We have a partner relationship with Ambleside Schools International (ASI), from whom we derive our curriculum. The curriculum has been carefully selected by experts in the application of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education with and is evaluated, supplemented, and improved each year through a collaborative effort of all member schools. The following information comes directly from Ambleside Schools International.
The Ambleside curricula is comprised of skill-based (disciplinary) and content-based (inspirational) instruction. These are not mutually exclusive forms of instruction—each discipline is infused with inspiration; each inspiration requires its discipline. Disciplinary and inspirational instruction work in tandem, enlivening students’ rigorous engagement with ideas and natural growth in knowledge.
Curricula consist primarily of living books, narratives. These nourish the mind, allowing it to assimilate information and gain knowledge. Some are classics that stand the test of time; others feature beautiful language, universal themes, rich characters, or intricate plots. Still others offer disciplinary information in an inspirational, accessible format.
The Ambleside curricula provides:
– a wide and varied course of study.
– an alternating weekly plan for skill development and content mastery.
– exposure to knowledge that is vital, fruitful, interesting, and idea-rich.
– books characterized as representing “the best thought of the best writers.”
– materials that aid in understanding and exploring, without diluting, the discipline.
– grade level sequences for core subjects, among them mathematics, grammar, composition, and phonics.
– grade level sequences for inspirational subjects, among them citizenship and science.
– science observations and experiments correlated with science texts.
– handwork projects and picture study reproductions.
– abbreviated versions of Shakespeare’s plays.
Ambleside covers 16 subjects a week because our philosophy is to spread a rich feast, to offer many avenues for learning, and to allow the mind of the child to appropriate knowledge. Subjects are taught in short lessons so that the habit of attention can be developed. Poetry, literature, phonics, read aloud, dictation, composition and grammar might, in another school, be grouped under Language Arts. In the same way, world and American history, citizenship, geography might all be grouped under Social Studies. We teach these subjects separately because we are committed to having short lessons (to cultivate the habit of attention) and frequent change (a change is as good as a rest).
Teachers at Ambleside must have a daily commitment to Jesus Christ, and must be creative, thoughtful, engaged learners with broad interests and educational knowledge. Teachers who thrive at Ambleside enjoy ideas, read regularly, and are passionate about our philosophy and willing to adapt old ways of teaching to a challenging approach. We value experience with teaching children, graduate education, and we require at least an undergraduate degree.
Actually, we give more than grades at Ambleside. Our students receive an extensive written evaluation of their academic as well as their character development twice a year. In addition to weekly assessments in math and grammar, twice yearly our students have week-long essay exam periods that are an important educational evaluative tool at Ambleside. The reports of progress and the exams are further supplemented by parent teacher conferences where the parents and teachers discuss strong and weak areas and strategize on ways to partner and improve the whole student. Our goal is for students to be engaged learners, more interested in gaining knowledge than in getting a grade or besting a classmate. We have found that greater understanding and learning happens when our students search their papers for teachers’ comments rather than glance at a grade and feel self-satisfied or discouraged. We would rather put before our students the challenge of doing their best work, than the contentment of just getting the grade they wanted. In our classrooms students rarely ask, “Do we need to know this?” They simply apply themselves to learning.
A philosophy is simply a set of answers to questions. In reality, all schools follow some philosophy, even if it is “we do what we want”, or “we do a little of this and a little of that”. Most cannot articulate a philosophy, but use a materialist/behaviorist approach that attempts to manipulate children into learning. The philosophy to which Ambleside adheres is cohesive and consistent with a Biblical view of the child. It has been extensively applied in real life with thousands of children and has proved to be both practical and profound. We know of no other philosophy of education that is so consistent with a Christ-centered worldview, and that fosters both excellence and humility in student and teacher alike.
All students are required to complete 30 minutes of reading every day. In addition, students in earlier grades may have up to 30 minutes of other work (math, phonics, grammar, written narration). In middle school, on average, students can expect up to an hour of homework daily in addition to the reading. The homework will not be busy-work or work given simply to fill the time.
In the use of great books, profound thinkers, and foundational skills for learning, Ambleside is similar to classical schools. Our view of the child’s mind is different from that of many classical schools. Is the mind a vessel to be filled, or a spiritual organism with an appetite for all knowledge? The trivium used in many classical schools approaches the mind as a vessel to be filled, and segments knowledge into a grammar stage, a logic stage, and a rhetoric stage. At Ambleside, we see the mind as an immature, but complete spiritual organism. We emphasize ideas, not information, and integrate the elements of the trivium into every grade level. By the rhetoric stage, a classical education will be similar to an Ambleside education. However, at Ambleside we do not artificially limit or label a child’s mind; we expect to be delighted and surprised by the creative expression of even our youngest students.
The curriculum at Ambleside would challenge a gifted adult, so a gifted child has no difficulty finding material to stimulate the mind. We do not define our students by their gifted areas because our focus is to educate the whole person-we value character as much as intellect. It has been said that Ambleside offers a gifted education to every child. Students who have been bored in other schools are delighted to find Ambleside’s education interesting and challenging. Ambleside is founded on the belief that all children have the ability to take something from the rich feast of ideas offered by our curriculum; if the food for the mind is nourishing and abundant, both the gifted minds and the average minds will be well fed.
We cultivate in our classrooms an idea that we are all children of God and fellow travelers on our journey of faith. In matters of faith, we seek to unite our students around the person of Jesus Christ, allowing many issues of doctrine to take second place. Teachers are asked to refer students to their parents to resolve controversial doctrinal issues. We seek unity in essential matters of faith and welcome diversity in the non-essentials. The overarching principles for any sensitive discussion are love, respect, and understanding.
A. It is introduced as far as it supports the education from books, but is not emphasized.