Childlight USA Conference
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Some Impressions of the Conference by Dr. Jack Beckman

Let me leave the heady world of pedagogy and philosophy behind for a moment to give you some of my thoughts on this year’s conference.  And for this exercise, I would like to elicit your help.  I will recount some of the things that touched me, but I expect the Kind Reader to reciprocate with other thoughts that may have occurred as you have reflected on our time together at Gardner-Webb.

First of all, I always look with hopeful expectation to our gathering and feel somewhat like Mary Everington (House of Education, 1927) when she commented on the semiannual teachers’ conferences in Ambleside:

Our set looked forward to getting together after all those months of separation… Miss Williams and Miss Kitching were always careful to make the time well spent.  We [governesses] all had so many questions needing answering and thoughts in our heads needing expression.  At the end there were tears and farewells as we departed to our posts, but we also carried heads filled with more than they could contain….

I believe we all can attest to that kind of feeling.

Overall, I sensed the active Presence of the Holy Spirit in our interactions, conversations, and discussions.  We have been talking about this aspect of Mason’s thinking for a long time, and I think we were given an extra measure of that Person and Work in our midst.  Minds were stimulated around worthy ideas, and even when disagreements took place, there was a disposition of humility.

That the Lord Spirit was giving increase was abundant in the new and ongoing work around Mason’s pedagogy.  Many essential things are happening that are broadening her impact in the world of education and life.  In particular, two new schools are emerging – one a charter school in Pennsylvania that you might have heard being referred to, and the other right in our center of Boiling Springs, NC.  After numerous trials and challenges, the Gillingham School in Pottsville, PA appears to be on the ready for a Fall start.  Many of their staff and teachers came and I had the privilege of listening to these humble, vibrant, and passionate folk express their commitment to the children in this working class town.  The Willow Tree School will also open its doors in the Fall under the care of Jen Spencer.  It will inhabit a local Methodist church on the main street of Boiling Springs.  Both schools have the opportunity of using elements of the curriculum being developed by a design team who have been laboring for nearly three years on a model which maintains fidelity to Mason’s method and yet addresses the needs of 21st century children.  Along with the many ChildLight schools, homeschool classrooms, and mission efforts, these two new works are very welcomed.

Again attesting to the Hand of the Spirit, I had a conversation with someone who desires to translate Mason’s books into vernacular Spanish.  With the growth of the Hispanic population in the States, this is a people group in need of alternatives to the traditional models of teaching and learning.  Because Mason’s books are written in British Romantic language, they have a certain inaccessibility to second language learners; however, if they can be translated into a faithful vernacular state, then the books can reach a whole new field of people.  Imagine narration going on in Spanish!  For this young woman, a project like this becomes a legacy.  The work will transcend her lifetime, but will influence generations of Hispanic children ‘in delightful living’.

Marlene Power has been a stalwart to our work on the Mason digitization project.  Her presentation brought back to me all the joy and trials of that most worthy endeavor.  What an open door this project provides for those who wish to see and study Mason’s actual words.

Our music especially touched my heart this year.  From the Stec family, to Janet Pressley Barr (many happy tears), to morning devotions with Cindy Swicegood were received blessing upon blessing.  God inhabits music and the Lord Spirit inhabits our hearts and minds.  These servants brought us hope and joy.

What about you?  In your many relationships at the conference, what struck you as the Work of the Holy Spirit in our gathering?  Take a moment and reflect, then respond.  I know I am not the only one who felt God’s presence…


This entry was posted in: Childlight USA Conference


Carroll Smith has spoken on various topics related to Charlotte Mason. Currently he teaches at Gardner-Webb University and enjoys working with children, teachers, college students, and Charlotte Mason Institute. He was a teacher and a principal for 21 years before coming to Gardner-Webb University where he has been for six years. Having grown up in eastern North Carolina, he attended East Carolina University for his undergraduate degree and his master's in school administration. He completed his terminal degree and wrote his dissertation on Charlotte Mason at Virginia Tech. Carroll enjoys reading, gardening, and discussing ideas with friends. He and his wife, Andra, and their two young adult college-age children, Corban and Anna, enjoy living, working and playing in North Carolina.


  1. It is amazing to see the same people year after year! I am struck by that richness every year. This year Pamela Glaser recited The Eagle by Tennyson in the cafeteria on Saturday. Right at the table! I teared with that beauty.
    Friday, a Charlotte mom needed a ride home that afternoon. Pleas went out.
    Then coming out of the auditorium after the morning session , there was someone I knew coming just for the day! Then going up the stairs to the next workshop, there was the Charlotte mom who needed to get home right behind us. Certainly that was the work of the Holy Spirit in the details.

  2. I love the quote you pulled about the conference in 1927. A “you, too” from nearly hundred years ago captures how I feel at the end of every conference.

    What an amazing thing for Mason’s work to be translated into Spanish! Did you meet any volunteers desiring to read her works for Librivox? 🙂

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