Brandy Vencel interview

Charlotte Mason, Mother Culture, and More! (an interview with Brandy Vencel)

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Our conversation ranged from homeschool realities to Charlotte Mason principles, mother culture to mother’s energy levels, theology to books to philosophy. With all the scintillating variety, when it came time to title this post I had no idea what to call it! I thought about calling it something like “and this is why I like Brandy Vencel so much and am glad she’s this week’s Homeschool Conversations guest,” but that didn’t seem like a very good blog post title. But, can we just consider that the unofficial subtitle? 😉 The show notes are pretty simple, the full conversation was not. Seriously, you guys need to watch this entire interview! (Or just have it playing in the background so you can listen while you fix dinner, ok?)

Be sure to check out all the other interviews in our Homeschool Conversations series!

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Who is Brandy Vencel?

Brandy Vencel is a California native who imported her husband from Florida. Their four children (three of whom are teenagers — please send coffee) have always been homeschooled, and always in a Charlotte Mason way. Brandy is the mind behind the Afterthoughts Blog and host of the popular podcast, Scholé Sisters. You can find her Charlotte Mason resources and study guides, including information on her Charlotte Mason Boot Camp, in the Afterthoughts Shop.

Brandy Vencel Charlotte Mason interview

Watch my interview with Brandy Vencel

Show Notes {with video time stamps}

Brandy Vencel’s family and journey to homeschooling {1:23}

Brandy’s children just finished 5th, 7th, 9th, and 12th grades. (Congratulations to the homeschool graduate!)

Brandy vaguely knew some homeschoolers grew up, but it was actually their landlord in LA County who first introduced her and her husband to a really positive perspective on homeschooling. That family had adopted several children from the foster care system, and had homeschooled different children at different times. The mom always spoke so highly of their time homeschooling!

Brandy didn’t even realize the impact this woman was making on her at the time, but now she realizes that it was her landlady who first brought homeschooling alive. What really stood out to Brandy was the close relationships between siblings and between parents and their children.

When Brandy first began reading the early homeschool mom blogs, she found Cindy Rollins. Cindy introduced Brandy to Charlotte Mason, and Brandy’s husband bought her the complete set of Charlotte Mason’s 6 volumes for her 26th birthday.

The Vencel family has always homeschooled using the free Charlotte Mason curriculum provided at Ambleside online.

Where do I start with Charlotte Mason?

Charlotte Mason Education {4:38}

Charlotte Mason was a bit of love at first sight for Brandy. “I remember recognizing it for the education that I wished I had or the best parts of my own education,” she explained.

Brandy saw that Charlotte Mason expressed well how children learn, and how she wanted her children to learn. She loved the relational aspect. She also loved the emphasis on reading lots of good books. “It would give them the opportunity to fall in love with books,” Brandy realized, rather than rushing her children through from subject to subject.

My Personal Mind Blown Moment: did you know that Mrs. G. K. Chesterton was once Charlotte Mason’s secretary?! Be sure to listen to our whole conversation to find out how that bit of trivia came up during a discussion of my high school crushes. 😉

Misconceptions about Charlotte Mason education {10:23}

Brandy explained that often the misconceptions or misapplications of Charlotte Mason philosophy come from an overemphasis on one of Charlotte Mason’s principles over the others.

“It’s taking a third of Charlotte Mason and saying THIS is Charlotte Mason… I feel like with Charlotte Mason it always comes back to trying to get that grasp of all 20 principles.

When we isolate only one favorite part and ignore the total picture, it can lead to dangerous, imbalanced places, Brandy explained.

We can’t just focus on the things that come more naturally to us. “We have to learn to do things we don’t want to do,” Brandy admitted.

Start Here: Charlotte Mason in One Hour

Principles not Systems {15:41}

“I really think that having all the principles is to say that it works out in real life. We have our ideals, which can turn into perfectionism. Or we can try to systemize it and turn it into a list, but eventually there’s some sort of mental breakdown that happens… That’s what principles are for,” Brandy said.

I absolutely loved hearing Brandy’s perspective on the value and role of principles! She also shared some personal stories and examples from their own family’s life.

“[Charlotte Mason’s] philosophy has equipped us to at least try to make wise decisions… Having this framework helped me survive even normal motherhood,” she said.

Brandy Vencel interview

I greatly appreciated her distinction between ideas and a check-off list. The principles are to be interpreted with love and relationship with your own children. It is not a system to produce exact-replica, factory models. We’re dealing with real, individual persons.

Many years ago, Lynne Bruce shared these wise words with Brandy: “A philosophy is meant to be walked.

Brandy continued, “We’re only seeing a moment in time… There’s no guarantee of outcomes, but we have a sovereign God, and we know He is infinitely good so we can trust Him.”

Relying on the character of God is my ultimate hope, because way too often it is Mom who is the problem!

Virtue building in homeschool?
You may also enjoy reading my post entitled Homeschooling is Not a Vending Machine.

When Mom has low energy {24:28}

Brandy had Lyme disease growing up and still experiences ongoing issues. “I had to reach a point where I had to accept my own limitations.” Having unrealistic expectations where she’d be able to do all the same things as the other moms she saw brought a lot of discouragement.

On the other hand, because Brandy didn’t have the energy to schedule a whole lot of extra things for her children, she saw how the ingenuity and independence of her children flourished. She was able to provide the resources they needed.

Time will tell the truth” is something Brandy’s doctor says often. So many people want to offer you a quick solution, or even make a profit off of you. Brandy had to learn how to do her own research.

“You have only so much time, you have only so much money, and you have only so much energy to spend on fixing yourself. You have to decide what you’re going to designate for that endeavor, and then let the rest go and learn to live life the best you can,” Brandy encouraged.

Brandy shared such encouragement and helpful perspective in this portion of the interview. If you struggle with chronic health issues, be sure to listen to the full conversation! You can read Brandy’s whole blog post series on The Low-Energy Mom’s Guide To Homeschooling here.

Mother Culture {31:31}

You can find the original Parents’ Review Mother Culture article by A here. Brandy summarized the advice this way:

  • Read for 30 minutes a day
  • Make it a habit
  • Do it most days
  • Have 3 kinds of books going, and pick up the one you feel fit for that day
Brandy Vencel interview

You don’t have to read for 2 hours a day for it to count! Isn’t that a relief?

Brandy also realized that she could read her Bible aloud when her children came into her room instead of viewing it as an interruption that curtailed her reading time.

[Our children] want to listen, so why not read them really good things?” Brandy said.

You have to purposefully pursue this important habit as Mom! Feeding our minds will help us survive for the long-haul as homeschool moms.

We’re also modeling a healthy, happy adulthood for our children. “It’s good for the children to see us being fully human,” Brandy reminded.

Brandy also mentioned that maintaining a habit of reading has helped her not blow things out of proportion. It makes our world bigger!  When our world is bigger, the spilled milk (or the homeschool day) won’t seem quite so monumental. “Broad reading…really lends that stability to your personhood,” Brandy said.

Recently, Brandy has been reading Anti-Fragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Missy Andrews Center for Lit My Divine Comedy interview
You may also enjoy my interview with Missy Andrews where we discussed similar ideas about where we find our identity as homeschool moms.

Find Brandy Vencel Online

Bad Days and Weeks: Troubleshooting Difficulties in the Home Schoolroom MP3

Check out all the other interviews in my Homeschool Conversations series!

Homeschool Conversations Video Interviews


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