2020 Speaker Bios & Abstracts

Jenn Stec

I live in Lexington, Kentucky with my husband Tim and three children, ages 11 to 19. I have been learning from Charlotte Mason for 11 years and have been the Middle and Upper School Director of Overstone School, a cooperative Charlotte Mason learning community, for eight years.
Introducing Children to Architecture

“Education is a painful, continual and difficult work to be done by kindness, by watching, by warning, by precept and by praise; but above all – by example. What we do not seek to appreciate ourselves will be all the more difficult to encourage in our children.” John Ruskin

John Ruskin, an artist with a keen eye for architecture, was a source of inspiration and instruction for Charlotte Mason and her teachers. This quote has encouraged me for many years to explore subjects of PNEU teaching that are part of the feast but sometimes overwhelm parents. Can you introduce your children to architecture if you have not studied it yourself? Is it a subject that will capture their imaginations? My answer to both questions is a resounding Yes! Join me to learn how architecture was studied in the PNEU and how we can make use of local walks, family vacations, and modern technology to visit the most magnificent buildings in the world.

Please and Thank You: Developing Habits of Obedience and Courtesy in Our Children

“The man who can make himself do what he wills has the world before him, and it rests with parents to give their children this self-compelling power as a mere matter of habit.” Charlotte Mason, School Education, p. 20

“Always remember that persons matter more than things. Don’t say anything that will leave a sting.” Charlotte Mason, as quoted in The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 62

Charlotte Mason said that a habit is so easily formed and so strong to compel. Drawing attention to the needs of others, whether through a call to obedience or a kind word fitly spoken, is essential in the early years. In this workshop, we will glean valuable insight from the Bible, Mason’s volumes, and the Parents’ Review as we seek to develop habits of obedience and courtesy in our children.

Qua Person

“People are too apt to use children as counters in a game, to be moved hither and thither according to the whim of the moment. Our crying need today is less for a better method of education than for an adequate conception of children…. Our business is to find out how great a mystery a person is qua person.” Charlotte Mason, Towards a Philosophy of Education, p. 80

In her chapter on the sacredness of personality, Mason gives us a framework for self-assessing our parenting and our classrooms, and this assessment is even more relevant as our children mature into young adulthood. The middle and high school years are a time of tremendous physical, mental, and spiritual growth for our children, and certainly a time of growth for us parents as well! In this plenary, we will talk frankly about some of the challenges facing our young adults, we will ponder their personalities, we will consider some parenting and teaching methods in light of Mason’s principles, and we will be encouraged to treasure the opportunity to be, as Mason said, their “guide, philosopher and friend.”

Dallas Nachtigall

Hi, I’m Dallas Nachtigall and I live in Omaha, Nebraska with my husband and my three children. We are a family who enjoys drawing, design, making art, and crafting things with our hands. My husband and I are both artists & craftspeople. We both have schooling backgrounds in the Visual Arts- me in the Fine Arts and he in Graphic Design. He convinced me (despite my skepticism) to home educate our children and thankfully a friend introduced me to Charlotte Mason when our oldest was very young!
In the past I have directed art programs for 4H camps across my state and now I teach drawing classes and workshops locally and online. I love sharing the rich ideas I’ve learned while continuing my own art education with my podcast and YouTube channel, Bestowing The Brush. I use those tools to help demystify drawing, art instruction and visual literacy. Informing parents and homeschooling families has equipped them and given them confidence in teaching these things in their homes! To take Mason at her word, I strive to “bring better thoughts before people generally, so that other joiners may turn out better work.”
Find out more at: www.bestowingthebrush.com. I’m also on Instagram and Facebook @bestowingthebrush. I’d love to connect with you there!
Drawing Lessons: Habits of Mind & Body  ||  Pre-Conf Immersion on Drawing Nov. 4th

This immersion will begin with understanding some essential steps for thinking rightly about this subject, both for the teacher and the student. Do you need a mental shift in this area to unlock your potential to teach drawing lessons in your homeschool? What does Charlotte Mason say about it? Find out how you can achieve success in this area. Then, I’ll lead you through some drawing exercises with different media to help cement these ideas for you!

Daily Drawing:  Building a Habit of Practice, Not Performance

How should we think about drawing lessons in our home and how does it apply across the curriculum? Hints are given for a mental shift and concepts shown to give you confidence in this area.

Clay Modeling with Unwin: 3 Mom’s Perspective – Genae, Dallas & Marcia

Charlotte Mason suggested clay modeling as an art form that would help with art understanding, narration and observation. Let’s get our hands dirty together as we try for  ourselves the simplicity of Unwin and get inspired to incorporate clay modeling in our school practice.

Marcia Mattern

I love being part of the Charlotte Mason community in Central Illinois.    I am grateful for the other moms in my area who keep reading her volumes with me!  Each year adds another layer of understanding and implementation to our Charlotte Mason approach of learning. 
Steve and I live on 12 acres with timber and animals both wild and domestic.  I worked as a Dietitian before choosing to  stay home with our six kids.  Now I moonlight as a doula providing pregnancy and labor support to other mothers between the days of searching for the best book to use in our learning.  I am only homeschooling four children this fall!
Make It a Habit – Marcia & Steve Mattern | PLENARY – Wednesday Evening

“The mother who is distrustful of her own power of steady effort may well take comfort…she herself acquires the habit of training her children in a given habit, so that by-and-by it becomes notably no trouble, but a pleasure to her”.  Charlotte still speaks to us through the years!  Let’s answer the question of how to create the atmosphere and discipline to make our days gentle and joyful. Little by little over the years we develop new ways of teaching and learning.  Join me as we discuss new ways of fostering habits; habits that our children can take with them on their journey into adulthood.

Seeing Your Child as a Person Through the Forms – Marcia Mattern & Monica Watson

Charlotte Mason’s first principle “Children are born persons” gives a stepping off point of a child’s whole education.  In this session join Marcia and Monica as they talk through the differences in Forms and how to see your child as person as you move them through the forms.  Specific expectations of each forms will be discussed and time for specific questions will be included.   

Geography with Marcia

Come spend time learning Candian Geography.  Immerse yourself in the child’s experience of learning geography in a learning community. 

Clay Modeling with Unwin: 3 Mom’s Perspective – Genae, Dallas & Marcia

Charlotte Mason suggested clay modeling as an art form that would help with art understanding, narration and observation. Let’s get our hands dirty together as we try for  ourselves the simplicity of Unwin and get inspired to incorporate clay modeling in our school practice.

Steve Mattern

I am a husband of Marcia for over 23 years and am a father of six children, ages 8-21. I have gladly and completely (and joyfully) entrusted the formation of our children first to the Lord and then, by way of educational orientation, to the vision and guiding principles of Charlotte Mason.
I first completed a degree in Occupational Therapy, then Philosophy. Over time, I went back to school as a working professional on the “slow route” to gaining a MA in Counseling and then a MTS in Theology. I serve within Catholic healthcare as a Senior VP for Mission Services where I support Mission, Leader Formation and Pastoral Care. If I end up having a little spare time, I enjoy spending time with our children in our garden, working in the woods on our land or improving our older farm house.  I like my coffee black from home roasted beans and I make a Saturday morning breakfast that’s out of this world.
The Vaulted Book

In this session, we will explore the approximately 800 year old frescos of the Spanish Chapel of St. Maria Novella in Florence, Italy. The impact and meanings of these examples of sacred art in the lives of Charlotte Mason, John Ruskin and their colleagues will be specifically engaged. The artwork will be most specifically explored via the “lens” of Charlotte Mason as elucidated in her writings.

Erika Leake McKnight

“…mothers work wonders once they are convinced that wonders are demanded of them.” Charlotte Mason (Vol. 1, pg. 44)

The day our 2nd son, Joshua, was born we knew that we would be homeschooling our kids.  God had brought my attention to homeschooling through my teaching at Drake University and through my private flute studio where I had the privilege of teaching several homeschooled students.  The interactions these students had with me as well as with other family members stood out as something our family desired.  Sadly, I do not remember my initial discovery of Charlotte Mason, but I do know God placed her early on in my research path.  Glenn and I live in Des Moines, Iowa, with our three children, Daniel, 13, Joshua, 10 (has Down syndrome), and Lydia, 8.  Both Glenn and I continuously study Charlotte Mason’s approach to life and learning by participating in the Friends of Charlotte Mason Central Iowa mother’s and father’s study group, as well as the Idyll Challenge.  I have also been taking online classes (Living Education Lessons) with Nancy Kelly and have attended the Living Education Retreat each summer for the past 9 years (4 of these have been with Glenn).  Our family has been involved in a local Charlotte Mason cooperative learning community for the past 5 years where I have led Composer Study and Hymn.  I received my Bachelor of Music in Flute Performance from Florida State University as well as my Master of Music in Flute Performance and minor in Baroque Performance from Indiana University.  In addition, I studied with an internationally acclaimed flutist in England, Trevor Wye, and began my doctoral studies at University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.  I taught at University of Florida as well as Drake University and currently am the adjunct flute instructor for Faith Baptist College.  I have taught private flute lessons for 30 years in my home as well as through video calls.  www.erikaleakemcknight.com

The Atmosphere of Music

“Use every chance you get of hearing music (I do not mean only tunes, though these are very nice), and ask whose music has been played, and, by degrees, you will find out that one composer has one sort of thing to say to you, and another speaks other things; these messages of the musicians cannot be put into words, so there is no way of hearing them if we do not train our ear to listen.” (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 4, p.31) 

Imagine this, what if Charlotte Mason said spend 10 minutes in nature each week and that there was no other mention of spending time in nature.  Would we have the love of nature that so many of us have?  Would we have fine-tuned our habit of paying attention to detail?  Would we know the fauna and flora of our region?

Did you know that when Charlotte Mason introduced Composer Study to the PNEU it was not just 10 minutes each week it was a daily ½ hour?  Now, imagine this, what if you spent 30 minutes each day listening to classical music and paying attention to the various instruments, voices, and even conductor?  Over time would you find that you’ve made a relationship with classical music?  

You do not need to be an expert or have any knowledge of classical music to add this subject to your feast.  Over time you will begin hearing the differences and develop your own ear.  In this workshop I will be equipping you with the tools from both my past experience as well as Charlotte Mason’s own words to spread confidently this portion of the feast.  But be prepared it takes more than just the 10 minutes each week.

Amy Fielder

My husband, Jason, and I have been married for 21 years and call Oshkosh, WI our home.  Here, Jason pastors Water City Church and we homeschool our four children (ages 6-14).  Mason’s philosophy has been our guide since the beginning, and has been transformative for our entire family.  I’m thankful for the ongoing support and inspiration that I’ve enjoyed for the past eight years through our local CM co-op, The Arbor Guild, and also our monthly CM study group.  My current interests include backpacking with my family, finding new ways to prepare vegetables, getting to know my neighbors after our recent move, filling my dining room to capacity, and deepening my knowledge of nature.
Meet Anna Comstock – Simply Begin: An Encouraging Introduction to Using the Handbook of Nature Study

When I began homeschooling my oldest, eight years ago, one of the first books I purchased was Anna Botsford Comstock’s Handbook of Nature-Study. Like most CM educators, I was eager to begin nature study with my children and this title seemed to be widely agreed upon as the book to get me started. But for many years, it just sat on my bookshelf, unopened and collecting dust. Can you relate?

It wasn’t until last year, when I volunteered to begin leading object lessons for our CM co-op, that I mustered up the courage to finally crack the book open and really start using it. What I discovered was not only a perfectly curated guide for teaching nature study to students, but also an awakened sense of intrigue and wonder in myself as I began engaging with Comstock’s informative and poetic descriptions of animals, plants, the earth, and sky.

Join me as I walk you through my own process of learning to navigate and actually use this nearly 1,000-page handbook. I’ll share tips for how I select and prepare object lessons, give an overview of the book and how it’s designed to be used, and lead you through one of the many ready-to-teach lessons found in its pages.

Jill Hostetler

I am a homeschooling mother of four children who credits Charlotte Mason and her philosophy for bringing much joy, ease, and beauty into my life. I have been implementing the Charlotte Mason philosophy in my home for the past 7 years. My husband and I reside in Peoria and I also enjoy serving on staff part-time with Child Evangelism Fellowship of IL.

Picture Study Immersion

Does the idea of teaching Plutarch seem daunting? Come be the student as we enjoy a lesson
from one of Plutarch’s Lives. The value of Plutarch is immense as we gain instruction in
conscience and character. We will also have a time of discussion on the whys and hows of

Tina Schallhorn

I am Tina; wife, mom, and a server of the Lord.  I have been a friend of Charlotte Mason for the past 4 years, blessed to be part of a thriving community in Peoria, Illinois. With two high energy boys, ages 5 and 6, I excitedly experience both the early years and the start of formal years with my children. I am  also a dietitian, and a foster mom. I enjoy traveling, ethnic foods, sewing, exercising, and am learning to play the violin along my 6 year old.
The Young Child in a Mason Education

Charlotte Mason strongly believed in a full six years of a quiet growing time, and in fact, that it was our first duty to secure this for our children. As parents we know how different a child of 5 can be from a child of 3, so isn’t there a place within those quiet growing years for preparation for the transition to formal years? It appears that this question is not exclusive of our time.  The PNEU saw many families wanting to enroll their children before they turned 6. Join me as we discuss Elsie Kitching’s take on the child of five in the PNEU booklet “Children of School Age and Beyond”, and how the gradual progression of habits, builds the foundation for the joyful and fruitful formal years ahead.

Kelly Rummel

If you looked at my life over the last thirty-five years, you’d see a few consistent threads. My home town has remained my home town my entire life. Family has always been a priority for me. I’ve never been a socialite but instead always longing to stay home in the evenings. And, as long as I can remember, I’ve always dedicated a piece of my life to music. 
Growing up I played piano. My grandparents bought a small Wurlitzer piano at an auction when I was about five years old. They hauled the small piano in the back of a truck from small town Paris, IL to my home town in Dunlap, IL
During my senior year of high school, I had decided to attend college to study landscape architecture. My grandma asked me why I wasn’t going to college to study music. I told my grandma music was just a hobby.
Not long after that conversation, I enrolled at Indiana Wesleyan University where I’d later finish a degree in music theory and composition. My piano professor there had a profound impact on my life. I’ll cherish her friendship forever.
I started teaching students in 2007 and haven’t stopped since. My path of teaching has been good at times and humbling at other times.


Curwen Music

I’m thankful for a good friend who introduced me to Mrs. Curwen’s Pianoforte Method in 2016. Studying her method has brought new life and energy to my teaching. Her method is so well rounded and has given me a new found confidence for purpose and intention as I desire to open any gateway or path in a child’s mind to find the beauty in music intended to be found by God our Creator.

Monica Watson

My husband, Jesse, myself and three of our four kiddos live in Central Illinois on a small homestead (our eldest son is serving in the United State Marine Corps) where we nurture an ever-changing variety of animals and bees. You’ll often find me tending life and the land as I continue learning and practicing permaculture, appreciating the gift of soil and ecology -the naturalist in me – or, I might be focused on other passions, such as photography and writing. I am also frequently feasting on a helping of mother culture – engrossed in a stack of books, working on a handicraft, or out being a part of the community. I participate in Peoria’s local CM Study Group (A Continuing Conversation), a CM Natural History club, a vibrant and supportive CM Learning Community (Sursum Corda), and help facilitate the local CM Conference. My family and I step forward, every day, living out their Charlotte Mason education, equipping life in the splendor of relational learning that will build and last a lifetime, holding on tight to the peace of life-giving rhythm and atmosphere, and making progress in becoming the whole persons we were made to be.
Poetry Immersion – The Essentiality of Poetry

Have you considered Poetry? It’s importance. It’s purpose. It’s relevance.

The poetic use of words communicates heart to heart, words that connect human experience beyond the bounds of time, words that give voice to the emotion and feeling that “deals with the whole gamut of life”.

Have you considered Poetry? It’s architecture. It’s harmonious melody. It’s transcendence.

The words in verse fall upon the ear with musical rhythm; a cadence stepped out in meter.  Pleasant-sounding prose which carries us along inciting attention and relationship.

Come immerse yourself and learn the why and how of Poetry in the Charlotte Mason paradigm.

Seeing Your Child as a Person Through the Forms – Marcia Mattern & Monica Watson

Charlotte Mason’s first principle “Children are born persons” gives a stepping off point of a child’s whole education.  In this session join Marcia and Monica as they talk through the differences in Forms and how to see your child as person as you move them through the forms.  Specific expectations of each forms will be discussed and time for specific questions will be included.   

Susan Unsicker

Cows, soybeans, corn, chickens, and kids are what surround this midwestern girl.  My day  can include farm chores, canning and selling my garden produce, mowing, schooling two of our four children, farm secretarial duties, and sharing life with husband, Chip.  I keep sane with a strong daily dose of coffee, beef, reading God’s Word and a big side of grace. Our family enjoys working together on our farm, playing games, fishing, and music.  Singing and instrument playing starts at a young age for the Unsickers. Every evening you can hear someone playing an instrument. Dance has just recently been rediscovered  and discovered by myself and our youngest two children respectively.
Folk Dancing

I grew up in a school system that required multiple ethnic dance forms and in high school four years of ballroom dance. “Dancing is the poetry of the foot.” John Dryden So, let’s have some fun and dance!

Melissa King

Hi, I am Melissa.  I live in a small town in Central Illinois where my husband, my four sons, and I serve the Lord, enjoy bike rides, and dabble in urban homesteading.  We have been using the Charlotte Mason method for almost four years, and I currently have two school aged children and two preschoolers.  I enjoy learning and adventuring right alongside my boys, and love how the Charlotte Mason method brings growth, richness, and beauty to our whole family.  We have been blessed to be part of the local CM community including A Continuing Conversation study group, Natural History Club, Nature Walk groups, and this past year, a new Learning Community, where among other things, Vivian and I led science labs.
 Vivian Moon
Growing up in two big cities, I never would have guessed I would be keeping a little homestead right alongside a cornfield, (let alone homeschooling!), but God always has a good plan for us.  My husband Josh and I have been married for 12 wonderful years.  With our three daughters ages 6, 8, and 10, we have been learning to apply Charlotte Mason’s philosophy for the past 5 years, and I am so thankful for the encouragement and guidance I have received from our community. When I am not hiking, biking, or camping with family and friends, you will usually find me working on some kind of project around the house or testing out a new random hobby.
Science Experiments in a Mason Community – Melissa King & Vivian Moon

Mason considered that, “[t]he only sound method of teaching science is to afford a due combination of field or laboratory work, with such literary comments and amplifications as the subject affords.” (Vol 6, p 223)  As with the living books that are used for lessons, there is much that science laboratory experiments do to pique curiosity and inspire awe.  Join us as we explore what laboratory work looks like in a Mason education and how it is possible to facilitate science experiments in a Mason Learning Community.  This session includes a hands-on science laboratory learning experience geared towards Form II students.

Melissa Munaco

My husband, Anthony, and I have been married for 15 years and are parents to three great kiddos – ages 8, 10 and (nearly) 12. After being lifelong Michiganders, our family relocated three years ago to Peoria, Illinois when Anthony took a job at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois. We’ve come to love the smaller city and slightly slower pace of Central Illinois and have been so blessed by the CM community in our area. I first became familiar with a Charlotte Mason Education through the writings of Sally Clarkson and I knew immediately that I had come home, so to speak. Now that our children are entering their middle years, we are beginning to see some of the beautiful fruit that comes from the feast of living and learning the CM way. Aside from embroidery, my interests include current events, nature study and identification, and studying history. I’m an introvert and an old soul who can often be found with my nose in a book, deep in thought, or cooking in the kitchen. 
Immersion on Embroidery Handicrafts

Come stitch with me! New to embroidery? Feeling a little overwhelmed by our embroidery piece? Just want to stitch with others? Join me for this immersion as I teach the basic stitches we’ll need for this piece and offer some tips for embroidery.

Genae Andris

As a public school student and educator, I vowed to never homeschool. Isn’t it funny when we think we have our plans all figured out?? Well God softened my vain and stubborn heart (and I’m so thankful He did!), and now my husband and I work together to raise and teach our 3 beautiful children (Joelle 10, Weston 7, and Ember 6). We live on 5 acres in central Illinois and spend any extra time we have outdoors—playing in the creek, camping, and working on house projects.  I also enjoy drinking copious amounts of coffee and running along the countryside to pray and regain any sanity I’ve lost.
We love the Charlotte Mason way of learning through living, and I’ve been richly blessed by working alongside the Holy Spirit to be my children’s teacher.
PE Immersion with Genae

Come play! It’s time to get your heart rate going and be immersed in some physical education fun as YOU get to be a child again with an all-time favorite—kickball! Join us in the gym for some friendly competition.

Clay Modeling with Unwin: 3 Mom’s Perspective – Genae, Dallas & Marcia

Charlotte Mason suggested clay modeling as an art form that would help with art understanding, narration and observation. Let’s get our hands dirty together as we try for  ourselves the simplicity of Unwin and get inspired to incorporate clay modeling in our school practice.

Ambre Sautter

I am a lifelong conservator of books true, good and beautiful. I love educating others on building home libraries and laughing until my sides hurt with my quirky family. 
Book Repair and Care

In our pursuit of preserving the past for the future- or just keeping young book lovers supplied with a steady stream of great reading materials at home- we often find ourselves in possession of tattered volumes. Some have not been treated kindly by time, others have suffered at the hands of the untrained or accident-prone child. In this workshop we will explore different methods of cleaning and repairing our books. Feel free to bring a troublesome volume to work on or seek advice about. I will be showcasing various tools and supplies for practicing our newly acquired skills.