Living Education Retreat 2016

Last week I spent time with some special people at the Living Education Retreat in Iowa. Nancy Kelly and the ladies who work so hard to put this retreat together are pretty incredible. 

This time I got to bring Alyssa with me, which made it even better. We don’t have much time for hanging out, so this was a really wonderful chance for us to get away and just be together…having blizzards at Dairy Queen, picking Queen Anne’s Lace, and getting caught in world’s most giant hail storm on our way to the retreat. We were bummed that we didn’t video tape it, because generally Michael doesn’t really believe us when we tell him how big or terrible something is. Something about “when two women get together and start exaggerating…”.


Thank goodness Michael is wonderful, and took care of things at home. I’m so grateful. Some year maybe he’ll get to come with me!

LER 2016 group photoPhoto Credit: Heidi Jahnke

This was a very different retreat from last year, but just like last year, I have come away encouraged by the people I met. I love to be with others who are passionate about this unusual living education we’re all growing into.

Karla Taber was our MC, and a very thoughtful and caring MC she is. I think I’ve enjoyed every conversation I’ve had with Karla, and generally walk away feeling encouraged. (Thank you Karla!)

The first night, Nancy described Charlotte’s Three-fold Cord: the Creed, the Badge, and the Certificate that Charlotte used in her teacher training. It was fascinating to hear how Charlotte found the phrase “For the Children’s Sake”. So many new things are always popping up in this way of learning! I love it. I think the Certificate is beautiful:

cm college certificatePhoto Credit: Heidi Jahnke

Also in that first session (you can have a listen to it here), Nancy and Nicole Handfield unveiled a new book they’ve been working on, called Charlotte Mason and The Great Recognition, edited by Nicole Handfield. It’s a lovely book, of the quality we’ve come to expect from Nancy and Riverbend Press. It will be available to all of us very soon, I’m told. Thank you for all the hard work, Nancy and Nicole!

nicole and nancy 2016 LERPhoto Credit: Heidi Jahnke

There has been much confusion over what exactly happened with Charlotte and The Great Recognition. I’m grateful that someone has taken the time and effort to explain it to us. It matters, because it describes what Charlotte Mason thought of the role of the Holy Spirit in our education. This little book is also important because we are again reminded of where Charlotte found her inspiration for her philosophy of education. I loved to hear Nicole talk. What a sweet and gentle lady!

Later that evening I made sure to check out Jan Wright’s books from Books of Yesterday. Jan and her daughter are pretty wonderful to find all of these lovely books. I love my new copy of Our Island Story…color pictures!

20160713_104000Our littlest children are thrilled with The Boy With a Drum, I now know it by heart…

I also let Alyssa choose a few books. Her choices? An Old Fashioned Girl (Our favorite Alcott book), and A Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady. The girl has good taste!

One of my favorite things about this year’s retreat was the fact that I got to spend more time with the LER teens. They are such a fun bunch of people!

LER teens taking picsPhoto Credit: Marcia Mattern

I’m using this blurry picture because of how hilarious this evening was. Listening to these kids made me laugh. Thank goodness they didn’t drown while taking selfies…(death by selfie).

Here are a few more of the teens. The guy in the middle really does smile. I believe he was probably thinking about narrations…or he may have had a rock in his shoe. On the other hand, maybe he’d just remembered something he forgot to do before he left home. But I often saw him smiling, so don’t worry, this was likely a fluke.

LER Teens 5 kidsPhoto Credit: Marcia Mattern

I had a real fun time hanging out with several of the teens at the “Sugar Shack” a few miles away. Conversations included: the relevance of water towers, ice cream brands, seaweed covered rocks that reminded us of children’s books (McClosky), and terrifying shark encounters. When I got back and Marcia asked if I’d taken pictures…

Well. No. Not exactly. I’m not the best at remembering that sort of thing.

Nancy’s morning meditations inspired me to look for the book A White Bird Flying. I loved the section she read.

Listening to Jack Kelly’s talk on the many aspects of nature study was fascinating. We also got to pick his brain on educating high schoolers in preparation for college. I think we all appreciate the fact that he’s been through a Nancy Kelly/Charlotte Mason education, and has come out on the other side as a reasonable adult, able to be a successful member of society!

In Jack’s talk about appreciating and supporting nature in our own little part of the world (our yard, street, and town), he said this:

“To love something more, you need to know it more.”

-Jack Kelly

He suggested that it would be wonderful if we all thought like this: “I’m going to get to know EVERYTHING about the place I live.”

I was inspired.

This year I had the honor/terror of talking at one of the breakout sessions. This was my view as I prayed and prepared:


So beautiful.

Charlotte’s words on simplicity were an inspiration to me as I prepared, and I plan to do a little blogging about them as a follow up to my talk, since naturally, I forgot to mention a few things that seem important.

During the retreat I became aware of the fact that Kent Kelly has been watching the British Baking Show, and now bakes scones, among other things! They were delicious, thank you Kent! Nancy has graciously shared his Blueberry Scone recipe with us, so we can all try our hand at scones. Although, I hear from Kent that there is a great deal to be said about the method of grating frozen butter, and should not be tried without a machine that he told me about, and which I have now forgotten the name of. My brain does that to me…more often than I’d like.

So this happened during the folk song/camp fire. The couples were asked to sing “Keys to Canterbury” with each other, and Art and Barbara Middlekauf stole the show. Hilarious.

Art and Barbara singingPhoto Credit: Heidi Jahnke

art and barb singingPhoto Credit: Heidi Jahnke

We wrapped up with Jason Fiedler’s transparent message about how he struggled as a husband and father to jump into this wild adventure of a Mason home education. It was a wonderful talk, very challenging to fathers and mothers alike. I’d like to say more about it here, but instead I’ll be blogging about it in the next week.(Hopefully!) It’s the kind of thing that deserves it’s own post.

(Edited to say that Jason posted his talk here, and has started a new blog!!! Very cool.)

It was a joy to share this time with these precious people. Nancy and her team work very hard to create such a beautiful retreat! I’m so grateful!

Mary and NancyPhoto Credit: Nancy Kelly

As always, it’s a pleasure to spend time with this lovely lady.  Thank you for this retreat, Nancy!

5 thoughts on “Living Education Retreat 2016

    1. Thank you Art! It was so nice to meet you and Barbara in person! Michael says he looks forward to meeting you, hopefully next year!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s