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A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness…
- John Keats, “Endymion”

There are few joys in life greater and more constant than our joy in Beauty.
- Charlotte Mason, Ourselves, p. 41

That, he contends, is the training that develops the character as well as the intellect, the best training of all, since to quote Plato’s own words, it touches the soul, fills it with harmony, and moulds it to grace, giving the child from his earliest youth an instinctive, unquestioning love for the good, the beautiful and the true, so that when he is older and reason comes into his ken, he salutes her as a friend with whom knowledge has long made him familiar.
- "The Debt We Owe the Ancients," Parents Review, Volume 38

As part of our series of summer retreats, the Charlotte Mason Educational Center hosted a two-day retreat in the Philadelphia area in July 2022. This year's theme was "Our Constant Joy: Truth, Beauty, and Goodness in Home and School."  Speakers Amy Snell and Celeste Cruz came together once again this year, this time to present a series of talks on what we call the Common Subjects at the CMEC, which refers to subjects often done in community like artist study, composer study, singing, and recitation. They also covered the role of notebook work in the Mason model, more generally and then specifically in these subjects.

They approached these subjects from a practical standpoint based on research into PNEU methods and programmes and informed by their own personal experience implementing these subjects with many ages of students and in both home and classroom settings. Undergirding this practical discussion was a rich consideration of truth, beauty, and goodness within education and within the Christian life. It was a fruitful time of refreshment and reflection, solidly grounded in Charlotte Mason's philosophy and encouraging for parents and teachers.


Now we are excited to be able to share this retreat with you!  This downloadable retreat package includes:

  • Seven audio workshops by Amy and Celeste in mp3 format
  • Accompanying workshop slides in pdf format
  • Conference picture study selections in pdf format
  • Conference handbook in pdf format
  • Bonus: Recorded Q and A session with Amy and Celeste in mp3 format
  • Bonus: Suggestions for notebook work and small group discussion for those studying alone or in a group in mp3 format
See details on workshop topics, speakers, handouts, and purchase information below!



Our Constant Joy: The Beauty of Ideas with Amy Snell

A father in Mason’s Parents' Union wrote, “My mother had a miraculous gift of making…everything we did an adventure, though the things we did were quite ordinary … She was lovely to look at, to the day of her death, and someone once said: ‘She held beauty in her hands and gave it to all her friends.’ She certainly gave it to us, in full measure.” (Ingram, Mark. “Hitched to a Star,” Parents’ Review, pp. 282-283.) In this opening talk, we begin with a discussion of the role of beauty in our students' education and how we can provide that beauty to our children each day. Amy then explores Mason’s emphasis on living ideas, ending with a helpful overview of how Mason’s plan of a lesson is “how ideas are sown in the fruitful soil of the mind.” The handbook includes a handout on the structure of a lesson and how each step furthers the assimilation of ideas.

Notice and Rejoice: Art Appreciation in the Mason Model with Celeste Cruz

After this introduction to beauty and ideas, we begin digging into the subjects themselves. What does it look like to teach when a relationship with ideas is our aim? How does beauty work itself into the home and homeschool? And how does Mason's approach to art appreciation differ from other methods focused on memorization, replication, or analysis? This session is offered workshop-style and is eminently practical. Together we walk through lesson plans from PNEU teachers to examine their objectives, the order and structure of their lessons, and the "inspiring ideas" that they begin with. Then, continuing to learn through personal experience, we dive into two separate immersions. First, we use what we have learned from the sample lesson plans to write our own for a piece from the CMEC's artist from the fall term, Hans Memling. Then we take on the role of the student as we study and narrate the painting -- both orally and collaboratively. This leads to a discussion of the varied ways to narrate art; our workshop materials include an extensive, organized list of such suggestions. In addition to this hands-on work, this session includes the CMEC's research into picture study in the PNEU programs, reading and narration of excerpts from the Parents' Review, and suggestions for working with students in all Forms in both home and classroom settings.

Forms of Vitality: Notebooks in a Living Education by Celeste Cruz

No discussion about the content of a student's education would be complete without also considering the methods used. As Mason says, it is not just what we teach, but how. In considering methodology, we explore in this session the use of notebooks in a Mason education. What are the differences between such notebook work and other paper products in the educational world, like worksheets, lapbooks, book reports -- and even "notebooking" using other methods? What are the goals of notebook work, and how do they invite students to both record their knowledge and engage with ideas in a fresh way? We also discuss potential trouble spots families sometimes run into: Are notebooks best suited for girls, or at least for students who are natural readers/writers? How do we get started with older students or reluctant students? How should we measure success? In answering these questions, we work our way through an extensive range of examples in all subjects and for all Forms, beginning with "core subjects" like history, science, and language arts. Then we narrow in on notebook work for the Common Subjects, using art appreciation as our focus. Through these examples, we see how notebooks are a natural method for persons, offering room for individuality, requiring real mental effort -- and ultimately forming the character of our students.

Bonus: Notebook Work Session and Small Group Discussion with Celeste Cruz

We ended our first day at the retreat with a short time for quiet notebook work followed by a discussion of a selection from a Parents' Review article and a closing thought for the day. We include the short audio and slide introduction and conclusion to this time if you would like to do something similar at home on your own or with a group.

Learning to Listen: Music Appreciation in the Mason Model with Celeste Cruz

After looking closely at art appreciation, we now consider music appreciation, often called composer study in the Mason world. We use what we have already learned about the study of art to approach this companion subject: How is a lesson in music appreciation structured, and what does it include? How much do we teach about the composer himself, and how much about his work? How do we build real knowledge of musical forms and history with our students while also inviting them to relationship with the selections themselves? What forms might narration take to help us reach these goals? We experience together a lesson on the CMEC's fall term composer, Johannes Brahms. We then use this experience to undergird our discussion of student work, looking at many notebook examples for this subject through the Forms. This workshop invites us to ponder the great thoughts available to us solely through music and to tease out the difference between the lover and the conoisseur.

Singing: Participation in the Glorious World of Music with Amy Snell

Why is singing an important part of our children’s education in its own right? With plenty of personal examples and strong words from Parents' Review writers, we explore how singing and listening to music builds important habits and leads our children to new ideas about life. With a special focus on hymns and folksongs, this talk will encourage you to make singing a part of your school day! The handbook includes helpful excerpts from the CMEC Hymn and Folksong Guides to support the understanding of the singing lesson.

Recitation: Beautiful Thoughts, Beautifully Rendered with Amy Snell

We have found that approaching the art of recitation with Mason’s methods brings much meaning and joy to family life. It is interesting to contemplate why this ancient practice has continued through time and what it holds for our students. Again, we focus on the habits and ideas acquired through Mason’s approach to this subject. From there, we move to a discussion of how recitation builds our ability to speak well and end with a step-by-step process for the recitation lesson. This talk includes recitation examples, including by poets reading their own work, as a way to highlight the key components that bring delight to both the giver and reciever.

The Source of Our Joy: A Christian Conception of Beauty by Celeste Cruz

At a retreat centered on and immersed in truth, goodness, and beauty, it can feel like we are dwelling in the realm on ideals -- and yet we live very real lives, with real children, real messiness, real struggles and suffering. In this final talk, we touch on the Romantic and ancient Greek conceptions of beauty and compare them to a Christian conception, which blends the ideal and real to inspire us in not only our educational pursuits but also our daily lives.

Bonus: Q and A with Amy Snell and Celeste Cruz

In this short session, we tackle topics that came in to our Question Box during the retreat, including living ideas in math and languages, encouraging thoughtful notebook work in reluctant learners, fitting notebook work into the school day, and spreading a feast of living ideas for our students in the summertime.



This 140-page Retreat Handbook, artistically designed and full of inspiration, includes a guide to the retreat and resources for the mother-teacher aiming at an education filled with truth, goodness, and beauty:

Workshop Notes and Resources :: This section includes all the quotes shared in the workshops, allowing you to listen, narrate, and ponder while you listen, secure in the knowledge that these selections are here to revisit later. For each workshop, we also have a selection of supplemental materials to help equip you to implement these subjects at home or in the classroom. They cover the structure of the Mason lesson, narration methods for art and music, recitation helps, guidance for notebook work, sample lesson plans, and more.

Our "Truth, Beauty, & Goodness Reader" :: A special, extensive collection of articles from the Parents' Review, many of which are only publicly available in this Handbook. We chose the articles that most clearly reflected Mason’s approach to the subjects we will be discussing and her thoughts on educating with living ideas. They are full of both sound philosophy and practical advice from Mason’s closest colleagues.


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 or simply invest in the package as part of your ongoing teacher training! This retreat is also appropriate for couples to listen to together.

Our individual rate for full access to the retreat package is $40.

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.

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 over seven hours of audio content as well as guidance for notebook work and discussion during or between sessions.
    • Study in a group over the course of seven/eight weeks or months, meeting to listen together to one audio at a time.
    • Spread the audios out over seven/eight weeks or months, 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.

We offer groups of five or more a 50%-off discount, bringing the cost to just $20 for each member to have full access to the package.

If you are interested in studying the retreat in a group setting, please email our infobox for more details about the purchase process.

Your purchase benefits the CMEC, a nonprofit collaboration of parents and teachers dedicated to spreading Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education and implementing her practices in homes and schools.


Celeste Cruz

Celeste lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and their ten children. With a graduate degree in English and a background in European humanities and art history, she 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 rewarding experience has been putting that philosophy into practice with her own children at home. Besides organizing a local Mason group, she shares the joys of home education at Joyous Lessons and @celeste_cruz, collects Mason-style notebook work @keepingcompanycm, and speaks at retreats and conferences nationwide. Celeste serves the CMEC in a variety of ways, including contributing to community projects and acting as managing editor.

Amy Snell

With a graduate degree in literature from the University of California-Irvine, Amy taught in a variety of classroom environments. She then discovered Charlotte Mason, whose philosophy quickly convinced her to begin homeschooling. As her family thrived using Mason’s methods and grew to include five children, Amy wanted to share and learn more about Mason’s philosophy with others, including speaking at national conferences and local retreats, 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 heads our curriculum team and community projects. You can find Amy on Instagram @learninghowtolivecm.

To purchase the CMEC 2022 Retreat Package as an individual , click on the product below!

If you would like more information about purchasing as a group of five or more or for an event, please contact us for instructions.

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