When you’re new to the Charlotte Mason method, everything can seem a little overwhelming. It certainly was for me! I remember bumping around the internet, reading all the books I could get my hands on, searching, searching for someone to show me the way.
Subconsciously, my criteria for someone to follow on this Charlotte Mason journey was quite stunning: I wanted someone who had some older children who were somewhat successful in the real world, someone who had been using this method – and this method only – for a long time. It would be someone who was not perfect, and didn’t pretend to be, but would humbly desire to help others on their journey. It would be someone who loved what they were doing, who spoke about the method understandably, convincingly, brightly. It would be someone whose faith and life was one of depth and purpose – who was able to say “follow me, as I follow Christ”. Basically, I was hoping for another Charlotte Mason or Susan Schaeffer Macaulay.
And then I found what I was looking for.
I still remember the day I stumbled across Nancy Kelly’s blog. I remember where I was, and which blog post I read first. As I read her entire blog…more than once (!) I was convinced that I had found my person. Someone I was ready to follow down the curious path of a Charlotte Mason education.
Fast forward to this summer at the Living Education Retreat (the LER). The LER is a wonderful retreat put on by Nancy and several other very hard working ladies. I had naively assumed that if you’re at the LER, then you know of Nancy. Apparently, this is not the case! During one conversation, I mentioned something Nancy had put on her blog…the person looked quite mystified and wanted to know who I was talking about. (!) Unfortunately, the more I tried to explain, the more confusing it turned out to be! During another conversation, I became aware that some might not know that Nancy does consulting for the Charlotte Mason method.
After coming home and pondering this, I knew I wanted to write this post.
Let me introduce you to a caring, thoughtful guide for your Charlotte Mason journey!
First of all, did you know Nancy blogs at Sage Parnassus? Her blog is a treasure trove of beauty, wisdom, and practical experience; never swerving from a truthful representation of Mason’s method. As I read the blog, I’m usually inspired to go read more of Mason’s own words. Nancy reminds us of Charlotte’s exhortation to parents, and her posts can be pondered for days. She brings it back around to the principles of the method.
Another beauty of Nancy’s blog is that she has shown glimpses of how real life looks within this life giving method. Her ability to provide new and valuable posts is a reflection of her 23 years of using only the Charlotte Mason method. As you read Nancy’s blog, you may be filled with peace and comfort. You might realize that while there is a lot asked of us in this method, it can be gently and slowly learned and accomplished by us as mothers and teachers.
Through her blog, you’ll at some point notice that Nancy offers consulting for those of us who would like to know more about this method, and what that could look like in our home. (You can click over here to learn how to have a consultation, and to hear about others’ experiences with Nancy’s consults.) I was terrified to jump in and try a consultation. I’m not sure why. It might have been a combination of not wanting to spend money on something I was unsure of, or afraid I’d be let down and still not know how to proceed.
I wish I hadn’t waited so long.
That first conversation changed the course of our school.
I came away from that consultation completely relieved. It was as if a huge weight of “how it must be done” was lifted off of my shoulders. I cannot explain the hope that I felt after listening to Nancy’s ideas for our school. I felt fear, guilt, anxiety, and perplexity just leave. Those negative emotions were replaced with peace and comfort. I felt for the first time that I really could do this. I think one of Nancy’s recent blog posts explains why. I felt the freedom of thinking for myself. For the first time, I realized that I can pick and choose things that are right for each child. It is within my abilities as a mother to do what I instinctively know is right for a particular child. Fear began to melt away as I began to trust the Lord with our school, and started to think for myself about what each child needed.
What I hadn’t expected from the consultations with Nancy, was that I also gained a friend. The Mason method is slow, it is not formulaic. It is based on relationship. I had no idea how I would be cared for once I took the leap of faith to ask for some help. Nancy has spent time with me, showing me how to use this method. She has answered my emails, she has prayed for my family. I could not have guessed how supported I would feel on this journey of education.
This brings us to the Living Education Retreat. As you will see from spending time on Nancy’s blog, the LER is a highly sought after retreat. It fills up in three days, tops. The first year I got in, it felt like I’d won the lottery! Seriously! I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I wasn’t prepared for what it was. It was relationship. It was living. It was intentional. People were gentle, eager, interested.
Charlotte would have been proud.
I learned so much that year, it took me some time to digest it all. I couldn’t believe what had been achieved in just three days. You can imagine my surprise over being asked to share my story at the most recent two LERs. To say it has been an honor to be involved with the LER is of course, an understatement. It is a joy to be there with so many like-minded people, learning, thinking, growing, changing. It is a yearly challenge to become more humble, thoughtful inspirers of our students.
And now, Nancy is offering something new. She has created a series of lessons called Living Education Lessons. I have not been able to be a part of these yet, due to the time zone difference, and the intensity of my family life right now. But I have been listening to the response. It sounds a lot like my experience with Nancy’s consulting. It is slow, purposeful and peaceful. This year at the LER, someone told me it was one of the best things they’ve done. My friend Amy wrote about her experience for us to ponder. It sounds like just what we need.
This summer, I was able to visit Nancy and her family at their home. Of course the unbelievable volume of wonderful books is astounding. But that is not what stole my attention. What I noticed most about Nancy’s home was the relationships. The laughter. The warmth and love. The knowledge…the enjoyment of knowledge. I observed no false perfection. There were just a bunch of imperfect people enjoying life, learning, and each other.
Just the thing you’d hope for on a Charlotte Mason journey.