Memory Work

Colorado Retreat, CMER Part II

So I went to Colorado to a retreat. The place was called The Hideaway, and the name it’s perfect. It was a hideaway in the Coloradan mountains, a place of peace and vitality, comfort, a balm for the always cleaning, cooking, doing mom. Talking about retreats with someone who is about to embark in preparing one, I could tell her that the place makes up for a good part of the overall experience. Our retreat in Texas was needy of a better place. They had to change our lodgings, and the place ended up being too small. The Hideaway exuded an inviting and intimate atmosphere. There were small details that will be taken into account should we repeat the experience, but we can safely declare the place a winner.

Those are the binders and snacks. According to Dawn, buying the snacks was by far the most stressful part of organizing the retreat, ha! I believe the schedule, binder, and your facilitator (ours was Dawn), play also a key role in the retreat. We all have so varied experiences that we need to rely on different ways to get the rhythm and flow of the retreat. Dawn was there for us all.

Dawn also spend many hours placing the presentations and allocating the times in the best possible order. Again, there’s always little details that can be perfected, but in the surveys, a great majority was pleased with the installation and the content and tone of the retreat. That’s because we were enveloped in prayer, and those preparing and most specially, those participating, made it all something bigger than the sum of each of us individuals.

I didn’t take as many pictures as I thought I would. I hope you can get an idea through these few. The dinning and bistro area were the first thing you found, divided by a small wall that was a chimney on the bistro side. Do you see the beautiful windows? The view is priceless. The mountains in all their splendor.

Coffee, tea, water at all times!

The Hideaway has different rooms for the presentations with all of us, and other rooms and hallways for private conversations or just for some rest. A dividing library hallway room (I need to come back to just photograph that area) that took us to our bedrooms, with wooden shelves and books, and on the other side of the bookshelves a nice table where some lovely items were sold (aka, more books, nature journals, art prints for our art studies).

Once we all had registered and received our binders and nature journals, we had dinner and we got together for the first time to be welcome, to hear about the retreat, and to listen to our first presenter,Jennifer Taylor, with her presentation How Full Is The Life? Living Education and Becoming Fully Human. It was education podcast quality, very inspiring, beautifully philosophical and theological, Charlotte Mason grounded, a wonderful flow of ideas that sustain our practices. I believe we all will make our presentations available to you. I yet have to convince Jennifer to record hers. It was a gift to hear her present and lead us in hymn, prayer, and folk song singing. She is a remarkable woman, wonderful writer (as she was described by some of the attending ladies). She is responsible for the CM community in her side of Colorado.

And then there’s Dawn. I should tell you this woman has a beautiful and tender sense of humor. She is a natural presenter and conductor, and host. I cannot describe Dawn. One needs to MEET Dawn to get that shower of modesty, wisdom, and healthy laughter. Oh, I forgot, she is the most beautiful and witty story teller I’ve ever met. And she gets it, I believe, from her dad. Dawn explained to us that we will be getting a good grounding on the whys that drives the hows. She promised, and Jennifer delivered.

Hidden among the whys so beautifully presented, were some hows (hymn and folk singing). In the plane, at home, I found myself singing the hymn. Only a few times and some stanzas were already memorized and tucked in my heart. Someone asked about the place of memorization in a CM education, I plan to make a composed and informed answer, but for now, I’ll leave it at this, one needs to LOVE and have a relationship with that to be memorized. The decisions on what to memorize cannot be imposed by us the teacher. Initially one can model it, gently suggest it, but it has to be rooted in our love for that to be committed to memory.

I’m not that good at specifics, at details. It may be my Myers Briggs personality (ENFJ), or my incurable randomness. It may be that once I read Dorothy Sayers and I decided not to reduce my life to problems to be solved, but a poem to be sung and lived. There’s value in being able to follow up processes and ways, but others do more justice to those type of posts. Later, I will try to find those posts by those who are specific, so that we can all look to get inspiration (never to compare), and find the best way to add this practice into our homes or to improve it.

I have to share this quote that has to do with memorization, from the book Daughters of the Samurai by Nimura.

By the end of her second year at Miss Stephenson’s, Ume was at the top of her class, covered with glory at the school’s second annual commencement ceremony, the news of which had reached Sutematsu and the Bacons in Colebrook. “A large number of premiums were distributed, and it will surprise the public to learn that not less than four of them were received by the young Japanese, Miss Ume Tsuda, for composition, writing, arithmetic and deportment,” the Daily National Republican announced. “And it may be stated here that, at a previous examination of the class in elocution, while the remainder of the pupils read their pieces from a book, this child recited hers from memory, without making a single mistake, and her piece was the White-footed Deer, by Bryant.”

At eighteen stanzas, William Cullen Bryant’s ballad was indeed a feat of memorization for a nine-year-old. Proud of his charge, Charles Lanman wrote to the poet himself of Ulme’s triumph. “If there is any merit in my poem,” Bryant replied, “it consists in the spirit of humanity towards the inferior animals which it inculcates. She may forget the poetry, such as it is; but the lesson, I hope, will not be forgotten.” Ume’s accomplishments, commented another newspaper, “would imply that there is a live Yankee element in the Oriental mind.” 

pg. 118

Memorization was also advocated by Charlotte Mason. While some philosophies presented as external, the difference for CM would be that it comes from the inside. It can, like everything, be nurtured and learned, but any memorization that is imposed, or disconnected important facts, will not move from short term into long term. As I learned too, singing a hymn, reciting a poem frequently, will do the work of learning it by heart (isn’t that a beautiful way of calling memorization?) I’m sure someone at CIRCE has a podcast on it! Oh, it looks like I’m doing that “more detailed” (my version of more detailed) post on memory. CIRCE has not one, but several podcast on memory. I loved Jenny Rallens one entitled, On Why and How Memory cultivates Virtue.

Are you still mulling the quote from the book? I am! Listen to the poet. One can forget the poem, but not the message. May that which you commit to memory be something full of ideas. Oh!, Jennifer said that, in memory, the facts are immersed in ideas, not detached from them and externally imposed.

I see children with a thirst for memorizing that which they find beautiful. Some friends have children who live and breath Shakespeare, epic poems, parts of speeches, Bible verses -and chapters-, but not because mom has forced them to do so, but because they thrive and bask in the beautiful ways our poets say important things, and also the most common things, which are in essence the most important ones.

Many men and women, in times of torture, have found their only substance in His Words, just by reciting and singing to themselves all they remembered from the Scriptures.

Let the comfort and healing act of repetition of that which is beautiful, noble, and true, be what shapes your heart and takes possession of your mind and your whole being.

This ‘covered’ Friday and a question we were asked on Saturday. More to come. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned (if you so wish).

PS: If you or someone you know, has posts on memorizing, or any good information on how this may look in our homes, please share them in the comments, or send me an email. Thanks.


12 thoughts on “Colorado Retreat, CMER Part II”

  1. I LOVE that podcast by Jenny Rallens. I have listened to it three times (so far), and I feel like I'm just starting to find the edges of some of her ideas. They are so deep and rich that it's hard to get a good grasp on them.


  2. Is this an annual thing? I am in Colorado and would love to participate in something like this. I don't have any like-minded homeschooling Mom's in my area, so this would be a wonderful experience.


  3. Mariah,

    It MAY become an annual thing. We are all very committed to make this happen again. If you subscribe to the CMER blog, here,, you'll receive updates on future retreats, and other valuable information (maybe how to connect with other ladies who homeschool in Colorado, inspired by Charlotte Mason).

    Thanks for your interest.


  4. I love that Jenny Rallens talk! BTW, have you read her article in the recent CIRCE magazine? It took my breath away.

    And your location looks absolutely fantastic! How did you manage to find it?

    Thanks again for these posts!


  5. Amber,
    I see many of you with your newly received CIRCE magazines… “I want one!”

    The location, we were just blessed to have Dawn who knew about it, visited the site, and knew it was in sync with her idea of the retreat.

    It takes a bit of scouting the area, I guess.

    We were unfortunate with our Texas location. But, should we do it again, I now KNOW the perfect place thanks to another retreat with ladies from church.


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