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    Books & Reading, Mother's Education

    Mother’s Education Course: Summer 2020

    June 8, 2020 by Brandy Vencel

    I posted the Mother Culture Reading List last week. That list is meant for a more casual sort of reading. Yes, it’s organized and, yes, it’s structured by habit — but at the end of the day there is something more ordinary about it. The Mother’s Education Course list (the list below) is meant for you more serious readers. To try and undertake anything like the MEC, even for a summer, requires more discipline than habit because it’s meant for student-type study.

    My personal opinion is that mothers of babies ought not put that sort of pressure on themselves. Mother Culture reading was designed to be sufficient and is sufficient. But at some point in your motherhood, you might feel up for something more challenging and it turns out Charlotte Mason had ideas about that, too.

    She called it the Mother’s Education course. The MEC was a three-year (and later a two-year) program Charlotte Mason put together to educate moms. (If you want a more detailed history of the program, read this.)

    The program assigned books in four 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

    I’m offering my own list of books in these four subject areas. If you want to simply be inspired by the MEC, you can just add some books from this list (or books you choose yourself that fit into these categories) to your reading stack. Please note: this is what I do. I sort of fuse the Mother Culture habits I have already built with the categories of the MEC from time to time and call it Good Enough for Me.

    If, however, you want to read books from this list in a truly MEC way, 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, as well as narrating to yourself.

    Charlotte Mason gave examinations, but I promise not to quiz you on these books.

    As usual, these titles are pulled from my personal reading lists. I have either already read these books, or plan to read them in the near future. (I never recommend books I wouldn’t spend money on myself.)

    So let’s get to the fun part: the lists!


    Today, we use the word theology. Theology and divinity mean basically the same thing. Charlotte Mason’s divinity assignments attempted to answer basic questions about biblical history and theology, as well as questions about passing on the faith to our children. I try to choose books that do the same — understand, though, that the “basic” questions I’m thinking of aren’t the basic questions from Charlotte Mason’s day. Rather, the basic questions of our time are what I’m interested in exploring.

    The Wonderful Works of God by Herman Bavinck

    God without Passions: a Primer by Samuel Renihan

    (Or, if you want primary sources, read God without Passions: a Reader.)

    Physiology and Health

    If you want the basic books for this category — the ones I would actually recommend you to start with if you don’t read much in this subject area — make sure you check out my past MEC posts. These books are, yes, intended to help you take better care of the health of your family, but I feel like they build on prior knowledge that is covered in previous lists.

    The Better Baby Book by Lana Asprey, M.D. and Dave Asprey

    Healing ADD Revised Edition: The Breakthrough Program that Allows You to See and Heal the 7 Types of ADD by Daniel Amen, M.D.

    While I found this book helpful, I also had a few concerns. Click here to read the post in which I discuss them a bit. (Make sure you read the comments, too.)

    More Magic of the Minimum Dose: Further Case Histories by a World Famous Homeopathic Doctor by Dr. Dorothy Shepherd

    I don’t know why this one is in print but the first one is out of print, but that’s the way it is. I haven’t read this one, but it’s the one I’m recommending because the other is more than twice the price. This should not be a first homeopathy book. See my other lists for books on this subject that are more practical.

    The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It by Anthony DeBenedet M.D. and Lawrence Cohen Ph.D.

    Note: I wouldn’t pay exorbitant used prices for this book. Just watch for it in case you see it at an affordable price someday.

    Mental and Moral Science and Education

    Charlotte Mason’s goal for this category was to show the principles of education, as well as methods based on these principles. 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. The number of pages she devoted to the history of classical education was astounding!

    The Liberal Arts Tradition (Revised Edition) by Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain

    If you own the first edition, I truly believe it is worth it to replace it. They added 40% more content, including a lot more history of education.

    In Vital Harmony: Charlotte Mason and the Natural Laws of Education by Karen Glass

    Yes, this is on this year’s Mother Culture Reading List as well. It’s my only duplicate this time. I really think everyone should read it.

    In Tune with the World: A Theory of Festivity by Josef Pieper

    This book recently went out of print. It used to be cheaper. It’s quite good, but keep in mind it’s also quite small. It packs a mighty punch, but you may want to wait for the price to come down.

    Nature Lore and the Elements of Science

    Mothers who know about nature and science can talk more naturally with their children as they walk along the way — no stopping for Google required. While I don’t think there is anything wrong with saying “I don’t know” and looking things up together, this part of the MEC curriculum was trying to offer moms an understanding of the world around them. In this category, you can read about flowers and rocks, or 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:

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  • Reply Lauren May 22, 2021 at 9:37 am

    Brandy, thanks so much for pointing us to these lists again (I got here based on your 2021 list). I’m wondering about this book: A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter by William Deresiewicz. Would you give this to a teen avid reader who has loved Jane Austen herself?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 22, 2021 at 1:35 pm

      I think so! I don’t remember thinking there was inappropriate content. Of course, I could be misremembering, but it was very good and also a fun read.

  • Reply Laura June 9, 2020 at 4:40 am

    Brandy, are you planning to read these 16 books all in one summer? Or are these your to-be-read titles for a longer period of time?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 9, 2020 at 11:55 am

      I’ve actually already read a number of them, so this is definitely NOT my summer reading list. 😉 The purpose of this list is to offer suggestions/examples for each of the four categories. I haven’t done the exact math, but I estimated that if someone did the type of reading originally prescribed — 25 pages per week in each subject area — they would finish the list over summer break. I know very few people who actually do that, though!

      • Reply Laura June 14, 2020 at 12:12 pm

        Thanks. I’m definitely relieved to hear that! 😉

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