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    Books & Reading, Mother's Education

    Mothers’ Education Course: Summer 2018

    May 21, 2018 by Brandy Vencel

    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.

    Charlotte Mason Mothers' Education Course

    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?

    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

    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.

    Getting the Garden RightOn the Holy SpiritGod Without PartsGod Dwells Among Us

    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.

    The Nemechek Protocol for Autism and Developmental DisordersChildren’s Anatomy and PhysiologyHomeopathy for MommiesI Am Joe’s Body

    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.

    How Children LearnThe Self-Driven ChildKnow and TellBeing There

    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.

    Mr. Tompkins in PaperbackThe Handbook of Nature StudyBackyard ForagingEarth

    Want more book ideas? Try my past MEC lists:

    Want to Go Deep With Masterly Inactivity?

    Masterly Inactivity: Charlotte Mason's Secret to Successfully Leading Your Homeschool

    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. ♥

    Click here to grab your copy!

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  • Reply My Mother Culture Basket for the year 2019 August 12, 2019 at 8:46 am

    […] increase my knowledge and skills. But this year I want to focus more and not just dabble. Thanks to this post on Afterthoughts blog, I discovered that Miss Mason actually had an education program for […]

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  • Reply Debra June 9, 2018 at 8:13 pm

    Another great book for health is Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child. It’s an A-Z guide, and it tells you all the remedies, whether conventional, homeopathic, nutritional, etc. It’s been my go to book for years. The adult version of the book is Smart Medicine for Healthier Living.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 9, 2018 at 8:57 pm

      Ha! Small world! Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child actually appeared in my 2015 list! It’s an old fave of mine. ♥

  • Reply SS #38: An Education by Any Other Name... | Scholé Sisters May 26, 2018 at 9:22 am

    […] The Mothers’ Education Course Summer Reading List […]

  • Reply MacKenzie Limesand May 22, 2018 at 1:28 pm

    I was so excited to see the Nemecheck Protocol book on the list. We just started the protocol with our 5 year old (well, the Inulin part. We had already been using EVOO and Cod Liver Oil for quite a while, although I’m not as consistent with CLO as I should be, despite the fact that my kids love it and ask for it!). He’s NT but has some other signs of ANS issues. It has only been a few weeks and we knew with his certain issues, that it’d probably get worse before it gets better but it seems like we’re finally getting to the “better” part! He’s had these issues since he was at least 1 year old so making any sort of progress feels monumental!

  • Reply Cindi May 21, 2018 at 12:25 pm

    Oh man, I loved John Holt, even though he wasn’t a believer and was an unschooler. He and Oak Meadow School in Ojai were just about all that was around when I started homeschooling back in 1980. At one time I had every single one of his Growing Without Schooling newsletters in print, because, of course, the internet wasn’t around then. Wish I knew back then what I know now, but God knew it all and planned my course before the foundation of the earth, and I rejoice to see what he has advanced in homeschooling over the years, especially the Charlotte Mason educational recovery. I’m interesting in homeopathy but have always been a little “suspicious” of it, probably through ignorance, so I’ll check into getting that homeopathy for mommies, even though I no longer have little ones. Do you have a recommendation on homeopathy for adults?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 21, 2018 at 2:35 pm

      I think the Homeopathy for Mommies book is good for anyone who wants to self-treat, too! Another one I like is Homeopathic Medicine at Home. You might have good reason to be suspicious! Some homeopaths are REALLY woowoo and make it sound like magic.

      I didn’t realize Holt’s school was in Ojai! We love Ojai! ♥

    • Reply Cindi May 21, 2018 at 2:46 pm

      Thanks for that other recommendation. I think my sentence misled you about Holt. Oak Meadow wasn’t affiliated with him in any way, it’s just that they were one of the first “cover” schools to help homeschoolers who couldn’t get information on how to homeschool and they offered a somewhat Charlotte Mason-like “curriculum,” though I don’t know if they’d ever heard of her and they were definitely pretty far out “new age” types. We just enrolled through them to avoid legal difficulties at the time. John Holt was back in Boston on Boylston Street but didn’t have a school, per se.

      • Reply Brandy Vencel May 21, 2018 at 4:41 pm

        Ah, okay! Thank you for explaining. This was my first Holt book, so I only know enough to be dangerous. 😉

    • Reply Debra June 9, 2018 at 8:16 pm

      I have had more success with homeopathic remedies than most other remedies I have used, conventional or otherwise. We use Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child and Smart Medicine for Healthier Living.

  • Reply Blossom May 21, 2018 at 10:35 am

    Thank you, Brandy! You have set me up nicely 😀 While the MC route is the way I’d like to be able to do something like this, the MEC route is the way I *need* to do it. You’ve chosen excellent books here (of course) and I can’t wait to read (some of) these. I don’t have kids harassing me about anything nowadays so I guess that parts all up to me!
    When I get all finished, where do I find my certificate of completion? 😉 Haha! just kidding.
    Question: Do you think The Benedict Option fits in the Divinity category?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 21, 2018 at 10:39 am

      I have to confess: I haven’t read the Benedict Option yet! So … I’m not sure. I’ll give you a definite MAYBE. 😉

      I think it’d be fun to create a Certificate of Completion! I’ll have to do that sometime. ♥

      • Reply Blossom May 21, 2018 at 11:48 am

        Well, I’m adding The Benedict Option since I’m currently reading it 😉
        I think I’ll include The Shallows for a #3 reading. (OR does that fit in #2? Well, whichever, it’s getting put on my list.)

  • Reply sarah1036 May 21, 2018 at 9:55 am

    How do you read these as well as pre-reading for next year? I have two in upper AO years that I’ll need read this summer. I’m just curious how to fit it all in? I see so many books I want to read, between this list and the Mother Culture list.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 21, 2018 at 10:45 am

      Ha! Well remember: these books are curated from books I plan to read or books I’ve ALREADY read. 🙂 So, for example, the book Better Off on the MC list is great … but I read that before my oldest was in first grade! 🙂 The goal of these lists is just to give lots of choices so that folks can find something they love. It DOESN’T mean I’m reading all of this in the summertime. 🙂

      With that said, if you are pre-reading in the summer, that is honestly enough reading, in my opinion! I pre-read throughout the year, and read other things in the summer, but that is just what works for me because I’ve only had to pre-read for one child. Pre-reading for two is much more intense!

      • Reply sarah1036 May 26, 2018 at 5:23 pm

        Thanks Brandy! I’ve kind of created my own list, with books garnered from MC & MEC, plus others that I’ve been wanting to read (Mere Motherhood!!). My goal is to pick up my phone less and a book more. So far, it’s working!

  • Reply Mama Rachael May 21, 2018 at 8:37 am

    Ah, this is good stuff, and food for thought! We are actively working on reaching the optimal time to transfer our last 3 embryos from the sibling set of embryos we adopted. So, hopefully, I’ll be experiencing the struggles of first trimester pregnancy in the next few weeks. I’ll take it slow, but I am totally digging this.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 21, 2018 at 10:13 am

      Oh, how excited! Please let me know if the transfer is successful! I’ll be praying for you. 🙂

  • Reply Kansas Mom May 21, 2018 at 7:44 am

    Now that my kids are old enough to be trusted not to really hurt themselves if I can’t hear them constantly, I can put on a pair of bluetooth headphones while I work in the kitchen or on laundry and listen to courses on things like physics, the Illiad, history, Shakespeare, etc. They aren’t strictly necessary and have lots more information than what my children need, but they give me a look at these subjects in historical context and also in variety. I can listen to courses on Shakespeare by lots of different professors, for example, and hear how some of them disagree. There are a few companies that produce these, but most of the ones I use are from The Great Courses. I get mine from Audible, but I know some libraries have these to be checked out – some of them might even have them you can borrow digitally.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 21, 2018 at 10:46 am

      I keep hearing such good things about The Great Courses. I think I’m going to HAVE to try it sometime! It sounds like so much goodness! ♥

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