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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 Texas, the daughter of a minister. Lynn’s mother was a voice major in college and raised her children singing. From her, Lynn learned to love solfa, opera, and traditional hymns sung in acapella four-part harmony. Lynn's interests in her school years included piano, art, and competing at UIL Poetry Interpretation and Drama contests. Through these early exposures, Lynn developed lifelong relationships with fine arts and great literature which continue to enrich her life. Lynn graduated magna cum laude from Texas Tech University with a BS in Education and taught special ed in public school for a time. She began studying Charlotte Mason’s writings in 1995.

Lynn's daughter Caitlin Beauchamp grew up as one of the first Advisory guinea pigs for AmblesideOnline. Caitlin earned a master's degree in Creative Writing, summa cum laude, from the University of Texas at Dallas. She and her husband Dan have two small children. Caitlin is a writer and a regular contributor to Afterthoughts (the blog of AO Auxiliary member Brandi Vencel). Lynn's daughter Claire studied at UTD as well and is a freelance multi-media artist. Her son Justin is a recent high school graduate and an Eagle Scout. He is currently pursuing a Business degree in Sports Management. Lynn and her husband Dan live in Dallas, Texas, where he practices law.

Since 2007, Lynn has been living with advanced metastatic breast cancer and is in continuous treatment. She deeply appreciates the love, support, and prayers of the AO community. Lynn is now retired from her homeschooling years and is enjoying more time to write, create, love on her people and enjoy her grandchildren. She treasures the wonderful relationships and opportunities the Lord has granted her through her work with AmblesideOnline.

Lynn is @lynnlouisepb on Instagram.

Last updated Jul 2018.

Lynn with her children

Wendi Capehart and her husband Bill are currently serving as missionaries with an international Christian school in Davao City, Philippines. She has been a Christian since she was 13. She was baptized at church camp in a horse trough of ice water. She has been married since 1982 to Bill.

They have seven wonderful adult children (both biological and adopted), and four delightful sons-in-law. The "children" (six girls and one boy) range in age from 20 to 34, including a 30 yo with special needs. The Capeharts are also bountifully blessed in the grandchild department -- as of this writing, they boast 14 absolutely beautiful and brilliant grandchildren 8 years old and younger.

Wendi has lived in four countries (Canada, the US, Japan, and the Philippines) and approximately dozen states in the U.S.A. She started homeschooling her first two children in 1988. She homeschooled all seven children through high school, although the youngest also attended a public and then a private school part-time his last two years of high school in order to play sports. He graduated in 2017.

As of this writing, all of the grandchildren are home educated (even the babies get their Bible stories, folk songs, hymns and nursery rhymes).

Wendi began her homeschooling experience in 1988 when her oldest was in first grade. One of the first books she read about homeschooling was Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's book For the Children's Sake.

Excited by what she was seeing, she delved farther into Charlotte Mason research, and soon found herself helping to develop the AO curriculum.

Having survived the trauma of neglect, broken homes, or abuse themselves, Bill and Wendi have always shared an interest in the practice of hospitality especially with a focus on the fatherless and survivors of trauma, for those in the margins. They have helped single parents homeschool, they have hosted Ukrainian orphans, they have been involved for over a decade in the lives of two beloved godchildren as well. Wendi's work with AmblesideOnline has been supported both emotionally and often financially by Bill as an extension of their strong belief that God loves and cares for every child, the whole child, body, spirit, heart, and mind, and this form of education is uniquely healing and brings special blessings to all involved.

Apart from her interests in all things related to Charlotte Mason and education, Wendi also enjoys watching K-dramas, studying culture and languages (Visaya, Spanish, ASL, and some Korean), crossword puzzles, writing, studying nutrition, and reading, particularly mysteries. She started crocheting just a couple years ago and quickly became addicted to amigurumi. 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 (Big Bang is a favourite). Her favorite artists are Renoir,, 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; Alan Bradley's Flavia De Luce mysteries; A. A. Milne; Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch; Charlotte Mason, of course; Charles Dickens; Charles Williams, and George MacDonald.

(Parts of this biographical sketch were compiled by Wendi's oldest daughter, who was still living at home at the time, and who is responsible for getting a large part of Volume 1 of the six volume series typed and online)

Last updated Jul 2018.

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 the youngest of their four children, who are ages 13-27. 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 realized 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 oldest 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 her daughter using AO's combo "Years 7-8-9 in Two Years." Her three sons are now graduated. Her oldest was a guinea pig for the original version of AO, and her youngest son was a guinea pig for AO's recent Year 12. What are her children doing now? Her son Tim graduated from a liberal arts college on a National Merit-based scholarship. He is married to an AO graduate and they live in Charlotte, where they run the Little Opera Company of Charlotte. Her second son is in the Coast Guard, married to a homeschool graduate who was his high school sweetheart. They have two dogs and three cats. Her youngest son recently married a homeschool graduate he met when they were extras on the movie set of "Paper Towns." They live in Charlotte and have two kittens. The youngest, a daughter, is a proficient pianist and loves co-writing with other AO students on the AO Forum.

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, and distill CM's method into 699 words. She has also summarized Gatty's Parables of Nature and Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies for the AmblesideOnline community, and she is the voice behind AO's "Patio Chats," a 36-week CM primer in short emailed snippets. Leslie is also part of the Prov.en.der Collectif, which seeks to bring CM as a way of life to teachers and parents through person-to-person mentoring and intimate regional retreats.

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 Durer, Delacroix, Bouguereau, Jessie Wilcox Smith, Norman Rockwell, and Pre-Raphaelite art, especially J. W. Waterhouse. She enjoys Hawaiian music and the works of Beethoven, Schumann, Liszt . . . but, to be perfectly honest, when she isn't listening to WDAV's classical streaming radio, she's listening to Chopin, especially his Nocturnes, Polonaises and Ballades. This is quite a change for someone who, as a teen, listened almost exclusively to Jackson Browne and couldn't tolerate classical music. Blame Charlotte Mason! Favorite books include Jane Eyre, Northanger Abbey, Ivanhoe, Waverley, The Brothers Karamazov, Democracy in America, King Arthur, C.S. Lewis, and Descartes. She loves small things and is proud of her collection of pocket-sized classic books (unabridged!) and small functional stainless spoons. Her life ambitions are to see the Parthenon, put violets on Chopin's grave in Paris, implement some sort of minimal exercise program, and understand Philosophy Explained by Donuts.

As an introvert, Leslie feels most at ease behind 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 could not work with AO were it not for her husband, who considers AmblesideOnline their family ministry (and did not complain during the years when AO's website host came out of his pocket . . .) 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 who are not only her dear friends, but also trusted Christian mentors. Leslie's energy, initiative, and ability to bring ideas to reality are indispensable to this project.

Last updated Aug 2017.

Leslie with her children

Anne White found a copy of For the Childrens' Sake in a church library in 1994. Nature walks and non-twaddle found their way into the preschool Sunday School class she was teaching--a great preparation for the two decades of homeschooling that followed. She became a member of the Advisory during the early days of of the curriculum, and helped develop the upper years. She also discovered an affinity for Plutarch's Lives, and began writing study notes that became one of her favourite ongoing projects. She is also the author of Minds More Awake: The Vision of Charlotte Mason.

All of the Whites' three daughters were homeschooled until high school. Two of them are now living and working on their own; the youngest is completing high school and exploring future plans. Since her "retirement," Anne spends time volunteering at a thrift store, and is pursuing a degree in adult education.

Anne's husband works from home, restoring vintage radios and other electronics.

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 Jul 2018.

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.