Thoughts from the LER: Learning for a Lifetime (A Guest Post)

Jeannette Tulis shares her thoughts on the 2017 LER and the audio of her plenary!

I have wanted to attend a Living Education Retreat ever since Nancy Kelly and Karla Taber started the lovely tradition 12 years ago. It usually falls on the same weekend as our big home education expo here in Chattanooga, for which I am one of the organizers, so in many of the past years, it has not been an option for me to consider attending. But this year, providence smiled as it was earlier than in other years, our expo was a bit later in the month than previous years, and I had the impetus of long lost cousins who live in Minneapolis. I lost my dad 4 years ago and since then have wanted to connect with cousins on his side of the family. What a gift to connect with cousins and go to the LER on the same trip.

From the moment I arrived, I was made to feel welcome. Heidi Jahnke gave me an enthusiastic greeting and a lovely card and a package awaited each guest on their cot. No comment on the rustic nature of the cabins which of course is part of the charm, bugs and all, right? The feeling of welcome continued into the dinner time when I saw several familiar faces from other CM gatherings. The first talk by Nancy, the Conversazione, set the tone with the theme of simplicity, a single eye, and humility. It included one of my favorite activities - a picture study - by one of my favorite artists - Botticelli's stunning work Fortitude

My cabin mates encouraged me to attend Morning Meditiations at the cross by the lake and may I say it was well worth the early hour with which one's alarm must be set!  Nancy led the Friday a.m. meds with favorite readings from children's books and worthy devotionals. A perfect way to start the day.

Immersions and workshops that day included one on the Vaulted Book about the Great Recognition led by Steve Mattern which seriously was the next best thing to an actual visit to the Spanish Chapel of the Santa Maria Novella Church in Florence, Italy. In the afternoon I chose a Nature Immersion with Sally Almodovar in which we found all kinds of treasures hiding in the duckweed of Lake Okoboji. I now have a new fondness for the caddis fly larvae thanks to Sally's excellent immersion and a delightful chapter on that creature in Among the Pond People by Clara Dillingham Pierson. I have since downloaded that book for free on my Kindle. the book discussion that night on our chosen retreat read, You Are What You Love was well attended and full of rich insights into human nature and God's grace. After dinner, I was able to corner a local gal who led me on a nature walk and told me the names of all the wildflowers I did not know. White Campion is a new friend to me.

Saturday's morning meditations were a gift of song and worship led by the talented Tyson Suemnicht and caused our hearts to soar over the sunrise on the lake. Thoughts from the Scholars was a most encouraging glimpse into the education journeys of several CM educated high schoolers. They all made their parents very proud, which might have gone against the theme of humility, but there it is!  The Poetry Immersion led by Karla Taber showed us how a truly living book about Longfellow by Catherine Peare lent itself well to narration and we delighted in his early boyhood poems. The narration workshop by Donna Johnson introduced me to a lovely book about Bonhoeffer by Patrick McCormick.

But the real fun happened after the conference when we gathered for an impromptu dry brush notebooking lesson and I saw all the talent in this group of moms, new talent as well as watercolor skills honed in months or years of practice. This was followed by a rollicking session of show and gloat, er, tell with everyone bringing their book finds from Jan Wright's amazing pop-up bookshop Books of Yesterday which was set up in the lower conference room.

I came away from the 2017 LER with a list of books I coveted, some new wildflower friends, lots of new kindred spirits, and a full heart. I may or may not have stopped at nearly every antique store on the way home in hopes of snagging some book treasures. I did make a stop in Mankato to see the Betsy-Tacy neighborhood. The museum was closed but the stop and the town were lovely and picturesque, evoking the fondest memories of the Lovelace series of books.

Learning for a Lifetime: Perks for the CM Teacher
My dad was a toastmaster and I fear he would have been very critical of all the "umms” in my talk. Still I do believe I was able to impart some of the gracious adventures God has seen fit to give me in my homeschooling journey of self education. One thing I forgot to say was that it is a good thing for your children to see you learning, whether reading, keeping journals, taking notes on nature walks or anything else you do to further your understanding.
I hope to add some more links to which I referred in my talk later this week when I can organize them. They will be added to this post.

Jeannette Tulis, Living Education Retreat 2017

Conversazione 2017 - Simplicity (with audios)

Sandro Botticelli's Fortitude

Conversazione is an Italian word.  It is defined as a scholarly or formal gathering where something related to literature or the arts is discussed. The PNEU held these talks in order to drum up interest in the organization, often times with Miss Mason as the speaker.  Each LER begins with a conversazione where I try to share something on my heart that is related to the theme. Each year the Lord brings the elements together in what is, to me, such a surprising way.

The 2017 LER is now over. At least the actual event is over, but I suspect that we will all be thinking about the  many truths shared over the course of the weekend.  So here is the audio of my speech.  Please enjoy listening to it and do let me know your thoughts! I have posted the picture for the picture study and the poem by Mason from The Saviour of the World. Please have those ready when you listen so that you can participate in the immersions and thereby engage in the fullness of the talk. Also, see the link for Highest Thinking and Simplist Living by Mary Beuving at the end.

Teaching from Peace,


You might also enjoy Mary Beuving's workshop on Highest Thinking and Simplist Living!

Here is a post I wrote about The Single Eye.

Please note that the correct reference for the Fortitude section by Mason that I read in the speech is Ourselves, Book 2, p. 41.

Contrived Atmospheres

Recently, my friend AnnMarie told me an interesting, humorous, and instructive story. She and her husband decided it was high time that they taught their young children about hard work. As he had been raised on a farm, he came to the conclusion that taking care of animals was how he learned how to work hard. While they did not live on a farm now, they could still use animals to teach this valuable life lesson.

They hired someone to build a chicken coop and eagerly purchased some adorable little chicks. At first, taking care of them was all fun and games but as the year went by and the weather started to turn colder, their enthusiasm waned. That hard work ethic they were so desperately looking for didn't materialize. The chickens had stopped laying eggs. It was easier to run to Costco to get the eggs, which they regularly did. The experiment was a failure.

What went wrong?  Well, first of all, the husband grew up poor and  in rural Michigan.  If nobody got out of bed to chop the firewood for the stove or feed the chickens, there would be no warmth in the house or eggs for breakfast. However, with their recent  chicken experiment, if nobody gathered the eggs and they went bad, they simply went to the grocery store. Second, it turned out the husband actually hated chicken chores and anytime he worked on the chickens with the children it was clear that it was not his favorite thing to do. It was his father who had a passion for taking care of animals, not him. In hindsight, they realized that the children could see that there was no real need for chickens and that they had fabricated a situation to teach them a lesson. In other words, it was fake!

The Nortons have since learned that contriving an atmosphere doesn't work. Life's natural circumstances are all that is needed to teach the lessons God wants us to learn. Also, the parents' attitude towards circumstances impacts the atmosphere greatly. Charlotte Mason warns us about carefully constructed circumstances that are not natural and reassures us of what is truly needed:

"What if parents and teachers in their zeal misread the schedule of their duties, magnified their office unduly and encroached upon the personality of children? It is not an environment that these want, a set of artificial relations carefully constructed, but an atmosphere which nobody has been at pains to constitute. It is there, about the child, his natural element, precisely as the atmosphere of the earth is about us. It is thrown off, as it were, from persons and things, stirred by events, sweetened by love, ventilated, kept in motion, by the regulated action of common sense. We all know the natural conditions under which a child should live; how he shares household ways with his mother, romps with his father, is teased by his brothers and petted by his sisters; is taught by his tumbles; learns self-denial by the baby's needs, the delightfulness of furniture by playing at battle and siege with sofa and table; learns veneration for the old by the visits of his great-grandmother; how to live with his equals by the chums he gathers round him; learns intimacy with animals from his dog and cat; delight in the fields where the buttercups grow and greater delight in the blackberry hedges." Vol. 6, p. 96

Teaching from Peace,


A Family Book List by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

It's always fun to find an influential  book list in my stacks of papers!  Here is a wonderful list by none other than Susan Schaeffer Macaulay that picked I picked up at a L'Abri conference and have consulted many times over the years. The list was printed in another great resource for mature teens and up, Critique by Ransom Fellowship.

One of these I read aloud in our school this year and it was a favorite and I plan to write a post on it soon.  Are any of the titles here new to you? Is there a favorite of yours here?  Share your thoughts in the comments! 

Click here to download a copy of this page.

Click here to download a copy of this page.

Here are a few other interesting book lists:

A Children's Reading List by Jerram Barrs
Little Known Book Treasures by Jeannette Tulis
Little Known Book Treasures Part 2 by Jeannette Tulis
A Book List (Lois Lenski)
Newberry Reads by Donna Johnson
Grilling and Reading (Kelly kids)

There are more book lists on my blog, but that's probably enough for now.