As soon as I heard about the Charlotte Mason Institute’s 2014 Education Conference, I was saving my pennies and planning to attend. Of course I took my kids with me. They were super excited at first because a handful of teens they know sometimes attend. Unfortunately this year none of them were able to. Regardless, both of my kids took away some good things from the conference.
We’d never gone to a homeschool convention, or an education conference. We really weren’t sure what to expect. Let me tell you this: We are going next year! It was very good. I want to say “amazing!”, “awesome!”, “spectacular!” but really it was such a calm and wonderful atmosphere that those words just seem out of place. It was great. It was wonderful. I would like to share with you our time at the CMI Conference. And I encourage you to plan to attend in 2015.
You might want to get a cup of something and get comfy. This will be split into parts though, for easier reading. This part will focus on in-between but important bits that we participated in, or that were available. The second part will talk about the workshop/sessions that we personally attended, and briefly about others that were offered. Finally, part three will share the plenaries (the ‘sessions’ that included all attendees in the ‘big room’).
This year was extra special because it coincided with CMI’s 10th anniversary, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s book For the Children’s Sake 30th anniversary, and Charlotte Mason’s Liberal Education for All Movement- 100th anniversary! Liberal education for all. Wow.
The conference hymn, which we were able to participate in singing on Thursday and Friday morning, is a favorite of mine. Be Thou My Vision- Writer Unknown, Old Irish Hymn. The first time I heard of this hymn was when a reader of our family’s little newsletter requested it to be featured one week. It’s a great hymn that really makes me think of how much I need to focus on God’s Will and not my own. And you know, that’s what Charlotte Mason thought, too. Children are a gift from God; lent to us for just a little while. We have to take care of them in His way.
That’s how the conference started for us. And it is a good thing it did because after 10+ hours of driving, I’d begun to wonder if I’d made a mistake in spending the money and time to attend.
I do believe that God has ordered our paths; whether we choose to follow right away or take the long way is another story! We got home from the conference on Saturday morning (1 am *morning*). The hymn we sang at church on Sunday? Be Thou My Vision. God was talking to me and the kids while we were at the conference. I know we were paying attention.
The poem for the conference, which we didn’t actually get to hear recited, was Emily Dickinson’s “He Ate and Drank the Precious Words”.
Picture Study/Nature Walk
We also were able to take part in a picture study of Jean-Francois Millet’s Woman Baking Bread. They gave everyone an 8×11 print to take home. I really enjoyed participating with others at our table. We’ve only done CM in our own homeschool; we’ve no others to discuss in person with the great things we come across.
There were also nature walks each day but we didn’t get to participate in those because there was just too much going on. Okay, I might have been a little tired (did I mention the incredibly long drive?).
While we didn’t go on any of the nature walks with a group we very much enjoyed taking our time when we were going to and from the apartments to activities. There is such a variety of plants on the Gardner-Webb University campus! For whatever reason I forgot to take my camera out of my purse, even though I had it with me the entire time. I got just a few photos but this is one of my favorite. It was a Northern Mockingbird gracing us with a territorial dance.
One of our favorite parts was the tea time. Not for the tea because unfortunately the hot water ran out before we could get any tea. But no real worries there; we had plenty of yummy pastries from the coffee shop that is on campus. And I had coffee. If you can’t have tea, have coffee and pastries! But really the highlight was the singing. Folk songs. The folk song artist being featured, if you will, was Pete Seeger. He passed away January of this year.
The girl who led the singing was 14 year old Marley Spencer (same age and whose birthday is the same month as my son’s; yeah, he was impressed *wink*). She sang “This Land Is Your Land”, “Little Boxes”, and “Turn, Turn, Turn”. The audience had opportunity to sing along. “Little Boxes” is a favorite of our family, so you bet we were singing along.
Marley is the daughter of the Willow Tree Community School‘s lead teacher, Jen Spencer.
Meet & Greet
There were probably many meet & greets but we had tunnel vision for just one. If you know us, you’ll not be surprised that it was the Ambleside Online meet and greet. I was so excited to finally get to meet in real life some of my friends from the forum. There were people there who were interested in AO, as well as those who have been using the curriculum.
I hope you’ll join me next time to talk more about the CMI 2014 Education Conference: A Liberal Education for All.