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    Books & Reading, Educational Philosophy, Mother's Education

    Mothers’ Education Course: Summer 2021

    May 21, 2021 by Brandy Vencel

    It’s that time again! Every year, I develop two summer reading lists. This year, we’re doing the MEC list first. Of the two lists, this one is meant for the more serious reader. I often caution moms who have newborns or are otherwise sleep-deprived. The next list — the Mother Culture list — is much more appropriate for that stage of life. But for those of you ready for a challenge, allow me to introduce (or re-introduce) you to a plan of reading inspired by Charlotte Mason’s method for training mothers.

    The Mothers’ Education Course (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 basically fuse the Mother Culture habits I have already built with the MEC categories 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. Even then, the plan will take you longer than a summer. I highly recommend keeping a commonplace and/or reading notebook, as well as narrating to yourself.

    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.) Sometimes, I’m pointing you to an out-of-print book that is extremely overpriced. I am not recommending you spend hundreds of dollars on a single book. Rather, I want to recommend to you the best books so that you can watch for them and snap them up when you see them available at a reasonable price.

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

    Divinity

    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.

    Simply Trinity by Matthew Barrett

    This is my top recommendation for the Divinity category. I cannot wait to read this book (which I plan to do this summer)! If you recall, Barrett’s book None Greater was the Afterthoughts 2019 Book of the Year. I absolutely fell in love with Barrett’s writing. He writes theology the way it ought to be written, and one explanation for this is that he’s not divorced from the past. In None Greater, he sourced the Church Fathers and Reformers throughout. I look forward to his recovery of the doctrine of the Trinity.

    Other recommendations in this category include:

    The Christian Family by Herman Bavinck

    Rooted and Grounded by Abraham Kuyper

    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 they also build on prior knowledge that is covered in previous lists.

    Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston Price

    This is my top recommendation for the Physiology and Health category. I have been reading this aloud to my children throughout the school year. The first half or so of the book is just fascinating — it’s so much more than health as you travel with Dr. Price around the world, seeking out the world’s healthiest mouths. But after that, he gets into the science behind good nutrition. While I suppose some of the information is outdated, I find the book an excellent remedy to some of the outlandish claims that have been made in Dr. Price’s name. It’s always good to go straight to the original source when we can.

    Other recommendations in this category include:

    Doctor Yourself by Andrew Saul

    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 those. 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 Didascalicon of Hugh of Saint Victor

    This is my top pick for the Mental and Moral Science and Education category. I read this earlier this year and it is excellent. I am still thinking about it, which is a sure sign of a great book. The Didascalicon gives us great insight into the medieval mind and how people used to think about the seven liberal arts and beyond.

    Other recommendations in this category include:

    Progymnasmata by George Kennedy

    Understanding Music by Roger Scruton

    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.

    Natural Philosophy by Dr. David Snoke

    This is my top pick for the Nature Lore and the Elements of Science category, even though it’s likely you won’t be able to find it for a reasonable price. It’s been staring at me from my shelf for months now, and I hope to crack it open this summer. I love a philosophical approach to science, so this is just the ticket.

    Other recommendations in this category include:

    How to Read Water by Tristan Gooley

    Measurement by Paul Lockhart

    Want more book ideas? Try my past MEC lists:

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    5 Comments

  • Reply Jennifer Zadnik May 26, 2021 at 11:36 am

    Would we read these books as a group or are these suggestions for independent reading?

  • Reply Jody S. May 22, 2021 at 3:33 am

    Several years ago I read Tristan Gooley’s _The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs_, and I (and my independent readers at that time) enjoyed the books so much. I randomly picked it up at our library. It never occurred to me (until now) to check if he had more books. Thanks.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 22, 2021 at 7:23 am

      You’re welcome! It was actually one of my daughters who started looking for more. I’m glad she did!

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