"A community of earnest and high-minded people" is what J.P. Inman said about those in the Charlotte Mason College. I like to think that it describes those that gathered at Shalom Hill Farm last weekend.  Not high-minded in an arrogant sense, but in the sense of seeking the best education for our children with our foundations laying firmly in theology. The second plenary session delivered by Dr. Beckman was titled "Toward a Theology of Education - Timeless Truths and Principled Pedagogy."  This group could be likened to the PNEU (Parents' National Education Union)  of Mason's day in that we were all there to grapple with her philosophy, to grow and to learn how to offer our students the best that there is available.

We learned that Mason is one of the few educators that has attempted to unite theory and practice with a universalizing model - a model that purports a single vision for all educational categories. Others mentioned who have tried this are Comenius, Paley, Polanyi and Phenix.   Dr. Beckman called Mason's model "a harmonious and ennobling scheme of education and philosophy."  This is certainly one of the things that drew me to her paradigm of education and continues to inspire and instruct me today.

Next, we spent lots of time discussing the role of the Holy Spirit in the education of our children.
Mason says, "...every fruitful idea, every original conception, whether in Euclid, or grammar, or music, was a direct inspiration from the Holy Spirit, without any thought at all as to whether the person so inspired named himself by the name of God, or recognised whence his inspiration came. Vol. 2 p. 271  
This is huge.  On the one hand we might say, "Whew - He does the work!"  On the other hand, we had better be sure we are choosing only the best materials to work with.  While I adhere to the "all truth is God's truth" maxim, I'm still working through much of this language regarding the Holy Spirit as the inspirer of every fruitful  idea.  Perhaps the route is a but circuitous.  Kind of like how we teach our children that God made everything and then they ask us if God made the bag of tortilla chips on the table.    Well, ultimately yes, but...

Common grace came up more than once.  We learned how most educators, even those who come from a godless viewpoint, have truth revealed to them.  Waldorf, Montessori, Skinner and others were all referenced . Therefore, there are good things to be gleaned from their works.  Beware of throwing the baby out with the bath water!

A final point that many found helpful was this concept of "getting it right by getting it wrong."  Basically, this is saying that if something is worth doing, it's worth doing poorly - you will get better as you go along.  The practice of narration was mentioned in this context.  Just about any new method needs lots of time and practice  to figure  out.

Back to the community.  Encouraging others to interact and share ideas about education is one of the reasons we put on this retreat.  I believe that the support and one-on-one that this type of event offers is  what can make-or-break an individual's foray into educating Mason-style.  This year, at least four new support groups will be starting around the state, not to mention the many new co-ops - all connected to and inspired by  the LER.  How does the "Parents' Midwest Education Union" sound?  Our support group could be called the PMEU - Windom Branch.  Sounds pretty earnest and high-minded to me.


  1. As long as you don't call it the P-eu, which would denote us to be stinkers! A very nice post, and thanks.

  2. Glad it went so well and fruit came from it.
    I would love to see a Scripture reference for the wonderful CM quote on the Holy Spirit. It would be common grace. Maybe I'll spend some time while I am healing on that. May the Lord bring amazing fruit in ways you never imagined as everyone goes home to start the year!

  3. Bonnie,
    I think the Scripture reference is John 14:26, but there might be others. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this as you heal!

  4. I am jealous. It sounds like a wonderful retreat. I would love to hear more on the biblical aspects of Miss Mason's philosophy. You inspired me to put down a few of my own ideas here: http://lettersfromnebby.wordpress.com/2010/08/10/teaching-in-the-bible-and-charlotte-mason/

  5. Exciting! A modern educational movement! I like it!

  6. Thank you for sharing! So much to chew on - and I wasn't even there!! Would you mind a Western fly on the wall in your PMEU?

  7. Just desired to send out a small thank you Nancy for encouraging this mom of three young ones that we are striving, stumbling in the correct direciton for education in our home. (In this post and the others I've perused.) I heard of the conference via Mache's newsletter and maybe one day I'll attend, may fruit continue to develop in its time throughout the year.

    Is there a way to discover where the CM based support groups are? I live at the tip of Lake Superior and the majority of homeschoolers in the church plant I'm called to (bless their hearts) are classical in their bent and I find myself longing for more. I'd apprectiate any direction whatsoever, really!

  8. Shelley R,
    Your kind words have warmed my heart! If you're ever in SW MN, PLEASE let me know and we'll talk and have tea. A friend from the retreat has just started compiling a CM Support Group and Co-op list for the MN region. It is posted over at Charlotte Mason On The Prairie. No groups listed up there yet, but hopefully, that will change! Just click the CMOTP button in the right sidebar to join and voila! - an instant CM Community. We'd love to have you.

  9. Dear Nancy,

    A few days have passed and I'm back with a thanks! I went ahead and joined the CMOTP as well as a more general local group in Duluth that organizes homeschool activities. We don't travel much, but I welcome tea and conversation anytime if we journey your way! Thank you once again!