Growing Vibrant Charlotte Mason Communities

It was autumn of 2008. I had done two amazing things (if I do say so myself): I’d brought a brand new human into the world, and I’d started AmblesideOnline Year 1 with my oldest child. I wasn’t feeling so amazing, though. There were the external issues: learning to homeschool while juggling two toddlers and a newborn, plus the overwhelming fatigue caused by losing half my blood supply during delivery. More importantly, there was the internal issue: I was lonely.

In 2008, it wasn’t nearly as cool to homeschool as it is now. People raised eyebrows at us, yes they did. But more than that, even when I met other homeschooling moms, they were completely different from us. They were doing public-school-in-a-box through a local public charter school, and I felt like what I did all day mystified them as much as it did everybody else.

I remember that I prayed for just one friend. Just one friend, Lord, I groaned on a regular basis.

The Lord answered that prayer, and continues to answer it, with such beauty that when I really think about it, I am astonished.

It started when He brought me one friend. She was ready to leave her public school checklist behind and try her hand at something different. We started chatting about Charlotte Mason, and she took to the philosophy like a fish to water. Another friend started asking us some questions, and so we offered to read through a Charlotte Mason volume with her. A couple months later, an older friend called me and asked if her daughter-in-law could join our reading group. (We have jokingly referred to this as the time her mother-in-law arranged for us to have a play date!) And finally, my original one friend, the first of many answers to my prayers, invited an acquaintance.

And thus began our group of five.

There are many things I could say, many details I could give, but I think the most important thing is that this group has been my lifeblood over the years.

They encouraged me (and took my mind off my troubles) when my husband almost died. They’ve caused me to read when I would have given it up. They’ve kept me thinking when I wanted to be lazy. They’ve gotten me out of the house when I would have stayed in. The list goes on.

Every study guide you find here in the shop, every encouragement I’ve ever given you to find a group, make a group, read together, build a community — it’s all born out of what my group has meant to me.

It’s been almost ten years, and my group has changed. Out of those original five members, you know who is left? Only me. And that’s okay (even though I mourned each time someone told me she was moving away) because the Lord has faithfully brought in new people. We’ve been as large as 35, as small as 5, and the camaraderie has always been fantastic.

As you know, Dawn Duran also has a heart for Charlotte Mason groups. Hers are fancier than mine (which, when I think about it, is emblematic of the difference between Maryland and California), but both of our communities have been a blessing to us and to their members.

She and I have both tried things and failed. We’ve pushed our limits and had to pull back. It’s been a journey, but we’ve never loved Charlotte Mason communities as much as we do now.

And that’s why we designed something I’m so excited about! It’s a one-day event called Growing Vibrant Charlotte Mason Communities!

Growing Vibrant Charlotte Mason Communities -- Online Event July 28, 2018


This is a three-session online event for all of you. Whether you’re a leader or member of an existing local group, or you’re still a dreamer with a prayer request who needs to make a plan, this will give you the inspiration and encouragement you need.

The first session is called The Seed: A Vibrant Charlotte Mason Study Group. It’s as you’d expect: all about building and nurturing core groups like the one I described above. The second session is The Branches: Vibrant CM Community Activities. This is where you’ll get all the amazing details on extending your core groups into other areas like Shakespeare clubs, co-ops, and more. The final wrap-up session is Adding Mulch: Q&A Session. This is where we’ll address many of the questions and concerns that come up throughout the sessions — we’ll keep track of them as they pop up in the chat box!

Both sessions also come with printable PDF guidebooks to lead you through the processes and procedures we’ll discuss in the sessions. These are designed to help you put the lessons into action right away!

We cannot wait to meet with you on Saturday, July 28th at 8:00 am PDT and start nurturing your Charlotte Mason community.

Are you ready to sign up? Click here!


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Using Limitations to Boost Your Focus

We all feel it as homeschool moms, right? There is this tension between needing to plan and schedule and teach and direct your homeschool (major time draw number one) and needing to be well-educated ourselves in order to do a good job (time draw number two). If you started cultivating your intellectual life before your kids were school aged, good for you! You are at a definite advantage. But not all of us did that, and now some of us feel way behind where we need to be or think we ought to be. Isn’t that about right? (Plus, even those of you who read a lot before homeschooling are still painfully aware of all the things you still don’t know — the things you have yet to learn.)

Mother Culture time limits
“A stream narrowly hemmed in by its banks will flow more impetuously.”

We’re working this summer on our Mother Culture habit, right? This is a move in the right direction — every day takes us closer to our goal. And yet how often I hear, Oh, if I only had more time!

I was pleasantly surprised to read in The Intellectual Life that there is an upside to limited time. The author, Sertillanges, begins by admitting that all of us who are called to intellectual work may not actually have the luxury of a life devoted to study. Some men, he says, have to earn their living, and this requires time spent doing things other than reading and thinking and writing and all the things we do to acquire knowledge and wisdom. The man who must work, and yet craves time with his books, is actually at an advantage.

[L]iberty [(by “liberty” he means “lots of leisure time”)] presents pitfalls that rigorous obligations may help us to avoid. A stream narrowly hemmed in by its banks will flow more impetuously. The discipline of some occupation is an excellent school; it bears fruit in the hours of studious leisure. The very constraint will make you concentrate better, you will learn the value of time, you will take eager refuge in those rare hours during which, the claims of duty satisfied, you can turn to your ideal and enjoy the relaxation of some chosen activity after the labor… (pp. 8-9)


He goes on to use the example of the hare and and the tortoise. The hare represents the man (or woman!) with endless hours for reading and thinking. The lack of limits puts him at a disadvantage. Like the hare, he’s tempted to think he’s ahead and stops for a nap. And how many of us do that? Given too many free hours, most of us don’t actually study more — we waste our time on social media instead (not that I think all social media time is a waste — you know the brainless scrolling I refer to here).

The tortoise is the man who has many duties. The fact that his time is so full makes his study hours so much more valuable to him that he does not waste and squander them.

We feel like our lives limit our ability to learn, but what if we’re wrong? What if the fact that we have so much to do is exactly why we’re able and determined to prepare our reading lists in advance, schedule the time, and even print a habit tracker to keep ourselves accountable?

The many duties and occupations that fill our days are not our only limits. Solitude, too, can be a limit — or at least feel like one. I know that some of you identify with this because you’ve emailed me about it. You long for a Charlotte Mason group or a Scholé Sisters group — you wish to read and study in community, to enjoy discussion. But instead, you’re isolated except for a handful of online activities. You feel that no one you know wants to read and learn the way you do.

Sertillanges mentions this, too! Groups, lectures to attend, and conferences — these can all be distractions as well as benefits, he says. Just like the unlimited time can bring out our undisciplined natures, he says that those who have too much access to groups and lectures tend, again, to time wasting:

As to lectures, those who can have them do not follow them or follow them but ill, if they have not in themselves, at need, the wherewithal to do without such fortunate help. (p. 10)

Did you catch that? Your solitude cultivates in your soul exactly what you need to be able to take full advantage of a lecture in the first place!

And besides, he reminds us, we are never fully alone:

Society, stimulation, one finds these in spirit in one’s solitude: the great are there, present to those who call on them, and the great ages behind impel the ardent thinker forward. (p. 10)

Sertillanges’ encouragement to us is to never allow our limitations to stop us; instead, we let them discipline us. They empower us to greater focus, and this is a wonderful gift.

Learn to make the best use of that limited time; plunge every day of your life into the spring which quenches and yet ever renews your thirst. (p. 11)


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