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    Seven Quick Awesome Conference Takes

    May 27, 2016 by Brandy Vencel

    Seven Quick Takes

    That’s right! This edition of Seven Quick Takes is All AO Conference, All the Time!

    :: 1 ::

    The best sorts of friends give you a journal and supplies for your birthday before you leave for your conference. {Of course, you have to actually have a birthday for this to work.} I can’t tell you how much fun it was to have a new hardcover journal, a new set of Sharpie pens, and even sparkly gold washi tape for the conference. It was exciting every time I got it out! {Taking notes never was so fun…and trust me. There were many notes to be taken.}


    :: 2 ::

    Conferences can be a confusing convergence of worlds. I have experienced this before, but the AO Conference had a couple extra layers. First, I brought A-Age-Eleven with me. That was great, because I don’t get to spend much time with my children individually, and it was great for extra bonding. My sister-in-law, Kristen, whom I haven’t seen in a year and a half, was our roommate. An old friend who moved away and who I do not get to see enough was right down the hall. This was the personal layer of people.

    Then, there were all the wonderful women I’ve worked with on the AA Boards {as we call it — meaning the Advisory and Auxiliary boards of AmblesideOnline} over the years. Last year, I was unable to make it to the conference, meaning that even after working with these women for a very long time, I had never met any of them {except Naomi, who is from California like me} in person. It was sort of surreal to finally be in the same room together, and I didn’t get enough time with any of them. I think of this as the AA layer.

    Then there was the Internet layer! All you amazing people who have hung out at Afterthoughts for ages, some of you that have written for Afterthoughts {Dawn! Jen!} and others of you that I know from the AO Forum. I met so many of you {but, sadly, I think not all of you} and that was intense! It felt like a thousand years would’t have been enough time, especially with Daughter A. pulling me outside for a walk. 😉

    And then there were all the AO moms I’d never heard of before that I met for the first time and shared meals with. AO is truly full of good people — people worth knowing.

    It was amazing. It was wonderful.

    And also: I’m very tired.


    :: 3 ::

    I got to help run the check-in table. I’ve decided I really like doing this, even though I’m introverted out afterwards. We greeted people and handed out room keys and such for over three hours, and the upside was that I got to touch based with a number of people I likely wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Even with this amount of sitting at a table, we managed to log many thousands and thousands of steps on my FitBit because WOW that campus was large. They need a warning on their map: “Distances on map are longer than they appear.”


    :: 4 ::

    When Karen Glass contrasted synthesis and analysis by contrasting narration with comprehension questions, it was like fireworks were going off in my head. In other words, this was a super-helpful way of thinking about it for me. So, as an example, we did two versions of picture study. In both, we spent time studying the same image {a painting by Mary Cassatt}. But the synthesis group had to narrate — tell back everything they could remember about the painting. The analysis group {my group} had to answer comprehension questions — how many boats were there, how many sleeves were showing on the girls, what color was the hair, etc. It was sort of exaggerated to make a point. The likely long term the result would be that students in the synthesis group would always be looking at the whole first, while the analysis students would probably begin to skip the whole and start jumping to details and counting and such because those are the things they know they’d be asked about. It’s an interesting result, I think.


    :: 5 ::

    Lynn Bruce blew my mind when she talked about something she calls the Cortisol/Oxytocin See Saw. She briefly covered the idea that when there are high cortisol levels — when there is a lot of fear and/or anxiety going on — this shuts down the mind. So then she talked about the benefits of raising oxytocin and ways to do this and all of a sudden I realized she was basically giving the biochemistry behind scholé. So, naturally, I asked her to be on the podcast, and she agreed: coming February 2017, if all goes as planned, we’re going to hash this topic out. It’s too bad I have to wait so long!


    :: 6 ::

    A-Age-Eleven is our resident naturalist, and she didn’t let me down. She had decided on her subjects of study within two hours of our arrival. There were spiders and birds we don’t have in California, of course. There were swallows with babies in their various nests, and all at different stages of development. She saw fireflies for the first time. And so on and so forth. Her camera was full of nature study lessons for her siblings when she returned home. It was so fun — I likely would have missed most of that if I’d traveled alone!


    :: 7 ::

    Post-conference hangovers are a thing. When I returned, my brother-in-law was here for a visit. I think that kept the adrenaline flowing for a bit longer. He left on Monday in the afternoon, and by Tuesday I found myself incapable of moving any major muscle groups or using my brain for anything other than figuring out meals. I used the time wisely and charged my FitBit. I think I’m beginning to recover, but let’s just say it’s a GOOD thing that conferences don’t happen very often.

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  • Reply SarahD May 28, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    I’m super interested in the cortisol/oxytocin see saw talk. I’ve noticed that I cannot think straight when I’m under pressure, self-induced or otherwise. ?

  • Reply Heather May 28, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    It was a wonderful time, indeed!

    I’m rather new to your blog but not to AO. I just don’t get much internet living out in the country and it is hard to keep up with all of the great resources out there.

    I REALLY wanted to hear your talk about “atmosphere, discipline, life” but it was scheduled at the same time as the Y4 overview and I felt like that was really important since I’m anticipating that leap next year with my oldest. Do you have any blog posts that cover similar material?

    Thank you! It was a blessing to see you at the conference!

  • Reply Amber Vanderpol May 27, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    Yay! I was hoping you were going to post at least a little about the conference. 🙂 I’ve been watching all the pics and comments on Instagram & the forum and thinking… “Next time, I really need to consider the AO Conference more seriously!” I really like the idea of every 3-5 years, actually, and I think it flows really well with the regional conferences too. It also keeps the AO Conference really special, which I think is a powerful thing.

    And Dawn, having you out on the West Coast would be awesome!! I would love to meet you too.

    And I am really looking forward to that podcast with Lynn. It reminds me of my mindfulness based childbirth education I took with my second – she talked about that too . But I would love to consider more, especially in light of learning and education.

    And yes, definitely conference hangover… I even had that with our little retreat last month! But still, so worth it. But it also makes me cautious about how much I commit myself to, because I’m seeing the recovery that I need. There’s a lot that goes into it beforehand, but quite a bit that is needed afterwards too!

    (ok, one more – how cool that you brought your 11 yo daughter!)

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 1, 2016 at 3:54 pm

      I hear you on being cautious about commitment. I recently told my husband I’d only do this a couple times a year because YIKES. I’m so useless afterwards.

      I hope you are there next time, Amber. That would be fab!

  • Reply Dawn May 27, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    Of COURSE I need a roomie. I’d LOVE that!

  • Reply Jen Snow May 27, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    (Oh, and sorry that Dawn and I are taking over your comment box! Kinda. :P)

  • Reply Dawn May 27, 2016 at 10:18 am

    That’s me! Oh, Brandy, it was so magnificent to meet you in the flesh after talking about you as if we were bosom buddies who talk on the phone for so many years. And yay Yay YAY that Lynn will be on the podcast. I’m already super excited about it!

    CM West in Northern CA? How about the CM West in Seattle? I’m already planning ahead for 2017 and had sent an email to Kathy W about it earlier today:). I want to see Celeste and you and Amber, too!!

    • Reply Jen Snow May 27, 2016 at 1:54 pm

      Girl – if you are headed to a West Coast conference next year you better tell me which one so I can come with you!!!!! 😀 You need a roomie, right? 😉

      I’m super excited that Lynn will be on the podcast too. That cortisol/oxytocin thing blew my mind too and I’d love to hear more about that.

      And yes. About conference hangovers. Me too. I’m only JUST starting to feel normal again. But so worth it.

      Loved meeting you Brandy…only sorry there wasn’t more time. 🙁

      • Reply Celeste May 27, 2016 at 9:31 pm

        Wait, Jen AND Dawn!!! If both of you come to the Northern CA conference I will be thrilled!!

        • Reply Dawn May 28, 2016 at 1:59 am

          I am most seriously considering it, friend.

          I forgot to write that I really enjoyed getting to meet Kristin, too. I was happy to finally sit down and chat with her at our final lunch at the retreat. Thanks for the lovely chat, friend!

          • Jen Snow May 28, 2016 at 4:51 am

            Seriously considering too, if we can swing the $$. (Although if I started saving now….) According to me 6 year old, Dawn and I “are always at those conferences together” (from photos she’s seen)….so apparently it’s our thing. Also, you (Celeste) are among the very short list of AO people I still haven’t met yet that I really need to. 😀 So…one way or another, we need to make that happen. <3

  • Reply Valerie May 27, 2016 at 8:42 am

    Please tell me there will be another one next year! I have heard the conference was nothing short of wonderful.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 27, 2016 at 8:56 am

      Next year? No. 🙁 Sadly. I’m so sorry! What we found is that if we were to do a conference every year, we’d end up in the conference planning business instead of the curriculum planning place we want to be. Plus, multiple members of the AA boards live in other countries. SO. I think the plan is maybe in 3-5 years, we’d do another one.

      It really WAS wonderful, that is for sure! There are other CM conferences, though, if you need a fix before AO does another one. I know that in October I’m speaking at Grace to Build, and also CM West in February 2017. And there are so many more out there! 🙂

      • Reply Tasmanian May 27, 2016 at 2:37 pm

        OOOOOH, maybe I should save up and come if you do one in 3-5 years… from Australia…

        • Reply Claire May 29, 2016 at 2:56 am

          I’ve decided to start a piggy bank. Maybe it’ll take me 10 years to save up enough, but ONE DAY I am going to an AO conference… So, we should try to book flights together, Tasmanian, whenever it happens…
          (-Subversive Gardener)

          • Brandy Vencel June 1, 2016 at 3:51 pm

            I hope I’m there to meet you on that day, Claire! {And Tasmanian, too, of course.} 🙂

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