As some of you know, I recently was BLESSED beyond belief to attend the Brave Writer Retreat in Cincinnati, Ohio. Having been a Brave Writer fan since the beginning of our homeschool journey, I knew that this would not be like any other conference or homeschool event out there. However, I was completely unprepared for the depth of heart-work that would happen there (and afterwards!), the friendships that would blossom, and the emotional exhaustion I would feel for DAYS afterward. I knew getting away would be great for me, but had no idea how strange and emotional my “re-entry” into regular everyday life would really be.
Here it is days after the Brave Writer retreat, and I am only now feeling brave enough to try to get my thoughts into something resembling coherence. I thought I’d give a little review and some of my big take-aways from this retreat.
I knew when Julie announced this retreat that I would HAVE to go. I didn’t have the opportunity to go to the first Brave Writer retreat two years ago, and was not going to miss this one! However, at the time when registration opened for the Brave Writer retreat, the exchange rate on the Canadian/US Dollar was NOT in my favour. Also, my husband’s office was going through some transitional stuff and his hours had reduced a little. The retreat would just be impossible to manage. I was disappointed, but tried not to let it get to me too much.
One day, in a small Facebook group of Brave Mamas, a discussion came up about the retreat and consequently I was gifted a registration ticket to the Brave Writer retreat – and another friend offered up the second bed in her hotel room. The stars had aligned, and through the power of amazing kindness from two women I only knew online, I would indeed be making it to the retreat after all.
I can’t even put into words what that felt like. To be so loved and cared about by friends I had made in this Brave Community, that I would get to do something that was SO important to me. I knew that this would be a great get-away for myself to refresh and refocus. I also knew that one of Julie’s keynote speeches would be on Charlotte Mason in the 21st Century – all of the speakers and topics sounded amazing, but THIS is the one I really needed to hear.
What I Hoped To Get From The Brave Writer Retreat
Going in to the retreat, I really knew I needed the time away. I knew I needed to hear Julie Bogart’s keynote speech. I knew I was going to get to spend time with a group of women who inspire me, encourage me, and hold space with me every single day in an online community.
As a Charlotte Mason homeschooler who doesn’t always fit the mold, and tends to buck some of the more typical Charlotte Mason stuff – I couldn’t wait to hear Julie speak about bringing Miss Mason into the world and time in which we live right now. I had been having a bit of a hard time recently with this idea and have felt a bit out of place, outcast, in the online CM community. While we all KNOW we can run our homeschools however we see fit for our families, it IS nice sometimes to feel like you have a group of women who are of a similar mindset about things. I haven’t felt that recently, and really went to this retreat hoping to find encouragement to keep on keeping on.
What I Got From This Retreat
Here is where my thoughts may be a little more scattered, even days into my return home. What I went in hoping to get from this retreat – I did indeed receive. Julie’s keynote was on point, and really affirmed a lot of what I had already been feeling in the last few weeks. I am who I am, my kids are who they are, and MY family does not fit the typical image of a Charlotte Mason family. And just as I knew I would hear, it is TOTALLY OKAY! This isn’t rocket science, and should come without question – – but it was precisely what I needed to hear.
“Charlotte is awesome – but she is NOT more awesome than YOU” – Julie Bogart
I have a post in draft that is going to go into this in more detail, but when Julie talked of Miss Mason being a revolutionary in her time, and then said “She’s not the final word, take what you know and create your OWN vision”. If I hadn’t just come off of a two day drive, dropped my bags at the hotel, and walked straight into this keynote – you would have heard me HALLELUJAH from the back of the room. THIS is what I needed to hear. THIS was my biggest takeaway from the talks at the retreat. The method was progressive when it was created, so why are we STOPPING the progression? Why are we trying to keep it what it was 100+ years ago? I wrote about this in a recent post, but never could quite get my thoughts right on this – you can read it here: Charlotte Mason Curriculum (Do You Really Need One?)
The inspiration and confidence that I received from that ONE talk, that ONE idea, was far beyond what I ever expected to get there at the retreat.
The Unexpected Gifts From The Brave Writer Retreat
- Deep, sometimes painful, heart work. I went in to some very painful places in my time at this retreat, but always knew that I was in the safest place possible to do so. I had the support of mamas who, like me, were also going into the big feels and getting to the heart of things in their homeschools and families. I also went into place of sheer joy and positivity as I reframed and refocused my vision for my homeschool.
- The friendships that I had started in a small online community, blossomed and deepened in the short time we were all together at the retreat. I know that the women I met – from all over the US and Canada, from different kinds of families, and with all sorts of beliefs and values – will be friends and colleagues on this journey with me for the long haul. When I came home to my real, day to day life, I found myself missing these ladies an awful lot!
- I didn’t expect the return home to be so difficult. To be so wrought with raw emotion, unsettled feelings, and even some moments of fear. Moments of being afraid that I won’t be able to follow through on the changes I wanted to make. It has literally taken me DAYS and days to get back to “normal”, and even my “normal” doesn’t feel quite what it did before I left. That’s scary!
- I didn’t think I would be able to cope with my anxiety disorder. I’ve posted about this (you can read some more here: Homeschooling With Anxiety) and I was terrified that I would not be able to make the drive, in the US, by myself for the first time ever. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to walk into a room of 150 women I didn’t know. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to cope with being away from my kids and my partner for that long. But I DID! I did all of those things! I was able to find time where I could sit quietly and listen, or join in when I felt comfortable. I sometimes feel like an oddball for having anxiety (and most of it is social anxiety), but I was in a safe and warm place where I could both honour my limits AND choose to stretch them when I felt like it.
So here we are, and I am finally starting to come out of the haze and getting my focus back. I am SO thrilled to have had such a great experience. I even had a small bucket list of “Canadian Tourist in America Things To Do” – and I accomplished them all! Silly as it may be, sometimes as a Mom you don’t always get to make a vacation All About YOU! And this week on my own, I got to do the things I wanted to do: eat at IHOP, go to Target, go to Panera Bread, eat something American, and hit up Hobby Lobby. I didn’t have to do anything except what I wanted to do – and leaving Ohio, I turned to my road trip buddy and said “Man, I did all the things I wanted to do, I got all I wanted to get out of the retreat itself, and had a blissful time making new friends. This was a SUCCESS!”
I drove 2600kms, fought my anxiety disorder, did things I never thought I could do, made friends for life, and learned some deep truths about myself, my family and my homeschool.
And I would do it all again tomorrow!