I just started reading Ourselves by Charlotte Mason for the third time. This has been an interesting experience because I have never finished it before! Ourselves is the book I saved. I knew it was something my children would read in the upper years, and I thought it’d be fun to experience it for the first time with my oldest child. What I didn’t realize at the time was that AmblesideOnline spread the book out over six years.
This isn’t a bad thing — in fact, I think it’s a very good thing — but this causes an interesting phenomenon. A few years after I began the book with my oldest, it was time to start it again, this time with my second child. Now, two years later, my oldest is on his last year reading the book … and I’m starting it again with my third child! So parts of the book I haven’t read (but will by the end of this school year), parts I’ve read twice, and parts I’ve read three times. It’s been an adventure.
It was in beginning again with my third child last week that I took note of this quote for the first time:
I have always believed there is no substitute for reading. But this time an idea connected up in my brain that hadn’t formed itself before. In School Education, Miss Mason writes:
[N]o education seems to be worth the name which has not made children at home in the world of books, and so related them, mind to mind, with thinkers who have dealt with knowledge …p. 226
Occasionally, we may meet a truly original thinker. But for the most part, we are relegated to encountering brilliance — and therefore brilliant ideas — in books. There is no substitute for reading because books are the cafe where we cozy up to thinkers and encounter them mind to mind. Books are the ecosystem in which growth — intellectual and moral — are most likely to take place. Avoid the ecosystem and we avoid the necessary nourishment for our minds.
In Parents’ Review magazine (which Charlotte Mason edited), a woman known only as A. explained a strategy called Mother Culture that she thought kept a woman on the path of growth and maturity in the midst of busy motherhood. (You can read more about this article here.) Here’s the basic gist of the plan:
- 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.
- Use my Mother Culture Habit Tracker (free download below!) to keep yourself accountable. ♥
Need some book titles to get you going?
I publish extensive lists each summer. (Click here to find the latest.) For today, I’ll just share one book from each of the categories that I’m reading right now:
Stiff Book: Modern Times by Paul Johnson
Clocking in at almost 900 pages, I know it’ll take me many, many months to finish this. I’m currently halfway through chapter two. It’s so good! I know very little modern history, and most of what I know is due to remembering things that happened when I was a child, not actually studying history. I enjoy Johnson’s writing style, which helps me bear with the tiny font.
Moderately Easy Book: Simple & Direct by Jacques Barzun
I’m reading this with my high school senior as his final writing book … and loving every minute of it. I have always enjoyed anything by Barzun I’ve read (which admittedly isn’t much) and getting some insight into how he made his word choices is especially interesting.
Novel: Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomerey
I just finished this book last night! I grew up loving the Anne of Green Gables books, but never knew what else Montgomery had written. Jane of Lantern Hill looked like a safe bet, and it paid off in riches! One thing I have always appreciated about Montgomery is how sympathetic she is toward children and Jane was no exception. Montgomery always reminds me of the significance of the fact the children are born persons.
Get your fall Mother Culture and Student Reading Habit Trackers!
If you developed a Mother Culture habit over the summer, you want to keep it. And if you didn’t, well … there is no time like the present! These printable PDFs include detailed instructions on how to use them. There are three pretty options for Mom … and three great options for the students who wish to join in the fun and build habits of their own.
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.
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