In those first ten years, I read Catherine Levison, Karen Andreola, and Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. I read Mason herself. Then I re-read Levison, Andreola and Macaulay again, to better understand what Mason was saying. As our internet access improved from dial-up to satellite to wireless, I slowly discovered bloggers who wrote about their CM homeschools and I developed one-sided relationships with Nancy Kelly and Tammy Glaser and Cindy Rollins and Amy Fisher. I was blessed by them and what they shared on their blogs, and I was very grateful to know there were others 'out there.'
Then, everything changed. In the course of one spring, I learned of a small group of like-minded educators meeting to read and discuss Charlotte Mason in my city, and I heard about a national conference that would be convening in a few short months in the little town of Boiling Springs, North Carolina. Immediately I signed up for both.
I came to Boiling Springs longing for contact; I left with a community.
And a sense of community was reinforced monthly as I grew to know the other women and families of our small local Charlotte Mason study group.
I confess that I am a 'CM nerd' and I have done a great deal to learn about Mason and her philosophy and to grow in my understanding. What I'd like to share with you today, are the two things that have had the most impact. The first was to attend to my own studies, of Mason certainly but also to apply her methods to myself and my learning and to live out her principles authentically. I found my understanding deepen as I experienced the principles first-hand.
The second was in getting to know others at the conferences and in small groups. A Mason education is a relational education and those opportunities to watch, share, and discuss added layers to my understanding that nothing else has matched. It might be tempting to attribute this to learning styles but I am an introverted introvert. My preference would be to curl up alone with a book anytime. However, I would not miss out on the conferences or my small group for the world. They hold me accountable. They challenge me. They stretch my understanding. They offer warmth and authenticity. They hold me up. As Miss Mason said at the founding of the Parents' National Education Union, 'Thus the wisdom, the experience, and the information of each is made profitable for all; enthusiasm is generated by the union of many for the advance of a cause, and every member is cheered by the sympathy of his fellow workers." (Charlotte Mason, 'A Draft Proof', 1888)
Have you made your New Year Resolutions yet? How about these: 1) Read through one of Mason's volumes. Read small amounts and narrate after every reading. Keep a commonplace journal. 2) Even better, read through a volume with someone else and meet to share your narrations. 3) And, find a conference to attend this year. We'd love to have you with us in February in Colorado Springs, but there are many other opportunities out there, too. You will be blessed, I guarantee it. And your being there will in turn bless others.