Wendi Sue Lord Capehart of West Lafayette, Indiana lived from 1963 to 2022. She is mother to seven children, all homeschooled, and 16 grandchildren. Wendi was the co-founder and co-creator of AmblesideOnline, one of the very first Charlotte Mason curriculums available in this second wave of interest in Mason’s philosophy which started to bloom again first in the United States and then across the globe in the past several decades. As one of our CMI board members recalls, she also dedicated so much personal time to responding to emails and other online forums. Her responses were not brief–she spent countless hours encouraging and guiding other homeschool moms. Her gracious and loving mentorship of many young mothers throughout her life will have lasting impact. Others also remember her “dogged research,” her blog, wise interactions over email groups, and insight in many online spaces. Wendi’s presence at CMI and other conferences over the years encouraged speakers and attendees as well. While her online presence and work creating and curating AmblesideOnline is perhaps the most well known, one contribution we remember her for at CMI is a lovely article which she wrote for the inaugural issue of the Charlotte Mason Education Review which was published for several years beginning in 2007. We are honored to posthumously award the CMI 2022 Tribute to Wendi Sue Lord Capehart and to do so we are republishing her article from 2007 titled “Sursum Corda for Charlotte Mason.”
Sursum Corda for Charlotte Mason
My first introduction to Charlotte Mason was in 1988 through Susan Schaeffer MacAulay’s For the Children’s Sake. We immediately applied most of the ideas I found there to our home school. We sang together, read living books together, learned poetry, listened to classical music, used portions of real books for copywork, and had picture study. It was lovely, though perhaps somewhat of a scattergun approach. It was a few years later before I finally read all of Miss Mason’s books for myself. Once I did, our methods and practices came together in a dazzling and delightful improvement in our approach. Rather than scattergun, we now had a more unified and intricately connected approach. Miss Mason’s books seem hard at first, but a friend of mine offered a really helpful insight on this: she said that what we read today generally has one meaningful or practical idea per page at best--sometimes there is only one real idea per chapter. The rest of the material is fluff, padding, and chatty stuff to coast us gently along from one idea to the next idea, chapters a part. This has made us lazy readers.
Charlotte Mason, in common with most authors before television reducated our attention span to about 15 minutes, densely packed their ideas to the page. Every sentence, just about,is something you have to think about. We aren’t used to doing so much thinking in our reading, so we think Miss Mason’s books are hard to read. Once I adjusted my expectations and got down to work at understanding what I was reading, I had a much easier time of it. I like this approach and it seems tailor-made for my family, because, probably, I already loved books, and this is a literature based approach. I like Miss Mason’s methods also because I have seen such rich fruit from them. I love incorporating art, classical music, hymns, folk songs, poetry, and nature study into our everyday lives.
I agree with what Miss Mason had to say about the importance of teaching good habits to our children very early. I agree with her when she talks about the importance of reading finely crafted literature, not just goody two shoes books for girls and sword buckling adventures for boys. I don’t always agree with her, but I do agree with her more than I disagree with her. Because Charlotte was unmarried, childless, and living 100 years ago, some of her ideas are not as practical as I might like. But because she was unmarried and childless she had far more hours than I do to read, think, study, read some more, and then refine her thinking.