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    Home Education, Mother's Education

    The In a Large Room Community

    April 24, 2018 by Dawn Duran

    Are you ready to continue the conversation about community? Let’s begin with the following quote from an 1888 pamphlet called DRAFT PROOF written by Charlotte Mason:

    No other part of the world’s work is of such supreme difficulty, delicacy and importance, as that of parents in the right bringing up of their children. The first obligation of the present — that of passing forward a generation better than ourselves — rests with parents. As every child belongs to the Commonweal, so his bringing up is the concern of all. Yet parents, with the responsibility of the world’s future resting upon them, are left to do their work, each father and mother alone, rarely getting so much as a word of sympathy, counsel, or encouragement. All other bodies of workers, whether or hand or brain, enjoy the help and profit of association; commonly, of co-operation. Thus the wisdom, the experience, the information of each is made profitable for all; enthusiasm is generated by the UNION of many for the advancement of a case, and every member is cheered by the sympathy of his fellow workers.

    In Memoriam, pp. 129-130

    This quote speaks clearly to me of our need for community. Charlotte Mason was not merely speaking to peers in 1888; rather, this is a timeless truth that rings just as true today, does it not? While the tide is definitely turning, it wasn’t long ago that the idea of homeschooling in and of itself was an anomaly, and the idea of a “Charlotte Mason” homeschool education just took the weird factor up a notch. This is why we need each other: we need the support of a strong community to support each other in our efforts to raise heroes and world changers. Ours is arguably the most important mission the world has ever seen, yet many parents feel they exist in an isolated vacuum and crave fellowship and guidance as they engage in their mission day-to-day. The In a Large Room Community of Central Maryland was born in an attempt to fill such a need.

    First and foremost, the foundation of our community is our monthly discussion group in which we explore Charlotte Mason’s volumes together. Due to the nature of our geographic area, our original group recently inspired the introduction of several other discussion groups — one that meets an hour north as well as another that meets an hour to the south of the original group, while yet another meets on a different day and time that may prove more convenient for some members. It is exciting to see the hunger in our area to learn more about Charlotte Mason’s philosophy in her own words rather than through the voice of an interpreter.

    As mentioned in a previous post, our smaller Feast community is the core of the larger one. When we first started meeting together we had no desire to expand beyond our few families. However, while we were enjoying our private bubble, the Charlotte Mason philosophy seemed to be experiencing a boom in our geographical vicinity.

    I initially began to sense this growth when I learned from a friend about another local Charlotte Mason enthusiast who wanted to host a retreat in our area. I immediately reached out to her and offered my services to assist with this endeavor, knowing that I had found a bosom buddy. (This friend was the fourth family to join our core Feast group.)

    Once the In a Large Room Retreat came to fruition, it became obvious that there were many more homeschooling families locally who embraced the Charlotte Mason philosophy than I had originally imagined, and the email list for our local discussions began to expand at a rapid rate. We brainstormed more offerings and began to offer quarterly Maker Workshops, sessions for parents focused on learning and teaching handicrafts in such a manner that we are able to become proficient before introducing it to our children at home. We have enjoyed learning Calligraphy and Quilting, as well as an overview of Nature Journaling practices. Another offering of our community includes quarterly dinner parties for couples that we call An Evening in a Large Room in which up to 6 couples join together and share in a literal feast via a 5 course meal “peppered” (tee hee — pun intended) with short lessons between courses in several subjects that might be found in a Charlotte Mason homeschool, including singing a hymn, recitation, picture study, folk song, and composer study.

    We soon began to realize that there were numerous opportunities for community among parents but nothing available for families with their children. We set out to rectify this with the introduction of our Natural History Club. This Club was enthusiastically received and well attended, and we were encouraged to offer more “for the children’s sake.” Our Shakespeare Club was born to fill this need and was also an immediate hit. Another local friend had the vision of starting a weekly Charlotte Mason co-op that is finishing up its first year and has seen great success.

    Based on the success of our Club last fall we began offering a Plutarch/Shakespeare Club this spring that includes opportunities for recitation and Swedish Drill (naturally!) as well as debate. In addition, we will also be hosting our Inaugural Recitation event — Truth, Beauty, Goodness Hour — so that our young scholars can have the opportunity to practice the art of recitation in a more formal setting involving their peers and local families.

    Finally, the vision of another dear friend has brought a Maker’s Market to the area and we are already looking forward to the second annual event this fall.

    Our local community is 50+ families strong according to my email list. However, not every family on the list engages in every opportunity for community. Some people only participate in Natural History Club, while others are engaged on multiple levels. My desire was to create opportunities for other Charlotte Mason families to engage in locally, and we have successfully done that. There are still areas in which we need to grow and over time we may see some offerings fall away, but we are enjoying the learning process and the benefit of each other’s support in the meantime.

    The challenge for myself is to make sure that my family doesn’t personally over-commit to all of the wonderful opportunities that exist in our community. We are learning to limit ourselves to one weekly outing outside our home with community. This sometimes means we have to say “No” to something pretty wonderful, but the peace in our home and the success of our homeschooling efforts require that such boundaries be set.

    Please don’t think, “They’re so lucky to have all of those opportunities in that community, but it will never happen near me.” Know that this didn’t happen overnight: it was the result of much prayer and preparation. This local community is my personal ministry, and I pour a lot of time and effort into fostering it. Even so, I can’t do everything on my own. A core group of women help with operations, and we try to build leadership in our members by offering opportunities for them to lead activities. The long-term success of this community will depend on how invested our members are and whether they contribute via participation, planning, and leading as time progresses.

    The encouragement I wish to offer with this series of posts is to show that you, too, can have local community to support you in your Charlotte Mason journey. It won’t look the same as our community does, but it will fit the needs of your community and its members. It will grow slowly and organically just as ours has done. But it is not impossible: if you build it, they will come.

    Now, please tell me: which aspect of our community are you most interested in learning about next? Let me know in the comments and I will do my best to address it in a future post.

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  • Reply Victoria April 26, 2018 at 7:04 pm

    That moment when you stumble upon a blog looking to pilfer a Paddle-to-the-Sea printable and you realize the photo on the home page was a meeting you attended…it was a confusing feeling for a second but I got a good laugh out of the bargain!

    And let me echo others’ thanks for this inspiring post, Dawn. I’m so grateful that the Lord put you and all the ladies in the Large Room community in my life.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 26, 2018 at 8:35 pm

      Hahahahah! That’s a great story!

      Welcome to Afterthoughts, Victoria. 🙂 ♥

    • Reply Dawn Duran April 27, 2018 at 3:48 am

      Do you want to take it to another level of irony, Victoria? This is the very blog I’ve been meaning to tell you about, because Brandy is a Thomas Aquinas fan! Hers is the store I have been meaning to link you to for her talk on The Great Recognition. I’m so glad you discovered Afterthoughts – but even more excited that you discovered our community. We are all the richer for it.

      • Reply Victoria April 29, 2018 at 5:39 am

        Well, I don’t believe in coincidence, so it seems the Lord wants me to read this blog and listen to the talk!

  • Reply Ashley Antkowiak April 25, 2018 at 4:39 am

    Dawn, I’m so thankful for your friendship and the blessing of our community! I hope this post inspires others to just start somewhere and see what God does with it. I also love your honesty about the need to guard your time and not feel pressure to do it all. It’s hard to feel like you’re missing out, but finding the right balance for your particular family is so important. Having said that, I can’t wait to have this baby so my family can join you all on outings again!

    • Reply Dawn Duran April 25, 2018 at 10:20 am

      We look forward to having you and the newest tribe member join us again too, Ashley. Thank you for your kind words!

      Last year I did feel like I had to be involved in every activity – and I wanted to, in order to get things off the ground. But I couldn’t sustain it long term, and that was never my goal. It’s exciting to see others take ownership and start small groups of their own in part due to the larger gatherings!

  • Reply Mama Rachael April 24, 2018 at 7:16 pm

    This is so good to hear. I’m helping to “lead” a group of CM homeschoolers here in our area (Central Texas). Right now, the main thing is we meet 1x a month where we talk about 1 principle. We want to do more, but not sure this is the season for me to push outwards. But I’ll keep up with the Mom’s Academic Night Out.

    Have you had to deal with someone’s kid bringing an electronic on a nature outing that every other kid is now zoned in on? If you have, how did you deal with it?

    • Reply Dawn Duran April 25, 2018 at 10:17 am

      That’s exciting, Rachael! Things will grow from that discussion when the time is right if the families are eager for it.

      As for the nature outing? No electronics allowed. PERIOD. That needs to be a rule up front. The whole point is getting kids to connect with their surroundings and no one is going to do that with a device vying for their attention. I’m sure this will be difficult to address now that it has already happened, but it is critical to nip in the bud. I’m sure you’ll do a good job graciously explaining the problem this poses to the group at large!

      • Reply Rachael April 27, 2018 at 12:46 pm

        Thanks. I think when we next do a nature outing, I’ll include some guidelines. .. including no electronics excepting a camera. Then, I can also encourage nature journals as supplies, and maybe even with something we are looking towards, or aiming to observe actively. Ideas!

  • Reply Amber April 24, 2018 at 1:01 pm

    I’m glad you have been writing this series, Dawn, and I’m enjoying reading about what you have going on in your area. I think it is great for people in different areas to get to hear what other areas are doing so we can have some cross-pollinization of ideas from community to community.

    I am impressed that you’ve had enough people step forward to lead other activities that your area can have such a nice variety of events, and that there’s enough people to decide that it is important enough to actually make time to go to the activities. That seems to be a real sticking point in so many areas. I sometimes feel like there is a lot more interest in talking about community than in planning/leading or even showing up at activities that other people plan!

    And you have a great point at the end – we do need to be careful not to overwhelm our lives with activities, even if they are great CM community opportunities.

    • Reply Dawn Duran April 24, 2018 at 4:14 pm

      Thanks, Amber. As with everything, striking the balance point is so critical, isn’t it? As I finished writing this blog post and saw everything that we have going on I realized that it is nearly time to pare back a bit. As you mentioned, there have been some extraneous activities that we have planned only to have low attendance. Even that is helpful, though, as we see what the community desires and what there isn’t a need for at the moment. Even these moments make us realize that what we desired is happening at an even more local level: rather than drive an hour to participate in some of these events with the larger community, many moms are connecting within a smaller radius and getting the support they need more frequently – and that is very exciting!

  • Reply Callie April 24, 2018 at 10:57 am

    Thank you for sharing Dawn! So much goodness!

    • Reply Dawn Duran April 24, 2018 at 4:09 pm

      Thanks, Callie! I’m glad you found some things to enjoy:). Best of luck in launching your own community events!

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