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Now Available for Just $20!

The Charlotte Mason Educational Center hosts an annual summer retreat for member families and friends in the Philadelphia area.

In July 2018,  our theme was "Awakening to a Thinking Love: Its Duties and Delights." Speakers Amy Snell and Celeste Cruz gave two days of talks on what a Thinking Love might mean in our homes, applied to everything from chores to pre-reading to examinations. 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
  • Bonus audio of this year's evening lecture by Dr. R.J. Snell 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!


A Thinking Love: Becoming a Guide, Philosopher, and Friend with Amy Snell

“'The mother is qualified,’ says Pestalozzi, ‘and qualified by the Creator Himself, to become the principal agent in the development of her child; ... and what is demanded of her is - a thinking love ... God has given to the child all the faculties of our nature, but the grand point remains undecided - how shall this heart, this head, these hands be employed? to whose service shall they be dedicated? A question the answer to which involves a futurity of happiness or misery to a life so dear to thee. Maternal love is the first agent in education.’ We are waking up to our duties and in proportion as mothers become more highly educated and efficient, they will take up [the education of their children] as their profession.” - Charlotte Mason, Home Education

A “thinking love” is demanded of us, but so often we waiver between two common alternatives: a systematic love or a sentimental love, or as Mason describes them, Scylla or Charybdis. If we set ourselves on the path of becoming our child’s “Guide, Philosopher, and Friend,” we will safeguard the “individuality implanted in every child’s breast” and delight in our relationship with our child. In this workshop, Amy sets the philosophical groundwork for the retreat's main themes. She ends with an overview of how a “thinking love” uses the three tools of education: atmosphere, discipline and life.

Pre-Reading as Scholé: Teaching with the Posture of a Student with Celeste Cruz

In this session, we turn our attention to the practical duties of a teacher living out a thinking love with her students. How can we bring this mindful, middle-road posture to the way we prepare lessons? How might the concept of "restful learning" help us elevate our teacher prep work into Mother Culture? Celeste walks us through her weekly pre-reading process and notebook-keeping habits as an example of how teaching with a posture of a student builds sympathy and relationship between teacher and taught.

Of Midges and Methods: The Practices of a Prepared Teacher with Celeste Cruz

Preparing lessons is only one of the duties of the mother-teacher; implementing those lessons requires mindful preparation as well. This workshop leads listeners through some close reading of a Parents' Review article written by a mother of eight that gets at the heart of the difference between methods and systems in the Mason paradigm. Then we get practical: what are the "midges" that keep you from smooth days, delightful lessons, and an atmosphere conducive to loving and learning? Celeste leads us step-by-step through the method she relies on to handle the details while making time to work toward her vocational goals, and you will come away with a simple plan for building your own.

Independence by Degrees: Guiding Students in the Art & Science of Self-Government with Celeste Cruz

This workshop considers how independence in learning is a key feature of Mason's beliefs about education and the PNEU's processes and not just a survival tactic for the busy homeschool mother! Celeste focuses on two principles straight from Mason that can help us cultivate children who seek after knowledge themselves and teachers who know when to stand aside. She brainstorms how this looks before, during, and after lesson times -- including the mistakes we often make in the process and how we can overcome them! -- and demonstrates how Weekly Meetings and Weekly Checklists help her communicate with her independent learners. She also provides a set of questions so you can watch through this process yourself for each of your students.

End-of-Term Reflection: The Mother’s Key to Hope and Growth with Celeste Cruz

This workshop deals with perhaps the greatest duty we have as mother-educators: to build relationship with each of our children. Celeste offers a method toward this mindfulness: end-of-term reflection. She outlines the "Raw Material" of Reflection" the PNEU encouraged mothers and teachers to collect and consider as well as the tools she uses in assessing her homeschool, her students, and herself. Using many examples from her family, she makes the case for how this kind of careful, consistent consideration can be the key to hope and growth. The conference materials for this session offer a thorough and heartfelt guide for you to use in end-of-term reflection, including tips for exam assessment and the keeping of a Mother's Diary.

Creating a Family Rhythm: Habits of Home and School with Amy Snell

In the day-to-day of homeschooling, how do we maintain “personal delight and joy in living,” which Charlotte Mason tells us are two of the chief objects in education? Amy shares how a family rhythm of rest, leisure, learning, and work come together to create a beautiful symphony of life. She begins with creating a rhythm for our overall year, then moves to the goals and demands of a typical week, and ends with scheduling a typical school day.  A life where we keep up with laundry and routines and know what’s for dinner; a life where we fit in all the subjects of the feast, even when homeschooling children of multiple ages and little ones; a life with dedicated time for prayer, reflection, and planning; a life where we rest and play with our family too. This workshop is fleshed out in the Retreat Handbook, where both Amy and Celeste share their weekly checklists, chore charts, daily routines, school time-tables and more. And while Amy’s and Celeste’s homes vary greatly from each other's, seeing them side by side fleshes out Mason’s principles and the freedom of Method versus System.

Bonus Lecture!  A Father's Thinking Love with RJ Snell



This 70-page Retreat Handbook, artistically designed and full of inspiration, includes a guide to the retreat and resources for the mother-teacher aiming at a Thinking Love in her homeschool:

Workshop Notes :: Several pages are dedicated to each of the six workshops, collecting all of the quotes shared in the retreat talks. This allows the listener to engage, narrate, and ponder through the retreat, secure in the knowledge that these selections from the volumes will be there for to revisit later.

“A Thinking Love Reader” :: A special collection of articles from The Parents' Review, to provide both philosophical and practical insights into how we can best orient ourselves, and our schoolrooms, to better meet our aims.

Appendix :: Over 20 pages of helpful resources and sample organizational tools from the Snell and Cruz households. These are a treasure trove for those looking to develop new methods – or revisit those already in place – to keep things running smoothly in home and schoolroom. Part of planning mindfully is embracing the special heritage of each of our families; these checklists and charts showcase the speakers' distinct family charisms but are deeply rooted in Mason’s principles.


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 hours of audio content as well as handouts to guide discussion breaks in between each session.
  • Listen with a group over the course of weeks or 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, all age 12 and under. Once upon a time she was training to be an English professor; now she can usually be found with a baby strapped to her back and toddlers underfoot as she learns alongside her six school-aged kids. When she has her hands free, she enjoys running, reading, and nature journaling. She discovered Charlotte Mason before her children were born and has been an enthusiastic devotee ever since. She moderates at the AmblesideOnline Forums, curates content for charlottemasonirl, collects CM-style notebooks @keepingcompanycm, and shares the joys of a Catholic Charlotte Mason home education at Joyous Lessons and celeste_cruz.

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 of PA and as its Curriculum and Methodology Consultant.

To purchase the CMEC 2018 Retreat Package, click on the product below!

For any questions, please contact us.

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