Moments at AmblesideOnline Camp Meeting 2019

I wrote the following last month. Now that our web hosting company, who shall not be named, has fixed its glitches, however temporary that may be, here you go:

From April 4 -6 I attended the AmblesideOnline (AO) Camp Meeting at Camp Garner Creek in Dickson, Tennessee. I’ve had many thoughts (and plans for blog posts) since that time as I continue to process what I saw and heard there. While I intend to get to each of the talks that I heard and what I took from them, today I want to share not about words but moments that impacted me.

The first is not connected with AO in particular, or my life as a homeschool mom/teacher, but more with my life as a human — emotionally and spiritually. Rather than rewrite the story, I’ll copy here what I shared on Facebook a few weeks ago:

Just before we said goodbye Saturday afternoon. With my red face from sobbing as you will read below.

When I went to the AmblesideOnline retreat last week, I was looking forward to seeing the AO Advisory and Auxiliary members again that I had met previously, as well as meeting many of my online friends again, and some for the first time in person. There were two people that I particularly wanted to meet in person that have been a special encouragement to me in these past few years as a woman, a mother, a teacher, and human being. On the first night of the meeting, I found myself about 4 rows back, house left. The “lanyard people” (AO Advisory, Auxiliary, and special guest speakers for the event) were finding their places in the front row, and there I saw for the first time the back of Cindy Rollins head. Oh, yes, I’d recognize that head of hair anywhere. And then a few minutes later someone was being ushered into our row, being a non-lanyard person, and she sat down in the empty chair to my right. Y’all, it was Angelina Stanford. I cannot tell you how extraordinarily special I felt at that moment. Not that I’m special sitting next to a celebrity of sorts. No, it wasn’t that at all. I felt that God himself was wrapping his arms around me because this was someone I wanted to meet, and of all the 400 people in that room, she was seated next to me on that very first night. I don’t feel special hardly at all, ever. I for the most part feel overlooked. I feel lonely in this world. I feel sad. There are so few people in this world interested in Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. So few honest and humble people. And I often wonder where is God in all this. Is he listening? Does he care? Then I listen to these podcasts where Angelina talks about the stories that she’s passionate about, and I hear her address challenges without guile, and tears come to my eyes because of that lack of guile. Here is someone in this world who does care. I cannot know what supernatural powers were at work for me last week, but I can tell you what I felt, and what I continue to feel about that moment. It was as if Heaven was saying, “We’re listening. We care. Here’s a gift.” Poor Angelina. So innocent. She was just sitting her possibly weary tush down. She had no idea how powerful that moment was going to be for me.

From the AO Camp Meeting booklet

Wendi Capehart is a member of the AmblesideOnline Advisory. She, like the other Advisory, wrote and continue to revise and make better the AO curriculum. Her talk: Of Imagination & Moral Insight, which was given Friday morning, moved me the most of the main talks and continues to stay with me. But that is for another post. What I want to share about now is Wendi standing before the room of 400 later that afternoon to teach us a folk song. I know that Wendi is into folk songs (and all “the riches”), but I can’t recall hearing her sing before. (If she led some songs in 2016 in Dallas, I don’t remember.) Anyhow, she tells us a little about the song (I was familiar with it, thanks to the piano books from my youth) and the value of folk songs, and then tells us that she is not a singer. She is going to sing the first verse and chorus for us, and then we will all join in from the beginning. She promises us it is an “earworm”. Now back to that part about her not being a singer. She starts that first verse, “I love to go a-wandering…” and the most amazing and unique belting voice I have ever heard comes out of her. It’s a folk sound, but definitely not that out-of-control high vibrato of some 60s-type folk singers. No, this is full and husky and just beautiful to me. It was perfect. She may not consider herself a singer, but her heart for the music is loud and clear. And, I’m sorry, Wendi, you are a singer.

On Friday afternoon, we had the only breakout session of the weekend. I chose to go to Naomi Goegan’s Learning with Delight: Preserving Wonder. In the late afternoon, all 400 campers went on nature walks. We had two leaders: Jeannette Tulis and Naomi. Jeannette, a Tennessee resident, was going to focus on wildflowers; I chose to follow Naomi, a California resident who had never been to Tennessee, to the creek. Remember that this post is about moments, and not words, that impacted me. I follow Naomi on Instagram and see all her nature walk pictures with her kids — mostly oceanside pictures, I’ve read her posts and comments on nature study for many years, I’d just been to her class on Wonder, but to watch her as she demonstrated wonder and excitement while discovering the native Tennessee flora and fauna was a bigger lesson to me than all her pictures and previous comments and talks. She is the real genuine deal, and I want to be like her when I grow up.

Saturday morning was “The Progeny Panel”, where the children (all in their 20s and 30s, and all AO graduates) of the Advisory answered questions about their memories of their upbringing and education and the various paths they’ve chosen since graduation. Donna-Jean Breckenridge followed with the last main talk, and again, more about that in another post. Her talk was very good, but what happened at the end made me sob, and sent her message and, really, the whole weekend “on home”. After having heard both her daughters answer questions in the panel earlier, then Donna-Jean sharing about her years as a mother and teacher to those daughters (and her sons), and how she would sing specific songs (she named some titles) to them when they were little, Bethany and Hannah joined her on stage and sang with her:

He is able, I know he’s able. I know my Lord is able to carry me through.

Jesus never fails. Jesus never fails. Heaven and earth may pass away, but Jesus never fails.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

Photo Credit: Mary Jo Tate

It was the most beautiful singing, with lovely, warm harmony. That would have been true with or without the previous messages. But for me, I had just heard words that told me that it will all be okay, “however imperfectly”, it will all be worth it. And then to have those women, both married and one a mother, walk up to that stage and sing the very songs she had spoken about, remembering words that their mother, who I don’t think claims to be a singer, sang to them over and over so many years ago, because she loved them, and she loved the Truth and the Life, and all that really mattered is that they would know that — beyond any grammar, history, science, writing, math lesson that she would teach them — and her heart’s desire was that her daughters would choose to believe and love the Truth. To look up there and see, Boom! Here it is. This is what it’s all about. This is what those lullabies of 20 and 30 years ago were all about. Here was beautiful, musical evidence that all those years of struggling but still believing in a chosen path of education for your child, which so many don’t approve of, will bear fruit. Good fruit. Fruit that will last.


As much as I would like to believe that I’m a Words person, leaning more on the intellectual side of life, it has become evident to me that that is not really so, and probably never was. I am an introvert, and do find energy in alone reading and thinking time, and time with small groups, talking about ideas; I am very attracted to philosophy and learning about how humans think and act, and why they choose to think and act in various ways. But for all that, it is moments, often ones that reflect the genuineness of words spoken by an individual, that really impact me. They move my heart and inspire me to think differently and to be different. Angelina Stanford is a brilliant and passionate talker about literature, and although her smarts definitely got my attention a few years ago, it was the humility I heard in her response to a challenge on a podcast last year that brought tears to my eyes. It wasn’t what she said in response; it was how she said it.

In the Charlotte Mason education world of which I’ve been a part for 14 years, there is talk about Principles and Practices. Some people focus more on the Practices — just tell me what to Do to give my kids a CM education. Many others, including my favorite people, warn that the practices are mostly worthless without understanding the principles behind them. The Principles — they tickle my intellectual side, but they ring true to my heart side, and that is what keeps me planted in this educational philosophy — this life philosophy. “Why are you here?” Charlotte Mason asked one of the students at her teacher’s college. “To learn to teach,” was the response. “No, my dear,” Miss Mason corrected, “you are here to learn to live.”

My favorite CM passage just cannot be quoted enough:

“The question is not, — how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education — but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?”

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