On Mother Culture, or How to Homeschool Yourself

August 13, 2021

Have you ever thought that you were learning more homeschooling your child than you did in school? What if you could expand on that? Enter Mother Culture.


What is Mother Culture?

Charlotte Mason believed that for parents to be good teachers, we should ourselves be taking the time to learn and be educated.  If we take her quote, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life, ” to heart, then we must assume she is speaking to us parents just as much as she is to the teaching of our children.  If we are to make our homes an environment that inspires learning, we should then be modeling what that looks like for our children. 

Mother Culture, or Parent Culture, to be more inclusive, is such an important aspect of homeschooling. It is easy for us to forget to take care of ourselves when we are knee-deep in diapers, choosing curriculum, creating routine for our children. Our lives seem to revolve around other people. But we mustn’t leave ourselves out. We are people too – not just homeschooling parents or stay-at-home moms. It’s easy to get lost in that lifestyle and put everyone else’s needs ahead of your own. 

This isn’t necessarily the same thing as self-care, though that is important too. But to be able to teach our children and teach them well, we should be continuing our own education. That doesn’t mean we have to take classes, write essays, or read thick and difficult tomes. You can do those things if you want, of course, but you want your self-education to be what you do for your children, make it interesting and exciting! It should be something you care about and look forward to. 

We need to take the time to read books, watch documentaries, listen to podcasts – find ways in our day-to-day lives to fill our minds with ideas that both challenge and inspire us. 

How to Add Parent Culture into Your Already Busy Lifestyle 

I know what you are thinking – just one more thing to add to the to-do list, right? We are always busy, there are always a million things to do when you educate your children at home. What I’ve just laid out might sound like it will take a lot of time to incorporate, but really, we’re talking 20 minutes to an hour each day.

I once heard someone say that if you care about something deeply enough, you can always find time for it. I know I waste a good hour a day just scrolling through Instagram on my phone. If I were to set my phone down and read instead, well, I could get through a lot of reading material. I can also listen to a podcast while I fold laundry, or watch a documentary after the kids are in bed. We all have those pockets of time – we just need to make better use of them. 

So here are some easy ways to implement Parent Culture into your day:

Read a book!

I think you all knew this is where I was going to start. Reading is such a fundamental part of self-education. I always have several books going at a time because I never know what I’ll be in the mood to read. If you include morning basket time in your homeschool, then why not build a morning basket that’s just for you?

Maybe your’s is an evening basket – or an afternoon basket – whenever you find is the best time to read. Just like the one you built for your children, you want to include a handful of interesting books that you’ve been wanting to read but haven’t found the time to pick up.  And of course, our reading time doesn’t ALWAYS have to be educational. Sometimes what our brain needs is a fast-paced or thought-provoking novel. 

Below I’ve curated a categorized list of potentials for your Morning Basket. Just pick a few categories that interest you and then choose a book from each. You can choose something to read when you have the pocket of time devoted to your reading basket. Don’t worry about juggling multiple books at once. Read the one you have the mind-space for that particular day. 


Science Non-Fiction 
History Non-Fiction 
Geography Non-Fiction 
English Language 
Essays and Memoirs  
Short Stories 


Don’t know where to start? Why not join a book club? I run the Arrrgh Booked Book Club on my YouTube channel. Each month we read a book together and then I host a live show discussion to hash out the story. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a great way to discover new favorite books!

You can also discover new history and historical fiction titles at our website: History Book By Book. I’ve curated a database of titles for you to choose from based on time period, topic, geographic location, and more.  There is something there for everyone and I’m always adding new titles. 

Listen to a podcast!

There are millions of podcasts out there – some are fun fluff, but there are some really fascinating podcasts that are great for self-education.  I like these because I can listen to them as I do mindless tasks like folding laundry, making my chores much less boring. Here are a few you might want to check out:

Watch a documentary!

I signed up for Curiosity Stream and PBS Documentaries, but even if you only have Netflix and basic cable, you can find some great documentaries to watch to further your education. 

I’ve gone through our streaming services and compiled a list of documentaries that might be worth your time to check out. 

  • Fantastic Fungi
  • Age  of Samurai: Battle for Japan
  • My Octopus Teacher
  • Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet
Amazon Prime
  • The Evolution of Us
  • Mankind: The Story of All of Us
  • Tudor Monastery Farm
  • Shakespeare Uncovered
  • Secrets of the Castle
  • Secrets of the Whales
  • Earth Moods
  • Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
  • Year Million
  • Pompeii: Secrets of the Dead

Start a new hobby!

Learning a new skill is great for our own learning, but it also models for our children that you are never too old to learn something new. Maybe you want to take up photography, or finally learn to sew.  Some ideas for hobbies to try:

  • Hand Lettering
  • Journaling
  • Handicrafts like crochet, knitting, or sewing
  • Gardening
  • Nature journaling
  • Painting
  • Starting a YouTube channel
  • Learning a new language
  • Photography

You are a busy homeschooling parent, it’s true, but you are also a person who deserves the time and space to grow and flourish in your own learning.

Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.

An Atmosphere – surround yourself with things that get you excited about learning, whether it is books, maps, beautiful artwork. Whatever feeds your mind.

A Discipline – Make the time each day to learn something, even if it’s just hiding in the bathroom for 10 minutes to read a chapter of a book.

A Life – We have the opportunity to not only grow ourselves but to be mentors for our children. We must teach them from a young age that learning isn’t something that we only do for a set amount of hours a day until we finish our schooling. It’s a lifelong pursuit. There is always something new to learn. 

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This topic was also discussed during a livestream:

[August 13, 2021 ] – “Tea with Emily – episode 16 – We discussed “Mother Culture – Self-Education for Parents”. As Charlotte Mason said, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life,” which means learning never ends. Mother Culture is self-education. Is there a subject you’ve always wanted to learn more about? A hobby you’ve been meaning to pick up? With homeschooling, it may seem like you are always learning beside your child, but with Mother Culture, you are putting yourself first and giving yourself the tools to become a better homeschool teacher. In this live stream I gave tips and tricks to make time for self-education, as well as give you some book recommendations and other resources. (watch Episode 16 video recording here)

Emily Cook, Author of secular homeschool curriculumEmily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-12 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full-year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 21 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others.

She and her family also make incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books, and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.

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About Build Your Library

Have you been looking for a literature based homeschool curriculum that is secular? How about a way to incorporate narration, copywork, dictation and memory work into your child’s education? Or art study that ties into history?

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