CMI Western Conference   l   May 9-11, 2019   l   Franciscan Renewal Center   l   5802 East Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale, Arizona 85253


We are delighted to provide information for the 2019 Western Charlotte Mason Education Conference, to be held at the Franciscan Renewal Center, in Scottsdale, AZ. The conference begins Thursday, May 9th, 2019 with immersions during the day and the conference proper beginning in the evening.  The conference runs until approximately 4:00 pm on Saturday afternoon, May 11th.  We look forward to hosting the conference this year in the beautiful Scottsdale, AZ area.

The theme for the CMI Western Conference is Charlotte Mason’s Living Ideas Growing in the Desert.  Dr. Jennifer Spencer will remind us of Mason’s 20 principles and focus on Mason’s views on nature study.  Dr. Carroll Smith will give a plenary on taking Charlotte Mason into the 21 Century in a meaningful and thoughtful way as Mason suggests in her own writings. Dr. Rusty Pritchard will help us understand a Christian view of stewarding our environment. For our Eve Anderson Nature Study Lecture, Joni Ward from the Desert Botanical Gardens will provide parents with a thoughtful look at how to explore the desert with children.

 These plenaries will be accompanied with various workshops on topics such as meeting the needs of special needs children, keeping structure and flexibility in your nature study, understanding cognitive load and its implications for children, mother culture and much more.

Scottsdale, AZ is a beautiful place to be with some of the finest resorts, dining and other amenities.  There are golf courses, numerous hiking trails with fabulous weather  eight months out of the year.  You might want to consider bringing the whole family and enjoying the Scottsdale area.  In any case we look forward to welcoming you to the Franciscan Renewal Center.

Over the years at the CMI conferences we have worked to have a professional conference that doesn’t just give information, but also nurtures your spirits.  Our goal is to provide plenaries and workshops that will instruct and inspire you for the coming school year. To accomplish this goal we seek to provide opportunities for learning and for fellowship; we hope you will take the opportunity to meet new people and to start new friendships.

The schedule and more details on speakers and sessions will be posted in the coming days. 

We look forward to seeing you in Scottsdale in May!

Read more


We are delighted to again offer a CMI Teen Conference in the West. 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.

What will the Teens do?
  • The CMI Western Teen Conference will begin with a time of getting acquainted with each other through games. Our goal is to help foster friendships and relationships that extend past the conference time.
  • The teens will hike through a desert area which offers glimpses of some of desert’s wildlife and plant life.  We aim to use this hike to help teens develop the love for nature and the outdoors that will continue for a lifetime.
  • Teens will experience the world and works of Shakespeare in this immersive workshop led by Southwest Shakespeare Director of Education, Breona Conrad.  Join Breona as she leads participants through games designed to make you feel the pressure of Elizabethan social classes and introduces the First Folio Cue Script Technique, or Original Principles approach to Shakespearean performance.  Using cues within the written text, Breona will guide the group through text play using scenes from Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s works that will be featured in the Southwest Shakespeare Company 2019-2020 Season!  Shakespeare will never be the same after this workshop!
  • Joni Ward, Plant Registar with Desert Botanical Garden, will speak about how to explore desert plant life.  Discussion, field activities, and outdoor exercise will follow.
  • Artist Devon Meyer will discuss painting with the teens. Watercolor is her initial medium but she also works in oil, charcoal, pen and ink and colored pencil. Her work has been shown at the Audubon Phoenix and in art shows around the valley.  She will teach about painting desert plants.
  • Following Devon Myers, Jenny Elias will follow up with hands-on painting lessons for the teens and have them complete a painting on plants and desert landscapes.
  • The teens will engage in an interactive practical learning experience to learn how to manage the finances of a home.  The teens will be given an income based upon the demographics of the area, and will have to make decisions on housing, food, transportation clothing and entertainment.  All numbers will be based upon realistic scenarios to help the teens learn the financial principles necessary to manage a household budget.

Charlotte Mason was keen on the development of good habits.  Good habits help in the development of good behavior which encourages a lifestyle that leads to a full life.  Our intention with the teen conference is to foster activities that lead to good habits that will be followed for a full exciting life.



Read Bio


Read Bio


Read Bio


Read Bio


Read Bio


Read Bio


Read Bio


Read Bio


Read Bio


Read Bio


Read Bio


Read Bio


Read Bio


Read Bio


Read Bio


Read Bio


Read Bio


Read Bio

Schedule & Sessions

Subject to additions and change.

Click to View
Click to View
Plenary 1: “Saving the Planet” versus “Care for Creation” with Dr. Rusty Pritchard

Confronted with a constant barrage of information about environmental crises, families struggle to fit “saving the planet” into their existing priorities, including concern for the spiritual formation of their children, for the good of their communities, for the wellbeing of the poor, and for the advance of the gospel. How should we understand and respond to the prevalent apocalyptic framing of environmental change as “the end of the world?” On the other hand, how do we respond to those who say we shouldn’t care for creation because “it’s all going to burn?”

For those in the Christian tradition it is helpful to understand what the Bible teaches about God, creation, us, and our neighbors. We would like to bring our theology of creation to bear on the world’s pressing issues, but we need first to understand our own responsibility to live lives of faithfulness and justice. Thankfully, we can find ways to live out our theology that bring us joy and satisfaction (rather than inconvenience, guilt, and drudgery). The Christian doctrine of creation care is good news for us and for our neighbors caught on a treadmill of consumption, toil, mindless entertainment, and despair. In our households and churches we can create communities that model a different story.

After we understand our own story, expressed in the Bible, in our history, and in our homes, we will have more to offer a highly polarized world that treats the environment like a political football. “Care for creation” is not just a Christianese word for baptized environmentalism, but a new way of living. We can offer the good news that, although the world we see is out-of-joint, a King is coming who will put it to rights, and in our life together we can bear witness to that future kingdom.

Plenary 2: Understanding Mason for the 21st Century with Dr. Carroll Smith
Eve Anderson Nature Study Lecture “Exploring the Desert with Children” with Joni Ward

This lecture hopes to inspire parents with young children to explore nature, starting in their back yard and extending through the desert and other regions around Phoenix and the southwestern states.  As parents are equipped, children are inspired to explore, investigate, appreciate and protect the world around them.  Resources for beginners on how to experience nature locally will be presented and discussed including topics as gardening in the desert, how to be safe in the desert, when (and where) are the best seasons to explore.  Included will be a time for sharing of experiences related to experiencing the natural world as we can learn from one another.

Plenary 4: Educating Image Bearers: 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.
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.

How to Begin Homeschooling with Charlotte Mason Immersion with Cheri Struble

Charlotte Mason’s philosophy can become a way of life, an open door to truth, goodness, and beauty. Join Cheri Struble, homeschooling mom of 22 years, for a day of beginning Mason philosophy and immersion. Being new to this educational paradigm can often feel like drinking from a fire hose. Getting the “how-to’s” down is important.  Philosophy without follow through is pointless. However, if we don’t know the “why’s” behind the practice, our schooling will often quickly lose steam and programs just become a list of boxes to check.

In this immersion, we will talk about the heart of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, exploring a few of her 20 principles and what an atmosphere, a discipline and a life mean. We will practice a few basics of an early education, such as: picture study, narration, studied dictation, poetry, geography and map study. We will also have a time for Q&A.

Understanding a Mason education, as more than a list of subjects to check off or a block of knowledge to absorb, creates an outlook on your children and the world that can be life changing for you and your whole family. This immersion will give you a glimpse of the heart of this philosophy, some practical information and prepare you for the rest of the conference.

*This is the CMI Beginner Track option for the CMI Western Conference.

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.

Understanding Cognitive Load and Its Implications for a Mason Education with Dr. Jennifer Spencer

Every task that we undertake costs something of us in terms of mental energy; that is, it has a “cognitive load.” The more novel the task, the higher the cognitive load. The task feels difficult because our brains have to spend much attention and energy to accomplish it. As we practice the task over time, our brains do not have to work as hard, and the task feels easier to us; that is, the task has become automated to some degree. This fact has important implications for us as educators, as we try to determine when a child is ready for certain tasks. In this lecture, Dr. Spencer will discuss cognitive load, using Michael Polanyi’s model of focal and subsidiary awareness, how it relates to various subjects of study, and how Mason’s developmental and incremental learning model recognizes the importance of cognitive load.

Feasting Together – Thoughts on Charlotte Mason Education in Community
with Elizabeth Franklin

Have you ever considered joining a learning community? Or have you felt a nudge to gather a group of like-minded families to learn together? Learning communities (or co ops) can offer much to Charlotte Mason homeschooling families, but, like all aspects of home educating, must be carefully – and prayerfully – considered if we are to honor Miss Mason’s vision and truly bless our students. Come and hear thoughts on the benefits and challenges of “spreading the feast” in community.

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.)

Bring Plutarch to Life with Polly Pauley (online)

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.

Southwest Shakespeare Company for Adults
Developing a Mason Science Curriculum for the 21st Century with Danielle Merritt (online)

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 workshop will focus more on content and making informed planning decisions.

Connecting Nature Journals with Other Subjects with Dr. Jennifer Spencer 
Some of the value of Nature Study can be lost whenever it is done in isolation from other subjects.  The power of the nature notebook truly comes alive when it is used not only to paint specimens and keep lists, but to support studies in other subjects, such as geography, the sciences, mathematics, and composition.
Mother Culture with Cheri Struble

Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” What does it mean to be fully alive as a mother? What we do for ourselves greatly impacts our home and school life. If we are empty then it makes it hard to care and serve others in our life. You can not draw water out of an empty well. While it’s important to immerse ourselves in learning all we can to teach our children well, taking breaks to develop as a person can lead to greater joy and energy in other areas. In this session we will explore the idea of mothers as persons and how we can develop and grow.

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.

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.

Southwest Shakespeare Company with the Teens
Science as Living Pursuit with Danielle Merritt-Sunseri (online)

In this workshop, Danielle will focus on the essential roles of relationship, curiosity, and culture. These are not optional considerations in a Mason science program. Let’s examine the hows and whys of these vital ideals, so that science might be an inspiration rather than a requirement.

Charlotte Mason During Troubling Times with Jenny Elias

Some of us have chosen to homeschool because we yearn to share more with our children through the daily experiences and applications in our lives. But how does a Charlotte Mason philosophy guide us through troubling times? This nineteenth century educator had some insight into creating the kind of days that in our modern times has the potential to make beautiful family memories while providing our children with a wonderful wholesome education. In this session, I will share how the basics of a Charlotte Mason philosophy and education have provided “smooth and easy days” during two very challenging years in my family’s lives.  A philosophy of good habits, the use of basic educational tools and an established CM community have been just what we needed to continue home schooling.  In her own words, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”

How an Adventure Club Can Support Your CM Homeschool with Katie Stephens and Beth Franklin

Everyone knows that Charlotte Mason advocated lots and lots of outdoor time for children. But we also know that is often easier said than done. In this workshop, find out how an adventure club can help get children and their families excited to get outside, build community, and help provide a mental framework of the natural world that will support studies in all subjects. Topics will include:

  1. How to structure an adventure club for your community’s specific needs.
  2. Tips on using your adventure club to complement geography and natural history studies
  3. Resources for planning and executing awesome adventures
  4. Encouragement to get outside and have an adventure!
Using the Hundred Penny Tray for Elementary Math with Andy Smith
Painting in the Desert with Devon Myers

Get inspired by Sonoran desert plants like the prickly pear and barrel cactus while
learning watercolor techniques with illustrator and artist, Devon Meyer. We will explore
drawing, watercolor mixing, brushwork and exciting extras. Apply your new skills to
create a beautiful final piece. All skill levels are welcome.

Supplies Needed
watercolor paint kit, brushes, pencil, eraser, 90 lb watercolor paper
Pre-ordered kit available for $20.

Making Sense of Shakespeare’s English with Kathy Wickward (online)

“Bill, Bill! Speak English, Man!” You think you’d like to introduce Shakespeare to your kids, but you find it rough going, what with the Elizabethan English and all. “They have been at a great feast of languages, and stol’n the scraps.” says Moth in Love’s Labor’s Lost. Many of us find ourselves understanding only scraps of Shakespeare’s work, and the theater world’s stubborn insistence that Bill’s work be produced in the original language, even while dressing characters as mobsters, punk rockers, and modern digital natives, can be confusing. In this workshop, we will learn how to approach Shakespeare’s language if we have never seen it before – putting many common quotes and phrases in their historical and linguistic context.

Peace in the Home with Nancy Kelly (online)

“He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home.” – Goethe

The Charlotte Mason philosophy and method of education has a unique source that encourages shalom in the home. This talk will explore the meaning of peace, how a CM education helps develop peace, and why parents are called to be peacemakers.  Nancy will share insights from her own experience as well as some extremely helpful direction from Mason and other solid PNEU teachers on peace in our homes, schools, and lives.

Painting in the Desert with Devon Myers

Get inspired by Sonoran desert plants like the prickly pear and barrel cactus while
learning watercolor techniques with illustrator and artist, Devon Meyer. We will explore
drawing, watercolor mixing, brushwork and exciting extras. Apply your new skills to
create a beautiful final piece. All skill levels are welcome.

Supplies Needed
watercolor paint kit, brushes, pencil, eraser, 90 lb watercolor paper
Pre-ordered kit available for $20.

Charlotte Mason Alveary Immersion Session with Dr. Jennifer Spencer
Enliven Your Schoolroom with Shakespeare and Plutarch with Minden Agar
This workshop will endeavor to show why Shakespeare and Plutarch are considered an integral part of the feast in a Charlotte Mason directed school.  The workshop will discuss tools for overcoming common obstacles and ways to share the feast within a group.  With Ms. Mason’s inspiration and direction Shakespeare and Plutarch can be used to enliven your homeschool with living examples of heroic virtue.  The poetic language throughout their works can lighten the tough times and  increase joy in the good within your home’s atmosphere.  Additionally, these masters of literature will connect students with important figures throughout history.
Teaching Math with Andy Smith
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.

Ourselves, Our Souls, and Our Bodies with Kristen Orr

Have you begun reading Ourselves with your form 3 and older? Or are you contemplating reading it on your own? Ourselves, Our Souls and Our Bodies is Charlotte Mason’s very own words designed for young people. Volume 4 which consists of two different books is however not just for students, but also for us as persons. She believed that “all beautiful and noble possibilities are present in everyone” (volume 4, preface). Come join us as we immerse ourselves in her very own words. As you get a taste of her words and begin your journey I guarantee that it will change your life as you read, narrate, and live out the practical words she advises in Ourselves.

Teaching Spanish Workshop with Jen Hudson

A very practical look at teaching methods to help your students learn Spanish. Participants will role play the part of language student and language teacher using a variety of materials and activities including poetry, songs, picture study, and games.

Food and Lodging

Lodging and Meals

The Casa at Franciscan Renewal Center offers 46 double occupancy rooms with two beds and eight single occupancy rooms with a single bed. All rooms feature private, en suite baths and individually controlled air conditioning. The price per night includes three meals per day. Meals are part of the room fee and may not be deducted from the room cost.

The Casa offers a newly renovated Perricone Plaza and outdoor pool ideal for poolside relaxation and informal gatherings. This is available for all those who are staying at the Renewal Center.

Double Occupancy Room, per person, per night, (INCLUDING meals)               $110.00 per night
Single Occupancy Room, per person, per night, (INCLUDING meals)                 $150.00 per night


For those not lodging at the Franciscan Renewal Center, the following meal options are available:

Meal Option 1 – breakfast, lunch, and dinner (Thursday breakfast through Saturday lunch)            $140.00
Meal Option 2 – breakfast, lunch and dinner (Thursday dinner through Saturday lunch)                  $105.00
Meal Option 3 – lunch and dinner only (Thursday lunch through Saturday lunch)                                $105.00
Meal Option 4 – lunch and dinner only (Thursday dinner-Saturday lunch)                                              $80.00



Transportation reservations to and from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport can be made 24 hours in advance through Super Shuttle (Contact: 800-258-3826). Persons lodging at the Franciscan Renewal Center receive a discounted rate, so be sure to ask for the special rate when making your reservation. Drivers accept cash or credit cards.

Registration Costs

Attendees must register by April 20th, 11:59pm

Registration Discounts

CMI participated in a Facebook fundraiser to help defray some of the registration costs.  We will offer 9 registration fees at a 50% reduction for the CMI Western Conference to individuals who complete a financial need application. Applications Closed.

Immersion Sessions (limited to 25)
(Held Thursday, May 9, 2019)

Immersion Registration Fee                                                                       $95.95


Alveary Member and CMI Supporter Registration

Alveary Member Rate                                                                                   $159.95

CMI  Supporter Rate                                                                                     $159.95


Early Bird Registration
January, 2019 – April 15, 2019.

Charlotte Mason Group Early Bird Rate*                                                 $169.95

General Admission Early Bird Rate                                                           $179.95

Spouse Early Bird Rate                                                                                $149.95

Teens attending General Conference Early Bird Rate                          $149.95

Teens attending Teen Conference Early Bird Rate                                $159.95

College Early Bird Rate                                                                                $154.95


General Registration

All registrations after April 15, 2019 (excluding Alveary members and CMI Supporters)         $199.95

Cancellation Policy

Before April 18, 2019: 25% refund of total cost (includes registration, meal tickets, lodging, linens, & immersions) is available.

After April 18: no cancelation refunds except in extreme emergency.

Please notify us via email at blvigorito@yahoo.com 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).