The CMI tribute

The CMI Tribute is designed to honor members of the Charlotte Mason community who have made significant contributions to the advancement of  Mason’s ideas for education.

promoting charlotte mason’s ideas for education

honouring our key individuals

Almost a century after her death, Charlotte Mason’s design for education continues to impact the lives and education of thousands of children. Without the contributions of some key individuals, however, it may well be that Charlotte Mason’s influence would not be felt across the world in our times. The CMI Tribute is designed to recognize such individuals.


Wendi Sue Lord Capehart

Wendi Sue Lord Capehart

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. 

She gathered her ideas from many sources and developed them into one program, a liberal arts approach for all ages. She applied all of her ideas to real children, and then altered her ideas when they didn’t work. I love using real literature for our reading and history. Ideas packaged in literary language seem to just nestle down in our souls and linger. We see good fruit from this method all the time. For example, recently my family vacationed in Washington, D.C. We visited the Supreme Court building. On the west side of the building are two large bronze doors with panels sculpted in bas relief depicting historic scenes in the development of law. One of them shows Lord Coke preventing King James from sitting as a judge. One of my children had recently read that story from Winston Churchill’s History of the English Speaking People. She was excited to see that story on the door. “Oh, it’s Coke!” she said. “I’m so glad. I just read about him and I didn’t think he was very well known. He should be.” Miss Mason says that education is the science of relations, and my daughter certainly has developed a connection with Lord Coke based on her reading. I don’t recall ever feeling such a personal interest in the people I read about in my history textbooks. 

On other occasions my children have demonstrated similar connections of the heart. Two small people at our house pulled out an old washtub and put it in the grass once, telling me it was their ship and they were afloat. This was not very long after reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s wonderful poem ‘Three of us afloat in the meadow by the swing.’ On yet another occasion one of our fourth graders told us that an adult Sunday School class on Romans reminded her of Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities, because both books showed how dangerously destructive gossip is. Still another child told us that walking through our woods made him feel like he was in the Big Woods with Laura Ingalls. Our household of nine is peopled by fallen sinners, and every moment of every day is not sweetness and light. Nevertheless, I could fill pages with the ways that Miss Mason’s methods, ideas, suggestions, and philosophies have blessed our lives.

On page 231 of her book Towards a Philosophy of Education, Miss Mason says that we should communicate to our children the beauty and truth of mathematics. They should understand that it is a “great thing to be brought into the presence of a law, of a whole system of laws, that exist without our concurrence,--that two straight lines cannot enclose a space is a fact which we can perceive, state, and act upon but cannot in any wise alter…” and this “should give to children the sense of limitation which is wholesome for all of us, and inspire that sursum corda which we should hear in all natural law.” 

Sursum Corda is the name of a particular versicle (a response exchange, whereby there is a short verse the minister recites and gives response for the congregation’s reply). So Sursum Corda refers to the portion of the service when the minister says to the church “Lift up your hearts” and the congregation responds “We lift them to the Lord.” 

Miss Mason is pointing out that all natural law is God’s law, and is part of God’s voice to us. Whenever we learn of one of God’s natural laws, whether it be that two and two make four and never three or five, or that apples fall down and not up, or that all things reproduce after their own kind, or that a blade of grass produces food from sunlight in a process we now call photosynthesis--it should be to us as though that natural law were the voice of God (which it is) saying to us “Lift up your hearts,” and we should feel our hearts naturally, gratefully, and willingly responding to the voice of God in affirmation--”We lift them up to the Lord.” 

Miss Mason also believed that the very best educational methods would also follow some natural laws or principles, and she based her method upon her understanding of those principles. For my part, ever since I first ‘met’ Miss Mason in the pages of For the Children’s Sake, I have been hearing her say Sursum Corda, and I have been gratefully responding “We lift them up to the Lord.


Caroll Smith

Caroll Smith

Over the past two decades, Dr. Carroll Smith has shaped the Charlotte Mason movement in countless ways.

He completed his doctoral studies on Charlotte Mason with a dissertation titled Charlotte Mason: An Introductory Analysis of Her Educational Theories and Practices and has since added numerous areas of related study to his knowledge, insight, and critique of Mason’s design for education.

He founded the Charlotte Mason Institute (formerly ChildLight USA) and, beginning in 2005, he and his wife Andra began organizing and hosting the Charlotte Mason Institute Annual Conference, now in its 17th year, creating a relational space for deep and honest conversations around Mason’s ideas. Thousands of educators (over 2000 have attended over the years)—home educators, classroom teachers, and school administrators—have been influenced by the relationships and content they explored and shared at the CMI conferences. Dr. Smith has offered plenaries, workshops, and practice sessions on a wide variety of topics such as Narration, Mason in the 21st century, Dualism in Education, Living Books, and more.

Dr. Smith was also granted research support through the Canadian government from the Humanities and Social Science Research Council of Canada, towards a two year project from 2009-2011 of Charlotte Mason Collection Digitization at Armitt Museum, now housed at Redeemer University.

He has been appointed by CMI and the University of Cumbria as a Visiting Research Fellow in Charlotte Mason Studies from 2020 to 2025. He is also serving as the 2021 Scholar-in-Residence in Charlotte Mason Studies at the University of Cumbria where he is working on a project analyzing the letters of Charlotte Mason.

During his residency and the following eighteen months he plans to complete a monograph on the letters of Mason to Henrietta Franklin and a book of Mason’s letters, completed in collaboration with previous CMI Tribute recipient, Dr. John Thorley, former principal of the Charlotte Mason College. He hopes these projects will enhance understanding about women in leadership; about Mason’s biography and the influence of relationships on her educational thought; and about the applicability of Mason’s design for education today.

Throughout all of his efforts, Dr. Smith has worked tirelessly for the children’s sake and for the sake of all teachers and students in every setting. He is generous with his time, his energy, his devotion to spreading Mason’s life-changing ideas—the fruit of which will be seen in the decades and perhaps even centuries to come.


Dr. Carroll Smith was introduced to Charlotte Mason many years ago through Mason’s book An Essay Towards a Philosophy of Education.  From there the seeds of ideas given by Mason in her various books have slowly taken hold and have grown year by year as Carroll worked as a middle school teacher, a principal and a college professor in both public settings and Mason-inspired schools.  He founded the educational nonprofit, The Charlotte Mason Institute, to promote the educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason and cherishes the relationships that have gown over the years through a collective camaraderie with people interested in seeing education from a very different paradigm. He enjoys reading, gardening and discussing ideas with friends.  He and his wife, Andra live in Roanoke, VA, and also enjoy visiting their granddaughter, Lily, in the UK.