Should we as homeschool mamas expect our children to be learning when we aren’t? Is it proper to demand that they read and learn if they don’t know what that looks like? Mother Culture is a term used in Charlotte Mason circles to describe the intentional growth and education of the mother, specifically as it relates to reading.
And even though Charlotte Mason herself, never specifically spoke of “mother culture,” she did say, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” She clearly expected learning to continue long after the years of homeschool were ended.
This is not something we hear about very often in society, but it is actually quite easy to fulfill. Here are 4 simple ways to fulfill your mother culture and model learning to your children at the same time.
1. Reading Challenges
Though Charlotte Mason did not specifically require reading challenges, she did stress the importance of reading for the mother. And not just any reading. In an article of the PNEU, the author stated that a mother should be reading 3 types of books at any given time: a stiff book, a moderately easy book, and a novel. She is simply to pick up the book that she feels “fit for.”
I love reading. I don’t know about you but there are so many books that I want to read that sometimes I just don’t know where to start. And because of this, I often revert to the same type of simple, enjoyable read. Especially when I am tired after a long day with the kids.
Unfortunately, this does not bring much in terms of enlightenment. Personally, I am a fan of science fiction and fantasy. But if that was all that I was reading, I would soon be sick of it (it has happened). And I certainly wouldn’t be growing as a person.
So how do we find the books in these 3 categories?
Moderately Easy & Novel
The easiest and most fun way is to join a reading challenge. I wrote about the Back to the Classics Challenge 2019 that I joined at the beginning of the year. This reading challenge has helped me fulfill both the moderately easy and the novel category. I am also loosely following the Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge. This gives me both novels and moderately easy books as well.
I probably won’t finish the books on both the lists but for me, that is not entirely the point. I simply wanted to be more intentional in my reading and having a guide is one way to do that. It takes the guesswork out of which book I will move to next. And it encourages me to try books I may not have thought about before.
But how about the stiff books? This one is a bit harder. Of course, some of the books on my Back to the Classics list could be considered “stiff.” But I also want to work on my faith. So I’ve joined a couple of other Christian reading challenges to push my knowledge of Christianity and of the Lord.
First is the Big Picture Bible Reading Plan by Crystal Brothers. This challenge encourages you to read the entire Bible in a year giving you specific readings for each day. I completed this challenge last year and could just feel my faith growing. So I’m doing it again.
The second is the Christian Reading Challenge for Women. This challenge has an option to read 13 or 26 books in the year under the categories:
- Christian Living
- Biblical Womanhood/Marriage
- Parenting/ Family Life
- Practical Homemaking
- Money & Finances
- Christian Classics
- Church History
I chose to read all 26 books. However, with all the other challenges I’ve joined, I don’t expect I’ll complete all of them. On the other hand, it has created a great list for future books.
2. Book Club
This ties in with the original concept of mother culture being fulfilled through reading. If you don’t like starting a new list of books that you may never get through (fear of failure), this may be a better option. You can start your own book club, join one that is already available at your local library or in your church, or join a book club online (yes, that now exists).
One of my favorite websites is Read Aloud Revival. This website offers a range of resources to help you read aloud with your children. This is where I joined the Family Read-Aloud Challenge in January. But they also have Mama Book Clubs.
As a member of RAR, you have access to all current and past book clubs. The discussions take place in the forum and conclude with a live video stream with a special guest. Depending on the book, it could be the author or some other authoritative person. Though I’ve not yet joined a book club (what with my busy reading challenge schedule), I do look forward to giving this a try one day.
If you don’t know what a MOOC is, it stands for Massive Open Online Courses. Basically, it involves taking university courses online. These universities often have free versions of certain courses that you can complete (or audit) for no certification. Or you can pay to complete them for official certification. Most major universities today offer MOOCs to the general public.
The 4 most well-known websites for registering for a MOOC are:
I’ve personally tried free literature courses from the first 3. They were enjoyable and I learned a lot. However, I was unable to complete a couple of them because I tried them in that season of my life when I was the busiest. I had 3 children under the age of 4 and we were moving yearly for my husband’s work.
Since these courses are often run by universities and offered for certificate or degree completion, they are not self-paced. Once the course ends, you may have to wait until it opens up again to complete it. You may even have to start over.
When Charlotte Mason was alive, universities were not open to women for learning. There were, of course, training centers for teaching (like her own PNEU school). But if a woman wanted to learn something else, she would be restricted to picking it up through reading.
However, had Charlotte Mason seen what would be offered with the advent of the internet for both men and women, I believe she would have been all for mothers learning through online courses.
Which brings me to the last way to fulfill Mother Culture.
4. Self-Paced Courses and Lessons
This is similar to the MOOC. However, unlike the university courses, they are open to anyone, usually cost money (though you have lifetime access afterward), are completely self-paced, and can be about pretty much any subject. They could even be just simple videos found on YouTube to learn one simple task.
But these courses can also teach you a language, how to start a blog, how to manage your time better, how to start a new craft like knitting, or even how to budget. What better way to model constant learning to your children. The added benefit is you get to try something new or improve on something for which you always struggled.
Personally, I love learning new things. And sometimes I want to learn something that may seem simple to someone else but is completely beyond me, like decorating or bullet journaling. This is not necessarily something that you would find at a university. And you may not even find it in a book at your local library. But, again, with the internet, things that were once unavailable to everyone are now out there for everyone to use.
My favorite resource for finding these types of courses is Ultimate Bundles. If there is a subject a busy mom wants to learn, they probably have a bundle for it. I’ve bought nearly all the bundles for the last couple of years (since I first found out about them) and have yet to be disappointed.
- The Homemaking Bundle taught me some useful skills for keeping my house clean as a busy mom and gave me access to Brainbook, my all-time favorite resource for learning to bullet journal.
- The Herbs & Essential Oils Bundle taught me about essential oils and using herbs to boost my health and the health of my family.
- The Parenting Bundle gave me tips to use when homeschooling my kids and some fun activities to do with them.
- The Genius Bloggers Toolkit started me on this journey to start my own blog and is teaching me new skills in technology. Having grown up prior to the internet, I find it important to learn these new skills as well.
- And the Productivity Bundle gave me some great resources to keep me organized as my life became even more busy and hectic.
- Just recently I purchased the Photography Bundle. Not really because I was super interested. But more because my second daughter is showing an interest. Part of homeschooling is expanding your own interests to help your children grow as well. So we will be using some of these resources in our homeschooling. Both for nature study and for handicrafts/ art.
- The Master Your Money Bundle has been influential in helping me be better at keeping track of my finances. As a homeschooling family reliant on one salary, we need to pay close attention to where our money goes. This bundle has given me some great tips for living on a strict budget.
I can honestly say, that every penny I have spent on learning has been worth it.
Of course, Ultimate Bundles is not the only resource for finding your next lesson. But they are my favorite because they really cater to women like me, moms who are looking to better themselves. Not to mention the Christian books and courses that are available in each bundle. This reassures me that my learning is keeping me on the path to do everything to the glory of God.
Frankly, fulfilling mother culture has never been so easy. With all the resources available today, we can continue to be intentional in our own growth as women, wives, and mothers. We can easily learn new skills to help us in our busy lives. And we can model the Charlotte Mason motto that “education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.” After all, what better way to get our children to love education than to show them that they are not the only ones learning.