This past winter I was ecstatic to learn that I had gotten in to the Living Education Retreat in July. Oh my goodness! This is always talked about as the premiere retreat to attend to learn more about the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education. They purposely keep it small so as to be able to keep the tight knit feel of community. Imagine 400 or so ladies trying to get into a conference that can only hold 140. Now you know why I was giddy with excitement upon receiving the coveted email saying I had made the cut. I do believe I squealed with delight.
Off to Minnesota I went on an airplane all alone. It was meant to be a family trip. After our epic trip in June to the family reunion that took us to about 8 states or more, Logan was beside himself . He was having an epic time self regulating as well as keeping his composure. After looking at the calendar to discover VBS would be the next week, it was quickly decided that I would go alone. I was sort of excited as I had never been to Minnesota. I was not excited about flying there. Airplanes cause me great anxiety as I tend to get motion sick. The idea that I can’t get out of it doesn’t help either. We all have our fears.
A dear soul attending the retreat as well was so kind as to not only pick me up from the airport but to let me stay at her house the day before and after the retreat. This allowed me to get a much cheaper flight as well as to travel with no worry about getting to the retreat on time. It’s that kind of community that the organizers are attempting to cultivate. That’s why they keep it small and intimate. I was able to hang out with her dear family and get a Starbucks You Are Here mug. It’s the small things in life that make me happy sometimes.
We stayed at the gorgeous Villa Maria in beautiful Frontenac. It is near to Lake Pepin and the Mississippi River. A beautiful castle like structure, Villa Maria was once run as a boarding school for girls until a fire gutted it in 1969. It certainly has a convent like feel to it with dorm style rooms and shared bathrooms. The rooms were quaint. When I say quaint, I’m talking no locks or air conditioning quaint. For this Florida girl, it was a culture shock for sure. I pushed my reading chair in front of the door when I went to bed. I’ve watched Criminal Minds episodes for too long. The no air conditioning part did not bother me as there was a table top fan in the room as well as the window opened. It made for a pleasant temperature. Madison commented on the photo I sent her “That’s how scary movies start.” It was a beautiful facility surrounded by gorgeous scenery.
This particular retreat was quite different from other homeschool conventions I had attended. There was an aura of friendship always in the air. You could certainly feel the Holy Spirit moving in the midsts of the people as we attended lectures. There was never a do this or do that feel to any of the speakers whether it was the main ones or the breakout speakers. It was always an environment of learning and helpfulness. More of a we do it this way and here’s why approach.
Lots of personal time was built in to help friendships blossom or grow. It was also a great time to pause and reflect on what you had learned in the previous sessions. To look over your notes, to contemplate questions, or to simply be still with your thoughts. This was the toughest time for me. I wanted to be with the others but am an introvert in social settings. It was far out of my comfort zone to join people at their tables . This is exactly what God wanted me to work on for this setting. I spent lots of quiet time struggling through some issues that He as dealing with in me. I also spent some fantastic time making new friends as well as hugging and catching up with old ones. Life was good this weekend for real.
What did I learn? Lots and lots. I learned that mosquitoes are just as bad if not worse in Minnesota as they are in Florida. I am jealous of their nature journals because I am jealous of their nature. I am way overthinking our journals. We are doing a fine job. I love Charlotte Mason to pieces. If she were still alive, I would hug her to death. I’m not as weird as I feared .
Classes I took and am chewing over so I will share their information in future posts:
- Conversaziones by Nancy Kelly. Nancy blogs at Sage Parnassus and is the founder of the this phenomenal retreat. She is an expert in implementing a living education. Lovely person too!
- I learnt the facts by Dr. Carroll Smith . Dr. Smith is the founder of the Charlotte Mason Institute.
- Snakes In Ireland by Sandy Rusby Bell . Fantastic talk all about composition and Charlotte Mason
- The Sacrament of Education by Art Middlekauff . I had the distinct pleasure of riding with him to and from the retreat. Very knowledgeable about Charlotte Mason and her concepts. His wife, Barbara, was sweet too!
- Panorama of Geography by Sally Almodovar You will love her ideas for geography
- Natural History of My Backyard by Sandy Rusby Bell. Amazing nature talk .
- Habit Formation by Marcia Mattern . Marcia blogs at I Wonder Why. Life changing for my family.
- Physics by Richele Baburina. Richele is an amazing friend of many years. She is so smart and funny plus down to earth. I just love her to pieces. She blogs at Barefoot Voyage. She is the reason we will be adding physics to our homeschool this year!
- Charlotte Mason’s Call to Parents by Art Middlekauf. Fantastic way to end the conference.