Last year, I enjoyed the conference, but ended up with a blazing headache every night. I learned my lesson, so this year I arrived in Boiling Springs, armed with Tylenol in addition to bandages, a sweater (for the auditorium that feels like a meat locker), sheets, and a pillow and blanket. The odd thing is that I faced only one headache because one lesson the board of ChildLightUSA learned was to allow for more processing time and to live Charlotte Mason's principles at the conference.
One reason for narration is to give children "processing time" after they read a passage from a living book. Processing time is a fairly new term in the education world that describes the time children need to internalize new information. In his dissertation on Charlotte Mason's educational philosophy, Carroll Smith places processing time under reason because children must reflect upon new ideas before they can make connections to what they already know and think about what it means. Carroll and the ChildLightUSA board also allowed attendees to process what they heard in the sessions by scheduling processing time and encouraging attendees to meet and discuss what they learned in small groups (schools, Ambleside Online families, families with learning challenges, etc.).
Attendees of the conference showed plenty of good habits and discipline in their effort to soak up every bit of knowledge by rushing off to the next session on the agenda. Last year, I was so eager not to miss one thing that I rushed myself into headaches. Again, thoughtful scheduling allowed us to slow down and live! Every day, the board had planned special events to refresh our spirits. The first night concluded with a dulcimer concert by Joe Collins, who impressed me with his musical talent and wit (how many people turn the names of medications into metrical rhymes). I was fascinated to learn that dulcimer players have been experimenting with all different styles of music, such as jazz and classical! His delightful concert ended with an ice cream social.
Thursday began with a devotional by Bobby Scott in which he shared his thoughts about the painting, Doubting Thomas, by Caravaggio. Thursday closed with a recital of Rachmaninoff music in which Cindy Swicegood played, while Andy Smith narrated his life. Thanks to a keyboard sheet they passed out to the audience, I learned that I would have to "cheat" at playing his music (assuming I could play) because my hands can barely cover nine keys. After the concert, I compared hands with Cindy and was surprised to learn that her hand span is only a tad larger than mine is! Cindy leaves out notes occasionally because she can handle nine, but not ten keys. Rachmaninoff could cover eleven keys! I found his music dramatic, rippling up and down the keyboard. He always tried to build up to a point and woe to the pianist who dared to miss it! While his random style is not my cup of tea, I enjoyed watching Cindy play and learning more about his life.
The next evening, the board offered several ways to enjoy life at the Broad River Greenway, just three miles from Gardner-Webb University. A guitar player manned Phifer Cabin for a sing-along. The artistically inclined pulled out watercolors and painted river scenes, while children waded. Some searched for items on the scavenger hunt (assisted by the very knowledgeable son of a park ranger).
Another ranger led us on a hike to an enormous cottonwood. The ranger must not have known his audience because he apologized to the children in the group for talking about history, which they might appreciate some day. Liking history is not a problem if you read interesting books. He shared a fascinating story about a trail that leads to a grave, just outside of the park's official limits. It belongs to a little girl that contracted smallpox in the early 1900's. People quarantined her in a cabin, shoved food trays to her for meals, and left her alone to die. The only reason why they knew she had succumbed to that dreadful disease was because the food began piling up.
My apartment-mate tried to teach me to draw what she collected on the nature walk. I think I proved to be more of a challenge than she expected. However, she offered some great tips: (1) use 80 lb. watercolor paper, (2) outline the item in yellow before painting it, (3) never use the greens provided--make your own greens and layer different shades of it, (4) paint with a very dry brush with the hairs smoothed to a point, and (5) keep it as dry as possible. She suggested Prang as readily available, but uses the Russian-made Yarka herself. She did a fine job of instructing me to paint a pawpaw, but my hands could not match what my mind wanted. I ended up making a blah-blah
On Saturday, people joined a birding expert for a nature walk. Amber Benton had to hide the sign-up sheet before she announced this impromptu activity on Friday because so many people showed an interest. As soon as she made the list available, people flocked to it and, within minutes, all twenty slots were filled. The rush was not much different from shoppers hurrying to the blue light special on Christmas Eve. Believe me, if I had not been the presider of Cheri Hedden's session, I would have been rushing to plop my name on the list. Those who went raved about how much they enjoyed the walk.
After the volunteer dinner, I got my unusual bird sighting in the most unlikely of places. Hidden in the bushes next to the clubhouse was a mother goose, sitting on a whole bunch of eggs. We must have worried her for she craned her neck out, ready to strike if we moved in too closely. Someone managed to get some photographs, and I hope they will post the shots somewhere. This unexpected treat made up for the missed bird walk earlier in the day.
I hope ChildLightUSA plans to schedule time for living at next year's conference! The best way to apply Charlotte Mason's ideas is to live them!