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.

Additionally, we will have a series of workshops designed specifically for individuals new to Charlotte Mason’s work. These workshops are designed for the beginner or for a person who feels they could use some further basic understanding of Mason’s methods.  This will be facilitated by Kelli Christenberry and LeAnn Burkholder.

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!

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Teen Conference

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.



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Abstracts will continue to be added over the following days and weeks.

“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.

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.
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.

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.

Mason’s Alveary Immersion with Dr. Jennifer Spencer and Wendy Wilson

Join the Alveary team to learn about the CMI curriculum that is helping so many families implement more of Mason’s philosophy and methodology with fidelity and confidence. Get guidance on how to structure your year, how to combine and place your students, how to create a workable schedule, and how to navigate all the wonderful resources that the Alveary provides. Attendees will be among the first to see how we have managed to greatly simplify the user experience without losing any of the robustness or customizability that our members love.

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.

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!
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.
16 Years and Counting – Learning Differences with Wendy Wilson

This talk will focus on the first-hand experience of how Wendy and Chris were able to identify that their children had learning differences, how those differences affect their home and schooling, what support and therapies have been used, and what adjustments have been put in place to create a successful Charlotte Mason atmosphere.

Natural History Isn’t Just Going Outside:  It’s Freedom with Wendy Wilson

This talk will focus on the what, when, where, why, and how of natural history. Wendy will discuss how to balance natural history with spontaneity and structure by providing examples and sharing experiences for all ages. 

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.

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.

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.
How Limited Working Memory Capacity Can Affect Core Foundational Learning 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.

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.”

Are you beginning your Charlotte Mason journey? Have you been learning over the past couple of years but are feeling a little overwhelmed? Are you struggling with the methods and are trying to see how to practically apply these ideas with your students? If so…

We invite you to join the Charlotte Mason Institute’s Beginner conference track designed specifically for you. We will provide a tailored conference experience for 25 individuals. Together we will cover a foundation of Mason’s principles, her Christian vision of education, and her tools for learning through “atmosphere, discipline and life”. This small group will encourage community with others who are at the same stage while also providing interaction and guidance with experienced Charlotte Mason educators.

Uniquely designed workshops include the practical aspects that are helpful for those new to CM; things like habit formation, creating a schedule, and the Mason lesson plan. As a registered CMI Beginner Track member, you attend sessions together where you can narrate what you are learning, ask questions and get feedback. You also have the opportunity to continue with your group and join the 2018-2019 Beginner Cohort giving you more community, training and support over the coming year.  We meet for a summer Conference Debriefing Webinar. Then, once a term (fall, winter, spring), we hold topic-specific webinars with small group discussion breakouts included. All learning materials provided for these exclusive continuing sessions.

To take advantage of this opportunity select the “Beginner Track” option during registration!

An Introduction to a Charlotte Mason Education

Is Charlotte Mason Education new to you? Are you a dad who just needs a little background for this education thing? Have you used a few ideas here and there but want to learn and implement more Mason principles and methods?  Are you wondering…how do I know if I am doing it right?  What is a living book? What is Narration? Nature Study…really? What does that even mean? Is this an approach for younger children only?  What are Forms anyway and what about high school and being ready for college? It is easy to get lost in the different terminology and there are many opinions in the education world that pull us in different directions. We will discuss these questions and introduce some terms and ideas to give you a foundation as you learn more about A Charlotte Mason Education.

The Basis of Our Days–An Atmosphere, a Discipline, and a Life

What we believe about life, our philosophy of life, determines our actions and values; what we believe about education, our philosophy of education, determines our approach in schooling our children. What we do and how we accomplish education with our children must be traced backward to why it matters. It’s based on principles and practices; we have a definite aim. How does this impact our practices in our schools and homes? How do we evaluate what we are doing and how we are doing it with the practical everyday stuff of lessons and life? As we consider The Basis of our Days, it will help us understand more about how to implement Education as an Atmosphere of respect, a Discipline of habits of the heart and mind, and a Life of relational ideas resting upon Truth.

The Purpose of Our Days – Fostering Thoughts Toward God

Mason tells us that The Knowledge of God is the foundational knowledge for all our learning.  Let’s discuss Bible and Religious training through a Charlotte Mason Educational lens. Seeing the path Charlotte Mason schools followed gives us an example for our learning practices today. How does an integrated Christian education look in today’s CM schools and homes? We will consider together if the important issue of Worldview should be relegated to a high school course and where and how it might fit into our educational scheme. What are the implications for the younger year studies as well as the older student’s? We will discuss Mason’s writings that encourage us, as parents and teachers to be the ‘Inspirers’ she suggests. We will talk about how to foster, watch-over and see the implications of the practices that impact “the character and conduct of life” and give purpose to our days.

The Rhythm of Our Days

In this workshop, we’ll share the big picture perspective of a Charlotte Mason education and how it fits into—and even integrates–normal days, filled with love, laundry, beauty, illness, babies and a broken dishwasher. We will also share our thoughts on how to schedule those days and how to manage school practically day in and day out.  Let’s talk about how to aim for the ideal and accomplish real things in the rhythm of our days.

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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

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. Apply HERE by March 1st.

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

Immersion Registration Fee                                                                       $95.95


Alveary Member and CMI Supporter Registration
January, 2019 – April 1, 2019

Alveary Member Rate                                                                                   $159.95

CMI  Supporter Rate                                                                                     $159.95


Early Bird Registration
January, 2019 – April 1, 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 1, 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).