work

The Novel Stack

I don’t read fiction beyond pre-reading for AmblesideOnline or reading aloud unless we are on school break because I can’t hardly put a novel down. I stay up too late and/or neglect my children. It’s terrible, but it’s true. I’m kicking summer off with The Giver as a new arrival in my fiction stack.

Hannah CoulterSilas MarnerFrankensteinThe Giver • A Wrinkle in TimeAnne of Green Gables • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich • On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

Introducing The Mother Culture Habit Tracker!

Summer is a great time to build new habits, and Mother Culture is a very valuable habit to develop. This one-page printable PDF has two boxes for each day of the summer months — one to check that you did it, and another to mark what kind of reading (stiff, moderately easy, or novel) you did. I also put areas at the bottom to record the titles of all the books you finish! I’m printing my own copy — I think it’ll be fun to look back on the summer and see how I did. Pin it up on your fridge or on a cork board — somewhere it will remind you to read.

Fill out the form below to get yours via email. Also, if you want to share what how you’re doing on Instagram — post photos of your habit tracker and books?? — just use the hashtag #motherculturehabit.

Get the Mother Culture Habit Tracker!

Get your mother culture habit on this summer!

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27 Comments

  • Reply Hannah August 18, 2019 at 10:44 am

    I just realized while looking at this list, that this summer (2019), I have read 3 of the novels you suggest, ” Anne of Green Gables,” “Hannah Coulter,” and “The Giver.” All three were just amazing. I’ve read the “Anne” book before and loved it, but its been quite a few years! It has been a very soul nourishing summer! My stiff books have been “Formation of Character,” and “Know and Tell” (still working on those.) My moderate book was “Wild at Heart,” which I thoroughly loved! Thanks for all the recommendations!

  • Reply The Summer 2019 Mother Culture Reading List! (Plus a Summer Reading Habit Tracker!) | Afterthoughts June 8, 2019 at 8:44 am

    […] The Summer 2018 Mother Culture Reading List […]

  • Reply How to Choose a Novel, How to Read a Novel | Afterthoughts January 14, 2019 at 4:57 pm

    […] of the categories for Mother Culture is novels. (You can read a broader take on Mother Culture here.) Charlotte Mason had some opinions on what to look for in a […]

  • Reply Courtney Hardy September 5, 2018 at 11:46 am

    What did you think of The Giver? It’s one of my middle school favorites.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 5, 2018 at 3:35 pm

      LOVED it. Completely. The whole series was amazing. My junior higher and my highschooler both devoured it this summer as well. I can see why it was one of your faves! ♥

  • Reply We Read in the Autumn, Too! (Get a fall Mother Culture Habit Tracker to keep you going!) | Afterthoughts August 31, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    […] publish extensive lists each summer. (Click here to find them.) For today, I’ll just share one book from each of the categories that I’m reading right […]

  • Reply Thoughtworthy (Categorizing Mother Culture Books, New AfterCast Episode, and MORE!) | Afterthoughts June 26, 2018 at 1:34 am

    […] also: what is a Moderately Easy book for one person might be a stiff book to another. Never feel pressured to categorize books the same […]

  • Reply Lauren Scott June 15, 2018 at 6:45 am

    Thank you for the habit tracker! I just decided to get on board but I have a pretty good record of what I’ve read so far since my husband challenged me (and himself) to read 400 pages this month (approx 20 pg/weekday). What was missing is being able to see how frequently I’m reading from each “stack”, so I enjoyed plugging my reading into your form. 🙂

  • Reply Ashlie June 14, 2018 at 6:31 am

    These are great lists! Thanks for the ideas. I have tried inputting my email a few times to get the tracker but I never get an email from you guys. (I’ve checked the junk box as well). Just wanted to let you know in case there is a glitch somewhere and it’s happening to more people!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 15, 2018 at 9:33 am

      Hi Ashlie! I just contacted my email provider since they manage that form that should have emailed you the document. I’ll let you know what they say! 🙂

  • Reply Using Limitations to Boost Your Focus | Afterthoughts June 11, 2018 at 1:44 am

    […] working this summer on our Mother Culture habit, right? This is a move in the right direction — every day takes us closer to our goal. And […]

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  • Reply Crystin May 19, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    Love it. Adding a few to Bermuda triangle of a list right now. I can’t wait to read Rethinking School, but I have to finish several others I am currently reading right now first. The struggle is really, really real.

    I am the exact same way about fiction, but we school year round, so again…the struggle is real, man. I AM going back to Narnia again this summer, though. <3

  • Reply Chrysti May 18, 2018 at 12:27 pm

    I love your lists! Even though I’ll never get to read all the books I have on my wish list. The challenge of having 3 kids 6 and under! Looking forward to your Mother’s Education Course list!!

  • Reply Sarah deVries May 18, 2018 at 6:54 am

    Love these ideas! Thanks for putting this together, Brandy! I heard about Deep Things from Mystie Winckler’s site also, so definitely going to have to put that one on my list. Also, I like your division of categories. Mine has currently been “spiritual,” “literature,” and “learning” (a subject I want to learn about- so things like Last Child in the Woods, homeschool how to book, Getting Things Done, etc). I like your categorization better!

  • Reply Valerie Henderson May 17, 2018 at 5:22 am

    Where would you put Know and Tell? And what about technicial books about learning disabilities, the brain/psychology, or medical type books? Thanks

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 17, 2018 at 7:24 am

      I think it depends on you. When I had my first baby, I didn’t read a book (other than a couple caring-for-your-baby books) for a year, and then I didn’t read *much* after that until he was three. My reading level plummeted! So some of the things on my Moderately Easy list today would have been Stiff for me back then! I really think the categorization is very personal — what is hard *for you* ? — what is moderately easy *for you* ?

      With that said, my Mothers’ Education Course comes out on Monday if all goes as planned, and that has whole categories were these books would fit! ♥

      • Reply Valerie May 17, 2018 at 7:03 pm

        Thanks. I’ll be waiting to see!

      • Reply Mama Rachael May 18, 2018 at 12:22 pm

        Squeeeeee! Excited about Monday! I’ll be on the look out for MEC ?

  • Reply Leah Martin May 16, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    I’ve been eagerly awaiting your list, Brandy 🙂 There are so many good books here. I’m hoping to be more intentional about carving out time for reading this summer!

  • Reply Mama Rachael May 16, 2018 at 1:24 pm

    I just wrote about how I do mother culture on my blog! This is just in time. I’ve got books going, but there is always a need for more… And some of these look really good. Thanks!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 16, 2018 at 5:23 pm

      As Ecclesiastes says, to the buying of many books, there is no end. Or something like that. 😉

      • Reply Crystin May 19, 2018 at 1:38 pm

        That is my favorite part of Ecclesiastes. 😉

  • Reply Betsy May 16, 2018 at 11:08 am

    Your fiction list includes FANTASTIC titles! Also, Deep Work and Better Off are so very thought-provoking. I’ve read Better Off several times!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 16, 2018 at 11:11 am

      I first read Better Off when I was a very young mom, and I pretty much wanted to run away and live off grid! My husband didn’t read it, though, and he wasn’t very impressed by my high ideals. 😉

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 16, 2018 at 11:11 am

      ps. It is always affirming to hear that YOU approve my list. ♥

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