Last week, I posted the Mother Culture list. In many ways, Mother Culture is an easier approach. With that said, this does not mean the Mother Culture way is the slacker way. It’s just that the Mothers’ Education Course way is … I don’t know. More academic, perhaps? If you want a longer explanation of the Mothers’ Education Course, you can read the history of it here. I also detailed the content specifics here.
The bottom line is that Mother Culture is more general — it’s intended to keep Mom growing so that she has a more mature self to pour out for others as her children get older. The Mothers’ Education Course is more like a college course — it was originally three years of intense study in four subject areas. Students read 100 pages per week on average, and the books were demanding.
The question is: can something like the Mothers’ Education Course be a lifestyle in the way that Mother Culture can? I think it can be, if that’s something you desire — or if you’d rather take a long-haul approach rather than a three-intense-years-approach.
The MEC is not for everyone, and if you just had a baby or are otherwise sleep deprived, you should leave this post and head back to the Mother Culture post where you belong! (Ha.) With that said, I think the easiest way to make the MEC a lifestyle is to use it in a Mother Culture way.
If you want to do it in a truly MEC way (I don’t), you need to buckle up, buy a giant stack of books, and read about 25 pages in each subject area per week. I also highly recommend keeping a commonplace and/or reading notebook and also narrating to yourself.
What are the subject areas?
- Physiology and health (with an emphasis on caring for children)
- Mental and moral science and education
- Nature lore and the elements of science
Obviously, you can build your own book list, but if you want some suggestions, here are mine.
A note on divinity: today, we call this theology. Charlotte Mason’s selections seemed to have two goals. One was to make us more able to teach Bible to our own children — I guess we could call this enabling discipleship. The other was to answer some of the questions in the air at the time. I try to choose books that do the same.
Physiology and Health
I’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating: there was a day where mothers took care of most of the family’s health needs. She didn’t need to run to the doctor for every little bump, bruise, and concern because she was competent. Mothers used to know how to care for a child with the measles (hint: give him cod liver oil). I’m not saying doctors weren’t or aren’t necessary. I’m just saying that in Miss Mason’s day, women were more likely to read books like these because they had a responsibility to nurse their children.
Mental and Moral Science and Education
Charlotte Mason, of course, assigned parts of her own books here. But I know you already know about these. The question is what else she would assign. Often, her focus was on the best of educational thought throughout history. In past years, I’ve put my focus here. This year, I’m going more modern — I wanted to find some contemporary books that I think answer some of the questions we have when we read Miss Mason.
What does masterly inactivity look like? Now, of course, John Holt is an unschooler, which means I have a few qualms with what he says. But at the same time, what does wise and purposeful letting alone look like? Holt models it wonderfully in How Children Learn. What does using atmosphere as a tool of education look like? We get insight into a part of that in The Self-Driven Child. Know and Tell answers the question of what narration might look like over the years or with special needs children. Being There answers an important question of our time: are mothers truly important? Turns out, those early years are something you can’t get back.
Nature Lore and Elements of Science
Charlotte Mason wanted moms to be able to talk intelligently with their children when they were on a nature walk. She didn’t have to be the font of all knowledge, but the MEC was designed to take a mother beyond the ask-Google approach to science questions (which has generally been my own approach). You can read about flowers and rocks or (in my case) you can read about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. It depends on what your children are like and what they harass you about, I suppose.
Want more book ideas? Try my past MEC lists:
Want to Go Deep With Masterly Inactivity?
The talk Brandy’s been giving (you already own the video version if you purchased the Leading Well retreat in 2017) is now available in the Afterthoughts Shop. Try masterly inactivity! It’s not a hack — it’s a way of life. ♥
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