CMI Conference-Eastern-2019


CMI Conference – Eastern   l   June 12-15, 2019   l   Roanoke College   l    221 College Lane Salem, VA 24153

We are delighted to provide information for the 2019 Eastern Charlotte Mason Education Conference, to be held at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia. Now in its 15th year, the conference has grown to include educators and speakers from many places. We look forward to hosting the conference this year in the beautiful mountains of Virginia not far from the Blue Ridge.

We always aim for the plenaries and workshop sessions to instruct and inspire you for the coming school year and work to create an atmosphere which encourages you to slow down and enjoy camaraderie with other conference attendees. Striving to create the same opportunities for learning and fellowship again this year, we are exploring the theme Geography: Nourishing the Mind and Furnishing the Imagination at this year’s conference. Dr. David Sobel, author of Mapmaking with Children, will speak on “A Sense of Place in Education for the Elementary Years,” and Suzanne Bazak will discuss the connection between mathematics and geography.

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Teen Conference

We are delighted to continue the CMI Teen Conference, now in its fifth year.  The Teen Conference is for students 13 to 17 as well as 18 year olds who were in high school during the 2018-19 academic year. If a teen is 18 years old but graduated last year, they are encouraged to attend the General Conference.  Students will participate in a number of activities that will continue to build on the foundations of spiritual, moral and academic training of a CM education, forming/understanding Knowledge of God, Knowledge of Man, and Knowledge of the Universe.



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Abstracts will continue to be added in the coming days and weeks

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Subject to Changes and Additions

Plenary 1: Charlotte Mason and the Importance of Place with Parke Stalcup

Did you know Charlotte Mason wrote six volumes of geography readers, call the Ambleside Geography Books? It must have been important to her. Like me, you have read probably what she wrote in the her six volumes for years, but access to the Parent’s Review articles has given the opportunity for a deeper look at how she went about teaching this broad subject. In this plenary I will explore what has been gleaned from the study of her volumes and the Parent’s Review articles. Along with reviewing her principles on the teaching of geography, I will shed light on some current research into this topic.

Plenary 2: Place-based Education: From the Local to the Universal with David Sobel

The landscape of schooling has begun to look like the sprawl of America. Generic textbooks designed for the big markets of California and Texas provide the same homogenized, unhealthy diet as all those fast food places on the strip. Educational biodiversity falls prey to the bulldozers of standardization. What is nearby has become parochial and insignificant. Place-based education is a response to the alienation of schools from community, and the decoupling of schools from historic sites, local landscapes, and farms. Instead, we need schools organized around the principles of the farmers’ market, drawing on the resources and variety of the local community and local geographies. We’ll take a deep look at a yearlong understanding of the watershed project in a Vermont town.

Plenary 3: Geographic Connections in Mathematics: Traveling, Measuring and Coloring Our World with Suzanne and Ben Bazak

Using some of the more famed problems throughout history, we will explore the connections between geography and the mathematics our children learn. These investigations, in the context of their rich cultural and historical setting, will enrich the process of developing numerical, spacial and algebraic thinking.

Plenary 4: Mapmaking with Children: Teaching from a Developmental Framework with David Sobel

How do children naturally come to learn their neighborhoods and communities? Once we understand this, we can design curriculum that builds on the underlying biological patterns. David will present research on children’s neighborhood maps, a clear developmental model of children’s geographic understanding, examples of social studies and geography curriculum based on this developmental model and examples from rural and urban schools around the country.

Plenary 5: Mason’s 20 Principles with Dr. Jennifer Spencer

Children are persons. Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life. Education is the science of relations. For those who are new to Mason, the lexicon of the Charlotte Mason philosophy can be vague and daunting. For those who have been practicing for a while, the ubiquity of the words can make them stale. In this plenary lecture, Dr. Jen Spencer takes a fresh look at the 20 principles that are the foundation for Mason’s entire philosophy and methodology.

Plenary 6: Lessons to Learn: House of Education or House of Cards? with Dr. Jack Beckman

By 1960, Charlotte Mason College was absorbed into the Westmorland LEA in Cumbria. The old lecturers, so faithful to Mason’s ideals and practices, were beginning to be set aside as were Mason’s books and training model. The PNEU also once vibrant and compelling was diminishing by the year along with the many schools that came out the work of Mason’s hands and heart. What happened between 1923 and 1960 that sounded an almost funereal demise to Mason’s life work?

Drawing upon the research I completed for my doctorate at Cambridge, we will take an historical journey through the moments of Mason’s death and into the years that resulted in the 1960 dissolution. We will focus on the four Principals that succeeded Mason to reveal some of the problematic issues that plagues the College – even before Mason died in 1923. As we end our time in the plenary, certain insights may emerge that leave us hopeful even as we come to face some difficult truths.

The Charlotte Mason Classroom and Relationships: How to Teach Children to Grow and Maintain Healthy Relationships with Storm Hutchinson

Relationships have a significant impact on Atmosphere, Discipline and Life.  If relationships are askew, it is difficult and at times impossible for children to enjoy the banquet of ideas that is presented to them.  If relationships are healthy, children can come to the banquet with focus and enjoyment.  We can teach children how to grow healthy relationships and how to repair relationships when needed.  This immersion will focus on how to teach children to develop healthy relationships and how to restore relationships when harm is done.  Included in the immersion will be the application of these principles in the learning family, co-op and school settings.

Stewarding One’s Neurochemistry: Strategies to Support Those with Executive Functioning Weakness Immersion with Andy Smith

Self-compelling power, habits of attention, self-governance, a child turning on a force in obedience to the child’s own authority–all these describe what Mason wanted for children and what she thought could be developed through proper methods, curriculum and habit training. The limited knowledge of her time, however, did not allow Mason to understand how much self-governance and sustained, persistent attention are functions of the brain’s executive system that emerge with maturation. In typically developing children, many tasks requested of the CM student fall within their executive functioning (EF) capacities; however many neuro-atypical children with limited EF capacity struggle with impulsivity, intense emotionality, distractability, lack of motivation for non-preferred activities, task management, accessing working memory and remembering so as to do something. This seminar will discuss Mason’s understanding of habits and attention in light of the current understandings of EF, focusing especially on the current ADHD research. Because it is critical to understand the neurological versus the character basis of these challenges, we will consider the neurology of self-regulation and then how limited EF through different developmental stages can impact home, social life, and core foundational learning. Attendees will learn practical adaptive strategies to support persons with EF weakness in home tasks as well as how to modify CM lessons in reading, math, narrations, compositions, picture study, and geography by reverse engineering for EF deficits. Since EF deficits can wreck havoc in children and adults alike, this seminar is applicable for adults dealing with these issues with their kids or with themselves and also for teens needing to understand their own ADHD. A questionnaire will be sent out and needs returning beforehand to help determine the needs of the group.

Charlotte Mason’s Alveary Team Immersion for Home and School with Dr. Jennifer Spencer

Join members of Charlotte Mason’s Alveary curriculum team as they walk you through a morning of elementary lessons using Alveary lesson plans. During the morning hours, attendees will experience lessons as students, following the scheduling principles and teaching methods laid out by Mason. That afternoon, the group will be split into homeschool educators and classroom teachers so that discussions particular to each group can be held. Attendees will receive a copy of the lesson plans and schedule used.

Please bring: a notebook, a pencil (in addition to pens for note-taking), watercolors, and a small paintbrush.

Science and the Appetite for Knowledge with Danielle Merritt-Sunseri

We will examine the big-picture of Mason’s science curriculum and consider what she was trying to accomplish in her historical context.  We will journey through time, as well, to understand how science education has changed through the decades.  Danielle will explain how a Mason approach elegantly addresses the needs of our modern era.  She will share additionally how Mason’s awareness of the child’s appetite for knowledge is especially relevant today and how we can better wet this appetite in our science curriculum.  Danielle will tailor a portion of this immersion based on submitted questions and attendees should come prepared for at least one laboratory experience.

Mason and the Older Child with Kerri and Kathryn Forney

Are you wondering what a Charlotte Mason high school schedule could look like?  Do you know what Charlotte had the students doing and reading in the upper years?  Would you like some encouragement for staying the course and continuing to apply Mason’s principles and methods for your teenaged students?  Come to the pre-conference immersion session on High School led by Kerri and her daughter Kathryn (a 2015 graduate) and join them as they walk you through many aspects of a CM high school  schedule.  The day will include demonstration, discussion, and immersion with plenty of time for questions. The goal of the time together is to spread a feast of ideas and tools to encourage and inspire you along the CM high school road.

Teaching Math in Grades K-5 Suzanne Bazak

It is important that at an early age children develop a mathematical foundation by building beliefs about what mathematics is and developing a strong understanding of numbers. Students need to have a sense of what numbers mean, understand their relationship to one another, be able to perform mental math, understand symbolic representations, and use those numbers in real world situations.

Effective mathematics instruction begins with effective teaching. This immersion workshop will provide classroom teachers and parents with strategies, rich experiences and proven classroom resources needed to insure that all children develop a strong sense of number. An early foundation in number sense is critical for continued success in mathematics throughout a child’s life. Emphasis will be placed on exploring mathematical concepts through problems that children are interested in solving rather than through rote exercises and drill. The use of games, puzzles, and manipulatives will be a major focus of this workshop.

How to Build Healthy Relationship Habits in Students and Teachers with Storm Hutchinson

We all long to see students live in respect and compassion with teachers and fellow students. At an even deeper level, we want to see them take ownership of their learning community and work to support and grow it. This session will focus on the practical issues involved with making this vision a reality. It can be accomplished with even the most challenging students turning toward the positive and becoming productive members of a family or school. These principles work one on one or across schools of 1,000 students. And best of all, anyone can learn how to implement them!

Creating Rebus Treasure Hunts with David Sobel

All children enjoy treasure hunts and treasure hunts are a great way to introduce children to local geographies. We’ll review some core ideas from the Mapmaking lecture and then we’ll learn one engaging technique that can easily be implemented in school, with neighborhood children, with your homeschooling group, in after school programs and in scouting programs. We’ll learn about rebuses and their role in early reading instruction and then small groups will create treasure hunts, complete with homegrown maps, for other groups to enjoy.

Consider Anxiety with Danielle Merritt-Sunseri

Sometimes our children’s behavior can be quite puzzling!  When this puzzle becomes frustrating or troublesome and we just can’t figure out what the obstacle is, it might be time to consider anxiety.  Anxiety is a neurological condition which requires special consideration.  Danielle will review symptoms and contributing causes of the condition, as well as its educational impact in general and within the Mason paradigm.

Self-Education Through Note-booking with Kerri Forney

Throughout Charlotte Mason’s writings is the foundational idea that ‘knowing is doing.’ In Volume 6 she writes, “There is no education but self-education and only as the young student works with his own mind is anything effected.” Keeping notebooks is an essential part of self-education. It is important for both the assimilation of ideas and the formation of habits. Together we will explore the ideas presented in Mason’s writings, as well as the Parents’ Review. We will also review the most common types of notebooks and how they are used.

Bringing Plutarch to Life with Polly Pauley

Charlotte Mason included the study of Plutarch’s Lives in her programmes to help teach her students citizenship, but the ancient biographer can intimidate modern homeschoolers.  In this session we will examine the why and how of Plutarch study: why we continue to read him and grapple with the challenges of his biographies today,  and how we can go about Plutarch study in a way that keeps his works in the realm of “living books” for our students and for ourselves.

Lesson Planning in a Mason School with Nicolle Hutchinson

Experience a Mason lesson as a student and analyze a Mason lesson as a teacher. See firsthand how a Mason lesson is more than just “reading and narrating” and discover the Mason methods that are supported by neuroscience research. Walk away with a deeper understanding of the components of a Mason lesson plan, and walk away with strategies that you can immediately implement in your classroom!

Bible Lessons with Julie Sadler
Applying the Small Worlds Principle in Curriculum Planning with David Sobel

In Childhood and Nature: Design Principles for Educators, David identifies seven recurrent children and nature play themes and illustrates how these themes can be used as design principles. Some of these themes are special places, adventure and small worlds. This workshop will give you the opportunity to understand the developmental implications of the “small worlds” principle, see examples of it in elementary and middle school curriculum and experience it yourself in the creation of a micro-park, a four by six foot mini park with micro-topography and a nature trail for wee folk. Literacy and numeracy content included.

Mother Culture with Laurie Vigorito
Narration Part I with Dr. Carroll Smith

In this session we will discuss the history of and research behind the practice of narration. Is narration a viable option for learning today? We will look at both what current research and Mason have to say about this. This session will ground you in the importance of narration so that you can go home and use it thoroughly and with purpose. (Note: this session is a pre-requisite to Narration Part II.)

What is Working Memory and What is the Impact of limited Working Memory with Andy Smith

Working memory (WM), a concept unknown in Mason’s time, is part of our brain’s temporary memory system; think of it as a cognitive workbench where we bring in old learning to mix with new information to create new learning. Our genetics give us varying size cognitive workspaces; when the demands of a task exceed one’s working memory capacity shallow learning occurs. This session will look at how limited WM can impact learning and will give principles to support those with limited WM capacities.

The Importance of Handiwork with Erin Day

In this workshop we will chat about the significance of handiwork and all of the life implications that encompass it. We will also spend time learning several methods of weaving. Bring your looms- anything from any size piece of cardboard to a hula-hoop! Bring yarn, fabric and old t-shirts as we will learn how to repurpose scraps into beautiful, useful items.

Recreating in Mathematics with Suzanne Bazak

Brain research tells us a lot about how students learn. Research shows that it takes 400 repetitions of a behavior to develop a new synapse in the brain but only 12 repetitions if that behavior is developed through play. This research supports the idea that recreating in mathematics, finding joy in numerical and spacial experiences, can be key to supporting the more formal study of mathematics throughout a child’s life. Join me as we explore the many different ways that parents and their children can recreate in mathematics.

Brush Drawing with Erin Day

Learning to be a watercolor artist is not the goal of brush drawing. Learning to appreciate the majesty of God is. Brush drawing is yet another means of learning to really observe the beauty that is all around us, but it is difficult to utilize this medium without a foundational understanding of it.

Come learn the basics and be strengthened in your understanding! Bring your supplies because we will spend time working in this medium.

Trauma-Informed: Effectively Balancing the Needs of Our Students and Ourselves with Cathy Barrington and Dr. Christy Maher
Are you teaching and/or parenting a child with special challenges? Do you find you are exhausted at the end of the week wondering if any effective learning took place? Are you wondering if schooling in a Charlotte Mason Philosophy is best for your student with emotional needs? Join us as we honestly address the challenges, needs, and tools for bringing balance to our homes and classrooms.
Enjoying Shakespeare with Ease with Polly Pauley

In this session, we will talk about how to prepare for, facilitate, and enjoy Shakespeare’s plays. We will discuss specific resources as well as practical issues that arise while studying Shakespeare’s works.  Polly will draw upon her experiences teaching Shakespeare to her own children as well as facilitating Shakespeare study in a co-op setting.  We will take a look at an excerpt of one of Shakespeare’s plays together and take time for questions, answers, and sharing.

Narration Part II with Dr. Carroll Smith

Based on what we learned in Part I, we will observe and study the narrations of children at various ages. Next, we will practice and discuss how to introduce narration to young children or to those who are new to narration. Finally, we will practice the art of narration.

Keys to Living a Full Life with Brendan Vigorito

Charlotte Mason said, “Our aim in education is to give a full life. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking – the strain would be too great — but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest.”

As parents and educators we want to provide a full life to our children and students. Yet in our own lives, are we living a full life or are we merely passing time?

If we are not living a full life, can we model what it means to live a full life?

This workshop will discuss some of the keys to living a full and balanced life that can be modeled to those around us. Life can be fast paced and stressful, resulting in our lives falling out of balance and leading to a frustrated existence. To live a full life we need to have balance in our finances, spiritual life, physical health, nutrition, sleep, exposure to nature and communication with those around us. We will also discuss the need for a cheerful heart, which is good medicine as well as the need for us to have resiliency and remain strong and steadfast in adversity.

Geography with Kerri Forney
Examinations and Reflective Practices with Dr. Jennifer Spencer

During this workshop, Dr. Jennifer Spencer will take attendees through an analysis of Mason’s exams and how students generally progress over several years of taking exams. She will also discuss the importance of using those exams to inform teacher practice, student accountability, and curriculum development.

Homeschooling in a Hard Time with Polly Pauley

Homeschooling can be challenging even during ordinary circumstances, but what happens when a hard time hits? How can we reconcile the complex reality of our lives with our desire to provide a quality Charlotte Mason education for our children? In this session, Polly will draw upon her family’s recent journey with cancer to try to answer these questions.  Join us for a bit of encouragement, grace, and hope for anyone trying to homeschool during a hard time.

Alveary Member Technology Help with Jenna Brown & Alveary Curriculum Team

If you are already registered for the Alveary for the 2019-20 school year, bring your laptop and get help navigating the website and Alveary Living Library, placing your students, creating your schedule, and more. Our resident tech guru will be there to walk you through each step and to troubleshoot. Other team members will be available to help you talk through hard decisions and to give you tips on organizing everything and making the Alveary work for you.

Pastels & Charcoal with Erin Day

What is the purpose of using charcoal and pastels? Do I really have to deal with the mess? Isn’t pencil “good enough” for learning to draw? In Charlotte Mason’s writings she uses crayons, can’t I use crayons? Pencil is so much easier to travel with.

Are these things you have ever said yourself? Come learn why it is necessary to use pastels and charcoals in order to foster a better understanding of drawing. We will spend time working in both mediums so be sure to bring your supplies and a smock!

Growing Up with Mason with Kathryn Kerri Forney

Mason makes many assertions about the outcomes of her methods in a student’s life after school. Join Kathryn Forney, a mason graduate, as she testifies to the trustworthiness of Mason’s philosophy. After looking at the results Mason forecasts, Kathryn will share her own experience of Mason and leave plenty of time for Q&A at the end.

Science as a Living Pursuit with Danielle Merritt-Sunseri

Danielle will examine Mason’s science curriculum and consider how we can interpret her work so that we remain faithful to her intent in our current place and time. This will include both specific curricular content and the essential roles of relationship, curiosity, and culture. Let’s examine the hows and whys, so that science might be an inspiration rather than a requirement.

My Name is Will, and I’m a Geographer. with Will Brown

When I first meet people, there is one question I can always count on having to answer: “You’re a geographer? What does a geographer do?” I will answer that question again at this conference, but this time I get to add that I share this favorite interest with Charlotte Mason. When you say “geography,” most people have flashbacks to high school classes where they stared unenthusiastically at maps and had to memorize the names of unfamiliar countries, states, and capitals. But geography is so much richer than that! Charlotte Mason was “unable to conceive of any other course of early lessons so practically useful and necessary” as geography (Preface of Geographical Readers Book I). Unfortunately, although still a prominent field of study in many places around the world, academia in the United States diminished geography’s importance over the past century. In this session, we will look beyond misconceptions about the discipline and explore the many aspects of geography that still make it the wonderfully life-giving field of study that Charlotte Mason recognized.

“Tin Punching” with Erin Day

This is a hands-on workshop for learning how to punch “tin”. We will work through a project using a simple and economical alternative to tin. Please bring a knitting needle to class with you. The “tin” and patterns will be supplied. This class will be capped off at 30 participants.

Working with Clay with Erin Day

This is a hands on workshop for learning all things associated with working with air dry clay. We will work through different building techniques learning the fundamentals of the medium of clay. Some clay tools will be available for use but please bring your own clay such as Amaco Air Dry clay in buff or terra cotta.

Food and Lodging

Meal Options

As anyone who attended last year’s eastern conference knows, Roanoke College offers exceptional dinning options. The catering service is headed by professional private chefs and the quality of food and their willingness to work with all dietary restrictions is exceptional.

Meal Option 1 – Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner from Wednesday breakfast through Saturday lunch.


Meal Option 2 – Lunch and Dinner from Wednesday lunch through Saturday lunch.


Meal Option 3 – Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner from Wednesday dinner through Saturday lunch.


Meal Option 4 – Lunch and Dinner from Wednesday lunch through Saturday lunch.




Single Dorm Room Per Night                                      $42.00

Double Occupancy Per Night Per Person                  $32.00

Linens Per Person*                                                        $12.00

*Or you may bring your own linens (Twin size)

Registration and Costs

Registration Discounts

CMI participated in a Facebook fundraiser to help defray some of the registration costs.  We will offer 12 registration fees at a 50% reduction for the CMI Eastern Conference to individuals who complete a financial need application. Applications Closed.

Immersion Sessions (limited to 25)
(Held Wednesday, June 12, 2019)

Immersion Registration Fee                                            $95.95


Alveary Member and CMI Supporter Registration
January, 2019 – May 31, 2019

Alveary Member Fee                                                         $184.95

CMI Supporter Fee                                                            $184.95


Early Bird General Registration
January, 2019 – April 20, 2019

Charlotte Mason Group Early Bird Fee*                         $189.95

General Early Bird Fee                                                       $199.95

Spouse Early Bird Fee                                                        $159.95

Teen attending General Conference Early Bird Fee     $159.95

Teen attending Teen Conference Early Bird Fee          $174.95

College Early Bird Fee                                                        $174.95


General Registration

All registrations after April 20, 2019 (excluding Alveary members and CMI Supporters)         $215.95

Registration closes on June 1, 2019.

Cancellation Policy

Before May 15, 2019: 75% refund of total cost (includes registration, meal tickets, lodging, linens, & immersions) is available.

After May 15: no cancelation refunds except in extreme emergency.

Please notify us via email at of your cancellation.

Transfer Policy

Registrations are not transferrable to another person.


*There are three requirements to fulfill to obtain a group registration at this year’s conference.  First, your group must consist of a minimum of three people who are working together or who are seeking to work together in the future. Second, the members of your group must be from the same local community.  Finally, your group must have a name.  You cannot use a name like The Hive which is not a local group.  It must be the name of a local group (for example: Grains of Gold CM Community of Roanoke, VA).