Mother Culturing: Third Quarter 2020

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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

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

~Fall, leaves, fall by Charlotte Brontë~

I’m not sure if it’s common among other homeschoolers or not, but I always feel like the new school year is more of a new year than the actual New Year is. I spend the summer evaluating our previous school year and planning the next and then September comes and implementation of those plans begins. It feels like a fresh start and I’ve found that because homeschooling is all-encompassing for our family (education is a life, after all), it spills over into other areas as well. This year, one of those areas was my online presence.

It has been becoming increasingly clear to me over the last few years that I am spreading myself too thin…“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread,” as Bilbo says. I’m trying to spin too many plates and many of them are wobbling violently. I have seen an increase in business in the last two years which has been such an enormous blessing for our family, but also difficult in how to figure out how to delegate my time. I am so, so thankful for the additional income, but also struggling in the time it takes away from my family. And so, I sat down with myself this summer and had a good chat about what is important and what is not; what can be cut out and what do I want to keep doing; what do I want to add and what do I want to take away.

This allowed me to come up with a plan and the decision that some changes need to take place, mainly here. The biggest change is that I’ll be posting less: instead of one post per week, I’m aiming to do one every other week (which also means newsletters will only be going out every other week). I also stopped doing the Weekend Entertainment posts simply because they were taking more time than they were worth. In making these changes, though, I’m hoping that I have more time to actually create more Picture Study Aids (and work on other picture study-related projects!) without sacrificing additional time with my family.

I’m also renaming the System Status posts to Mother Culturing. Culturing instead of a simple Culture because the phrase is actually trademarked (though she does allow for discussion on blogs!), but also I feel that Culturing is a lovely way to summarize an ongoing, internal process. I think of the kombucha “culturing” on my counter or a jar of sauerkraut “culturing” beside it and I feel it’s an apt comparison. I toyed with this renaming idea a few years ago, but am finally doing it now as I feel it’s a better reflection of what these posts are about. System Status was actually a concept I borrowed from another blogger I found about 19 years ago when I was getting more into blogging. I loved the idea, and so put it to my own use, but then it evolved and what it is now doesn’t resemble her posts even remotely. I think for me, Mother Culture is now more appropriate as it includes how I’m growing rather than just what I’m up to at a given moment.

And so, here we are in a new season with new plans and new goals. It feels good.

As for the quarter, it was eventful. In July we said goodbye to some wonderful friends who moved to Georgia (this was hard). Both kids also attended the annual Little House Camp, which is a Little-House-on-the-Prairie-themed camp that one of the girls who used to be in our co-op hosts each year. B has gone the last two years, but this was C’s first year and they absolutely loved it.

In August, I was drafted for jury duty and ended up being chosen. It was the first jury trial for our county since COVID arrived in March and the judge said we were “making history.” Unfortunately, that history was being made right over B’s tenth birthday and I was gone most of the day which was really, really sad for me. I’m thankful it was only two days and I think if it had been at any other time, I really would’ve found the experience fascinating, but it was hard over his birthday.

We also began school on August 23rd which is the earliest we’ve ever started, but as we’re including Sabbath weeks this year (the first of which is this week), I wanted us to start a little earlier. So far, it has gone mostly smoothly, even with this being my first year with two students in grade school. We’ve had a few minor hiccups, but I’ve found that as I get further into this homeschooling thing, I’m much more flexible in making adjustments however I see fit which has been a very good thing!

In the same week in September, I was part of a Morning Time Live session about Camille Pissarro and I turned 40. My oldest friend, who turned 40 in May, invited me to join her “on the other side of this hill” by having me over for tea and it was just about perfect as it gave just the two of us a chance to sit and chat for a few hours. These moments are rare these days.

And now on to how I’ve been culturing myself….


This quarter was an epic fail in the reading department. The majority of the books I finished were for the kids which is not necessarily a bad thing, but doesn’t contribute much to the “mother culturing” part of this post.

The one book I finished for myself was Sourdough by Robin Sloan. This was a pretty quick read and enjoyable as his Mr. Penumbra series is as well. It also made me want to get into making sourdough, which is a pretty big thing for someone who is primarily grain-free to say!

With B, I finished Ember’s End. Admittedly, I did not think the first book was written very well in comparison to other books of the same genre, but the story was still very good and B absolutely loved the entire series. The last book was quite a bit better and I did actually get a little teary-eyed when I read a particular death. I also really want to get this Heather and Picket set or a Helmer for him for Christmas.

With C, I re-read The King of the Golden River and Among the Pond People. These were two I read with B years ago, so it was fun to re-visit them and she liked them both.

With both kids, I finished Prince Caspian. I had a plan to go through the entire Narnia series over the summer, but then when the content got a little more violent than what I was comfortable with for C, I opted to stop and wait to read it with her until she’s a little older.

Currently, for myself I’m reading Far from the Madding Crowd, Selected Poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Child of the Fire: Mary Edmonia Lewis and the Problem of Art History’s Black and Indian Subject, Scale How Meditations, and Home Education with my Idyll Challenge group. With C I’m reading Pinocchio and with B I’m continuing the Narnia series with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

2020 Book Challenges

Goodreads Reading Challenge – 23/24

Back to the Classics (BC) – 2/12

Modern Mrs. Darcy (MMD) – 3/12

20 for 20 Reading Challenge (20RC)- 5/20

On the Blog

I did a series over the summer all about homeschooling kindergarten as there are so many families who either pondered whether or not to do this with their child this summer or are deep in the thick of it now. My hope was to help parents know that they are very capable of homeschooling their kindergartner and it doesn’t have to be as complicated as you think!

A Simple Homeschool Kindergarten What is the purpose of a kindergarten year, especially if you’re coming from a Charlotte Mason background? In this post, I’m mainly discussing why it’s a good idea to start later (including scientific research that backs this philosophy) and how exactly a kindergarten year really ought to look, which is very different than what you might expect….

Nature Study with Small Children A wonderful guest post from my friend Joy with many helpful suggestions for how to do nature study with young children!

Simple Kindergarten Morning Time for Homeschoolers Morning Time has become an essential part of our lesson time and something I’ve very much enjoyed altering to fit our family’s needs. Here’s a little overview of what it can look like during the kindergarten year. (And in case you missed it, I also sat down to chat with Pam Barnhill about this very topic on her podcast this past summer!)

Gentle Kindergarten Math: A Guide to MEP Reception MEP Reception is a gentle and free option for kindergarten math and I successfully used it with both of my kids. Here is a guide on how to use it in your own homeschool!

Charlotte Mason Picture Study Aid: Johannes Vermeer If you’re interested in including Dutch Baroque artist Johannes Vermeer in your Picture Study plans this year, you can find both a printed and PDF version of my new Picture Study Aid as well as Picture Study Prints for him in the shop!

Charlotte Mason Homeschool Fourth Grade Term 1 Plans For B’s Year 4, we’ll be using AmblesideOnline again this year and adding in a few new things like spelling, grammar, Latin, and map drills. It felt a little overwhelming when I was scheduling these things in addition to trying to juggle a Year 1 student as well, but so far, everything has gone very well. Here’s hoping that continues!

Charlotte Mason Homeschool Year 1 Plans (Take 2) C’s Year 1 is going to look very similar to how B’s did, but I included a few additional books we’ll be reading to add more diversity as well!

Whether the Painters Chosen for Picture-Talk could Follow Each Other in a More Harmonious Sequence than at Present by Edith Frost I re-ryped an article from the 1914 volume of L’Umile Pianta with a few debatable statements regarding picture study….let me know your thoughts!

Around the Internets

I include interesting links I’ve found in my bi-weekly newsletter. Here are a few of my favorites from this quarter!

YouTube Chat about Charlotte Mason Kindergarten with Joy Cherrick from Nature Study Hacking In case you missed it, my friend Joy recorded a chat we had in June about what a Charlotte Mason Kindergarten year can look like. I am not photogenic or….videogenic? at all, so you have to forgive my awkwardness and lack of finesse. ?

Why Are Homeschooled Kids Weird? I first read this post a few weeks ago and parts of it have stuck with me so deeply that I wanted to share it. “‘Weird’ homeschooled kids say things that cool kids don’t say because they don’t run their every word through the ‘Am I cool enough?’ meter. They are not jaded. They say what’s on their minds and do what seems logical and interesting in the moment. They don’t second-guess their every move because they don’t know that falling in line is supposed to be part of the program. Their childhoods have been fiercely protected, and the term ‘socially awkward’ could be used to define nearly every child who is allowed to just…be.” I love this.

Why Read Aloud to Kids Who Can Read Themselves? #4, all the way. When I read stories with my kids, I feel like we’re taking a journey or going on an adventure together.

Preparing a Charlotte Mason Schedule I found this series from Nicole Williams to be very helpful when I was sitting down to plan out our year.

6 Things No One Tells You About Homeschooling… This! This! All of this! Written by a former public school teacher, this is excellent advice for those thinking about homeschooling!

French site where Vincent Van Gogh created his last painting may have been revealed I have written a Picture Study Aid and a Common Place Quarterly article about Vincent van Gogh. In the process of researching for both of these things, I felt as if I got to know him better, which was bittersweet. He was such a talented and profoundly deep man, but also so sad, lonely, and troubled at times. This discovery is fascinating, but also very sad.

The difference between a homeschool plan and homeschool planning “Please, let me encourage you – the plan is not the goal, nor is your execution of it an assessment of your ability as a homeschool mom. It is in your planning that you are preparing yourself for whatever this school year may bring Your curriculum selection matters. Your daily schedule matters. Your outside classes, field trips and co-ops matter. Of course they do! But not a single element of your plan will go exactly as expected. It doesn’t mean you are failing. It means you are living a full life.”

Librarians turned Google Forms into the unlikely platform for virtual escape rooms This is absolutely awesome. In another life, I was a librarian.

Ruminating on Recitation If you’re going into the school year wondering how to implement Recitation, and even if you’re a seasoned veteran who isn’t sure you’re doing it properly (I know I wasn’t), I can’t recommend this article and Maria’s Recitation Guidelines and Logs enough. I especially appreciated her emphasis on students developing a relationship with and understanding of what they were learning for recitation, and not just including it for memorization’s sake. She wrote: “There was no committing to memory by rote for the sake of mere memory; there was, rather, the aim to know something at its root, to understand that which was true, good, and virtuous.” Both of these resources have revolutionized my Recitation planning this year and I love the direction we’re going now. Definitely read her article before you download the logs!

Forget the Box | Embracing Your Child’s Otherness “Let’s embrace what makes them different, what’s so unique about who they are. Let’s not make apologies when they stand out, but smile because they don’t blend in. Let’s encourage them to be themselves. Let’s demand that the world make room for them instead of begging our children to shrink. Let’s look with pride upon the sore thumbs, the distinctive, the different. Let’s get to know who are different kids really are instead of trying to force society’s identity upon them. Okay, so they don’t fit in, they’re not like the others, they always draw attention or make things more difficult. And? So? They’re already aware they’re different, they’re not fooling anyone. The cat is out of the bag, so let’s let them live outside of the box.” ♥️♥️♥️

Why I Don’t Do Devotions “I fear that doing devotions has become another form of practicing religion without requiring faith. I fear that it has become a time for us to busy ourselves with doing instead of quieting ourselves before the Lord and being with Him. I fear that the practice of doing devotions can actually interfere with the mindset of having continual communion with the Lord who demands all of us, not just a portion of our time.”

5 magical moments homeschoolers can look forward to this year This list could also be called, “5 reasons why we homeschool.” I have experienced each and every single one of these things at one point or another even in the four short years we’ve been homeschooling.

In a mother’s education, less is more. “If we still think of learning as cramming for an exam, answering multiple choice questions, highlighting, and rereading the same chapter multiple times in order to pass a test, we can relax. Many of us still feel we must take in as much information as possible in order to learn. Charlotte Mason, however, turns away from this idea, telling us that when the goal of education is the formation of character, less (done better) is more.” (And on that note… Brandy Vencel posted her fall mother culture habit trackers for download last week!)


FlyLady I mentioned FlyLady in one of my weekend links posts but I’m mentioning her again as I’ve been at this system for over a month now and have seen such fantastic results. While I don’t get to everything she has scheduled each week, especially since the school year started, I do get to most of them and the system is set up so well for maintenance. Last week we had a change in plans and ended up having friends over for a last-minute playdate. Because we’ve been maintaining the house, I didn’t have to do a last-minute speed clean. It’s also just so nice to live in a clean and (mostly) organized home!

Frau Fowler Tooth Powder I had a dentist appointment in July and the kids had theirs in September at a new dentist who is quite a bit more thorough than our old dentist. There were no cavities for any of us but the hygienist did see some areas where we definitely need to improve so we’ve been working more on the habit of oral care. I found this tooth powder a few years ago but stopped using it as it takes a little more work than normal toothpaste. However, after the appointments, I decided to start using it again since it does such a wonderful job of making my mouth feel clean and I’m so glad I did as it’s making a big difference!

Naturalist Kids Podcast My friend Joy recently began offering a new podcast specifically geared toward Charlotte Mason families! Each episode is meant for the entire family to listen to and includes living ways to learn more about various topics related to nature study, including immersive readings and nature lore. I plan to load up on these to listen to on our way to and from nature hikes as well as our co-op meetings. She also has a Patreon site to accompany the podcast which includes bonus downloads for each episode!

Vintage Floral Washi Tape I bought myself this pack for my birthday and I love it for autumn! I plan to get more seasonally to use in my planner.

Slow Cow Pillow Cases I’ve been wanting to replace the couch cushions for a while as they’re very worn out and outdated, but throw pillows are expensive! I happened to find these on Amazon and decided to just put the old cushions in them and it was worked wonderfully! I love finding frugal and waste-less ways to freshen up the look of our house.

Menu Planner and September Planning Kit I love everything my friend Anna offers, but these two items which she recently made available are absolutely gorgeous and a very simple way to add beauty in a productive way to your days! (I especially love the little lace magnetic bookmark in the planning kit. ?)

The Nester Going along with the point above, I started following The Nester recently. I’m all on board with the concept of minimalism, but the idea of reducing my home to barebones is not entirely copacetic with my desire for hygge. Enter Myquillyn Smith who introduced me to the idea of “cozy” minimalism. When I have more time, I plan to dive into her books as well.

The Social Dilemma I’m not sure if this really fits in the “loving” category or not, but I did find it fascinating. Most of the information presented I already knew and I do think it was somewhat sensationalist, but I also think that it draws attention to a lot of things that are happening on the internet right now that most people are not aware of. It at least inspired me to start using a different browser and search engine, make some changes on my website, and look into alternative email options. I think there really isn’t any way to entirely avoid being tracked online in some fashion, but it feels good to be making steps to at least mitigate it somewhat.

In the Shop

Just one new product in the shop this quarter, but it’s a good one! Also, I will be releasing the Advent Art Devotion Volume II guide in the next few weeks! You can still pick up the prints and guide from last year if you missed out!

Bird Sightings

Admittedly, the feeders were sorely neglected this summer and the birds were few and far between. As the colder weather approaches, however, I’ve been wanting to get back into the habit of backyard birding as these months can be a great time to attract a variety to the yard during the colder weather. A friend gave me a gift card to Wild Birds Unlimited, so I picked up another arm for our feeding station and two suet cylinders. I also got a cage feeder and a window feeder and picked up more food at Tractor Supply (it was cheaper at my local store than online). Whereas our normal visitors are house finches, we’ve been getting more black-capped and mountain chickadees (much to my delight ?), a white-breasted nuthatch, and blue jays! I also put peanuts out on the weekends and we’ll get a lot of scrub-jays and magpies. I’m hopeful that by being better about keeping them filled and having a better variety of food, we’ll get a better variety of birds.

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