Books & Reading, Mother's Education

There’s No Substitute for Reading (Get Your Fall 2019 Mother Culture Habit Trackers!)

September 3, 2019 by Brandy Vencel

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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13 Comments

  • Reply Arielle September 6, 2019 at 9:57 am

    I can’t read this post or find the tracker because the “continue reading” won’t open. It just keeps going to the preview. Any ideas?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 6, 2019 at 1:34 pm

      Hmmm … my tech guy was working on something this morning. It seems to be working now, but please let me know if it doesn’t! If it doesn’t, I’ll need to know what browser you are using. Thanks!

  • Reply Bonnie September 4, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    Oh man! Guess it’s finally time to buy ink for the color printer! 🤣

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 4, 2019 at 4:04 pm

      Ha! I’m sure there is no penalty for printing it in grayscale. 😉

  • Reply Christina September 4, 2019 at 11:32 am

    Sounds like something I need. I love reading but hardly find enough time to do much anymore. -Notice I did say much….LOL! I still do some.

  • Reply Shu-Hsin Bredthauer September 4, 2019 at 12:34 am

    Thank you Brandy for sharing your “afterthoughts”! Your writing and have inspired and encouraged me for many years in my homeschooling days, and even now that I can’t homeschool at the moment (because it’s illegal 😣) I still can glean so much wisdom from you about living and learning for me and my kids. Looking forward to getting my mother culture tracker and keep the habit of reading. 🤗

  • Reply Rachael September 3, 2019 at 6:27 pm

    The Blue Castle is amazing. My friend and I read it at the same time and spent several hours dissecting all the details. Loved it.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 3, 2019 at 8:22 pm

      Ooooh! Now I’m excited. 🙂

      • Reply Arenda September 6, 2019 at 8:14 pm

        I agree – The Blue Castle is fantastic! One of the few books LM Montgomery wrote for adults. 🙂 It’s such a lovely story.

  • Reply Miriam September 3, 2019 at 3:04 pm

    Thanks Brandy! I was thinking of the tree in the forest falling…but feeling a bit like the homeschool mom up at 6a.m. to Schole…if she doesn’t check it off the tracker and no one sees her, did she really do it?!
    Also, I love L. M. Montgomery! Having read all her books…some a number of times…and started into her journals, I would throw the Emily series out there as a recommendation. I think it’s my next favorite to the Anne books…I may even love them more. And it’s only 3 books long, so less of a commitment than Anne. As an author, she stands out in my mind for helping me fall in love with nature. Her descriptions are enchanting!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 3, 2019 at 5:39 pm

      Oooh! One of my girls just got the Emily series. I’ll have to snag them. 😉 Thanks for the recommend. What do you think of The Blue Castle? (I think that’s the title…) I’m pretty sure we have that one lying around, too.

      • Reply Miriam September 10, 2019 at 1:09 pm

        It has been awhile since I read it so I’m not sure that I could give you super accurate feedback. I think generally though that I enjoyed it but not as much as her writing for young people. The Anne, Emily and Pat books all have such a flavor of enchantment and love of nature and the place of home that I have never found in another author. I think they are her best writing!

      • Reply Jennifer Roderick September 24, 2019 at 5:40 pm

        I personally love The Blue Castle. It made me laugh, and as usual the descriptions of nature alone are worth the read. I like the “stick it to the man” way the main character comes out of her shell and how she eventually finds her place in a round about way. It’s a sweet story. Give it a whirl!

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