I live close to Gardner Webb University, which makes it easy to go to the Childlight USA Conference, but there are more reasons why I go back every year. My spirit ignited when I first read Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s For The Children’s Sake in 1992 when I began homeschooling our 4 sons. In 1995, Susan came to Charlotte for a weekend conference on Charlotte Mason. Looking back, that was extraordinary (plus lunch with her!). When the Childlight USA Conference began in 2004, I had to go. I’ve come to it every year. I’ve given workshops on poetry and become an avid lover of poems and words. I’ve made friends. I’ve watched a group from Canada drive down (see below what CM said at her last conference about travels to the P.N.E.U. Conference) to the hot days in Boiling Springs. I’ve met those from Ambleside Online who come. Every time I go to the site, there’s a deep gratitude to people rather than names. Ranald Macaulay came one year. We called him one year, and his son-in-law came one year. John Thorley came for many years. All of these visits gave us a sense of a wider educational movement (rather than just our own locales) and excellent teacher training. Now, I’ve graduated those sons and just have the last one, Emma, at home entering high school. Charlotte Mason said, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline and a life.” That’s why I keep coming back.
This year is the 7th annual Charlotte Mason Educational Conference. If you are new, here are a few thoughts to “get ready“ as you land or drive into Boiling Springs:
-Sit with a speaker at a meal. Sign up for the discussion meals in Bailey.
-Ask questions, share ideas, listen.
-Speak to those in line in the cafeteria about workshops or struggles.
-Go to fireside chats. It is a relaxed atmosphere to learn. Talk about the book being discussed while walking back to the apartment with a new friend. Stay up a bit late. This year, I will share on Makoto Fujimura. I’m bringing “The Four Gospels” alongside “Refractions” and notes from International Arts Movement conference in NYC in March. These are essays to dig into for truth, beauty and goodness from a living artist.
-Look through the workshop schedule. How do you decide which one to go to? Maybe break up your group and cover more . Discuss afterwards. If you are alone, pick which one will most help you for this next year. Or pick the one you are passionate about. You will go deeper into that subject: art, poetry, writing, history, etc…
-Take a walk. It is a beautiful campus.
-Drink water. It is June in North Carolina!
Charlotte’s very last conference was the Whitsuntide Conference in Ambleside in 1922. Her opening address (read with a British accent):
“ It gives me and gives us all extraordinary pleasure to meet so many PNEU members, especially when one reflects on the fatigues of travel through the weary hours of a long, hot, dusty day; for members are here from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, from the most distant as well as the nearer counties of England, and, of course, London has sent a large contingent notwithstanding the ‘season.’… The PNEU have taken pains to master a distinctive philosophy of education which some of us believe will do a great many things for thousands of children and their homes” (The Story of Charlotte Mason, pg. 172-173).
I agree with the following attendee, who went to the PNEU Conference over 100 years ago. C. C. Cotterill wrote “Some Impressions of a PNEU Conference” (Parent’s Review in 1899 , p. 544).
“One single aim seemed to me to pervade everything spoken and every person that spoke–how best and most harmoniously to develop the whole nature of a child. It is impossible to overstate the refreshing and exhilarating effects of such an atmosphere. It was an atmosphere of ideas and ideals.”
“Among the most suggestive and interesting communications to which I listened were the remarks, amounting often to not more than a few sentences, made by persons in the audience, in the course of a discussion.”
“In a word, everyone seemed desirous of communicating to others the proved results of successful observation and experiment in the education of children.”
“If I ask myself what I enjoyed most, I think the most interesting and enjoyable element of all to me was the spirit of the thing–the healthy, friendly, disinterested, open-minded spirit that seemed to pervade everything and everybody; the sense that everyone was there with the single aim of giving and receiving that which might be most helpful towards making the world–the child-world, doubtless, chiefly, but not the child-world only–something fairer and better, truer, happier, more beautiful, in the rolling of the ages. But it was for me rendered the more delightful, because it was all simple, unpedantic, natural.”
Any thoughts or impressions on “Getting Ready” for the 7th Charlotte Mason Educational Conference, June 8- 11, 2011?
© Bonnie Buckingham, 2011