Mother Culture

As I glanced at my monthly calendar, I found the following words staring me in the face: ballet lesson, Awana, piano lesson, art lesson, dance recital photos, dance recital rehearsal, dance recital, Milwaukee Ballet performance, Kids Choir musical, last day of school, and homeschool convention.” Just reading through our upcoming monthly schedule made me feel tired. Next, I began perusing my newsfeed on Facebook and a post from my friend’s page grabbed my attention, “If you’re so focused on your kids’ education that you’re not getting one, and then you’re telling and not showing. And if you’re not getting one…nobody is getting one.” I felt like I cold water had been thrown in my face. This was the wake-up call I desperately needed to bring me to my senses. I knew I had to make time to participate in “Mother Culture.”


You may be sitting there scratching your head, wondering, as you read this blog post, “What in the world is ‘mother culture’?” Mother Culture is best defined in a quote by Billy Graham, “Mothers should cultivate their souls so that in turn they may cultivate the souls of their children.”[i] Karen Andreola, author and Charlotte Mason advocate says, “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.’”[ii] Cultivating ones soul conjures up the mental image of a garden being prepared for spring planting. The gardener begins by removing of dead undergrowth, tilling the soil, selection the seeds, sowing the seeds, covering the garden with soil, and finally the watering the prepared garden.


Metaphorically, it sounds great, but what does it look like in real life application? By nature, I am a doer, just call me Martha. I long to possess the gentle spirit of Mary, but my inner Martha calls out to me every day like a roaring lion. She reminds me of all the things which need to be “done” on my “to do” list. The first lesson I learned in pursuing Mother Culture was that I had to make time for it. If I didn’t make time for it, it would not happen. I have learned to apply the concept of Mother Culture according to the “seasons of life.” When our child was younger, I scheduled thirty minutes to one hour each afternoon beginning after our read aloud period. During this time, I would read a devotional from my Bible, and chapter from a good book. As our child grew and changed, my Mother Culture moments reflected these changes as well. The sessions became longer and came to include our entire family. A nature hike at a state park, a trip to the local farmer’s market, strolling through the botanical gardens, visiting the State Fair, attending an exhibit at the natural history, art or science museums, a bicycling trip along the bike trails, cross country skiing on a nature trail, planting a garden, and cooking an ethnic meal provided the nourishment and refreshment my body, mind, and spirit craved. I even applied the concept of Mother Culture to the virtual world by creating an online group where bibliophiles (mostly mothers who love books) can come together to chat, share and discuss their favorite books.

two-women-having-tea by frank desch

In closing, I would like to leave you with these words as food for thought, “If we would do our best for our children, grow we must; and on our power of growth surely depends, not only our future happiness, but our future usefulness.”[iii]  z

Kathy Alphs




[i] “The Parent’s Review,” “Mother Culture,” Volume 3, no. 2 1892/93, pgs. 92-95, courtesy of Ambleside Online.

[ii]Andreola, Karen, “A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning,” United States of America: Charlotte Mason Research and Supply, 1998.

[iii] Permission granted by Rachel Pinegar DeMille to quote Oliver DeMille from the “Thomas Jefferson Education” Face Book Group, 2014.

(This article originally appeared on the Beautiful Feet Books Blogspot May 13, 2014.)


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