What Is Mother Culture®?

What Is Mother Culture®

by Karen Andreola
                 Mothers should cultivate their souls so that in turn they may cultivate the souls of their children.

I was struck by this quotation when I was a young mother. I am unable to produce evidence of its source but since the early 1990s I’ve been attributing it to the evangelist Billy Graham.

This short bit of Christian advice has given me much to think about for a good many years. That’s the nature of an idea. It may start small but it takes on greater significance with each new consideration. The primary idea embodied in “Mother Culture” – an obscure term I uncovered from the past – is expressed in the quote above: “Mothers should cultivate their souls.”

But there’s more. When making a dress - with a plaid fabric especially - it is important to match up the seams. You’ll know if the skirt or jacket has been sewn with care when you look and see that the colors of the woven pattern are precisely aligned. I sought to do just that with the ideas rolling around in my head.

As a young mother and new home teacher I longed for advice about how to fulfill my roles of; wife, mother, homemaker and home teacher. It was so perplexing that on some days I was desperate for advice. With prayer and patience I collected my material and began matching up the seams.

It was in contemplating the educational principles of Miss Charlotte Mason that furthered my ideas about Mother Culture.

In reading her old Parents’ Review magazine articles from the 1890s and her books written at the turn of that same century, the concept began to take shape.

With satisfaction, and the peace-of-mind that comes from enlightenment, I watched a lovely dress appear on its dress-form. All it needed were the trimmings and someone to wear it. So I tried it on.

Although Charlotte Mason didn't use the term Mother Culture in her writings she noticed that . . . 

“. . . the old painters, however diverse their ideas in other matters, all fixed upon one quality as proper to the pattern of Mother. The Madonna, no matter out of whose canvas she looks at you, is always serene. . . . we should do well to hang our walls with the Madonnas of all the early Masters [of art] if the lesson, taught through the eye, would reach with calming influence to the heart.”

How can we mothers display a countenance of serenity during stressful times? Charlotte Mason believed that “if mothers could learn to do for themselves, what they do for their children . . . we would have happier households. She recommended that mothers go out to play “. . . take a day, or a half a day, out in the fields, or with a favorite book, or in a picture gallery …” For a mother to allow herself a bit of recreation to refresh herself by exploring her own interests, to find a little time for herself especially when so many others depend on her, is what I call Mother Culture.

When a dedicated, hard-working home teacher takes part in Mother Culture she safeguards her enthusiasm. She will be better able to cope with her responsibilities. To take part in Mother Culture is to feed herself with the Word of God, with ideas from books, nature, art, music, etc., taking care to keep growing spiritually and mentally.

If there is such a thing as the joy of childhood there is also such a thing as the joy of motherhood, and Mother Culture admonishes a mother to recognize and live within such a blessing. How wonderful when she can say, “My cup runneth over,” because it will run over into the family circle. Thus, the advantages of Mother Culture do not end with herself.

What are those things that safeguard a mother’s enthusiasm for the high calling of motherhood? May your visit here bestow to you a sampling of those things. With this sampling I invite you to seam together your own philosophical dress. Then try it on.  I trust it will be becoming.   

CD Talk Available 

When writing A Charlotte Mason Companion I dedicated a chapter to Mother Culture. At conferences where I have been invited to speak on The Gentle Art of Learning, I also like to give a talk on Mother Culture. Thousands of women thirsting for encouragement have attended these talks over the years.

Do you need a pick-me-up? The principles of Mother Culture are invigorating. In this talk I illustrate each with an anecdote. I invite you in a friendly way to apply whatever principles appeal to you while respecting the uniqueness of your personality.

Turning the pages of my notes I uphold the majesty of motherhood, embrace the blessings of femininity, and move onto the funny side of things. Recorded live in 2004, I vividly remember that Friday evening. The audience was filled with married couples with whom I apparently had a rapport. I was pleased to hear their laughter.

There isn’t an ounce of info-mercial in this talk. I omit even a mention of my books  (although writing is how our family earns a living). This makes the CD most pleasant to the ears of a parlor full of ladies. I'll serve the sympathy. Will you pour the tea or coffee?   

To order the Mother Culture® CD    

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Charlotte Mason R. & S.
P O Box 296
Quarryville, PA 17566

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Passages by Charlotte Mason are taken from page thirty-three of School Education.

 Acknowledgement of the Paintings
“Young Mother Mending” by Franciose Duparc (1705-1778)
“Il Sonno dell’innocenza” (Sleep of Innoncence) by Silvestro Lega (1826-1895)
“Mother Love” by Friedrich van Amerling (1803-1887)
“Making a Posy” by William Powell Frith
“Mother and Child” by Charles James Lewis  


  1. What a necessary, blessed ministry. God bless you mightily.
    Trish Clark

    1. After home teaching for a while, and meeting new dedicated, hard-working, home-teaching friends wherever we would move our household, I perceived the need for this ministry. Thank you Trish.

  2. How thankful I am to be able to read your inspiring words and see the pictures/paintings you share with us! Karen, you are beautiful inside and out - Julia

    1. Thank you Julia. I work at my wish to provide my readers something inspiring for their lives. Karen A.

  3. For years I thought it selfish for mothers to take time for themselves; it seemed it would mean my family's needs would be unmet if I did anything other than go from task to task in serving them. Yet I was lonely and frustrated all those years, feeling so empty and dry. I remember sitting alone at night when the work was done, unable to even think of how I might like to spend my time. After reading your book the light finally turned on for me, and I can see how feeding my soul will actually make me more of a blessing to my family, and it doesn't have to take a lot of time. This past week at the library I picked up a poetry book and an art book that intersested me after helping my daughter find all the books she needed. Taking 20 mins to savor a poem and gaze at beautiful art has lifted my spirits more than I would have believed possible! I am happier and see I can still get my work done without being so demanding that my every waking moment be productive. Thank you so much.

    1. You have shared from the heart. Thank you. Moms who read this will be encouraged to learn of the testimony of your experience. I'm so glad you've made the time for a little Mother Culture. Karen A.