This page is for a retreat that happened February 8 – 10, 2018.

We also have a write-up and photos about the retreat.

Come join us for a restful and educational conference held at the St. Francis Retreat Center, located on 73 acres overlooking the San Juan Bautista Valley. Grow in your understanding of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education, spend time nature journaling and discussing ideas and books, and enjoy the fellowship of kindred spirits. You’ll come away refreshed and invigorated, conquering the February slump and ready to finish the school year strong.

 Talks :: Speakers  :: Schedule

Location, Lodging, and Meals :: Registration


Some Aspects of Natural History for Large Families or Nature Groups
Virginia Lee Rogers

Spending time in and learning about our natural world is one of the biggest ways we feel closest to God. Most of us are familiar with Mason’s quote, “Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.” But what do we do once we’ve established the habit of nature walks and spending time outside? In this talk we hope to learn how to take our nature walks and outside play to the next level, especially with a family of multiple ages or a Nature Group. We will explore some ways of using the Handbook of Nature Study, how to prepare an Object Lesson, and hopefully (weather permitting) take what we’ve learned outside and try it out on a nature walk together.


Education is a Life: Ideas that Inspire
Jessica Severne

“Give your a child a single valuable idea, and you have done more for his education than if you had laid upon his mind the burden of bushels of information.”
Charlotte Mason, Home Education pg. 174.

Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education is built upon the premise that as spiritual beings, we require living thought—ideas—to sustain our minds, just as we need food to sustain our bodies. What does this kind of education look like? What does it feel like? Join us for an immersion into CM education and consider the method with new eyes as we experience the life-giving role of ideas.


Keeping Notebooks: Charlotte Mason’s “Forms of Vitality”
Celeste Cruz

Charlotte Mason prescribed the keeping of all kinds of “paper companions”–notebooks, timelines, maps, journals and more–as both a record of learning and a mode by which the student learns. In this session, we’ll consider the posture of the “keeper” and the principles that shape these unique paper practices, subject by subject. Afterward, we’ll have time to look through student examples from all Forms (and even from moms!), as well as discuss how you can begin or enliven the keeping in your homeschool with the simplest and yet richest of tools: the blank page.


Scouting in a Charlotte Mason Education
Matt Vanderpol

Outdoor time and experience is an important part of a Charlotte Mason education. By incorporating Charlotte Mason’s original ideas about Scouting (based on the writing of Lord Robert Baden-Powell) into a modern Mason curriculum we can increase our children’s self-reliance and enhance their lessons. In this talk, we will take a brief look at the history of Scouting in a Charlotte Mason education, followed by an exploration of how Scouting activities can be incorporated into student lessons, and conclude with a hands-on workshop focused on giving you the knowledge and confidence to take these concepts and make them a part of your homeschooling culture.


The Gift of a Mason Education
Amber Vanderpol

We generally consider our homeschooling efforts in light of what they offer to our children, but what about the mother? What does a Mason education mean to the mother, and how does it shape her? Can a homeschool grow and thrive if the mother is not growing and thriving? How does embracing a Mason education for her children help the mother to sustain her efforts in the many years of home education? In this talk we will explore these questions and hopefully find encouragement and recognize tools to help us on our way.




Celeste Cruz

Celeste lives in the South Bay with her husband and their nine children, all eleven and under. Once upon a time she was training to be an English professor; now she can usually be found with a baby strapped to her back and toddlers underfoot as she learns alongside her five school-aged kids. (Some days are more successful than others.) When she has her hands free, she enjoys distance running, reading, and nature journaling. She discovered Charlotte Mason before her children were born and has been an enthusiastic devotee ever since. She moderates at the AmblesideOnline Forums, curates content for charlottemasonirl, and shares the joys of a Catholic Charlotte Mason home education at Joyous Lessons and celeste_cruz.


Amber Vanderpol

Amber is a mother to six children, ages 15, 11, 9, 6, 3 and a baby born in August.  She has homeschooled from the beginning using some of Mason’s methods, but began following Charlotte Mason’s Philosophy of Education in earnest about six years ago.  Amber particularly enjoys reading good books, having thoughtful conversations, and being outdoors.  Amber and her family live on 10 acres in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in a home she and her husband largely built by themselves.  She writes about her homeschool and Mother Culture at Flare of Light and ambervanderpol.


Virginia Lee Rogers

Virginia Lee lives in Northern Colorado. She has been married to Cale for seventeen years, and they have five children ages 12, 9, 7, 5, and 17 months. She is learning alongside her family using the philosophies and methods of Charlotte Mason, striving to be faithful in the daily, and trying to remember that her job is to spread the feast and pray, trusting Christ to bring in the harvest. Amidst the joyful chaos of her family you will find her drinking sweet tea, slowly reading through multiple books, and hiking in the Rocky Mountains. Virginia Lee is a curator for Charlotte Mason In Real Life, runs an Instagram bookstore at The Jolly Reader, and shares her many blessings at vlcjrogers.


Jessica Severne

Jessica lives on a small family farm in Northern California with her husband and four children, ages 13-3. She has homeschooled with a CM flair from the beginning, slowly and steadily growing in the method and more importantly, “learning how to live.” Jessica founded a local Charlotte Mason group that has grown rapidly into a thriving community serving dozens of families. She’s passionate about discipleship and loves to encourage other homeschooling moms toward peaceful, purposed living. You can read more about her Charlotte Mason journey on Instagram at jessicaseverne.


Matt Vanderpol

Matt is an Eagle Scout and avid backpacker who has spoken at several tech conferences. He lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains with his wife and their six children in a house that Matt and his wife designed and built. Since August of 2016, Matt has been on his own Charlotte Mason journey of discovery, participating in an online discussion with a group of CM Dads who are reading all of Mason’s six volumes over a period of two years. Within his family Matt is seeking to bridge his own knowledge of Boy Scouts and outdoor activities with the concepts of Scouting in the Mason Philosophy.



Tentative Schedule


2pm – OPTIONAL group visit to Mission San Juan Bautista

4pm – Arrival

4-6pm – Registration, Resource Fair, Used Book Sales

6-7pm – Dinner

7:15-8:15pm – “The Gift of a Mason Education” with Amber Vanderpol



8-8:45am – Breakfast

9-10am – “Keeping Notebooks: Charlotte Mason’s ‘Forms of Vitality'” with Celeste Cruz

10:15am-12pm – Mother Culture and Keeping Immersion + Student Work Fair

12-1pm – Lunch

1:15-2:15pm – “Some Aspects of Natural History for Large Families or Nature Groups” with Virginia Lee Rogers

2:30-3:30pm – “Scouting in a Charlotte Mason Education” with Matt Vanderpol

3:30-6pm – Free Time and Hands-on Outdoor Work: Scouting + Special Study

6-7pm – Dinner + Mealtime Mentoring

7-8pm – Q+A Chats with Conference Speakers on Conference Topics



8-9am – Breakfast

9-10:15am – Nature walk + Journaling

10:30am-12pm – “Education is a Life: Ideas that Inspire” with Jessica Severne

12-1pm – Lunch + Farewells



Location, Lodging and Meals

St. Francis Retreat Center is located 40 miles south of San Jose.  The extensive grounds feature native landscaping around the buildings and two miles of trails, as well as views of the San Juan Bautista Valley and the Diablo Mountain Range.  The natural environment of this center will be an inspiring and restful environment for our Charlotte Mason conference.

We will be staying in double occupancy bedrooms with private baths in the same building as our main meeting room.  Each bedroom will have two twin beds and a private bathroom.  The retreat center allows attendees to use the double rooms as single rooms for an additional fee.

Our conference will include six meals, beginning with dinner on Thursday evening and ending with lunch on Saturday afternoon.  St. Francis Retreat Center can accommodate vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free diets in their dining hall, and can also accommodate other similar diets with advance notice.  There is also a refrigerator and microwave available for people with more restrictive diets.




The total conference cost, including lodging and meals, is $320.00.  All bedrooms are double occupancy, and the retreat center charges an additional $85 if there is only one person in the room.

Please Note:  There is a credit card processing fee for the registration.

Registration is now closed.


Tickets are non-refundable, but once the conference fills we will maintain a waitlist and attempt to fill from it in case of a cancellation.  If we are able to fill from the waitlist, we will refund your registration fee.  We will not fill from the waitlist after February 5th.


You are welcome to bring an infant with you to this event.  We encourage moms with babies to either share a room with a friend, spouse or teen or to book a single room.  Please be prepared to take a crying baby out of our meeting space so as not to distract the other attendees.


Spouses are welcome to join us at the is conference, and we will waive the registration fee ($50) for any spouse who registers with a conference attendee.


We will not be able to offer a commuter rate for this conference.  However, if you would like to join us at this conference but must return home at night, you are welcome to do so.  Unfortunately, we cannot offer a discount for this option.

Airport Transportation

If you will be flying in for this conference, we hope to be able to help you get to the conference either by shuttle, volunteer pick-ups, or arranging a rental car carpool.  There may be a fee for airport transportation.  Please email if you are interested in transportation to and from the San Jose Airport.


Please email