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Now Available for Just $20!

The Charlotte Mason Educational Center hosts an annual two-day summer retreat in the Philadelphia area.  This year's theme was "The Beautiful Person Within: A Living Approach to Character Formation."  Speakers Amy Snell and Celeste Cruz came together once again this year, this time to present a series of talks on character formation in the Mason home and homeschool.  It was a fruitful time of refreshment and reflection, solidly grounded in Charlotte Mason's philosophy and encouraging for mothers and teachers.

Now we are excited to be able to share this retreat with you!  This downloadable retreat 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
See details on workshop topics, speakers, handouts, and purchase information below!



The "Beautiful Person Within": A Living Approach to Character Formation with Amy Snell

What is character and what develops it? So often we think of character in terms of “success,” “resume virtues,” or simply “being good" -- but how is character more than conduct and habits? We know that Charlotte Mason says it is “the one achievement possible and necessary for every man,” and, yet, she writes in the Preface of Volume 5, “Character is not the outcome of a formative educational process…we may not make character our conscious objective.” She then challenges us further: "we must not again confuse issues and say that habit any more than discipline produces character.”

We begin our retreat by defining terms and getting to the heart of how and where all of these different concepts intersect. Amy walks us through those key elements that Mason highlights as making up our personhood, our character. In doing so, she draws on some powerful metaphors from Mason's own writing to set before us a vision of ourproject, including a group picture study. She then moves on to explain education’s role in sharpening the conscience and strengthening the will, so that the "beautiful self" that God created us to be can be made manifest to the world.

Character Through Curriculum: Living Materials and Methods with Celeste Cruz

What is the most effective "character training" program available to us as mother-teachers? Look no further than the lessons you implement each day! In this session, we consider how "knowledge makes for character" in the Mason model, and how the material and methods of the Mason lesson are defined by their ability to teach character in delightful ways. We look at not just the inspiring ideas that undergird the subjects, but also the way those ideas play out in the course of daily work in the home or classroom. How do we pace lessons for character? Set assignments that build character? Choose material that has the growth of the student as its aim? What are the connections between beauty, breadth, and character? How are narration and notebook-keeping powerful tools for the formation of character? Mason provides us answers to these questions and -- uniquely -- claims that such formation happens best without a grind-builds-character mindset. Interspersed within this philosophical discussion are plenty of practical classroom examples, notebook work, and more from the Parents' Union School and Celeste's own homeschool.

Cultivating Magnanimity: The Scope of Citizenship with Amy Snell

This workshop offers a "deep dive" into one specific aspect of the Mason program that seems intimately connected to the formation of character: citizenship. If what we teach and how we teach it becomes an essential part of a person’s growth, what might the practical outworking of citizenship look like in the classroom and, ultimately, in the life of the child?  Amy covers the unique role of Plutarch’s Lives of Noble Grecians and Romans and Mason’s Ourselves in building an understanding of magnanimous citizenship and inspiring students toward right action and noble thoughts.

Note: This workshop originally served as an introduction to  immersion lessons for Ourselves, Poetry Recitation, Commonplace, Swedish Drill and Plutarch, which are not included in the package. We think, however, you will find Amy's overview very helpful in understanding the purpose behind and practice of these subjects.

Building Foundational Habits: Our Beginnings with Celeste Cruz

Mason's vision for habit-training goes beyond the usual habit-a-month system often discussed in Mason circles. Celeste breaks down that fuller vision in a set of two workshops focused on building habits in the home.

In this first talk, she takes a case study from Mason's Formation of Character as her frame and walks through how to build foundational habits that will serve us and our children well in the long term. This workshop discusses how to educate the conscience, strengthen the will, inspire with ideas, and reach our children's minds and hearts -- all while minimizing friction between parent and child and cultivating relationships in the family. Along the way, she considers which habits are best caught and which must be taught, how to build an atmosphere of authority and freedom, and what the deepest needs of the child are. Whether you are just getting started in your parenting journey or are shepherding teens, this workshop offers a solid foundation for the parenting work ahead of us all.

Growing in Habits: Guiding Older Children in the Way of the Will with Celeste Cruz

In this second habit-training workshop, we glean from another character "case study" of Mason's, this time with an older child as its focus. Mason has a surprising amount of advice for us in navigating what she calls "the awkward years" in her fifth volume, and Celeste has mined those chapters for fresh insights. This is a closer look into the role we are called to play with our older children -- and how we can best support them in their own role. How can we avoid power struggles? What might the path to independence look like in work, lessons, and leisure? What do our older children most need from us, and how can we provide that, even in the challenging times? How can we cooperate with the Holy Spirit to cement family relationships?  Celeste distills and organizes the wisdom of Parents' Review writers and Mason herself to get to the very heart of parenting.

Our Aim: The Masterly Inactivity of Parents and Teachers with Amy Snell

After focusing on habit formation for the younger and older child, we turn to the habit formation of the mother-teacher. We all desire to become the magnanimous soul that Mason describes, but we often feel at a loss as to how to take on that task. Amy walks us through the connection between magnanimity and masterly inactivity. She highlights key habits that can help us toward wise-passiveness, and, in the words of the Parents' Review, "ordered lives reflecting the beauty of His peace."



This 85-page Retreat Handbook, artistically designed and full of inspiration, includes a guide to the retreat and resources for the mother-teacher aiming at a living approach to character:

Workshop Notes :: This section collects all of the quotes shared in the retreat talks. This allows the listener to engage, narrate, and ponder while listening, secure in the knowledge that these selections will be there for to revisit later.

Our “Character Reader” :: A special collection of articles from the CMEC's private Parents' Review archives, providing both philosophical and practical insights into how we can best orient ourselves toward magnanimous living.

Appendix :: Helpful resources for how to build a family culture aimed at knowledge, good habits, and virtue. This includes a step-by-step guide for building a new habit, extensive lists of leisure occupations and work sorted by age, a reflection guide for homeschool methods and materials, and more. Taken together with the retreat talks, these guides and handouts offer not just a vision but also a realistic plan for how to put that vision into action -- and always the personhood of the child and the unique charism of each family in mind.


We hope this retreat can provide an at-home option for those who aren't able to get away to a retreat this year or who want an additional burst of education and encouragement in the work of parenting and homeschooling. Treat yourself with the package as a Christmas gift or simply invest in the package as part of your ongoing teacher training! This retreat is also appropriate for couples to listen to together.

We also suggest the retreat package for groups! The format of this retreat allows for group study in several different ways:

  • Host an event to listen through the recordings all at once together, similar to the retreat's original setting. The package offers six hours of audio content as well as handouts to guide discussion breaks in between each session.
  • Listen with a group over the course of six weeks or six months, meeting to listen to one audio at a time.
  • Spread the audios out similarly, but have members listen at home and come together ready to discuss. This allows each member to listen on her own time and is the easiest method to organize.

Experiencing the retreat as a group will offer members shared language and ideas to take your group forward over the course of the following months and years.

The Handbook also provides meaty content for continued study, including several never-before-published Parents' Review articles that would make excellent reading for an ongoing Mason event after you have listened through the retreat. You could easily plan a year's worth of study for your group using just the talks and handbook.

You can read our suggestions for group study of the retreat package here.

Whether you are using the retreat package at home individually or with a group, you can purchase the package for $20 per person through our online store below. Once you purchase, you will receive access to the Downloads page, where you can choose to stream the audios and view the PDFs online, or to download them to your device.


Celeste Cruz

Celeste lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and their nine children. She has a graduate degree in English with a background in European Humanities and Art History, and has taught literature and writing in classroom and small group settings. She discovered Charlotte Mason before her children were born and has enthusiastically studied her philosophy ever since. But her most humbling and rewarding experience has been putting those principles into practice while learning alongside her children at home. Besides helping run a local Mason group, she enjoys engaging the online community across a variety of platforms: she shares the joys of home education at Joyous Lessons and @celeste_cruz, writes for Common Place Quarterly, and curates content for @charlottemasonirl and @keepingcompanycm. She also works on the Northern California team of Charlotte Mason West, organizing retreats and video book discussions for Mason educators west of the Rockies.

Amy Snell

With a graduate degree in Literature from the University of California-Irvine, Amy Snell had taught in a variety of classroom environments. Amy then discovered the 19th century British educator, Charlotte Mason, whose philosophy quickly convinced her to begin homeschooling her five children. As her family thrived using Mason’s methods, Amy wanted to share and learn more about Mason’s philosophy with others, including speaking at the Charlotte Mason Institute National Conference, hosting Mason book discussions and workshops for parents, running a Nature Study Club, facilitating Truth, Beauty, Goodness afternoons, and creating the Mason Academy as director, teacher, and parent. Amy now serves as the Board President of the Charlotte Mason Educational Center and as its Curriculum and Methodology Consultant.

To purchase the CMEC 2019 Retreat Package , click on the product below!

For any questions, please contact us.

Special thanks to Sarah Hebenstreit for the retreat photos.

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