Mother Culturing: First Quarter 2021

This post contains affiliate links and I may be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases through them as well.

What we need is a habit of taking our minds out of what one is tempted to call “the domestic rag-bag” of perplexities, and giving it a good airing in something which keeps it “growing”… Is there, then, not need for more “Mother Culture”?

“Mother Culture” Parents’ Review – Volume 3

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

~ Lines Written in Early Spring by William Wordsworth ~

I know that the generally accepted definition of “mother culture” is usually limited to the kind of culture that grows and improves our minds which is always something I strive to work on. But this quarter, I also wanted to work on improving my physical health as well. I’ve never been one for working out as I am not the type of person who becomes addicted to running (and I’ve tried) or looking forward to hitting the gym a few times a week. I do like going for hikes, but those are usually only once every few weeks (or once a week, if I’m disciplined enough) and we go for walks through our neighborhood occasionally, but the latter is a fairly recent development. Last year, I also decided that it was a Great Idea! to roll both of the kids’ school carts next to the couch during our lesson time so I wouldn’t have to get up and move around so often. In hindsight, the folly of this thinking is pretty apparent to me, but I didn’t see it then. A bad sugar addiction plus turning 40 plus sitting on the couch all morning do not make for a healthy me.

As a result of all of this, I’ve been looking for more ways to move. My goal is not necessarily weight loss, though if that comes as a side effect, I wouldn’t mind. I had a physical last December and I was expecting our family nurse practitioner to tell me that I needed to lose some of the baby weight that never melted away after my second pregnancy as it did with the first. Instead, when I brought it up, she asked me how I feel overall. Am I easily winded? Am I not able to walk long distances? Do I feel rundown? Am I tired all the time? The answer to these questions was mostly no, so she said that weight loss isn’t something I need to focus on, which was really good to hear as it made me feel like less of a blob.

This message also came from an account I’ve been following on Instagram who I absolutely love for her grace-filled (and humorous) posts. She emphasizes that health is not necessarily always about weight loss, and, in fact, women are often doing their bodies disservice by starving and dieting and over-exercising. Food should be balanced and neither carbs nor fat are vilified. Her recommendations for eating are actually pretty in line with what we’ve mostly been doing for ten years now, so I feel good about that. She also recommends healthy movement like walks and gentle strength training.

So I’ve been trying to be more intentional about going for walks at least twice per week (which is part of our science curriculum, so should be done anyway!) and then a hike when we have that option during co-op off weeks. I’ve also added strength training in a few times per week and E dragged our Total Gym up from the basement and slid it under our bed so I can exercise without an audience (and it only takes about 15 to 20 minutes, which is very doable). These feel like good changes, and I hope I can keep them up!

And now on to the mental culturing….


This ended up being the quarter of the pre-read, which I think will probably be a common theme going forward if I want my kids to read (which I definitely do!). B told me a while ago that he doesn’t like reading and has continued claiming this statement for himself during the last few years. I wondered, however, how true it was as whenever he got a new book, it was quickly devoured, so I decided to test it. In January, I read through a few books on the AmblesideOnline Year 4 free reads booklist and offered one of them to him. My theory was proved correct as he got through that one in just a few days and has kept up this pace ever since. In fact, now I’m the only thing stopping him from surpassing even my reading goal for the year as I can’t keep up with how fast he reads. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me as I really would like both of my kids to leave our home some day with a love of reading.

And now on to the books!

The Library Book by Susan Orlean. I usually enjoy books about books, but this one felt more like a history of the Los Angeles Public Library. Still, it was an interesting read and not a bad way to start the year.

Friedrich by Norbert Wolf. Caspar David Friedrich is my favorite of the Romantic painters and I studied a few of his paintings very briefly in college, so it was interesting to read more about his life.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien. I remember reading this in sixth grade and making a tiny diorama of the tinker’s van for a class project, but it’s amazing to me how much I’ve forgotten of the story in 30 years. This was the first book I chose for B this year and he liked it.

The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis. B and I started the Chronicles of Narnia last summer and have been steadily making our way through it as a readaloud before bed. I was not familiar with this story at all as I had only read through The Voyage of the Dawn Treader when I was younger. Both B and I really enjoyed this one!

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. This was another pre-read for B. I have a hard time with animal stories as they usually involve some innocent creature being treated cruelly by a human and this one was no different. I have to admit that I did get a little misty-eyed at the end, though. B also liked it.

The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson. This was a bedtime readaloud for both kids while my husband was gone on a business trip (usually we alternate our nights with each kid but I combine them when he’s gone). It was a quirky and cute (albeit sad at times) little story with an ending that we all liked.

King of the Wind: The Story of the Godolphin Arabian by Marguerite Henry. Another horse book! They were in abundance this quarter. This was the third pre-read for B and we both found this story very compelling. Marguerite Henry has quickly become one of my favorite childrens’ authors. I’m so glad I picked up a set of her books at Costco a few years ago!

Justin Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry. In case you’ve lost count, this is horse book number four and also the number four pre-read for B. I’m sad Joel didn’t get more time with Little Bub, but so glad at how it ended.

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis. This was another readaloud with B as well as another new Narnia book for us both. This one was even better than The Horse and His Boy and it was neat to read about how Narnia’s world began. There is debate that this one should actually be read first when reading the entire series, but both B and I agreed that The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is still the best one with which to start.

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare. Speare was one of my favorite authors when I was growing up, so I was intrigued by this AO Year 4 suggestion for pre-read number five for B. She had such a gift for storytelling and this story, though sad in many ways, was very good.

Emma by Jane Austen. This was my Austen for the year, which brings me up to six of her seven novels (eta… I’ve finished all of her novels; I realized after publishing this post that the only one left was Sense and Sensibility, which I read in 2018!). I have also not read any of her juvenilia or unfinished fiction, though they are on my TBR pile. One of the teenage girls who used to be in our co-op said that the first half of this book feels like it never leaves the parlor and I have to agree. It did start slow, but then picked up the pace and got more interesting at the end. I think what didn’t help is that I saw the Gwyneth Paltrow movie probably 20 years ago and knew how it ended, so the story was spoiled for me. Still, there is nothing on screen that can replace Austen’s subtle humor.

Parents and Children by Charlotte Mason. Book number two for the Idyll Challenge! As with Home Education, I had read bits and pieces of this before but it was good to put it all together. And as with all of her other books, there are so many good nuggets of wisdom contained in these pages.

The Railway Children by Edith Nesbitt. Pre-read number six for B and it did not involve horses! I enjoyed this more than I thought I would and I liked that the kids were so good in such a difficult situation.

I’m currently reading The House of Mirth and my husband and I are listening to the audiobook version of Hamilton together. I’m reading aloud The Last Battle with B before bed (and debating what to pre-read for him next…it’s currently between The Wingfeather Saga and Pollyanna). With C I’m reading Tumtum & Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall. And for the Idyll Challenge, I’m making my way through School Education.


Goodreads Reading Challenge – 13/33

Back to the Classics – 3/12

Literary Life Podcast 19 in 2021 Reading Challenge – 1/19

Reshelving Alexandria 2021 Reading Challenge – 2/12

And I’m adding my new long-term goal of reading all of the books on Susan Wise Bauer’s Well-Educated Mind List – 7/87

On the Blog

Messiah: Lenten Art Devotions Volume II I offered my first volume of Lenten art prints last year and decided to offer another round this year.

Charlotte Mason Picture Study: Rembrandt van Rijn A free picture study aid for the AmblesideOnline Term 3 artist for this year: Rembrandt van Rijn.

2021-2022 AmblesideOnline Picture Study Print Files Another free download with all of the pieces included in the AmblesideOnline artist study rotation for next year.

Charlotte Mason-Inspired Kindergarten Curriculum (Free Booklist!) In the beginning of March, I released this year’s (and the FIFTH!) version of the Charlotte Mason-Inspired Kindergarten Curriculum!

Charlotte Mason Homeschool Fourth Grade Term 3 Plans (and Term 2 Recap) This is a little recap of our AmblesideOnline Year 4 Term 2 and plans for Term 3.

A Lifestyle of Learning (+ a new printable quote!) In honor of a Charlotte Mason-inspired bundle sale that I was part of, I released a new print quote!

Around the Internets

Jane Austen’s House Virtual Tour As I was reading The Jane Austen Society over Christmas break, I happened to find a virtual tour of her last home in Chawton online. I don’t see myself taking a trip to England any time soon, so this was a fun little diversion.

Using Sacred Art to Form Children to Resist the Lure of the Internet “As a principle of education, the more we focus on a love of the good, the less the risk to our immortal souls when exposed to what is bad. Given the internet’s particular threat to the immortal souls of young people today, it is time to focus on a concentrated exposure to good images as the best defense against this. If the memory and the imagination are not populated with images of the highest order, then images of the lowest quality will be sucked into the vacuum as an occupying force.”

Hallelujah! Booklist: Bible Stories With Images of Black People “What it means is that my home is pretty much the only place my children will see any people of color represented in the Bible. My home is where Black angels can soar. My home is where a picture of a Black Madonna will not seem odd or even noteworthy. And my home is where a little Black boy can come to understand that his God sees him and knows him and considers him family – not any more than any other person but certainly not any less.” (Honestly, if I could quote this whole post, I would.) I thought about this a lot in college as I sat in my darkened art history classes, looking at painting after painting after painting after painting featuring Caucasian Holy Families, angels, disciples, prophets, judges, even sibyls, etc. I think that’s why Tanner’s Annunciation stood out to me so strongly the first time I saw it because suddenly, here was a Mary who actually looked like how Mary actually may have looked. We don’t have to cancel these images because they’re culturally inaccurate or insensitive, but they also don’t have to be the only images we look at. Amber offers excellent reasons why she is including Biblical stories with diversity in them in her home and I would argue that it’s important for ALL families to adopt this practice, regardless of the color of their skin. (Also, she has a book list! As a personal note, The Children of God Storybook Bible is one of our favorites. ? )

Losing My Life for What? “…we all lose our lives to something. It could be cocaine, or it could be a ‘righteous cause.’ As David Foster Wallace wrote in Infinite Jest, addictions vary from hard drugs to yoga. Douglas Johnson of Touchstone magazine spells out a corollary to this: ‘[Satan] only means to separate us from our Lord, and he doesn’t give a whit which distractions we indulge in to bring that about.’ So, whether we become rioters or hermit gardeners, if we are distracted away from God, we are all awash on the same desolate beaches. Only when we lose our lives to Jesus do our souls resurface, like ships made to sail, no longer ruined and unmoored. No longer enslaved. We need the Church to herald this reality and to model another way of life for the world to see. Submitting to the real King does have massive political effects – which, as they begin in our personal lives, may look more like surrender than like insurrection.”

The parenting odysseyOur children are not there to live OUR dreams it is true, but we can end up with the tremendous gift of being invited into THEIR dreams. That is the hidden glory of children. They widen our horizons with their own unique perspective on the world, and they teach us not to hold on to our safe, preconceived notions about people or things we have never met or experienced. There is a world of adventure to be discovered just by letting our children lead us to places we never dared to go. With each child I have become more comfortable with my inner daring-do.” I love, love, love that her son invited her along on his drive….what a huge testament to the wonderful relationship they have!

Chores Build Self-Confidence and Crush Self-Esteem “Your child needs to esteem himself lower than others, beginning with his parents. He can gather the clothes for laundry, and he can fold the laundry. Then he can do the laundry. He can set the table and wash the dishes. Then he can help fix the meals. He can vacuum the floor and dust the furniture. Then he can wash the windows… If you do all of this for him, then he will develop a notion of self-esteem: ‘I am so important that everyone ought to do things for me.’ But if he learns to do it for himself, then he will develop a notion of self-confidence: ‘I can do it myself.’ And if he learns to do it for you, then he will develop a notion of self-usefulness: ‘I can be helpful, and I am needed around here.’”

Miscarriage and Motherhood: Finding God in Silence and Noise “I had thought that that was how God wanted to draw me closer this year — by doubling the joys and sacrifices of motherhood. I hadn’t considered how God could call me in the silence, and the space to be still.”

Big Is the New Small “Thousands of years before the Discovery Channel or NOVA, a psalmist peering into the night sky with no telescope but his soul wrote, ‘When I see the heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you arranged, what is man that you should keep him in mind, mortal man that you care for him?’ Like the scientists, the psalmist is awestruck at the vastness and beauty of the cosmos, and when he considers the power that created that vastness, the hand that crafted that beauty, his awe is imbued with the deepest resonances of mystery and he experiences humanity’s holiest state: humility.”

The Way of Love: Loving your Children “The emotion flows in moments of quiet reflection, but what about when my children are awake, noisy, and needy? When I am actually faced with a choice between serving my children and serving myself, I do typically choose to do what needs to be done. I cook, tidy, help, and teach. But my mind often runs on what I will do when I’m finished. I want to tick off the jobs on my list so I can do what I want to do… This approach is a recipe for resentment and a short temper. I might close my Bible to help the kids make breakfast, but I will not be happy about it. A get-it-over-with attitude is not loving – neither in feeling nor in deed. Perhaps love isn’t so much about choosing to do the right thing. Maybe it’s more about choosing the right attitude toward the people in my life.”

How Does Society Measure Mothers? This is the first I’ve heard of the Marshall Plan for Moms, but I’m beginning to grow really tired of the argument for assigning a value to motherhood. I am also irritated by the notion that when a mother leaves the workforce to stay at home with her kids or care for her family, it is society’s responsibility to get her “back to work.” I don’t generally get political here, but this is an area that ruffles my feathers in particular as I grew up without a mom and see the immense (non-monetary) value in this quiet but necessary role.


Embroidery Starter Kit. I mentioned above that my husband and I have been listening to Rob Chernow’s Hamilton at night. It’s a very interesting book to listen to, but the narrator’s voice makes me a little drowsy (it’s also the end of the day and we’re in bed), so I decided to pull out an embroidery kit a friend gave me for Christmas and started embroidering….and I love it! It not only keeps me fully awake while I’m listening, but it also requires little mental effort so I can still focus on what’s being read while also doing something with my hands. (I also have the hedgehog kit. ?)

Moringa Honey & Vanilla Tea. This was in my January Sips by box and I liked it so much that I added it to my Amazon Subscribe and Save list.

Plant Therapy Happy Place Essential Oil Blend. I usually diffuse Study Time during our lesson time and Nighty Night before we go to bed, but this is what I’ve been grabbing on weekends and the rest of the time. It’s a nice, light, semi-citrusy scent that isn’t too strong. (Get $10 off your first order with this link!)

Cylinder Bird Feeder. I picked this up for the front porch and was very pleased with it when it arrived, despite the low price tag. The center pole is a little thick for the Wild Birds Unlimited Hot Pepper Cylinder, but I was still able to get it on there with a little pushing.

Felina Stretch Layering Women’s Tank Top. I bought a set of these years ago at Costco when I was still breastfeeding. It was the perfect layering tank top as they’re just the right amount of stretch, but also very soft and perfect for nursing if you don’t want to expose your stomach every time baby wants a snack. In fact, I loved these so much, I went back to Costco and got another set. I haven’t seen them there in a while and my old ones were getting pretty worn out, so I was excited to see these on Amazon. They’re not as cheap as Costco’s prices, but are still very worth it as they last a long time.

Kristin’s Farm Stand. If you’re along the front range in Colorado, I highly recommend this food delivery service. They offer local, organic, pastured, grass-fed, raw, etc. produce, meats, and honey among other things. A woman at our local Azure Standard drop recommended them and I’ve been very impressed by the quality of their food. I also love that we’re supporting local farmers and businesses.

In the Shop

I added a few new products to the shop this including a new print featuring a Charlotte Mason quote, this year’s version of the Charlotte Mason-Inspired Kindergarten Curriculum, and Volume II of the Lenten Art Devotions and Prints. I’m also hoping to release a few more Picture Study Aids over the next few months!

On Patreon

I’ve had fun the last few months with the productivity printables for my patrons! In February, I offered bonus, printable valentines; in March I offered a printable book log; and for April, I made printable Easter bunting with watercolor flowers!

Productivity Bundle -

Bird Sightings

Juncos digging for seed at the kids’ blizzard feeders.

We’re really only getting house finches with occasional juncos right now at the feeders, which is unusual for this time of year. March was tumultuous in terms of weather and felt colder than usual, but it’s normally a crazy weather month anyway so I don’t know if we can blame the lack of birds on this.

Noticeably absent are mountain bluebirds, who we usually begin to see in mid-March at the birdhouse boxes in our backyard. I’ve only seen three so far this year fighting over a different box during one of our walks, but I’m holding on to hope that maybe they’ll fly just a mile southwest to find our boxes. This hope exists despite many visits and even a few deliveries of nesting material by bluebirds to our boxes in the last several years and we’ve never actually had them nest here.

The house wrens should also be showing up in a few weeks and then the tree swallows will follow shortly after that, both of whom have nested in our boxes in the past, so I’m hoping we have at least one of the bird boxes inhabited this year. Last year we had none, which was disappointing on top of everything else going on at the time.

The hummingbird feeder goes up on April 15th. Hopefully they don’t let us down!

And that’s all for this quarter!

Enter your email address here to get updates and exclusive downloads, including a free Picture Study Aid!

Similar Posts


  1. Thanks for linking to the Well Trained Mind reading list. I will be bookmarking it to refer to when trying to select a few titles to fill in educational gaps. Several are on my reading list this year . . .

    1. I was encouraged to see that I’ve already read several of the novels, though I’m severely lacking in the other categories.

  2. Hi, I haven’t read anything “mother culture” related for too long. Thank you for the gentle nag I found in my inbox today xxx

    1. My kids think I’m pretty skilled at nagging, so I’m happy to oblige! 🙂

  3. Fun to read, thank you!

    Yes, read Narnia books in the original order. There is a deeper structure to it and you’ll miss it if you try to rearrange the books or don’t pay attention. A good explanation is Planet Narnia. Its an easy read, makes sense, and gives a depth to the series that I could never put into words.

    1. we just finished the series and I agree! it would not have been the same had we read it in chronological order. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *