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!


  1. Oh, this is so exciting! I really enjoyed the 2018 retreat package. It will be perfect for me to listen to during my postpartum recovery in a few weeks :) Do you talk about how you adjusted/maintained habits during your 1st trimester? I feel like all of my (healthy baby) 1st trimesters are so rough and everything gets so thrown off because I sleep so much and feel so sick (and hate most food, lol).

    I wanted to ask you about Water-Babies by Kinglsey. I thought I read once that your family had read that book. My son wanted to read the whole book after reading an except in My Book House. However, when I inquired further about it, someone mention in the Mater Amabailis group that it lists the Pope as evil. I was just wondering how you handled that, and did you read an abridged version?

    1. For the habits talks, I really just gave general principles Mason presents -- and yet I think those general principles really are relevant to times of struggle too. They definitely helped me have a clear sense of what my priorities were. Amy's last talk is also about the mother's posture in habit training, including how to struggle well, and I got so much out of it! So I think that is absolutely relevant too.

      Water Babies is kind of a weird book! We did read it and thought it was okay, but it wasn't a favorite and I don't think we'll read it aloud again. Kingsley definitely held some anti-Catholic sentiment, so I wouldn't be surprised if there werea comment in there, but I honestly don't remember, so it couldn't have been that bad. (Not like Trial and Triumph, for example!) I will admit, though, that I have a lot more patience with those kinds of comments in a fiction book than I do in a history or theology text. The kids and I have had lots of talks about the British view of Catholicism during the Victorian period since so many of our books are written by Brits during that time! They know that it is less theological than it is cultural at that point. So I can't say for sure! :)