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.*1

I remember scribbling this quote into a notebook. I was a young mother then. (Today, I’m a grandmother.) Are you a hard-working home-teacher that could use some encouragement? Welcome to the invigorating ideas of Mother Culture.  

My new book has 40 chapters, about 350 pages, and is filled with illustrations.
Obscure Term Brought to Light
The term “Mother Culture” isn’t found in any of Charlotte Mason’s writings. It is an obscure term I unearthed in the 1990s from her Parents’ Review, developed and made popular. I introduced the idea first in my own magazine in 1993 and have been speaking and writing about it ever since. I expanded upon it in my purple book, A Charlotte Mason Companion. The tiny (R) next to it means I registered it as trademark for my business/ministry. 

Children are born persons.
Miss Mason’s educational premise is a good place to start, because “persons” applies to everyone. For a Christian mother to keep growing into the person God is designing her to be, she devotes herself to the Master. She keeps in His Word. Her highest aim is to give God glory in all she does.*2 

Fathers and mothers are given the task to feed God’s lambs,*3 that the children on loan to them would grow in wisdom. Meanwhile, a mother does not neglect to cultivate her own soul. She feeds her children. And she feeds herself.   

As a new home teacher, I craved direction. Hardly a willing older-woman-in-the-Lord could be found, in person. This might be your situation, too. You also might be the first Christian in your family tree. 

And yet; who God calls, He also equips. I’m grateful He didn’t launch me onto an un-charted sea. Pondering Charlotte Mason’s Christian wisdom in her pink volumes (books my husband and I published for 20 years) supplied me with time-honored, tried-n’-true ideas.    

My concept of Mother Culture began to take shape. I started associating Miss Mason’s advice to it. For instance, 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.”*4

Do you get stressed-out? It’s a big responsibility to be home-teacher. Miss Mason says, “if mothers could learn to do for themselves, what they do for their children . . . we would have happier households. She recommends 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 …”*5 A little recreation could mean nothing more than sitting at a favorite window with a cup of tea, cloud-watching. Then a mother is not too hectic or exhausted to enjoy her husband’s company.  
Many Hats
A mother wears many hats. She is wife, nanny, counselor, nurse, cook, governess, taxi-driver, laundress, etc. Dear mother, add to your hats, a crown. Father is king. You are queen. The day your child was placed in your arms was your coronation day. You were crowned with authority by Almighty God. A queen rules as she serves. She thinks of her subjects before she thinks of herself. Her subjects, in turn, honor and obey her.

A mother is frazzled when she does not rule. Wearily, she gives into her child’s whims and wants. Yet, by training her child in the habit of obedience, daily friction fades. Be firm but kind. Teach a child to obey. And, happily, you can teach him anything else after that.*6 I remember, putting hands-on-hips after having to say “No” to something. Than adding with a smile: “The queen has spoken.” (smile) 

Creative Expression
Domesticity takes on new dimensions when a mother adds creative expression to her homemaking. I took a fancy to knitting mittens. A large basket of Mommy’s Mittens (all sizes and colors) sat at the back door in winter. I soon became a sentimental knitter. Watching my children build snowmen in Mommy’s Mittens motivated me to knit sweaters, too.

To express herself creatively a mother might try her hand to making a Christmas wreath of pinecones and berries, at stenciling Moses-Eaten-pineapples on the wall, sewing a rag doll and doll quilt, designing an herb garden in easy reach of the kitchen, embroidering a pillow, making curtains, painting a second-hand chair soldier-blue, making greeting cards, or clay pottery, etc. Her children will look up to her, admire her handiwork and say, “How did you do that, Mommy?” 

Radiant Living
In the home where Charlotte Mason’s recommendations are followed, beautiful music fills the air, curious, beautiful paintings are gazed upon. Nature is observed with a sense-of-wonder. Books, both interesting and inspiring, are savored as they are read aloud and narrated. Children understand the Bible by reading and narrating it, too.

A mother reaps advantages by applying Miss Mason’s education-through-the-humanities. These cultural things aren’t frivolity but a person’s “every bread of life.”*7 

All the true, just, pure, lovely, praise-worthy, excellent things to think about and appreciate, rub off on her, her husband, and her children.*8 As a result, a spark of enthusiasm, something hard to live without, produces radiant living.    

A mother feeds her mind and imagination. I remember the wave of apprehension that followed my first thoughts of teaching high school. “Oh, my. How on earth am I going to do this?” My own schooling was lackluster and less-than-empowering.

But Miss Mason’s philosophy proved applicable. All our years of narrating from well-written books had built a strong foundation for the essay, ten-page-paper, and speech. I became familiar with (and was enriched by) the classic literature I didn’t know existed in my public-school days.

Take a look and you’ll see that tragically, the best literature of Western Civilization is missing in government schools. Dry “informational texts” from the liberal New York Times for example, mostly comprise a students’ reading material.*9 History that recounts the thrill of risk-taking pioneering, invention, and discovery, with its stories of patriotism and heroism, that “stir your heart with the story of a great event,”*10 are excluded. Social studies, social issues are made the priority. By contrast, our living books gave “story” a rightful place. It kept our love-of-learning alive. The Lord is still blessing me with what I missed in my girlhood.   

One of my busy grandchildren.  
Whistle while you work.
Laura Ingalls Wilder said, I always have been a busy person, doing my own housework, helping the Man-of-the-Place . . . but I love to work and oh, I do just love to play.

“Hands-to-work, Hearts-to-God” is a Shaker  moto I found helpful. To cope with housework (and the messes an active home-life makes) my children and I grew accustomed to our chores. 
We worked side-by-side, often to baroque music. We learned together, worshiped together, and then played each how we liked.

If there is such a thing as the joy-of-childhood, there is such a thing as the joy-of-motherhood.
With Mother Culture a mother can say, “My cup runneth over.” It runs over into the family circle. The benefits Mother Culture do not end with herself. Eventually, it is she who becomes the generous older-woman-in-the-Lord that she longed to know when she was a new mother.*11 
(End Notes are below)
Drawn by Nigel Andreola for "Lessons at Blackberry Inn"

Mother Culture Talk Free

When writing A Charlotte Mason Companion I dedicated a chapter to Mother Culture. At conferences where I've spoken on The Gentle Art of Learning, I liked to give a talk on Mother Culture. Thousands of women thirsting for encouragement attended these talks.

This talk is now FREE on YouTube because I am near the end of my stock of CDs. Thank you for your patronage over the years.

This talk hasn't an ounce of info-mercial. I omit even a mention of my books (although writing is how I earn a living). This 38 minute talk is most pleasant to the ears of a parlor full of ladies. I'll serve the sympathy. Will you pour the tea or coffee?

Note: My son wore the back-pack (I mention in the talk) for a very short time. These kinds of penalties were rare and not my usual way of bringing-up my children.  

To order stock left of the MotherCulture® CD   


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Acknowledgement of the Paintings
“Il Sonno dell’innocenza” (Sleep of Innoncence) by Silvestro Lega 
“Mother Love” by Friedrich van Amerling 
“Making a Posy” by William Powell Frith
“Mother and Child” by Charles James Lewis  

End Notes
*1 I am unable to produce evidence of the source of this quote because I heard it so long ago. But since the early 1990s I’ve been attributing it to Billy Graham.
*2 Colossians 3:17
*3 John 21:15
*4 & 5 Charlotte Mason, School Education, pg 33
*6 Charlotte Mason, Parents & Children, Chap. 2
*7 Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education, pg 111
*8 Philippians 4:8
*9 Terrance O. Moore, The Story Killers. Professor at Hillsdale College who examines Common Core. His book (and talk on YouTube) are eye-opening. You’ll be very glad you decided to home educate.  
*10 Charlotte Mason, Home Education, pg 282
*11 Titus 2:4-5


  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.

  4. I know this is a couple years old but I just can't get enough of your blog Karen and this "post" is just amazing. It is such a great reminder for me. Thank you for all that you do!