Our Experience: Charlotte Mason Institute 2014 Education Conference Part 1

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.

CMI experience graphic 1

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.

CMI hymn

Click on this to see it larger.

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”.

Click to see this larger.

Click to see this larger.

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.

Click the image to see it larger.

Click the image to see it larger.

Tea Time/Folksongs

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.


North Laurel (7 Posts)

Blossom- "North Laurel" to the online world- lives in Ohio with her husband and two teens, homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way with Ambleside Online. She is graciously allowed to be a moderator for the Ambleside Online Forum. North Laurel loves to read, be on the computer, and learn. You can read her blogging about homeschooling, book reviews and life in general at North Laurel Home & School.

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4 Tips to Deal with Negative Feedback about Homeschooling


Guest Post by Misty from Joy in the Journey.

negative feedback option 3

I am sure at some point in your homeschool journey you have dealt with negative feedback. As the years go by it becomes easier, but if you are new to homeschooling it may seem intimidating. Homeschooling is growing more and more popular and I do not get the negativity that I used to get, but it is still there.

Dealing with the negative feedback becomes easier as time goes on, and as the fruit of your decision becomes evident, you will be happy to know positive feedback will take its place. In the meantime though here are some ways to help in dealing with negative feedback.

Remember the decision is yours.

It is not your parents, your friends or your family’s decision. Ultimately you and your spouse are the only two people that really should have a say in how you educate your children. This is easier said than done, but if the subject comes up, shut it down and calmly tell the person these are YOUR children and you will raise them how you see fit. Then, walk away.

Remember why you made this decision.

There are many reasons to homeschool. Why did YOU make this decision? Was it to give your child a more one on one education? Was it because your child didn’t fit the “mold” of public school? Was it religious convictions? Remember why you chose homeschooling and stand firm on that decision.

Have concrete facts ready.

The three main areas that you will hear negative feedback on is whether or not your child will get into college, are they going to be weird, and how can you teach them. If nothing else will stop the negative feedback, you hear from family and friends then show them the statistics.

When it comes to standardized testing, homeschoolers consistently score in the 80th percentile or higher, compared to their public school peers who score in the 50th percentile. This is regardless of their parent’s level of education.

Homeschool graduates on average have a higher GPA in college than traditional students, and graduate at a higher rate than their peers.

Are homeschoolers weird? I don’t think so, and studies agree. In a study measuring communication, daily living skills, socialization and maturity, homeschoolers outperformed public school kids on every level.

Homeschooling is the fastest growing form of education in the country with an annual growth rate of 7%. Why? Because it works!

Be kind and patient.

The negative feedback may not be on purpose. The person asking may have legitimate concerns. Answer their questions in love. Be honest. If you get the feeling that you are not going to change their mind don’t argue. Just firmly state “This is our decision, and it is not up for discussion” and change the subject.

Negative feedback is something to be expected when you homeschool. You are doing something different; you are going “against the grain”. It may be really hard to be kind, and not argue with someone when they are peltering you with questions. But, try not to be rude back. By doing so, you are just “proving” to the naysayers all the bad they think about homeschoolers. So, don’t be rude back, and don’t take it personally.

Remember that you are going to experience negative feedback, because you are doing something different. Eventually, the fruit that others see in your children will begin to stop the naysayers, most of the time. And if it doesn’t, remember why you homeschool and that the decision is yours-no one else’s.

How do you handle negative feedback about homeschooling?


Misty @hsbapostMisty Bailey is a wife to Roger and a homeschool mom to three beautiful blessings. She resides with her family in Southern Ohio. She loves helping new homeschoolers and shares her struggles with time management, becoming unglued, and finding joy in the everyday moments on her blog Joy in the Journey.





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Failure and Forgiveness

Failure and Forgiveness as a #Homeschool Parent @hsbapost

You’ve gone over long division with decimals umpteen times. You’ve explained fractions a thousand times. If you had a nickel for every time you reviewed proper punctuation, you’d be sailing the seven seas right now headed for a tropical vacation.

But you aren’t headed for any type of vacation, and honestly, you’re about to lose it.

Losing our cool. Blowing our top. It’s not easy to talk about this issue as it relates to homeschooling. After all, doesn’t everybody always say, “Oh I could never homeschool, I just don’t have the patience for it.” Yeah well, maybe we don’t either. Maybe some days we question our sanity.

Even for those of us who may adopt a more laid-back approach through self-directed learning, or even un-schooling, there are still dozens of opportunities each day for our children to learn from us, and let’s face it, some of those interactions are going to be more frustrating than others.

I don’t use the word “failure” lightly, and let me be very clear–I am not talking about failing our kids because we neglected to teach them their times tables until they were ten. I’m talking about the kind of failure that happens when we put our own insecurities and fears above the needs and sensitivities of our children.

How does this manifest itself? It can be in obvious ways–screaming, raising your voice, slamming a door–or more subtle–a comment meant to motivate when all it really does is wound the soul and destroy confidence. “Your brother could do this at your age, why can’t you?”

These are things that happen to many, if not all parents, but it becomes more amplified in a homeschool environment. If we lose our cool, maybe we shouldn’t be homeschooling. When we make a mistake, we doubt ourselves and the guilt eats away at us until we are questioning everything we thought we knew to be true.

Here are a few things you can do immediately after saying or doing something you regret:

  • Ask for forgiveness–on the spot. Don’t wait until later, or until tomorrow. The seeds of resentment will have already taken root. Admit that you are not a perfect person and that you also have feelings of frustration and anger sometimes. Express that you always strive to be the best person you can be and that you love your child(ren) unconditionally and only want what’s best for them. Give hugs freely. Shed tears.
  • Examine any underlying stresses that may be present. Problems with finances, a spouse, family member, sibling, or another child, can bring out the worst in us at the most unexpected moments. Get to the bottom of it, especially if you are feeling “short” with your children more than usual.
  • Play some music and b r e a t h e. This one sounds weird, but I swear it works. That saying about “music soothing the savage beast” is true. Play something that makes you feel happy, light, and centered. It might be Tchaikovsky, Kenny Chesney, or Fleetwood Mac–it doesn’t matter, put it on.
  • Talk to another homeschool mom (or dad!). It’s ok to talk to a spouse, but chances are they will just try to offer helpful advice, when all you really need is a shoulder to cry on.

We are all hard on ourselves. We want to be the perfect homeschooling mom with sparkling Pinterest boards and neatly lined bookshelves. We want to appear cool, calm, collected, and capable. We know we can do a better job of teaching our kids–that’s why we keep them at home with us. In the shuffle and chaos of your life, please remember that some days we will fail–or feel like a failure. I think I failed just the other day and I’ve been homeschooling for eight years.

Failing doesn’t mean we have forever failed and aren’t worthy of redemption. Ask for forgiveness. You will receive it, and then, don’t forget to forgive yourself.

Angela (26 Posts)

Angela is co-founder of Mosaic Freeschool and a homeschooling mom to two never-been-to school kids. Born in Southern California and raised on the East Coast, Angela had a bit of an unconventional education, but did not consider homeschooling seriously until her first child was born. Believing that young children learn best from those that love them most, Angela and her husband John chose homeschooling for their two boys. She is dedicated to the advancement of alternative education choices, creating the web-site Raising Autodidacts in 2011 to further explore the idea of fostering the self-taught individual. In June of 2013, she started an instructional writing service called Gathering Ink .

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