Mother Culture, Schole, and Leisure in the Homeschool


Mother Culture and Schole are two terms frequently tossed about in the CM universe, and, yet, neither is found in Mason’s six-volume book series upon which most of the CM style of education is built. Interesting, right?

Okay, let’s back up and try to define these two terms, which basically describe the same idea.


Schole comes from Josef Pieper’s book Leisure, the Basis of Culture (on my to-read list) in which he explains that the Greek word for leisure is “schole,” and this root word is how we came to the word “school.” I don’t know about you, but when I think back on my schooling years, leisure is not the first word that comes to mind. I’m more likely to think of words like deadline, test, and GPA as well as ideas like earn your degree and find a job. Admittedly, though, I have a sentimental feeling for a time when life was simpler. In fact, when my grandma moved to assisted living a couple years ago, I comforted her by saying that it was like going back to college – meal plan, neighbors down the hall, rec room, library – without having to go to class. I thought that sounded pretty good!

Christopher Perrin and Sarah Mackenzie have since adopted the phrase “teaching from rest” to describe the idea of schole. In fact, Mackenzie’s booklet Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace is a modern treatise on the subject. And, for all you podcast listeners (like me), there is a Schole Sisters podcast produced by leaders in the online CM community — Mystie Winckler, Brandy Vencel, and Pam Barnhill. These three ladies have taught me so much.

Mother Culture

Moving on, the term Mother Culture is a bit more modern than schole. It comes from Karen Andreola’s 1998 book A Charlotte Mason Companion. In the book, she explains that “Mothers should cultivate their souls so that in turn they may cultivate the souls of their children.” Andreola recommends that mothers should safeguard their enthusiasm for motherhood by taking measures to enjoy their work – as a mother and a teacher of her children.

One of these measures that Andreola suggests has become so ingrained in the CM philosophy that many people (including me) are surprised to find that it didn’t come directly from Mason (though the spirit of it is found in Mason’s writings). I’m not sure there’s a zippy title for this idea, but maybe we could invent one. How about, the Three-Book Principle? That sounds good, except I usually juggle more than three. The idea is that a mother should have at least three types of books going at once – a “stiff” book (one that is challenging), a “moderately easy” book (like a biography or memoir), and a novel (obviously not total trash, but a quick read). The idea here is that a mother has a book at her fingertips that she is “fit to read.” Some days that may be Shakespeare. Some days that might be Wendell Berry. And, in modern times, somedays that might be a favorite blog. 😉

Charlotte Mason and Leisure

Okay, so we have established that schole and mother culture are not Mason’s own words, but they are definitely in the same vein as her philosophy of education. In Volume 3 of Mason’s writings titled School Education, Mason describes the “Serenity of a Madonna” with this phrase:

If mothers could learn to do for themselves what they do for their children when these are overdone, we should have happier households. Let the mother go out to play! If she would only have courage to let everything go when life becomes too tense, and just take a day, or half a day, out in the fields, or with a favourite book, or in a picture gallery looking long and well at just two or three pictures, or in bed, without the children, life would go on far more happily for both children and parents. The mother would be able to hold herself in ‘wise passiveness,’ and would not fret her children by continual interference, even of hand or eye––she would let them be. (p. 33)

Let me just point out that Mason’s ideas of leisure were activities that would benefit the mind, body, and soul. Take a nature walk. Read an enjoyable book. Visit an art gallery. Take a nap. Nowhere here is the spirit of retreat into social media, make a list of all of your regrets and shortcomings, or eat a bunch of junk food that is going to make you feel like crap. I think modern ideas of leisure might need some fine tuning (more about that in a future blog).

Mason goes on to talk about why leisure is so important. First she describes the rush of busyness and how it can be enjoyable – for example, a child striving to memorize a poem to recite on her father’s birthday – but how too much busyness grates on the nerves. For this example, she describes how a mother having a “busy day” makes her children “fretful and tiresome.” Her final word on the matter is that leisure for themselves and their parents is a necessary component of a child’s wellbeing. Or, in other words, too much stress is bad for a child’s health.

Parents Set the Pace

I guess my final thoughts on the matter are that stress is contagious, and parents set the pace for stress in the household — especially the parent homeschooling their child (b/c he/she is with them all of the time). These are not new thoughts in Child Psychology, but perhaps they shed a new light on the way we homeschool. The aforementioned experts all agree that mothers (and fathers) must take care of themselves, and leisure is the name of the game.

Until we meet again next Friday, be well.

I finished reading a novel:

I’m still reading these:


Moderately challenging books:

Stiff books:



5 thoughts on “Mother Culture, Schole, and Leisure in the Homeschool

  1. Thank you. I REALLY need to read this today. As my kids have gotten older I have gotten lost on the “doing” side of homeschooling. I have forgotten how to homeschool from a place of rest. Trying to find my way back, but the road is not always an easy one. Looking forward to reading more. You have found a new follower:)


  2. This is a great overview of these concepts. I didn’t realize that Anne White had done a study guide for The Little Duke – will have to check that out. We are going to be reading it again soon around here.


    1. Ann’s study guide is a nice little cheat sheet for the parent. I think I discovered it when we were half way through the book. It helped keeps names and places straight in my head. Have fun rereading it! My son and I really enjoyed it — he pretended to be uninterested for a while, but when a certain character dies he was completely outraged.


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