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 lives with her family in a four-generation house in northern New Jersey. She comes from a rich legacy 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 degree in Biblical Literature.
In her childhood and growing-up years, Donna-Jean was exposed to wonderful books, the language of rich poetry, the musical depth of hymns of faith, the beauty of fine art, 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 that Charlotte Mason's educational philosophy was the one she and her husband wanted for their homeschool.
When her oldest daughter 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 back then that many who followed a Charlotte Mason philosophy switched to other methods and ideologies for the high school years. However, Donna-Jean determined to persevere in the same solid Charlotte Mason principles that had guided their family to that point.
Donna-Jean went ahead and developed her own four-year plan. Sharing those high school plans with the Charlotte Mason online community brought her to the attention of the House-of-Education planning committee, and she eventually became a part of the AmblesideOnline Advisory.
All four of the Breckenridge children have been homeschooled in a Charlotte Mason-styled education. One is a homeschool mom and also a nursing student, another daughter teaches music in public schools, and one son uses his skill to serve in a non-profit construction ministry. Donna-Jean's youngest son came from an orphanage in Congo in 2011, and he now works full-time. Whether through dealing with trauma, special needs, learning disabilities, foster-adoption, or ESL, Donna-Jean has found Charlotte Mason's "atmosphere, discipline, and life" works in many different situations.
Donna-Jean teaches her beloved grandchildren, narrates books on Audible, and enjoys public speaking. She is also involved in church ministry, and she is actively pursuing several writing projects that she hopes will benefit the AO community.
In August of 2020, Donna-Jean’s husband Bill of 39 years died suddenly. In this altered terrain of her life, she finds comfort in knowing that God is still safe to trust.
Being on the AmblesideOnline Advisory has been one of her life's greatest honors, and she is blessed immeasurably by her relationship to the women of the AO-Advisory.
Donna-Jean is currently working on an annotated, expanded, updated version of H. E. Marshall's This Country of Ours. Volumes 1 and 2, covering two-thirds of the book, are complete.
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.
Last updated Jul 2018. Lynn passed away in February, 2023.
Wendi Capehart has been a Christian since she was 13. She was baptized at a church camp in the mountains. The baptismal was a horse trough full of ice cold water from the snow run off. She loves traveling, and recently served as a missionary in Davao City, Philippines. Her favourite work there was tutoring English conversation with Korean missionaries.
Wendi has lived in four countries (Canada, the US, Japan, and the Philippines) and approximately a dozen states in the U.S.A.
Wendi has 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 21 to 36, including a 32 yo with special needs who lives at home where Wendi is her sole caregiver 24 and 7. She is also bountifully blessed in the grandchild department -- as of this writing, Wendi boasts (and we do mean boasts) 14 absolutely beautiful and brilliant grandchildren 10 years old and younger, with number 15 due any day now. She has also helped to raise and care for two precious godsons, now 13 and 16. She is proud to say that she was present at his birth and was the first person to hold the youngest godson.
As of this writing, all of the grandchildren are home educated (even the babies get their Bible stories, folk songs, hymns and nursery rhymes), with two also attending a Montessori preschool part time.
Wendi began her homeschooling experience in 1988 when her oldest was in first grade. 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.
One of the first books she read about homeschooling was Susan Schaefer Macaulay's book For the Children's Sake. She implemented many of Mason's principles from the start of her homeschooling and continued to study and attempted to apply what she read, however imperfectly, to her homeschool. Excited by what she was seeing, she delved farther into Charlotte Mason research, where she gained remarkable and amazing lifelong friends, and soon found herself helping to develop the AO curriculum.
Having survived childhood trauma herself, Wendi has 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. She has helped single parents homeschool, she has hosted Ukrainian orphans, she has been involved for over a decade in the lives of two beloved godchildren as well. Wendi's work with AmblesideOnline is an extension of her 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, even broken parents.
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, 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. Her current favourite artists include Ando Hiroshige, Hokusai, and William Morris. She says that naming her favorite authors is an impossible dilemma. If you are interested in following her current reading habits, you can find her at Goodreads under WendiWanders.
(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 Feb 2020. Wendi passed away in February, 2022.
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 published 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.
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 retired postal clerk, and the youngest of their four children, a daughter who just completed AO's Year 12. She knew she wanted to homeschool from the time her oldest son was a toddler. 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. Her oldest was a guinea pig for the original version of AO, and her youngest son was a guinea pig for AO's Year 12 in 2013.
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 ran the Little Opera Company of Charlotte before starting a family. Her second son is in the Coast Guard, married to his high school sweetheart. Her youngest son married a homeschool graduate he met when they were extras on the movie set of "Paper Towns." They live in Charlotte and are starting a family. The youngest, a daughter, plays piano, writes, has had leads roles in local musical theatre, and is active on the AO Forum.
The CM lifestyle has not only benefited Leslie's children, but has inspired her to read literature and develop a love for classical music. 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. Among her favorite artists are Durer, Delacroix, Bouguereau, and J. W. Waterhouse. She enjoys 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!
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 Feb 2020.
Anne White found a copy of For the Children's Sake in a church library in 1994. Nature walks and non-twaddle found their way into the preschool Sunday School class she was teaching--and that was prepared the way for the two decades of homeschooling that followed. All three of the Whites' daughters were homeschooled until high school, and the oldest was one of the first students to use the AO curriculum.
Anne 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 AO projects. AO's Canada page is Anne's work as well.
Since her "retirement," Anne has completed her B.Ed. with a focus on adult education. She facilitates a C.M. study group, and also puts words together to share at retreats and conferences. She and her husband enjoy exploring flea markets, watching vintage crime dramas, and listening to jazz and folk music.
Last updated Jan 2021.
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. :-)
To contact the Advisory, email firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.