Tuesday, November 5, 2019

{This and That}

Hi there! Can you believe it's November?! Which also means I am now in the third trimester with Baby Cruz -- just nine weeks left. :)


Last month, I had the chance to attend the Schole Sisters meetup down in San Luis Obispo. What a treat! We had lunch and then a short walk to the beautiful Mission.

Funny thing: I have done podcasts with both Cindy and Pam and have worked with Dawn Garrett for years online but had never met them in person. So this was so exciting. And it was so nice to see Mystie and Brandy again too!

I took a couple photos in the Mission museum to draw into my Book of Centuries.

I find now that wherever I go, I gravitate toward the artifacts and decorative arts sections thanks to beginning my BoC a few years ago.


Three September birthday girls had super celebrations!

I am so blessed in these beautiful daughters! Our Baby #10 is scheduled to share a birthday month with Cate (my only girl NOT born in September), so we'll likely have three girls in September and two in January. So special.


We have moved on to Term 2! So far, this year has gone more smoothly than any year so far. We have had time for almost "all the things," and everyone seems happy and thriving. There have been setbacks and struggles here and there, but really we are all enjoying our school days.

I totally expect things to get wild up in here once Baby 10 arrives, so we have been moving through the year full steam ahead with no breaks. I'm glad everyone has been happily on board. I'll admit: I could use a break! But I am thankful that they don't seem to need one.


Since the baby will likely arrive just after our Christmas break, I have planned exams to be semesterly: so one full set at Christmas and one at the end of the year. But we still wanted to do a shortened set of exams at the end of our first term for our Family Subjects that change term by term: artist study, composer study, recitation, dance, solfege, special study, etc. We took a Friday afternoon and did an hour of narrations and an hour of recitations/performance with our usual celebration. It was simple and fun!

We had our usual hodge podge of end-of-term treats:

supplies for bookbinding - more on this in an upcoming {Getting Started with Handicrafts} post!
a couple additional pairs of embroidery scissors so everyone now has his own
more twistables for the little boys
silhouette paper (we are going to do some silhouette work this term)
chalk crayons for Clara

and a few related books:
Devaney's Blood and Guts: The True Story of General George S. Patton
Bold Leaders of World War I
Moody's Mary Emma & Company (the next for them to read in the Little Britches series)
The Story of the U.S. Coast Guard
The Gettysburg Address, illustrated by
With the Bible Through the Church Year


This past week we had Halloween, All Saints' Day, and All Souls' Day, so we went a little light on studies to accommodate the observances.

But we also had the last Latin class of the term for my oldest two, in which they gave their recitations -- Roman dress required! It was nice to have it coincide with Halloween week because they were planning on being early Christian martyrs anyway (St. Tarciscius and St. Cecilia), so we planned for double duty garb. ;)


And my merry band of saints for Halloween:

Vincent actually switched it up at the last minute after seeing Xavier's St. George costume and decided to be St. Martin of Tours. :)

One of our favorite stops is always the fire station by our house. The firefighters are always so happy to get visitors trick-or-treating! We don't get a ton of kids in our neighborhood.


Last but definitely not least, I announced last weekend that the 2019 CMEC Retreat Package is now up for sale! Head over to check out the full description as well as read about our suggestions for using both individally and in groups. :)


Hope your November is off to a good start!

Friday, November 1, 2019

2019 CMEC Retreat Package :: Now Available!

Happy news: the 2019 CMEC Retreat Package is now available for purchase!

This retreat includes a set of all-new workshops by Amy Snell and me, designed to lead you through a full consideration of The Beautiful Person Within: A Living Approach to Character Formation.

Amy and I planned to cover the topic of character formation after getting lots of questions about habit training and such. We felt like there was more to be said on this topic in the Mason community and determined to dig into the Parents' Review and the Mason archives for a fuller sense of her approach and how it relates to both teaching and parenting.

And we realized a few things along the way:

First, preparing to talk about character formation and habit training is a lot like praying for patience -- it can be dangerous! ;)  Along the way, God molded both of us in all kinds of ways, some delightful and some unexpectedly challenging. For me, these workshops ended up being a labor of love in the midst of the most difficult first trimester I have had. And yet, I think the retreat was all the better for having been created in the midst of that struggle. There is nothing like writing about character while you are in the thick of a character-building episode yourself -- and, at the same time, forming a new little character in the womb -- to give clarity and a healthy sense of purpose. :)

There is always a lot more than an intellectual investment that goes into preparing a heartfelt retreat like this one. It ends up being formative in its own way.

Second, so much of what we read made us realize that character formation was really at the heart of all of it. Every subject of the curriculum Mason offers us, every lesson plan, every suggestion for family life, every principle, every practice -- it is all oriented toward and stems from her understanding of character: what it is and how it is formed. We researched this topic specifically for months, but it was really what we had been studying the whole decade we have been studying this philosophy.

Third, Mason's approach to character formation mimics her approach to teaching: respectful of personhood, committed to love and to duty, centered on delight, oriented toward relationship. The deep, soul-stretching work we have before us as parents is the same work we have before us as educators. And any efforts we make toward this work pays joyful dividends in both teaching and mothering.

I hope that doesn't make it sound like these workshops are all "high thinking" without the "plain living" Mason promises us! :)  We have LOTS of the practical in this retreat too. The philosophical governed what we included and how we presented it, and it is the philosophical that we hope inspires you to feel courageous and confident in taking up the work of teaching and parenting in the daily. And then we offer plenty of examples and methods for doing just that. :)

Here's what the package includes:
  • Six audio workshops by Amy and Celeste in mp3 format
  • Accompanying workshop slides in pdf format
  • Conference picture study in pdf format
  • Beautiful conference handbook in pdf format
You can read talk descriptions, bios, and how to purchase over at the CMEC!

The CMEC also offers special pricing for study groups or events, so be sure to reach out if you're thinking about studying this retreat in community.

(And P.S.: the 2018 package is still for sale also! It is a completely different set of talks from the 2019 package, focused on how to develop and implement a Thinking Love with our children and students, including good practices of preparation, guiding students to independence, and more.)

Retreat photos by CMEC member Sarah Hebenstreit. Thanks, Sarah!

Monday, October 21, 2019

CMEC Fall Mini-Retreat {Recap}

Want to take a quick trip to Philly with me? It has become one of my favorite places thanks to three visits there over the past year and a half -- and the dear friends that live, teach, and learn there that I get to work with. :)

This past trip, though, was a special one thanks to some unique opportunities. Come along!


I flew in Wednesday evening and had a very long, very lively "working dinner" with Amy and Erin to brainstorm CMEC business for the rest of this school year and into the next. It really is valuable to talk in person after months going back and forth via email and Voxer.

On Thursday, I finally got to visit The Mason Academy just outside of Philadelphia!

Picture a beautiful tree-lined drive gently winding up to this...

And lots of happy kids and parents arriving for a day of learning together. So special.

The Mason Academy, a two-day educational program, was the impetus for beginning the CMEC years ago. It was these programs for which the curriculum was first developed, and they provide its testing ground (and ongoing encouragement in the work!).

They now have two sites: one in Philly run by Erin Daly of Riverbend Press and one in Princeton. NJ led by Amy Snell. Between the two sites, there are over a hundred students enrolled in grades K to 12, and they even have a Babyleben program for nursery-age littles. :)

Amy and her kids drove down to Philly to join me for the day. Amy and I hopped from class to class: foreign language and Plutarch for Form 2, science and Latin for Form 3, composition, poetry, and art for Form 4/5... I also peeked in at the lower forms doing chalk drawing, handicrafts, outdoor studies, and more. A true feast!

The next day, I got to attend the Princeton site of The Mason Academy. I decided to spend the whole morning just in Amy's Upper Forms class to get a sense of what the day would feel like for a student. I got to see Amy's thoughtful teaching of Shakespeare, Plutarch, geography, commonplace-keeping, folk dancing, composition, and more. Watching her work and watching the students' responses gave me so many new ideas to bring home.

In every class I visited, for every subject, I heard fantastic narrations and saw engaged students. The students moved through their lessons with eager interest and good attitudes, and the atmosphere set by the teachers was inspiring. It was so rewarding to watch groups of kids working with the very same books and activities I do at home with my own kids. Seeing the timetable in action was like a dream!
Ultimately, I was confirmed in just how well Mason's philosophy and program can work in a variety of settings with a variety of students. It really does offer "a liberal education for all" -- just look at all of these happy kids...

That evening, Amy and I went downtown to walk around Princeton's beautiful campus and meet the TMA moms for dinner.

We headed to our hotel in Philadelphia late that night to prep for Saturday's retreat for CMEC members, the real reason I was in town! It was a great event.

We first talked about how delightful learning comes when each partner in the learning process plays the role he was meant to. Then we walked that through in some immersion lessons, including geography and dictation. We closed with reflection on the structure of the lesson and tried to narrate our observations and tease out some more complicated scenarios together.

That afternoon we had lunch and then went to check out the new Riverbend Press retail space (!) just a few minutes away. They will be using the site not only as the new shipping center for Riverbend Press products but also for selling student handicrafts and notebook products, holding brush-drawing classes and handicraft workshops, hosting pre-reading and planning sessions and more!

We also took a walk through the woods at a nearby retreat center.

Topped off by a fun dinner out with Amy and Dawn Duran, two of my favorite "things" about the East Coast!

Amy and I went to Mass on Sunday and then into the city for another trip to the Philadelphia Art Museum. I was there this summer too, but the collection is so extensive that we chose to focus mostly on just a few galleries on our last trip. On this visit, we made sure to hit the pieces that tied in with this year's CMEC coursework. We're studying medieval and modern eras, so we walked through the medieval galleries and the armory, and we also hit a couple pieces by Van Eyck and Tanner, two of this year's artists. Our focus for Form 3 geography is Asia, so we also visited the Asian collections. They have a unique Japanese homes exhibit that I only wish I could show my kids!

This was my LAST speaking engagement of the year -- after this, I'm on a "baby break" until spring. But as nice as it was to get home and settle back in, I have to admit that we were already scheming about the next time I'll visit! :)

I am so grateful for this group of educators and friends.