Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Charlotte Mason, TSA, and Boy Scouts

Rarely do I go anywhere and not run into problems while traveling.  Lost passport?  Check.  Cancelled flights? Check.  Sleeping in airports?  Check. Being escorted out of security by a TSA agent? It really happened.  Let me explain.

I was speaking in Peoria, IL at the Continuing Conversation: From Ideas to Practice conference. It was so wonderful to see this group with their mix of CM veterans, middlers, and newbies talk about and consider the philosophy of Charlotte Mason and build relationships.  As a gift, Marcia made this garden book out of a brick.  I love it, of course. (I believe Jeanne may be complicit in all this.)

So, when going through security, they saw the garden book in the scanner and had to search my bag.  I was told the brick is a blunt instrument and could not be on my person past security. "Can I valet  check it  so it goes under the plane and not on my person?" I asked.  I was told that "NO", it cannot go past security.  Really?  My brick edition of Home Education is banned because it is a blunt instrument?  I have carried on books that weigh as much.  Well, almost.

The supervisor was not in the mood to problem solve with me.  He went and got the serious security guy with his firearm. I was escorted out of security because I thought perhaps my airline could help me out, even though I did not want to pay to check anything. But I wasn't about to leave my gift behind.  While contemplating my options at the airline's desk, the security guy says, "Hey, that looks like the cover of my old Boy Scout book."  And then he smiles at me.  So I say (who knows where I am going to go with this one?), "Why, funny you should mention that!  The lady who wrote this book was instrumental in getting the Boy Scouts started!" I went on to  explain the story* and he seemed quite interested.

Thankfully, the airline was happy to check the brick in its own special box and they also waived the fee, so it all worked out in the end. Plus, the security guy was smiling when I left.

I sure am glad to be home.

May all your goings be graces,

Kelli C. and I

*Charlotte Mason was one of the first to recognize the value of scouting and added Baden-Powell's book to the syllabus of the PNEU schools in 1905.  Baden-Powell shared the story of Mason's influence in In Memoriam found at Ambleside Online as follows:


How did the boys scouts start?

Oh Well! I believe it was largely due to--whom shall we say?--A Field Marshal's Governess.

It was this way; the Brigadier General, as he was at that time, was riding to his home after a field day when from the branches of a tree over-head his little son called to him "Father, you are shot; I am in ambush and you have passed under me without seeing me. Remember you should always look upwards as well as around you."

So the general looked upward and saw not only his small son above him but also, near the top of the tree, the new governess lately imported from Miss Charlotte Mason's training College at Ambleside.

Her explanation of the situation was that a vital point in up to date education was the inculcation of observation and deduction and that the practical steps to this were given in the little handbook for soldiers of "Aids to Scouting." The present incident was merely one among the various field stunts from that book which might be put into practice by her pupils and herself.

For example, they might as another exercise creep about unseen but seeing all the time, and noting down everything that the general did; they might lead him off on some wild chase while they purloined some tangible proof of their having invaded his sanctum. Taken as a warning of what he might expect I daresay the governess's explanation opened the general's eye pretty widely, if only in regard to his own future security against ambuscades and false alarms.

But it certainly opened mine to the fact that there could be an educative value underlying the principles of scout training; and since it had been thought worthy of utilisation by such and authority as Miss Mason I realised that there might be something in it.

This encouraged me in the direction of adapting the training for the use of boys and girls.

From this acorn grew the tree which is now spreading its branches across the world.

The Boy Scout of yesterday--(reduced alas by some ten thousand who gave their young lives in the war)--is already becoming the citizen of to-day--(and none too soon)--largely thanks to the Field Marshal's governess.

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 it...at 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.