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    Books & Reading, Educational Philosophy, Mother's Education

    Mothers’ Education Course: Summer 2022

    May 26, 2022 by Brandy Vencel

    Wow! I just looked back. Can you believe it? This is my EIGHTH Mothers’ Education Course list! It’s hard for me to believe I’ve been making them this long, but then again my oldest also turned TWENTY this week. Maybe I am getting old! The years are all starting to run together. 😉

    As many of you know, I put out two summer reading lists per year. These are simply to serve as inspiration. (Surely I’m not the only one who is inspired by other people’s book lists!) This year, I’m 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

    As usual, 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 include 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 list!


    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.

    Missions by the Book by Chad Vegas and Alex Kocman

    I’m a little biased on this one. One of the authors (Chad Vegas) is my pastor and my husband spent hours editing a number of the chapters. But this book! It is truly wonderful. If you have never considered the application of the regulative principle to missions, this book is a great place to start.

    This Dangerous Book by Steve & Jackie Green

    One important topic to cover in the divinity category is what the Bible is and where it came from. How did we get the English Bibles we read today? This book is written by the couple that founded the Museum of the Bible. The children and I had a chance to visit the traveling version of the museum a number of years ago — it was truly amazing! This book is written conversationally, so don’t be intimidated. It’s actually a good first introduction to some of the history and controversy surrounding the Bible.

    Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Love by St. Augustine

    This recommendation comes straight from the shelves of my aforementioned twenty-year-old son. He keeps having smart things to say about the theological virtues. I finally asked him where all this was coming from, and this was one of the books. I hope to read it sometime soon so that I can keep pace with him in conversation!

    Seeing Christ in All of Scripture, edited by Peter Lillback

    I recommended this on the MEC list way back in 2016! At that time, it was only available on Kindle. No more! Because real paper copies are available, I couldn’t resist recommending it again. This is a short book (less than 100 pages) with multiple short contributions from a variety of authors. Understanding that the whole Bible is about Christ, though? Priceless. This is a great little book to read during your Bible reading time.

    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.

    Deep Nutrition by Catherine Shanahan, MD

    This book is definitely a contender for my annual Book of the Year award. I loved it so much, I decided to require it for high school graduation for my remaining students at home. A lot of what is in the book we already do, but I want my children to understand why. Plus, it’s a modern application of the research of Weston Price (along with lots of new research, of course) that is the best I’ve seen because it’s obvious the author actually read the original work instead of reading what others said about it. Ideally, you’d read this book after reading Price’s Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (which I recommended on last year’s MEC list). (Note: I recommended an earlier version of this book in 2015. This is way better.)

    Niacin: The Real Story by Abram Hoffer, MD

    I love niacin soooooo much. Many people are afraid of it because real niacin causes a flush response, which can feel like a bad sunburn or an allergic reaction. In spite of the flush, niacin (real nicotinic acid, not inferior niacins like niacinamide) is worth repleting — which means it’s worth learning about it, what it does and how to take it safely.

    The Dental Diet by Dr. Steven Lin

    I discovered Dr. Steven Lin on Instagram on accident. What a gift! Many years ago, a couple of our children (who had been on restrictive diets due to various health and allergy issues) ended up with so many cavities. By following a plan similar to this (plus using homeopathy and some other supplements) we were able to heal those mouths. The only fillings the children had to have were the ones before we changed our ways. It’s a myth that teeth can’t heal; it’s just hard to do without research and discipline.

    Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall

    This one is a little different. It’s part history, part philosophy, and totally fascinating. (It’s also not always correct —I had to be very forgiving when the author utterly and completely botched the Greek concept of arete.) McDougal does a bit of globetrotting, taking us on a trip that introduces us to the world of “natural movement.” I read this one aloud to my kids; it was so much fun.

    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!

    On Education by Abraham Kuyper

    How I was 44-years-old before I realized this book existed is beyond me as my husband adores Kuyper and that adoration is contagious. One of the big things Kuyper did was found the Free University of Amsterdam and one thing I love is when a philosopher has tested his ideas in the context of a real school and real learning.

    Beauty by Roger Scruton

    This is another one that conversation with my son has me itching to read. The nice thing is that I just ask him to bring home his New College Franklin school books for me to dig into rather than spending my own money on them. (My, how the tables have turned!) Every quote he read aloud to me this school year was wonderful; I look forward to reading them in context soon.

    The New Well-Tempered Sentence by Karen Gordon

    Amazon recently recommended Karen Gordon’s book to me and I immediately decided this one would be my first; I am a sucker for a book on grammar that has loads of personality. I haven’t yet read any of her fiction but I am so tempted. Has anyone read her? And if so can I get a review? The descriptions sound good but I’m always gun-shy when it comes to unfamiliar fiction.

    Ideas Freely Sown by Anne White

    Anne White is an unpretentious secret genius. Quiet and unassuming, you will never see one of her books accompanied by a loud and perfectly designed marketing campaign. But oh my word is she worth reading! Anne’s understanding of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy runs deep. I’m looking forward to reading this over summer; Anne’s thoughts are often profound and I love that I find myself thinking about what she said long after I put the book 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.

    Béchamp or Pasteur? By Ethel Hume

    I am about three quarters of the way through this book and it is oh so interesting! I highly recommend reading it after Microbe Hunters because there are a number of references to that book throughout and it helps to understand where the author is coming from when she decries the exaggerated and undeserved praise constantly given to Louis Pasteur. This book is a fascinating look at the history of germ theory, the development of the scientific method, the influence of politics in science, and more.

    The Tale of the Deuling Neurosurgeons by Sam Kean

    If you enjoyed the grim story of Phineas Gage in AmblesideOnline‘s junior high years, you will appreciate building that knowledge out further with Sam Kean. I am currently reading this book aloud to my teenagers. Sam Kean is a good writer, but not a great one — this is revealed when you try to read him aloud and the words do not flow naturally. With that said, I always read Kean aloud rather than handing him over. There are certain … ahem … things he includes that injure innocence in an unnecessary way. I censor on the fly and it’s worth it because the stories in this book are so bizarre and interesting.

    The Natural Navigator by Tristan Gooley

    It is highly unlikely I will ever be lost in the woods, but, just in case, I think reading books by Gooley increases the likelihood of my survival. We own a number of Gooley books, but I hadn’t heard of this one until recently. Apparently, it was his first, and they recently brought out the anniversary edition. Perfect timing!

    The Silent World by Jacques Cousteau

    This isn’t really a recommendation for a specific book. There are certain authors whose books I collect; Cousteau is newest to that list. (This doesn’t mean I own a lot of his books; it means I’m on the lookout.) Cousteau lived a fascinating life and I love his sense of wonder. I often think of the ocean as harboring the last unexplored places on earth (if you don’t count Antarctica). Someone did explore quite a bit of it though, and I like getting the adventure in his own words.

    Want more book ideas? Try my past MEC lists!

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  • Reply Jessie Wester November 26, 2022 at 7:12 pm

    Hi Brandy! Would you say the Natural Navigator would be appropriate for a Y12 nature lore selection? Thanks!

  • Reply Susie June 25, 2022 at 10:13 am

    I’m reading “Deep Nutrition” right now on your recommendation – loving it and eating/shopping differently already. Whether that continues remains to be seen! I got it from the library but will probably need my own copy. Also reading “The Supper of the Lamb,” which I believe you had mentioned and enjoying it a lot. Where the two books agree – and don’t – overlap adds to the joy. 🙂 Thanks for the referrals!

  • Reply Cynthia O May 28, 2022 at 11:46 am

    I always look forward to your lists every year! Thank you for the recommendations.

  • Reply Astrid May 27, 2022 at 5:48 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Brandy! I agree about Sam Kean’s writing-it took me forever to get through The Disappearing Spoon, despite the interesting content- I often found myself rereading sentences over and over just to figure out what he was trying to say. I’m willing to try one of his books again, if the story is worth it!

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