Monday, July 21, 2014

Living Education Retreat and Shalom

While we were at Shalom Hill Farm last weekend for the Living Education Retreat, I shared some thoughts about the word shalom at the morning meditation.  This is a brief gathering out on the observation deck in the early morning right alongside the baaing sheep and flickering birds. It is a peaceful time to meditate on truth and beauty before we begin the day's activities.

I am always thinking about that quote by St. Irenaeus, "The glory of God is a human being fully alive," and the full definition of shalom fits nicely with it. The concept of human flourishing goes hand in hand with the concept of shalom as found in the Old Testament. Theologian Cornelius Plantinga says it beautifully:

The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom.  We call it peace, but, it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies.  In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight - a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Saviour opens the doors and welcomes creatures in whom he delights.
This past weekend, we discussed this.  A lot. It has everything to do with how we choose to live and educate.

I have one more speaking engagement in Peoria next weekend and then I am done for the season.  I am looking forward to concentrating on my family, some consulting, and being fully alive.


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Ambleside 2014: Fairfield and Springfield

I hope you haven't tired of my reports from the Lake District.  I have a few left to share.  It has been challenging to find the time to post here.

Very soon,  the Living Education Retreat takes place out on the prairie.  I am so thankful for my five friends that give so generously of their lives and experience in order to help others more fully understand this philosophy of education.  Part of the key to our retreat is the atmosphere, no doubt. 

When we visited Ambleside, it helped me realize why she chose this place to train her teachers.  The buildings, the hiking paths, the lakes, the flowers,  the villages, the people all make for a reflective and peaceful atmosphere.

One of the first four college students at Mason's House of Education was Violet Parker. Her account of the beginnings at the college can be found in The Story of Charlotte Mason.  She states:
We were at Fairfield House for three months, then when Springfield became vacant either Miss Mason or my mother took Springfield Miss Mason's room was the large one at the top of the stairs on the right.
Imagine our thrill when we stumbled upon this building which is right across from Scale How (the building her college was eventually located in.) First Fairfield  housed the House of Education college students, then it apparently became a PNEU school.


note the motto
All these buildings we would stroll by daily on our way into town from our cottage with the twinkling Lake Windermere in the distance.  The slate, which is mined in the area, made for such unique and beautiful buildings, I think.

So they moved the college from Fairfield to Springfield, which was right off the same road. When we were there, Springfield was all boarded up, but occasionally a young man was spotted working around the building.  A member of our party struck up a conversation with him and learned that yes, he had purchased the building and was in the process of completely renovating the neglected property in hopes of eventually moving his family there.  Our friend then politely described the significance of Springfield to those of us engaged in bringing the Mason philosophy to others.  This young man graciously took us on a detailed tour of the renovations, including the large bedroom at the top of the stairs to the right.  It definitely had the best view of the garden (not the yard, as we Americans say.)


Guess whose room was at the top to the right!

found in the wall at Springfield
You might not live in the Lake District or even on the prairie.  And while we know that by atmosphere she meant much more than just the physical surroundings, I now understand what the beautiful scenery can do for a soul. I live in a small town myself but look forward to the times I can take my family someplace scenic. 

In Charlotte Mason's (and Wordsworth's) words - 

It would be difficult to overrate this habit of seeing and storing as a means of after-solace and refreshment. The busiest of us have holidays when we slip our necks out of the yoke and come face to face with Nature, to be healed and blessed by
     "The breathing balm,
     The silence and the calm
     Of mute, insensate things."
- Mason, Vol. 1, p. 50

May all your goings be graces,

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sermons in Stones - Resources For As You Like It (And a Warning)

“And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything. I would not change it.” 
 -Duke Ferdinand, As You Like It, Act 2.1
first ever successful lupine in the Kelly garden

So here is what I wrote last week.
I am getting ready to leave for the CMI conference at Gardner-Webb University.  I can't wait to see everyone.  I also can't wait to talk about Shakespeare with attendees and Jerram Barrs.  Here is the abstract:

Shakespeare – The How and Why with Nancy Kelly and Jerram Barrs
In this workshop, Nancy Kelly will examine why Charlotte Mason’s PNEU students were immersed in Shakespeare. The results may surprise you!  She will be sharing her 20 years’ experience with teaching children, high schoolers, and adults – often all at the same time. Personal anecdotes, recommended resources, and audience participation will be part of this session.  Jerram Barrs will participate during the discussion time and participants will hear him read some of the Bard’s poetry with his lovely British accent.
I have admired Jerram and his writings for many years now.  I first heard him speak at a L'abri conference long ago.  He  is an expert on Shakespeare, so I was humbled and excited to be able to present with him.

And now I am back from the CMI conference.  My session with Jerram was pretty amazing. At least is was for me!  He is so very gracious, erudite, and kind.  I talked for the first hour about my findings on Mason and my experiences.  We took a short break and then Jerram shared his knowledge of Shakespeare, including stories from his teaching Shakespeare at Covenant.  It was rich and I am looking forward to hearing it again when the audio is made available.

We recently finished As You Like It.  I recommend the BBC production. I love this play, especially the character Rosalind. We watched clips from the 1936 production with Laurence Olivier.  We did character and setting drawing narrations and talked about pastorals. We examined the Seven Stages of Man speech because we liked it so much.  Which is why what happened next was so disappointing.

I've been teaching and enjoying Shakespeare for about 20 years now.  This past February I had my first truly awful experience at a performance of As You Like It at a nearby university.  My advice when attending a performance is to find out ahead of time from someone involved with the play directly (director, actors, et al) if it is appropriate for young students.  This has worked very well for me and we have enjoyed performances at SMSU, the Guthrie, and other venues.  This checking on the performance ahead of time has also helped me decide to NOT attend certain performances. For this particular performance, however, I only spoke to some students at the box office who had no intimate connection with the play.


Yes, I left with my children.  Yes, it was an over-the-top exaggeration of everything that could even remotely be considered sexual innuendo.  I was sick to my stomach, really. The rest of our group was coming the next day, so we avoided another fiasco and everyone was refunded their ticket purchase.
We contacted the head of the theater department, too.  He claims he had no idea (!) but as it turns out, yes, it was a "bawdy version" of the play.  That would have been nice to know.  Sigh. The few experts that I have since talked to have said that no, it's not a legit thing.  Jerram starts off his chapter on Shakespeare in Echoes of Eden with a similar story, but his talk at the conference reminded us why we should continue to read Shakespeare and not to (insert fitting cliche here.)

new book on Shakespeare - looking forward to reading it!
Next week I am off to eastern Tennessee and the AHEC.  I hope to take in some of the beauty of the area before I speak.  And I will be talking about Shakespeare.


Saturday, May 31, 2014

Ambleside 2014 - Beatrix and Charlotte?

Long before I ever heard of Charlotte Mason, I knew who Beatrix Potter was, so seeing her Hill Top Farm was something I was looking forward to.  Knowing that their years in the Lake District overlapped, surely they met - right? Charlotte Mason established herself at Ambleside in 1890 , while Beatrix Potter vacationed in the Lake District in the 1890's and bought Hill Top in 1905.  It would be fun to try and find this out and indeed, it turned out to be an interesting adventure with lots of rabbit trails both literally and figuratively speaking.

After Kent made a tasty breakfast at the cottage, we jumped on the double-decker bus for another white knuckle drive to Bowness where we would take the ferry to the other side of Lake Windermere. And by the way, Arthur Ransome's story Swallows and Amazons is alive to me in a whole new way now, having been on his beloved Lake Windermere, the setting of the story.

the ferry
Lake Windermere

Hill Top was charming.  It was dark inside as to protect everything from UV damage.  When children enter, the guides hand them a copy of The Tale of Samuel Whiskers so they can see the rooms in the house as she painted them in the book!  The rooms are exactly as Beatrix left them.  I was excited to recognize a painting hanging in the stairwell of The Honourable Mrs. Graham by Thomas Gainesborough, an old friend studied in our TBG Community.
at Hill Top Farm

Peter?  Benjamin?

friends at Hill Top Farm
love this bee hive!
I approached a National Trust guide with a few questions about the local flora and fauna.  She asked why I was there and I explained a little about CM and the Armitt.  A fascinating discussion ensued with this talkative host.  Yes, she knew all about the bluestocking CM who founded the college at Ambleside.  Oh, yes, she had lived at Eynsham Hall near Oxford, hobnobbing with the rich and famous.

Wait.  What??

You see, she said CM was her mother's godmother!  She also made a connection to James Bond, but I don't recall the details.

So of course she had the full attention of the 4 of us.  This was not the CM we thought we knew!

Apparently, there were lots of CMs in England at the same time our CM was living.  We conferred with a few experts, namely Margaret Coombs and John Thorley, to see what they made of this lady's claims.  Indeed, she was mixing her Masons, if you will.  The dates don't line up exactly.  We were glad to know that we were in possession of the truth, but the ride of speculation was pretty wild.  Kent even suggested that she was pulling our legs as we were so eager to listen to her speak.

Did Charlotte and Beatrix know one another?  I asked Margaret, the author of the upcoming biography on CM this question.  Here is her answer:

I recalled that Beatrix Potter, who having spent holidays in the Lake District during the 1890's, settled there at Hill Top Farm near Sawrey in the early 1900's and so overlapped with Charlotte Mason. 

I have not seen any record of their meeting or corresponding.  Perhaps BP's art was too precise by comparison with Mrs. Steinthal's blobs or her children's books viewed as twaddle.  However, the students dressed up as BP animals for CM's last Christmas party in 1922!

More significantly, in 1911, CM used the solicitor whom BP married in 1913 and her was again involved in 1923 judging by his correspondence listed in the CM archive.  He was W.H. Heelis & Son and had a large family before marrying BP.

BP knew Canon Rawnsley, whom CM also knew. BP helped Rawnsley with the National Trust which he founded but again, no record of involvement by CM.  CM knew both Rawnsley brothers - probably Willingham the best - quite well and wanted Canon to finish the last two books of The Saviour of the World!
 Some interesting bits in that, isn't there?  I wonder if there are any pictures of the students when they dressed up as BP's animals from her stories.

John Thorley concurs with this.  Charlotte Mason must have known of Beatrix Potter, but we have no evidence (yet!) that they  met.

Rabbit trails, indeed!

Kent and Mr. McGregor