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    Home Education, Other Thoughts

    7 Quick Takes on the Northwest Charlotte Mason Educators Conference

    October 2, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    Seven Quick Takes

    :: 1 ::

    Mystie and BrandyYou probably already heard this, but the Northwest Charlotte Mason Educators Conference was amazing. I had never been to a completely Charlotte Mason conference before, and it was such a delight. And beyond the conference, it was wonderful to meet so many people in person after years of connecting online. The biggest example is Mystie My Pretend Life Coach. She and I met eight or nine years ago in the comments on one of Cindy Rollins’ blog posts. We’ve chatted over Voxer and Google Hangouts — we’re definitely friends! — but we’d never seen each other in real life until now! It was so exciting! And now our husbands can finally stop calling us “fake internet friends.”

    Another bit of excitement was, of course, meeting Kathy Wickward. I believe the conference was born somewhere inside her amazing brain. She was even more fantastic than I had expected.

    And of course I met a bunch of you guys!

    It was a little surreal — this colliding of worlds: local friends, So Cal friends, blog readers, AO friends, and new people, all mixed up together!

    :: 2 ::

    So first things first: the view from my room was amazing!!

    Room View

    It was overcast much of the time, but on Saturday afternoon, the sun came out. I could have handled a few more days of this, let me tell you!

    :: 3 ::

    Nature TrailOne highlight was definitely taking a nature walk with Naomi. I say this even though my bit of the group got lost and didn’t finish with the rest of the group {oops}. At one point, it started to feel like one of those creepy movies where an innocent walk in the woods turns bad as people slowly disappear.


    I think I’ve finally realized that a good nature walk is only accomplished by the childlike of heart. At least, that is what Naomi modeled for us.

    Also, in the nature study talk that Naomi gave later in the evening, I realized that it is more important to have questions than answers — and that she’s content going for a long while without answers, and that’s okay. So she’s out, and she finds something, and she tries to identify it, but if she can’t, she goes home and look for the answer, and if nothing turns up, she watches and waits. I think I always gave up in frustration when I couldn’t find something in my field guide. Naomi has given me a much longer view.

    :: 4 ::

    On the trail, there were many things to see, and I was fond of the wide assortment of mushrooms!

    Mushrooms wide 2Mushrooms tall 2 Mushrooms tall  Mushrooms wide

    :: 5 ::

    Kathy SpeaksI loved, loved, loved Kathy Wickward’s talk on using the Charlotte Mason method with children who have learning disabilities. The gist was really that we adapt and adjust, but not that we use other methods. The method is sufficient, as long as we use it with wisdom. We went over time on it, and I think our group could have kept her talking on the subject for two more hours. I really appreciated her encouragement to us to do. the. work. She told us that it will be hard — and it will also be rewarding.

    One quick thought: if you ever get a chance to hear someone like Kathy speak on learning disabilities, can I just encourage you to go — even if your children seem okay? There are so many children with disabilities these days that I bet you would get a chance to use that knowledge somehow.

    :: 6 ::

    I spoke a lot, as you know. I thought I’d be completely worn down when I got home, but the conference was so refreshing that I didn’t really feel that way. I mean, I’m tired from traveling, but I expected a dramatic crashing and burning when I got home — which didn’t happen, and for that I’m thankful.

    I’m working on getting my talks up onto the blog. I put my first one up on Wednesday {it’s here, in case you missed it}. The second one, unfortunately, was when I forgot to push record. However, comma, this was the talk I really needed to record, because we were going to use it with our local group. So now we’re trying to decide whether I record on my own, or whether I wait and give the presentation to our group, and record it then. Either way, it’ll be re-recorded somehow, sometime very soon.

    The third talk is more complicated because we have to combine the audio with the slides for it to make sense … but it was successfully recorded, and that is half the battle!

    :: 7 ::

    On Saturday evening, many women in the room received a text from their husbands, showing what he served for dinner. Perhaps this was just to prove they were actually feeding the children, but I consider this proof that if men stayed at home making food all day, they would totally be showing it off on Instagram and Pinterest and they can just stop. making. fun. of. women. Because hypocrisy.

    My husband sent a photo that evoked the comment, “Hey, I thought your husband was a holistic nutritionist!” Um, yes. Please note that this does not mean that he actually knows how to Make Food. It does, however, mean that when he purchased the frozen food, he remembered to buy the gluten-free version for A-Age-10.

    I also used Voxer to brag to my husband about my view:

    Voxer Con

    As you can see, he returned the favor. That is, in fact, my dead backyard.

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  • Reply Attendee Stories and Photos - Charlotte Mason West October 26, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    […] Brandy Vencel – Afterthoughts Blog […]

  • Reply Stephanie Breuner October 6, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    It was a pleasure hanging out with you and your friends at your late night round table on Friday night. I am glad to have met you in person. Your talks were inspiring-especially the one on Sunday about the St Thomas Aquinas fresco. I went home and looked into ordering a print of it. One could spend an entire term studying that fresco!

  • Reply Celeste October 4, 2015 at 9:45 am

    Thank you for sharing your conference round-up, Brandy! I have been eagerly reading the details here and there and now I’m looking forward to next year’s even more. It sounds like it was a great blend of informational and inspirational–and also relational, I suppose, and that’s what it’s all about anyway, isn’t it? 🙂

    And thank you for uploading your talks–I’ll be enjoying them on my post-baby time off. I have never been a fan of the whole “push present” fad, but I’m making an exception and grabbing your talks while my husband basically says yes to anything I ask in my hugely-pregnant state. 😉

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 5, 2015 at 10:59 am

      Well, Celeste, you *obviously* should encourage your husband to do his Christmas shopping for you right now — while he’s in a yes mood. 🙂

      I’ll try and get at least one more talk up for you soon. It’s my honor to keep you company. 🙂

  • Reply Christine October 2, 2015 at 11:45 pm

    It was such a pleasure to meet you! Your sessions were sensational and I’m still needing to ponder over them and let them sink into my soul more and more. Thank you for pouring into our lives, for working so hard and sharing a great word for us! I hope to meet you again at the next conference!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 5, 2015 at 11:00 am

      It was a pleasure to meet you, too, Christine! I am thrilled that this conference is going to be an annual thing so that we’ll all get to see each other again. 🙂

  • Reply Kathy W. October 2, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    Aah, you make me blush, Brandy! Especially since you did the heavy lifting as far as speaking goes! And wow, do I have a sixth sense for great speakers, if I do say so myself. I think you could do at least one of those again next year and I wouldn’t get tired of hearing it.

    Yes, I need to update my blog. Christine took all the conference photos so I am waiting for her. The three of us are going to meet and take care of the last conference business. Probably over a really great dinner of sautéed mushrooms and red wine. Then I’ll work on that weekly blog posting habit.

    A good part of my motivation organizing this was meeting you in person, dear Brandy. I feel somehow complete now that I’ve finally met everyone I’ve been corresponding with for eight years. (Did they tell you I went weak in the knees and all fangirl over meeting Leslie L., Karen G. and Wendi C. in person at CMI three years ago? I’m getting better. I talk now.) I am so thrilled that Amber is planning next year so I can see you and Naomi again.

    • Reply Christine October 2, 2015 at 11:40 pm

      I better get on those pics!!!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 5, 2015 at 11:01 am

      I still have never met any of the Advisory in person, Kathy, so I’m jealous. 😉

      And yes! Get those photos up! I’ll link to you, of course. 🙂

  • Reply Amanda October 2, 2015 at 11:18 am

    Seriously, every time you talk about Josiah on your blog, you CRACK. ME. UP! I am still laughing (at both the frozen food, and the comparative images). I just imagine me back in his office repeating something I read here (last time it was merely the accidental gluten-intake of your sensitive child, since that was an issue at my house, too), and his blue eyes getting GIANT, and him saying (as he’s said before), “How did you know that?? Did Brandy put that on her BLOG?!” LOLOLOL. 😉

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 2, 2015 at 12:08 pm

      So YOU are the reason he scowls at me about Facebook! 😉

      Help keep me out of trouble, girl! 😉

  • Reply Amber Vanderpol October 2, 2015 at 9:42 am

    It is so neat to see the same fungi on other people’s blogs too. 🙂 I looked at that and thought, “hey, I remember seeing that one!” (And isn’t it great to be around a group of people who get all excited when they find nifty looking fungi??)

    It was such a great conference, and I’m so glad I got to go. Thanks for your wonderful talks, Brandy! And I agree completely with what you said about Kathy’s talk – it was absolutely excellent.

    And your story about the views made me remember a similar exchange with my brother who lives in NYC a few years ago… he sent me a picture from his then brand-new iPhone of Times Square all lit up at night, and I sent him one of what it looked like outside at my house. He was initially confused because the image was black, but I responded, well, since I live in the middle of the forest, that’s what it looks like outside at my house right now!

  • Reply Virginia Lee October 2, 2015 at 8:25 am

    Was Kathy’s talk recorded? Is there going to be a place where we can go to download it if it was? I checked her blog but the last post is from the beginning of July.

    Also, I really like your new method of Pay What You Want. Although I think you are under selling yourself with the suggested price of $3. I get why and that is lovely, but even places like Circe charge $5. And we won’t even go into what some places charge for a coffee drink, that is quite yummy and maybe even therapeutic, but still more than $3. Just sayin’.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 2, 2015 at 12:11 pm

      I definitely *saw* them recording Kathy’s talk, so let’s hope they were successful. I’ll let you all know once it’s online somewhere. It was just SO great!

      The rest of your comment made me really, really want a fancy coffee drink! 😉

  • Reply Rebecca Burdullis October 2, 2015 at 7:16 am

    Brandy – I LOVED the conference as well! It was so refreshing and inspiring, and was just the encouragement I needed to make the changes in our homeschool that God has been leading me to. It was so wonderful to hear you speak, and your last talk on the Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas was especially inspiring. Thank you so much!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 2, 2015 at 12:14 pm

      Oh, thank you, Rebecca! I really need to buy myself a copy of that fresco to hang on my wall because it is worth thinking about daily. 🙂

  • Reply Heather October 2, 2015 at 3:36 am

    Can you share any links to the speakers blogs? 🙂 Do they do the conference each year?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 2, 2015 at 6:17 am

      Oh, thank you for asking this question! I meant to link Kathy and Naomi in the post and I forgot to come back and do that before it published. I added theirs above, but I’ll do it again here: Naomi and Kathy. Catherine Levinson was also there, and her website is here. I went to a scheduling discussion led by a gal named Lisa, but I don’t think she has a blog…there were a lot of bloggers in attendance, though! 🙂

    • Reply Amber Vanderpol October 2, 2015 at 9:36 am

      And yes, there will be a conference next year, but in California this time! We’re thinking we will trade back and forth between Washington and CA for the West Coast Conference. But since we’ve only had the first one, that’s strictly a conjecture right now. 🙂

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