ChildLightUSA wishes to support efforts that present and preserve Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy. Nancy Kelly has attended the ChildLightUSA Charlotte Mason Educational Conference that occurs each June at Gardner-Webb University in NC. I have listened to her lectures on Mason and she has been a strong supporter of Mason’s philosophy for a number of years. This blog entry is a report from her about her recent Charlotte Mason educational retreat called the Living Educational Retreat. It is a blessing to see how God is continuing to spread a better education worldwide For the Children’s Sake!
The prairie land of Minnesota is hardly the first image that comes to mind when one thinks of Charlotte Mason. But here we were, 60 students of her method, hoping to learn more, encourage one another and be inspired. We had gathered for a retreat of sorts – a time to get away and focus on our goals for the new school year. I suppose there are many such meetings every fall, but because the focus of this one was the philosophy and methods of Charlotte Mason, it was unique. If we can gather many like-minded individuals from homeschools, Christian schools, public schools and Hutterite colonies, it shows that interest in Charlotte Mason is growing – at least here in the upper Midwest!
May I tell you a little about some of the topics we discussed at our Living Education Retreat on September 6th? First, I gave a CM101 talk entitled “Charlotte Mason, Cultural Revolutionary.” We try to begin with the basics as we always have a few attendees who are simply curious and don’t know the first thing about Charlotte Mason. It’s good to start with an overview as this helps eliminate potentially embarrassing questions. One year we disappointed an attendee as he had hoped to meet Miss Mason.
Art Middlekauff plunged in next with his talk on the nature of children. He navigated this potentially contentious topic with great aplomb, using Mason’s own words along with a few quotes from surprising sources which helped everyone put the issue in perspective. Next, Donna Johnson fascinated us with her research moxie as she shared her findings on the implementation of narration in a local public school. She presented us with yet another affirmation of what Mason knew all along – narration is a powerful and effective tool.
Sprinkled throughout the day were book reviews. These were delightful testimonies as to the power of living books in our lives. From a teenage boy’s reminiscing about books that have inspired him, to a bereaved parent who found comfort in the words of a certain author, these presentations deeply moved and inspired attendees to seek out the recommended authors.
After 6 main talks and many smaller chats came the part where the rubber hits the road – the questions from the audience. “How can I begin to implement these methods in my classroom?”
“I’m overwhelmed – where should I start?” “Can I change my course and begin to implement this philosophy with my high schoolers or is it too late?” Here is where we cultivate relationships with others. Perhaps the most important part of the day is this time where we sit and discuss these issues, moving from the lecture scene to the dining table.
When the busy day was over, my co-host Karla Taber and I left the auditorium with an exhausted sense of accomplishment. Not only had we administered a one-day conference on a subject we are both passionate about, but we had also built relationships with friends old and new. While distance sometimes prevents us from attending the conference in NC, we have found an eager audience and an upper Midwest venue to share the educational message of Charlotte Mason.