A Retreat for Moms

So, I had this crazy idea to host a retreat for homeschooling moms. Then I dismissed it because: 1. I have literally no experience homeschooling (we just started), 2. I have no time for something like this (I have three kids, two in diapers and two non-walkers – my plate is really full, you know?), and 3. well, it just seemed like a crazy idea. But, the idea didn’t go away, and I thought it might be coming from the Holy Spirit. Well, I won’t say no to God!!! My friend was coming to visit for a few days from California and she said she would be blessed by it, so I picked a day while she was going to be here. I figured nobody else would want to come, and if it ended up just being the two of us, it would still be great.

I decided to go for it just two weeks before the actual event. Yikes! I figured out a schedule and sent out invitations via evite. Many moms said they were really interested but they weren’t available on that particular day.

Yesterday, I had TWELVE! delightful ladies (and about 14 kids!) in my home for a whole day of encouragement and discussion of Charlotte Mason’s methods. It was really really wonderful!

Here’s our schedule:


Here are some snippets of our retreat:

I decorated with some quotes on the walls for inspiration. And Adele helped. =)



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I was up until 1am the night before – getting everything ready. I know there is no way the books and name tags would have looked this good if Cristina hadn’t been here to help me [do most of the work]. Thank you so much, Cristina!!!



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One of my goals for the retreat was for each attendee to begin keeping her own notebooks (commonplace book, Book of Centuries, and nature notebook at least). Thus, I thought a personalized commonplace book would be the perfect conference gift.


By the way, I didn’t make mine gold because I wanted mine to be different. I started with mine for practice and the gold ink was extremely difficult to write with on this particular paper, so I switched for the others. I used the gold on the name tags too, but if I did it again, I’d use black because the gold was too fussy. IMG_2749

A couple of moms arrived late and we took longer than I anticipated on the garden tour, so the nature painting was a bit rushed. I had everything set up beforehand, but I think I should have given one hour for the painting part of the day.

A couple of families stayed for dinner (wood-fired pizza) and we had some really great fellowship.

Today, I was happy to have a quiet day at home, but I was also really sad that the retreat was over. Adele asked me if we could have another retreat in a couple of weeks. I said no, but maybe next year. So, you heard it here first – this was the First (of perhaps many) ANNUAL In a Large Room Retreat.

Finally, here are just some practical things in case others are contemplating doing the same thing.

  • I spent a lot of money on babysitting. I paid one teenager $80 and a second teenager $45 (he only stayed half the day), for a grand total of $125. But we had more little people than adults and I know that most of the attendees would not have been able to attend if we hadn’t had babysitting. Worth it IMHO.
  • I spent $60 on an hour of mentoring with Nancy Kelly. I thought it might be a waste because I didn’t think she would be able to help me much with only a week before the retreat, but she was REALLY helpful!!
  • I paid $53 for the notebooks, plus the time to paint and calligraphy the lettering (I already had all the paint and ink).
  • I paid about $30 for additional watercolor supplies because I knew that most people didn’t already have their own. In fact, I wish I had bought a few more paint sets and waterbrushes because people still had to share.
  • We had kids standing at the long desk in the schooling room and moms and kids crowded around the dining room table (extended with three leaves), but I wish I had set up a folding table in the schooling room to give people a bit more space for nature notebook painting.
  • I wanted to make my own croissants for lunch, but I just didn’t have the time, so those came from the store.

I’ll be posting some notes from the individual talks over the next couple of days for those of you who weren’t able to attend. You can find them all HERE.

A bit of Calligraphy (handicrafts)

P1050967 Since this is my first year with our Charlotte Mason homeschool co-op, I am not teaching any classes by myself. My main role is assistant to the handicrafts teacher – which is pretty much my dream come true. Because I LOOOOOOOVE handicrafts! Calligraphy, watercolor, sewing, knitting, quilting, collage, you name it – making useful and beautiful things by hand is what I was made to do! And it brings me such pleasure!!!

“I am, I can, I ought, I will” was the motto of the students in Charlotte Mason’s school. And this is the cover of my commonplace book (which is a lined Moleskine Cahier book). I plan to do another calligraphy of the motto with some fancy flourishes in a frame to display in our schooling room.

Our CM co-op incorporates a monochrome (all one color – i.e. pencil or pen, not with multiple colors of paint) reproduction of the subject of picture study (more like a visual narration than trying to reproduce the artist’s work), so we both needed an unruled notebook to hold the sketches. P1050964


Below, you can see all of Adele’s co-op school supplies: Adele’s leather-bound moleskine watercolor notebook, her picture study sketch notebook (I used an unruled Moleskine Cahier notebook), and a cute little (lined) polka dot notebook that I found for $1 on clearance! I just love that Adele is using high-quality art supplies. I think it helps Adele to treat her schoolwork with a lot of respect. And, these notebooks will be used for more than just one year; in some cases, they will be a lifelong treasure. =)



When Mom tries to squeeze in a bit of sewing, the kids run amok!

Everett exploring Adele’s math manipulatives . . . IMG_1970 IMG_1971


P.S. FYI this is not a sponsored post. Moleskine has never heard of me! I don’t like “name-dropping” brand names but I also know that it’s nice to know what other people use if they think it is a quality product.


Supplies for Keeping Notebooks – What I Use

I’ve had a few requests for an updated list of supplies. So here it is. I am not a professional artist or anything like that, but I have tried a few different things and I’ve found several supplies that I really like to use. When I started my notebooks, I searched all over to find what other people were using, just to find a place to start, but I had a hard time finding a list like this.

First of all, if you haven’t read Laurie Bestvater’s book, The Living Page, then you should start with that. In her book, she has a list of  suggested “keeping” supplies (although mostly generic descriptions and sometimes it’s nice to have a link to something specific) and, I admit, I kind of went wild. But, I think good quality art supplies are the best kind of “toys” or even “educational tools.” I am going to provide links to amazon because it might make things easier for someone who wants to just click and buy. I definitely prefer to support local small businesses, but oh-my-goodness “click and buy” without leaving the house is really helpful for me in my current stage of life. And, just a reminder these are NOT affiliate links. I have absolutely no bias in recommending any of these items.

Nature Notebook Supplies that I Use:

I realize now that my “better quality” supplies probably haven’t improved the quality of my artwork at all, but they HAVE made the process of using them more enjoyable. And, that is worth it to me =). Also, these are just the things that work for me, and even though what I like might not be the best choice for you, it’s possible that reading why I do or don’t like something will be helpful information. I hope so, anyway!


I have tried a variety of paint palettes, but this one is my current favorite. It is not small, but I did not want to use two separate palettes, so this is the one I use at home and also for travel. The palette comes empty and you use tubes of watercolor paint to put the colors where you want them – I suggest you take some time to plan out your colors in a way that makes sense to you before you put any paint down (I wish I had been smarter about my layout). Also, a little bit of watercolor paint goes a really long way, so you don’t need much at all in the palette. If you are doing nature study in a co-op group, you might consider splitting one really nice set of paint tubes between ten or so palettes – you’d probably still have lots leftover. This palette also has a long skinny section that holds a paintbrush or two. It even has a nifty spot to hook your thumb through so you can hold it when you are painting without a table (in my lap!). I bought this inexpensive set of paints and they work for me, but I haven’t tried a lot of brands of paint. Also, my nature journal is kind of bulky, but its beauty makes up for its weight. It is a handcrafted leatherbound watercolor journal from etsy.  I can see the appeal of a smaller palette and a smaller journal, but these sizes work for me.

When I started my nature journal, I was frustrated when I tried to add details to my painting. I thought I needed a very small detail brush. I bought about five brushes (less than ten dollars each). Recently, I invested in one real sable brush and I wish I had started with that instead of buying multiple brushes. I personally don’t use more than one brush when I’m painting, so I think it’s best to get one high-quality brush. Also, the sable brush I bought (size 8) is a lot bigger than the small brushes but the bristles come to a point, so you can still paint a nice detail.

I’ve also tried several brands of waterbrushes – it’s a genius idea where the brush holds water in the stick part and you release the water by gently squeezing. But, since I am doing dry brush technique, I use very little water (just a few drops for a whole painting), and these get too wet too easily for my taste – but they aren’t expensive, so try it – you might love it.

Commonplace Book Supplies that I Use:

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I bought a leather cover from etsy that holds three moleskine cahier notebooks. I love it! I like that I can take the books in and out easily, although I haven’t needed to yet. I thought I would be filling up a cahier book every month or so, but I write really small and am not even one-third of the way through my first one so far.

Calligraphy Supplies that I Use:

I have ventured into the world of pointed nib dip pen calligraphy. And it is sooooo fun! I bought this book, which has been the perfect guide!

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These are my favorite nibs (they’re for manga drawing), but it’s a good idea to try lots of different ones. I also prefer the manga nib holder (because it’s wood and has a cushion at the top — and it’s not any more expensive than the plastic ones). I have several different inks – my favorite is a manga ink, because it’s a very rich dark black (almost shiny), but it’s also the most dangerous because it takes a long time to dry and some parts stay wet even overnight – this means that it is easy to ruin your whole project with one wrong move. It is so hard to do calligraphy without getting ink all over my fingers! I don’t mind ink on my fingers but I do not want it on my paper! =) I also have Speedball super black and also Daler Rowney FW Acrylic Artist ink. I think each ink reacts differently with different nibs and especially on different paper. You really can’t do calligraphy on printer paper. I use smooth bristol board paper.

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Mrs. Bestvater suggested a writing desk (on an incline) in her book and I remember hearing how that’s helpful for calligraphy too. I tried a few ideas for making one myself, but I recently bought this one (large size) and I think it’s really great – very sturdy. I struggle with good posture, so having my writing surface higher really helps. I tried this wooden easel first because I like the look of the wood and it’s less expensive, but it is really intended to be used in a more upright angle – when I had it farther back it kept sliding down flat when I put pressure on it (as you do when painting or doing calligraphy). I ended up keeping it though because it really is lovely and it can still be used for upright painting and also for displaying picture study books.

Keeping Supplies that I do NOT recommend:

I bought a white sharpie with oil-based paint in it, that I hoped would allow me to add white dots on top of watercolor, but it isn’t nearly opaque enough. White gouache paint (the kind that comes with most watercolor paint tube sets) applied with a (not very wet) paint brush works much better.

I’ve also bought several sizes of Micron pens, but the super-fine tips seem to break quickly and they are not cheap. When not broken, though, these pens are excellent.

In my opinion, multiple brushes are a waste of money. I don’t want to mess with holding lots of brushes when I’m painting in my lap outside, so I think it’s best to put the same amount of money into one good brush.

I bought this Niji roll, but I don’t trust it to protect the bristles of a fancy sable brush (I just use the plastic sleeve it came in — it’s like stiff plastic tubing — and store the brush inside my plastic paint palette). I do have a few pencils that I like to use but I keep those at home and don’t like to fuss with them “in the field.”




Another entry in the virtual Commonplace Book

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

attributed – sir francis drake -1577
I have a copy of this prayer by my bed. I think this may have something to do with why our house in Mystic still isn’t rented (yes, December will be the third month of no rent coming in on a very expensive mortgage, whittling away our savings pretty quickly!) and we have a few other things in our lives that could really stress a person out. But, we know that the Lord is faithful and He is working things for our good; that is, for our spiritual maturity and not necessarily to make us comfortable.
Just for funsies, here’s my cute little Adelie-pie, who likes to do her own hair now that she’s five:

A virtual commonplace book – Valley of Vision – and another nature journal entry

I don’t think that a virtual commonplace book can serve the same purpose as a tangible one, but since I don’t have one yet – this entry will live on the blog.

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,

Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,

where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;

hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox

that the way down is the way up,

that to be low is to be high,

that the broken heart is the healed heart,

that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

that to have nothing is to possess all,

that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

that to give is to receive,

that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from the deepest wells,

and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;

Let me find thy light in my darkness,

thy life in my death,

thy joy in my sorrow,

thy grace in my sin,

thy riches in my poverty,

thy glory in my valley.

From The Valley of Vision ed. Arthur Bennett

Guess what, Charlotte Mason’s methods totally work! The other day Adele pointed to this book cover . . .


and said, “Look, a damselfly!” And I said, “No, sweetie, that’s a bumblebee. Remember you have some on your nature shelf?”

She pointed closer to this . . .


She said, “See, it’s a damselfly because the eye is on the side of the head.” She had learned about dragonflies and damselflies from one day a week or so ago when we found a few damselflies outside while Everett was having therapy. We looked it up online to find out what it was and now she knows it cold! Here’s my nature study journal entry from that day. This is what I mean about seeing things that were there all the time, but you never noticed. Once you really learn about it (and it’s self-directed study) you will always know it. P1040706