The Living Education Retreat

Last week I had the privilege of flying hundreds of miles away to Iowa to attend the Living Education Retreat. (Yes, my husband is amazing for staying home with crazy people.) I knew it was going to be a relaxing trip when I got to the airport early, was the first in line at security, was massively complemented by the inspector, did not have my bags or myself searched, and found that my gate was a few hundred yards from the security checkpoint. Can I mention that NEVER in my life (with a fair amount of flights), have things gone that smoothly? 

So, I decided to really splurge and eat dinner at a real restaurant (eating alone generally feels very awkward, but at the airport it seemed acceptable), and had one of the most delicious salads I’ve eaten in a long time. Really, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d eaten, so it was really quite refreshing. I also managed to catch up on some serious CMI and Charlotte Mason Poetry blog posts I hadn’t had time for lately.

After dinner was over, I even had time to sit around reading Charlotte’s second book, Parents and Children, and wrote down a few quotes.


Looking back on that night and morning of reflection, I realize that it prepared me to think deeply about all that I hope to accomplish this year in our school. It also rejuvenated my mind for the many wonderful conversations I was about to have.

Because, talking.

As an introvert, I don’t ever remember talking that much for any four consecutive days of my life!

The amount of interesting, educational, encouraging and absolutely hilarious conversations I had at the LER have blown me away. If you’re reading this, and you had a conversation with me last week, just please know it was wonderful to talk with you! I took notes on my phone when someone said something I wanted to go look up or remember, and it makes me giggle every time I look at it because of the miscellany on that list! The LER is full of really incredible people, and it was a joy to know you all a little better!

Here’s one of those neat people. It was great to meet Angela! And her very patient husband took a picture, so it really did happen…


I forgot to take pictures again. Please excuse the blurry phone pictures. I do try…

Nancy opened the retreat discussing the theme: Simplicity. I love that topic. Of course, what with Charlotte being Charlotte, a retreat dedicated to her method of learning means that simplicity has some deeply spiritual foundations. I will be talking a lot about that in another blog post (due out hopefully before 2018, if we’re lucky).

Amy Fiedler did an excellent talk on why, exactly, we might want to try a teensy bit harder to incorporate handicrafts into our schools. It was quite inspirational, and I went right to work on the lovely door she made for each of us to work on. Only problem was, I was also having another great conversation with several ladies, and getting book recommendations at the same time (thanks Anita!)…and began to get into a little thread trouble. But as I usually have thread trouble even when I’m having ZERO conversations, I really didn’t let it bother me. At home, I took it out of my bag, and sure enough, it was pounced on by the nearest child, who promptly put their afternoon plans on hold to finish it for me. (!)


Clearly, I could use a few more handicrafts around here.

I’ll get right on that.

It was a real special group of speakers this year. Jeanette Tulis told us about her journey as a Charlotte Mason mother. I thoroughly enjoyed her talk, especially her story of the  “Handy Boys Lego Club”, which turned out to be a front for her Boy’s Enrichment Club. Hilarious.

Art Middlekauff of Charlotte Mason Poetry spoke several times. Each talk was helpful, informative and encouraging. My favorite talk of all was his last, and the final talk of the LER. Hearing Art and Barbara’s journey to a Charlotte Mason education was inspirational and thought provoking! I so appreciate Art’s desire to educate us on Charlotte Mason, her method, and how she arrived at her philosophy of education. If you are not familiar with his blog, I strongly suggest taking the time to read his posts!

The much blogged about students of “The Hive”, a Charlotte Mason Community, graciously shared their thoughts on a Charlotte Mason education. It was so fun to listen. Their parents, I’ll bet, are very proud of them. I was enjoying their talk so much, I forgot to take notes. My take aways were: 1) continue doing nature study, even if my student glares at me for the rest of his/her life, 2) go find the poem “The Lanyard”, and 3) figure out how to start a Charlotte Mason Community!

Listening to Tyson Suemnicht (Husband of the lovely Heather-the LER wouldn’t have been the same without our wonderful conversations!) lead worship the second morning was a beautiful experience. I listened from a little ways away, and the combination of beautiful nature, a cool morning, and some of my favorite songs (and a new one I’d never heard), made it an unforgettable time.

I was able to attend Marcia Mattern’s talk on “Orchestrating the Large Family”, which turned out to be just what I was hoping it would be. Inspirational, informative, encouraging. Now to work on putting some of those great ideas into practice!

And now, for the highlight of my trip. I think it would have to be entering the “Pale Face & Black Shirt” competition with this lovely person…while simultaneously losing a game of Apples to Apples. Losing at that game is one of my seldom discussed specialties. Shh.


There we have it, another LER is in the books. It was a blessing to me, and to many others. Thank you to all of the LER team who makes this happen each year. I hope to see you all next year!

2017-07-14 11.19.58
The notebook in the top left corner has three years of LER notes inside. Lots of inspiration in that little book!

6 thoughts on “The Living Education Retreat

  1. Dear Mary,

    So many good things! I can really see why you and Michael love youth ministry – my kids loved hanging with you!

    It’s hard to believe you’ve been three times. Seems like yesterday that we had that phone conversation…and now just look at us! And your sense of humor is amazing, I think.



    1. Thank you! Your kids are so much fun, I missed them as soon as I left! These years have flown by. Thank you for making Charlotte Mason accessible and real for me. 🙂


  2. Love this, Mary! 🙂 It’s always so interesting to see what each different person pulls out of the retreat. I really, really enjoyed talking with you. ❤ Amy


    1. Thank you, Amy! I agree, we’re all so different, and there are such good things for each of us from a retreat like that!


  3. Ha! I remember that every time I saw you, you were chatting with someone new! Nice to get a little time with you myself 🙂


    1. Right? Lol! I agree, it was wonderful to chat with you, Shauna!
      I hope you have a good year ahead of you! 🙂


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