Saturday, March 9, 2019

A Walk Down "Mother Culture" Lane by Karen Andreola

A Walk Down Mother Culture® Lane

Early Days of Speaking
Whenever I come across a mom who is ministering the ideas of Mother Culture online, my heart is warmed. I’m happy to see the ideas welcomed.

We home teachers have weighty cares. Endurance is needed for our long hours of service. But moments of Mother Culture are refreshment along the way. A glass of ice tea, ten minutes with an embroidery needle or paint brush, a few lines written in a journal, a stroll in the garden, a prayer while folding the towels or making a bed, are calming interludes.

Every once in a while, I’m sent a link to the rumor: “Mother Culture" was a term coined and popularized by Charlotte Mason . . . ” I say “rumor” because the term Mother Culture hasn’t been spotted in any of Miss Mason’s writings, to date. Yet, this misunderstanding has been circulating for years. Therefore, the Man-of-the-House said, “You should tell your origin-story.”

Early Days of Writing

The Mother Culture Origin-Story   
Mother Culture bubbled over in my magazine 1993.
An obscure article lay dormant in a hardbound Parents’ Review. One day, while my children were having a quiet time, I was slowly turning the pages of this hardbound volume (one of 77 on special loan from England.)

“Hmmm, this looks interesting,” I thought. It was the article “Mother Culture,” an article that had been buried in the archives for a century, used for the first and last time in 1892 in reference to parenting . . . until the day it caught my eye. It gives me goosebumps to think of it.

I remember how little my children were.

I remember which house we were renting.

I remember how impressed I was by this anonymously written article. Even the title struck a chord in my heart.

While standing at the sink washing dishes, I began considering how its message might be relevant to my own life and to my fellow home teachers. Consequently, my thoughts on Mother Culture bubbled-over onto the back cover of my homespun magazine in 1993 (pictured in purple, above.)
Nigel, the baby of the family, turns age 30 this April. Oh, my.
Over the next 26 years I would continue to revive, expand, and introduce Mother Culture to a new generation.
Dean spoke on Charlotte Mason as early as 1993,.

Greatly sympathizing with my fellow home teachers, I put effort into promoting Mother Culture wherever I was asked to speak. I was a nervous and shy speaker. (I still am.) My soft voice doesn’t project well or record well. But because I sensed Providence had given me something important to say, I rose to the challenge.
I spoke at retreats, to small groups at public libraries, in churches, private homes, my own living room, even on the radio, gladly, without honorarium.

Eventually, Dean and I were invited to introduce the ideas of Charlotte Mason across America as professional keynote speakers.
We have fond memories of sharing supper with Chris Klicka several times.
When we did, I also gave a talk on Mother Culture. Audiences at these state conferences grew bigger and bigger.

Really a homebody, I remember telling Dean, in Florida, when I peeked into an auditorium filled with thousands of people, “Where am I? What am I doing here?” With trembling fingers, I held tightly onto my notes.

1998 was a busy year. Our children enjoyed the Sandy Cove family conference at they did other family HS retreats.
Mary Pride, editor of Practical Homeschooling Magazine, invited me to be a columnist. My column was dedicated to the Charlotte Mason Method. (We advertised and sold Miss Mason’s “pink” books through the magazine). Here you see the first page of one of two articles I wrote on the advantages of Mother Culture.

The time was ripe for a book. Endeavoring to paint a picture of what home education can look like, A Charlotte Mason Companion was born (1998). I found Mother Culture a good remedy for preventing burn-out so I decided to turn it into a chapter, too. Blogs, websites, podcasts and tutorials were not widely in use, so a book was still the best way to share a collection of ideas.

Chapter 46 of A Charlotte Mason Companion, 1998.
In 1999 Dean and I were contacted by CBD to write freelance reviews for their printed catalog.

That year I suggested a special feature devoted to Mother Culture. CBD liked the idea. I set to work arranging it, picking out books and writing up the reviews for what I had found helpful in keeping up my own Mother Culture. The catalog was read far and wide. It would reach more readers than A Charlotte Mason Companion.

Years later, my son would do the graphics for my CD. This live conference talk on Mother Culture® (2004) is now accessible FREE on YouTube.

So you can see, for quite some time, I’ve been busy popularizing Mother Culture publicly through: articles, books, speaking engagements, catalog product reviews, 10 years of blogging - and lately - mini-articles on Facebook. Phew.

Privately, I’ve answered hundreds of letters over the years from moms who have questions or wish to connect with a kindred spirit.

Here’s a flash back. I remember sitting in a lounge chair, on green grass, under a shade tree, while my little ones were splashing in the puddle pool and digging in the sandbox. On such a summer afternoon, I might have a large plastic zip-lock bag of letters to answer. (I had learned from experience the necessity of a zip-lock bag during outdoor playtime, he, he.) With pen in my hand, a prayer on my heart, I attempted to confide and encourage.

In time, paper letters dwindled. Emails took their place. Today questions mostly come through Facebook messenger. I wish I could have a chat in person with these conscientious mothers.  Understanding their apprehension and stress, I pray the Lord uses what little I am able to convey by FB messenger. It can only be a small help in light of the weighty cares that are carried on feminine shoulders. If I link to an applicable article, I make sure to link just one. I discern internet-information-overload and the “not-enough syndrome.” These steal away peace. With carefully chosen words, I address apprehensions in my new book, Mother Culture. 

At Dean's suggestion to write, “A Walk Down Mother Culture® Lane,” he rummaged through his big metal filing cabinet in the office. Then, he brought up a dusty box from the basement. (The office is across the hall from the sunny parlor where I receive guests, photograph books, and do my needlework.)

Stuff was piled on the parlor sofa, floor, and chairs. To my chagrin the little room took on the clutter of catalogs (Dean saved at least one of each issue that featured our reviews), old brochures, and paper correspondence.

He has kept all this paper not because he is a pack-rat (although he does tend to collect) but moreover because in business you are required to show evidence of your brand.

Mother Culture® became so entwined with my work and ministry that I filed for the trademark in the year 2000. That’s why you see the “R” next to it – like so many items at the grocery store. This does not prohibit people from using the term Mother Culture in conversation. We hope it sparks enthusiastic discussion within lively forums, study groups, and blogs. The business trademark simply reserves Mother Culture® as a title and exclusive brand-name for goods, books, services, websites, ebooks, lectures, etc.

My writing represents my life. It is part of our livelihood and pays my high medical insurance/expenses, tax, food, etc. Thank you for your patronage. It’s been an honor to serve you.

Dean says:

The original Mother Culture article (1892 Parents’ Review) is commonly linked by bloggers as an online reference without mention or knowledge of Karen’s origin-story. Yet, had it not been for Karen Andreola - Mother Culture as we know it today - might have gone undiscovered for perhaps another 100 years.

Thank you, Dean.

Pears ripening in the sun. Getting the parlor tidy again.
Amazon placed an order for Mother Culture.® Therefore, it is in stock. It is also sold at ChristianBook (CBD), Simply Charlotte Mason, Grace & Truth Books. In Canada: Maple Tree Publications, The Learning House, and Heritage Resources. In South Africa: Cubits Kids Edu.

I wish you well-being and well-doing,
Karen Andreola


  1. I'm reading your book right now and so wish I had discovered it when I was homeschooling. Thank you for writing and promoting such a valuable resource.

  2. I for one am very appreciative of you bringing Mother Culture into the world. Your photos of the early conference flyers and catalogs was a walk down memory lane for me as well. I started homeschooling in 1998 and I now have a one year old and 4 other children still in the midst of it so I reckon (God willing) I will be at this for awhile. A yearly re-read of your books goes a long way!

  3. Thank you for introducing us all to Mother Culture and Charlotte Mason. Your family has blessed mine greatly. If not for your writings, I may not have spent so many hours cuddled on the sofa with my youngsters all around me and a book in my hand. Bless you all!

  4. Karen, I have noticed the sudden "fad" of referencing Mother Culture in the wider CM circle. It has been coming from those who (in my opinion) adhere to the PNEU timetable, rather than Miss Mason's principles (or maybe in addition to her principles). In that way, Mother Culture is promoted as doing what Miss Mason required of her teachers for their own edification. I know I have discussed with you before this element of the "letter of the law" CMers, in contrast to the more "gentle art" ;) of the spirit of the law. I remember what Elizabeth Foss wrote in her book 'Real Learning,' "I am not Charlotte Mason. I do not play her in my home." :) I agree with Dean, it was time you shared your contribution. There were times I was tempted to ask you, "What do you think about so-and-so saying such-and-such about Mother Culture?" But, as Miss Read says, "I forebore to comment."
    God's peace be yours as we prepare for Easter,
    Fondly, Kristyn

  5. Karen, I admire you so much. I saw you speak live way back in the '90's at a small church somewhere in the Dallas Tx area. I bought your book, A Charlotte Mason Companion and you autographed it for me. I have always treasured it along with all my copies of the "Parent's Review" magazine and your book, Pocketful of Pinecones. I homeschooled all 5 of my children using these resources and it was wonderful. I also gave small talks at our homeschool group about Charlotte Mason and how our family used picture study, music appreciation and living books in our home school. I always recommended your publications as a great place to find out more about Charlotte Mason and how to implement her ideas. Thank you so much for all you have done and still do to promote Charlotte Mason's ideas and the "gentle art of homeschooling" I took your phrase "Mother Culture" to heart and it greatly shaped my homeschool experiences with my children.

  6. You know I’m a fan of Charlotte Mason’s method, and your books! A Charlotte Mason Companion saved our homeschool 21 years ago! Such a delightful and refreshing way to learn. Mother Culture has always been a big part of my life too, believing that it keeps me refreshed and able to continue the task of mothering and home educating!

  7. Thank You Karen for this wonderful and beautiful post. You and your family have been an inspiration to all.
    God Bless

  8. Karen, thank You for this informative post. You are a beacon for home school mothers. Enjoyed your reviews in CBD. God Bless you and your family.

  9. I've enjoyed reading your comments, Ladies. Thank you for sharing them with me here. It's a delight. I like knowing more about you and how we've crossed paths.

    Yes. Yes. I find Charlotte Mason's over-arching 20 Principles are beautifully adaptable and, thus, look-different in various settings. When the "spirit" of the law is followed it brings life and peace, I agree. On the other hand, (during a learning-curve) a young mom may stress and strive to fulfill the "letter" of law. I'm finding this more and more in the letters that come my way. It's concerning. I invite a mom who is miserable to take courage to use her God-given prerogative, gifts and talents, to understand and enjoy the freedom she has in "adapting" rather them "duplicating" - - - to adapt the 20, rather than duplicate an exact scope and sequence. Examples are given in chapter 38 of my book, "Mother Culture."

    On another note: Charlotte Mason was reminding her teachers of a well-known Biblical principle when she recommended they grow in wisdom. As she expressed in "Ourselves," this is applicable for every Christian.(2 Peter 1:5-9, Proverbs 4:7)

    It is good to know that my writing has ministered to you over the years, my friends. Thank you for your well-wishes.

    1. Adapt, not duplicate... that's "just right." :)
      Karen, didn't you write a post once about "three chairs" in education? (My Goldilocks reference jogs something in my memory...)

  10. Hi Karen,
    I'm a new follower on your blog, but I was a long-time CM homeschooling mom to my three sons from the mid-90's until 2007. I can remember distinctly the excitement of our small homeschool group upon receiving the CM Companion on order from the book store (no Amazon for any of us then). It was such an encouraging book, and such a breath of fresh air compared to other methods we had tried. I plan to order Mother Culture also, because I hope to be an encouraging homeschooling grandmother one day. Also, it was so lovely to hear your voice, and words of wisdom, at the homeschool conference on YouTube.
    Thank you for all you do,

    1. So nice to meet you, Kim. Thank you for introducing yourself and sending along your compliments. A grandmother with a heart for home-teaching is valuable. She is that wise woman-in-the-Lord so needed in the life of the family and the church.

  11. Dear Karen,

    The Lord blesses us so with your words of wisdom, experience, and encouragement. I have fond remembrances of looking forward to reading the CBD catalog when it came with your freelance reviews. I poured over them again and again. Then I would cut out the pictures of the products that appealed to me, along with your reviews, and paste them in my own homeschool conference scrapbook. (These were the years before you could pull up information so easily on a mobile.) I would spend many hours pouring over and adding to this notebook, yearly. Oh, and the first time I opened my much anticipated copy of the Charlotte Mason Companion, I felt as if I were sitting down with a homeschool mentor and true friend. The cuppas "we" have enjoyed around my table! <3
    Thank you so much for all that you have done and continue to do.
    Truly grateful,

    1. I am honored that you made me one of your book friends, Michelle. It is so good to know you found our reviews helpful in those days gone by. We were quite careful about what we chose to write about. My mind often drifts back to our happy golden days of family-style learning.

  12. Dear Karen,

    I am half way through your lovely book, which I purchased from ChristianBook online. It is so beautifully written and edifying. My days are so busy (homeschooling four kids and working from home), but I now slip in my Mother Culture moments reading your book with a cup of tea.

    I usually stay up until 11pm to work after the kids have gone to sleep but lately, I have been stopping at 10:45pm and (you will smile at this visual) I will lay in the linen closet (the only place I can turn a light on without waking the baby) and read Mother Culture for 15 more minutes before bed. So there I am on the floor of the linen closet surrounded by folded sheets, towels, baby blankets and such enjoying my special time immensely. I'm a writer too and I have shared your book already on my YouTube channel. I plan to share it further. Thank you for all of your work. It was fun to read about the origins of Mother Culture. Best regards, Jennifer L. Scott

    1. Jennifer, Nice to meet you. Thank you for sharing my book on your YouTube channel. (I see that you are an author, too.) Your linen closet scene shows me the lengths that you will go to feed your soul. What a wide range of homemaking tips you share on your channel. I've listen to a few - since receiving your comment - and find you to be refreshingly lady-like.

  13. I know that you already know how mother culture has ministered to me through the past 14 years of home education. And each year I fall more in love with home schooling because of this. When I think of mother culture I always, ALWAYS think of you for I know nothing else equated with this but Mrs. Andreola. The Lord has used your writings to reach out and touch places in my life that I'm sure no one else ever could. My first homeschooling kindred soul was Carol;-) I think you know her too. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. A for being the light of this culture in reviving this.

    1. Dear Amanda, It makes me smile to read here how you love being with your children and enjoy family-style learning. What a happy thought to know that Carol has been your "kindred soul" book friend.

  14. How wonderful to know the backstory, Karen! <3 Thank you for sharing. And I've been abundantly blessed by you over the years. Amy

  15. I love this history lesson! How neat that you have all of it preserved. Isn't that what "Mother Culture" is all about? Preserving. Indeed, you (and your family) have been salt and light. I am grateful!

  16. Thank you, Karen. My children are all in their 20's but I will be ordering your new book. I loved your articles in CBD and followed you closely when I was homeschooling. God bless you and Dean in your endeavors!

  17. Karen, I remember back in my first years of homeschooling, (began in 1998) reading that lovely purple volume, as well as Pocketful of Pinecones. To make a long story short, I homeschooled for about 10 years, life took its turns, I divorced, and the children went into school. I was heartbroken. I never thought I would have that privilege again, but here I am now, remarried and homeschooling our sweet 10yo daughter. We are in our third year of homeschooling (I taught 4th grade in public school for two very long years), and after two years with a popular classical community, I have re-discovered Charlotte Mason and embraced her methods just these last few months. It has been quite a journey, and the return to "home" and "learning" has been so sweet. God has answered my prayers with many sweet ladies for support, friendship, and growth. Thank you for your ministry to so many mothers, fathers, families, and children!