Young home educating moms have much to learn: how to teach math and phonics, how to keep records for portfolios, and eventually, how to make a transcript. While these are all valid things we should learn, we too often forget that mom needs to learn something else as well – something that can spark creativity or bring peace to her own soul. Without this small daily time to learn and cherish her own soul, moms suffer stress and burnout. We end up lacking joy and enthusiasm for life – we become depressed. Two keys practices have always helped me find that joy for life again: time spent reading God’s word, and Mother Culture.
I was first introduced to the term Mother Culture while reading Karen Andreola’s book A Charlotte Mason Companion back in 2002. A short explanation of Mother Culture is that it is the time when mom learns. Those few precious moments each day when mom puts something new into the well of her heart and mind so that she has something left to pour out into the hearts and minds of her family.
You might think “I have no time for myself – no me time.” That is probably true. You do not need “me time” as the world describes it – because that is usually selfishness rearing its ugly head and wanting to go grab a fancy coffee or a spa day. Mother Culture is vastly different from the world’s idea of me time, because Mother Culture is a focus on mom growing as a person, and as a child of God, for the benefit of herself and her family, while the world’s definition of me time is focused on self to the exclusion or detriment of the family. Mother Culture can happen even when the demands of life are great- when your location is remote, children are feeling ill, or you need to hold a job outside the home. Me time is a fleeting moment of fancy, Mother Culture can provide a lasting impact on your future joy and mental health.
There are never enough hours in the day to do all the things that we think should be done, much less those that could be done in our homes, so instead, let us focus on doing the best things each day. Instead of comparing ourselves with other families – homeschooling or not- let’s look to what God says He wants of us. Mother Culture should begin with mom taking time to read her Bible and pray each day. Some moms find it easy to fit in a quiet time each morning, others struggle to find any time at all during the day or night to crack open their Bibles and let the truth of God’s word pour into their lives.
Dear moms – we need to do better! We cannot do this alone, so start with a prayer to God asking Him to show you where to fit in ten minutes a day to read your Bible and pray. It will take some time for your children to learn that when Mom says she is going to be busy for a few minutes, that you mean it! Get them started on some project, or playing with a toy, and then sit down and read. Train your children to occupy themselves for ten minutes. Once they have learned this skill, it will be easier to take 20 and eventually 30 minutes to read, pray, and then spend a few minutes on another facet of mother culture.
It is good for moms to learn something new. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to knit? Are you wanting to read books about church history, the Roman empire, or string theory? Mother culture is an opportunity for moms to learn for themselves. Some things you might share with your family, others are just for yourself. I frequently have more than one book I am reading, because some days I want something light and funny, and other days I want to read from deeper topics like social engineering, nutritional research, or the effects of the welfare state on education.
When our girls were younger, I often felt the struggle to fit in time for Mother Culture, but when I did not make the effort – we all suffered. No child wants a depressed mother, even if they cannot put into words what is wrong – they instinctively know something is amiss. Teaching my children to play and work independently gave each of us an opportunity to pursue passions, and Bible reading, at our own pace. My latest foray into Mother Culture has been focused on learning how to make and bind books. It is an interesting world I had always wondered about – and now I am taking time to learn some of the rudimentary skills for myself.
Mom, whether your child is one, or twenty-one, make time in your day for Mother Culture, that 10-30 minutes a day will benefit you, and your family in ways you have not yet even imagined.
Carol and her husband Kurt have been educating their daughters at home, and with field trips, for 15 years. They have one high schooler and one graduate. They share their love of nature, road trips, photography, good books, and healthy living on their blog Home Sweet Life.