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AO Advisory

Meet the AmblesideOnline Advisory

The AmblesideOnline Advisory members were asked to serve based on their understanding of Charlotte Mason's vision and their commitment to be extremely selective in choosing the highest quality literature for the curriculum.

The Advisory members are:

Donna-Jean Breckenridge

Lynn Bruce

Wendi Capehart

Karen Glass

Leslie Laurio

Anne White

Donna-Jean Breckenridge lives in northern New Jersey, not far from New York City, where she has lived her entire life--with a notable exception of a few years in Maryland (notable because there she met and married her husband, Bill, and where their eldest daughter spent her first year of life). Donna-Jean comes from a rich legacy of a family of pastors, evangelists, and missionaries--and takes seriously the verse "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required." She herself is a Bible college graduate, with a B.A. in Biblical Literature.

In her childhood and growing-up years, Donna-Jean was exposed to wonderful literature (Heidi and Sara Crewe were revered role models, and Wuthering Heights' Catherine was a dear friend), the language of rich poetry (Elizabeth Barrett Browning--and Robert--were among her favorites, though her English grandmother quoted reams of Wordsworth and Longfellow to her, and a blue-covered anthology she received for Christmas in 6th grade is still treasured, and read to her children today), the musical depth of hymns of faith, the beauty of fine art (she and her best high-school friend discovered Renoir from a set of slides they watched while sipping Earl Grey tea), and--above all--the eternal Word of God, which her parents lived and which her pastor-Dad lovingly explained to her many, many times.

It was her desire to recreate the best parts of that childhood with her own children. When their oldest child was an infant, early in 1986, Donna-Jean read Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's "For the Children's Sake," and found Charlotte Mason, and an educational philosophy that matched her own values. When it was time to consider which school for their daughter (who was at that time their only child), home turned out to be the best choice, so that was where they started.

When oldest daughter Bethany was approaching the high school years, Donna-Jean researched what was available in terms of a Charlotte Mason-styled curriculum plan. Information was quite scarce, as it seemed then that many who followed a Charlotte Mason philosophy switched to other methods and ideologies for the high school years. However, she determined to persevere in the same solid Charlotte Mason principles that had guided them to that point, and she sought to pursue the ideas Charlotte Mason wrote about for the upper grades as well.

Sharing those high school plans with the Charlotte Mason online community brought her to the attention of the House-of-Education planning committee, and eventually to the AO-Advisory. Donna-Jean went ahead and developed her own four-year plan, which is listed on her website. Bethany graduated in 2004. She went to college, worked, and met a Christian young man who was also homeschooled. They married in 2006. The Lord led them into foster parenting, which is richly rewarding. Bethany is also continuing her college studies, as well as teaching at a homeschool co-op. The richness of Bethany's CM education has been a great blessing, and she views it that way.

All of the Breckenridge children have always been homeschooled (and in a Charlotte Mason-styled education). Nathan's learning differences made AO more challenging but also more rewarding; he is now a graduate. He and Hannah, a senior in high school, both used a combination of Donna-Jean's four-year schedule and AmblesideOnline for their curriculum plan, and the entire family is enjoying it and benefiting from it.

A fourth child arrived in September of 2011, his name is Dominique ("Niko"). Bill and Donna-Jean had spent much time focused on the worldwide orphan crisis, and praying about what their family's response should be. Niko had a very hard life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and his adjustment has been difficult. But he is getting used to his new life, and they are forging their relationships together. For now, he is in a small Christian school. It is an adventure incorporating Charlotte Mason's ideas of "an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life" into daily living with their new son.

Along with being a homeschool mom, doting grandma, and occasional public speaker, Donna-Jean has joined her husband Bill to help begin a new church in New Jersey called "Maranatha Fellowship." Donna-Jean enjoys writing as well as speaking, and has just completed work on her first novel, "Sunday Morning."

Being on the AmblesideOnline Advisory has been a great honor for her, and it has enriched her life immeasurably to be blessed by the wisdom and dedication of the women on the Advisory.

Last updated July 2013.

Donna-Jean with her children

Lynn Bruce grew up on a wheat and cattle farm in north central Texas, the daughter of a minister. Her mother, having been a voice major in college, passed along to Lynn early on her love for classical music and traditional hymns sung in acapella harmony, and taught her solfa as a child. Throughout her school years, Lynn's interests included studying classical piano, art, and competing in UIL (University Interscholastic League) Poetry Interpretation and Drama contests. Through these interests she developed a lifelong relationship with great music, art, poetry and literature. She feels all of these early exposures continue to define and enrich her life, and she is grateful to have the opportunity through AmblesideOnline to help make great literature and the fine arts accessible to her own children and many others. Lynn graduated magna cum laude from Texas Tech University with a BS in Education, emphasis in Generic Special Ed (a junior year switch from Fine Arts), and taught briefly in public school.

Lynn's daughter, Caitlin, who spent her school years as one of the first Advisory guinea pigs for AmblesideOnline and House of Education, is happily married and recently earned her master's degree in Creative Writing, summa cum laude, from UTD. Lynn's daughter Claire is currently a senior at UTD, studying to be a professional dance therapist. Justin, the youngest, is beginning his high school studies, and is close to earning Eagle Scout after many years of hard work. He is learning to play bagpipes and also plays, watches, thinks, and dreams baseball.

Lynn was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, and is now in continual treatment for advanced metastatic breast cancer which has spread throughout her bones. She deeply appreciates all the love, support, and faithful prayers of the wonderful AO community, and asks for continued prayers for mercy, courage, grace -- and a cure.

Last updated Oct 2013.

Lynn with her children

Wendi Capehart has been married for over 30 years to the man she fell in love with at 17. They have seven children (plus two unofficial foster boys) both biological and adopted, two sons-in-law (with a 3rd in the works), and five grandchildren, with a sixth on the way.

Wendi has lived in three countries (Canada, the US, and Japan) and a dozen states. During her husband's 20 years in the Air Force, they homeschooled their seven children all over the United States and Asia. After her husband's retirement from the AF, the family settled in one of the Great Lakes States. The children (six girls and one boy) range in age from 15 to 30, including a 25 yo with special needs. This special needs child was born in 1987 and joined Wendi's family in 1992. She is profoundly retarded and does not speak, though she can make a few signs. She also has mild cerebral palsy.

Four of the children have graduated and intend to homeschool their own children. One of her graduates has a degree in history from Purdue University, is married, and has two children with a third on the way. One is married with three children under 3. One is studying library science in college and plans to marry within the year. One is employed at the local airport where she reupholsters airplanes and raises money for mission trips to the Philippines.

The family menagerie has included as many as 3 dogs; six cats; three horses; untallied chickens; 5 ducks; 9 goats, 2 mice, gerbils, and Yertle the Turtle as well as a worm bin, although at the time of this writing the zoo is down to one dog, one horse, one goat, and an unfortunate number of field mice.

Wendi and her family are members of a local Church of Christ, where her husband serves as a Deacon and Wendi helps with interpreting for a Deaf member, which she does very badly.

Wendi began her homeschooling experience in 1988 when her oldest was in first grade. She has always used literature as a core in her curriculum. In her early years of homeschooling, she has used (freely, as she has a very independent personality) Konos and Far Above Rubies as her basic educational material, supplementing it with her own literature choices and assignments. In 1997 she abandoned unit studies and relied exclusively on CM's methods.

She has owned the Charlotte Mason six volume set for almost as long as she's been homeschooling, but didn't actually read the books until 1997, when she found it easier to begin with some of the later books in the series. As she read she found that she'd been implementing some of Mason's methods for years, but was eager to try new ideas. Regular narrations, nature study programs, and more concentrated lessons began finding their way into her homeschooling schedule. Excited by what she was seeing, she delved farther into Charlotte Mason research, and soon found herself helping to develop the AO curriculum.

Her children also enjoy the Charlotte Mason method - much book reading, much learning - and it has been a delight to see how her children's interests wildly vary (everything from Veterinary Science to Art to English Literature) while all still have, or are gaining, a passionate love of learning and the same high standard for what is clear thinking and what is good literature. She and her children have had fun exploring various art museums, and attending multiple concerts.

Wendi enjoys watching K-dramas, studying languages, crossword puzzles, writing, studying nutrition, and reading. In music she has eclectic tastes and enjoys classical, folk, bluegrass, acapella hymns, some of the songs of Simon and Garfunkel, Van Morrison, Styx, and Queen, and K-Pop. Her favorite artists are Renoir, Pissaro, Da Vinci, and Durer. She says that naming her favorite authors is "an impossible dilemma." In random order: Jane Austen; Tolkien; C.S. Lewis; G. K. Chesterton; William Saroyan; Elizabeth Goudge; Stratton-Porter; P.G. Wodehouse; Margery Allingham; Ngaio Marsh; Patricia Wentworth; Josephine Tey; Dorothy Sayers; A. A. Milne; Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch; Charlotte Mason, of course; Charles Dickens; Charles Williams, and George MacDonald.

Wendi has made two contributions to the curriculum that deserve special mention for excellence and foresight. She suggested bringing Donna-Jean and Lynn on board, and she continues to be astonished at her rare display of stellar wisdom.

(The majority of this biographical sketch was compiled by Wendi's oldest daughter, who, at the time of this writing, still had to do the dishes.)

Last updated Aug 2013.

Wendi with her children

Karen Glass has been homeschooling since 1995. After reading a copy of For the Children's Sake that first year, she became a Charlotte Mason-enthusiast and has read the six-volume Original Homeschooling Series several times. This has led to an insatiable interest in educational philosophy, ranging from Plutarch and Quintilian to Ruth Beechick and David Hicks, though Karen says that the more she's studied educational philosophy, the deeper her respect and appreciation for Charlotte Mason has become.

Since 1997, Karen and her husband have been Baptist missionaries in Krakow, Poland. They have three children - Jonathan (1990), Elizabeth (1993), and Katherine (1997), all of whom speak Polish, eat pierogies, and love books.

One of the original visionaries of the idea that became AmblesideOnline, Karen has a broad familiarity with Charlotte Mason 's writings and principles - and with educational philosophies in general - which has made her a valued and respected voice in the Charlotte Mason community. Karen moderates the CMseries email list where she leads studies through Charlotte Mason 's writings, and has written many important articles for various online Charlotte Mason venues. She also publishes Magnanimity, a popular Charlotte Mason and Classical Education e-newsletter devoted to supplying homeschoolers with nourishment for the mind.

Aside from reading as a hobby, Karen likes to do thread crochet (doilies, etc. . .), attempt to grow plants on her balcony, and cook.

Karen maintains a mental list of "lifetime favorite" authors. At the top of the list are Jane Austen, Pearl Buck, Betty Smith, Gene Stratton-Porter, Elizabeth Goudge, and the most recent addition - Jan Karon. She likes to tackle big reading projects, and is attempting to read at least one volume of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Gibbon. Her favorite poet is Emily Dickinson, but she has no favorite artist or composer, and is thankful that other members of the Advisory are so helpful in these areas.

Karen with her children

Leslie Noelani Laurio lives in the southeast in a semi-rural area near the foothills of the Smoky Mountains with her husband, who is a postal clerk, and two of their four children, ages 9-22. She spent her early childhood in Rhode Island and later childhood in Florida before joining the military for a three-year stint that took her to Okinawa and finally to California, where she worked as a postal clerk and met her husband. In 1995 the family moved from the west coast across country sight unseen in order to provide a more rural setting for their children to grow up in. She knew she wanted to homeschool from the time her oldest son was a toddler, when she knew that private school tuition was out of the question. At a homeschool seminar in California, she was introduced to the various approaches to homeschooling and was drawn to Charlotte Mason's gentle approach and emphasis on literature and culture. She read For the Children's Sake and found that CM's approach resonated with her, but she was nervous about trying it without a curriculum. So when her first son started first grade, she used Sonlight. After a year on the cmason email list, she gained the knowledge, confidence and encouragement to rely less on packaged curriculum. She first switched from Sonlight's science text to nature study, then slowly began using more CM-friendly books (with the "less is more" mindset, using more challenging literature, and at a slower pace) and by 1998 was a fully committed CM mom. She is currently homeschooling a son (a guinea pig for AO's Year 12!) and daughter (Year 3). Two of her children are now graduated; one went through college and is now married and looking for work in Boston, and the other is in the Coast Guard and newly married. The CM lifestyle has not only benefited her children, but has inspired her to read literature, develop a love for classical music, and to (someday) learn to play the piano. Although she started as the only Advisory member who had not read the CM series, she went on to not only read it, but summarize and paraphrase it.

As an introvert, Leslie feels most at ease in front of a keyboard and is thrilled to have found a way to help the homeschooling community without having to leave the comfort zone of her computer. She considers it a privilege to be involved in the AmblesideOnline project and an honor to be working with the other members of the Advisory. Leslie's energy, initiative, and ability to bring ideas to reality are indispensable to this project.

The family has attended Calvary Chapel for many years, where her husband has served as an elder and is currently a Board Member; Leslie helps post the church's podcasts. She is an active and enthusiastic member of a local CM co-op/reading group. Among her favorite artists are Albrecht Durer, W. A. Bouguereau and Pre-Raphaelite art, especially J. W. Waterhouse, and she particularly enjoys the music of Chopin, Jackson Browne, and Hawaiian music. Favorite books include Jane Eyre, Northanger Abbey, The Lord of the Rings, Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, King Arthur books, books by George MacDonald, James Herriot, Goethe and the poetry of Tennyson and Sara Teasdale.

Last updated Aug 2013.

Leslie with her children

Anne White found a copy of Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's book For the Childrens' Sake in a church library when their oldest child was about two, and was interested right away in its approach to education and family life. Nature walks and "less twaddle" found their way into the preschool Sunday School class she was teaching--a great preparation for the years of homeschooling that followed!

Anne says, "In the summer of 1999, a Charlotte Mason message board post challenged us to make Charlotte Mason's own volumes our summer reading project. I took up the challenge and spent most of the summer buried in pink and white paperbacks. I also began planning out something as close to the PUS program as I could manage. At the time this curriculum started, we had just begun our first real "CM School Year" with our seven-year-old. Then the CMSeries list announced "The Great Experiment" (which became AmblesideOnline), and the idea of having a whole group sharing the same books, art and music was like a gift from heaven! I decided to join the group and ended up working with the Advisory."

Anne's husband works from home, restoring and selling vintage radios and other electronics, and she enjoys going along on his treasure hunting and thrift shopping trips. Their oldest daughter, homeschooled through grade 9, studied science and math at university and is now working in the financial industry. The middle child has graduated from high school and is also working at a job she enjoys. Their youngest daughter is beginning high school, which means that Anne is now a homeschool retiree. She has recently been "redeeming the time" by writing a book about Charlotte Mason's philosophy, Minds More Awake.

The Whites' faith journey has taken them through several denominations, but for the past few years they have attended a Mennonite Brethren church.

Last updated Aug 2013.

Anne with her daughters

Leslie Smith served on the Advisory during its founding years. She lives in Plano, Texas. Her husband is involved in Songs of Praise, a web-based praise ministry that provides free-use worship music for non-commercial purposes. Leslie homeschooled their three children. Her interest in and knowledge of history, and her ability to find and organize information as well as check details from every angle, were invaluable to the AO project. It was she who coordinated the history portion of the curriculum, fitting book readings into place like a puzzle to make AmblesideOnline's history sequential.

You can learn a little more about Advisory members by taking a peek at some of their favorite children's books.

The Advisory would like to thank Lisa Ector and her daughter for the beautiful figurines! Thank you!!
The crocheted doilies in several of the pictures were made by our own Karen Glass. :-)

Due to time constraints, Advisory members rarely respond to private email queries regarding book substitutions, scheduling, homeschooling, etc. and we rarely review books or curriculum programs (we might make an exception if a free sample/book is provided!) Questions about implementing the curriculum that are directed to Advisory members will not likely receive a response. If you contact us and don't receive a reply within a few days, ask your question on the forum. We have many, many helpful AO moms there who are likely to be able to help you.