Q: What curriculum does Ambleside use?

A: A collection of the best editions of the richest books has been assembled by an international team of educators with over twenty years of experience.  Each year our resources are further critiqued and evaluated through a collaborative effort of all schools within the Ambleside Schools International network. Our curriculum includes classical literature, biographies, poetry and primary source material for history and science in addition to narrative.  Ambleside uses two well-known math programs: one that emphasizes computational strength and the other conceptual understanding. Math, grammar and other disciplinary subjects are taught sequentially, precept upon precept, through the aid of well-recognized quality text books.

Q:  What difference does it make to have a “philosophy driven school?”

A:  Every school classroom has a philosophy.  An educational philosophy answers the question, “Why we do what we do?”  The philosophy you see playing out in a school classroom is based on one of these models:

1. whatever each individual teacher wants to do, or,

2. the vision of the head of school, or,

3. a cohesive philosophy consistently applied, like Montessori, Waldorf, or Charlotte Mason.

Parents should understand the philosophy behind their children’s education, because it affects everything that happens in the classroom.  And they should ask questions about how teachers are trained, because if they are not, then the philosophy will be ‘whatever each individual teacher wants to do’, and then the quality of education is fully dependent on which teacher you happen to get.  We invite you to learn about the consistent philosophy of education at Ambleside by reading this website.

Q: How do you handle discipline issues?

A: We have a school wide discipline policy that is published in our handbook.  Students are expected to come to school ready to learn and respond to the authority of the teacher.  Our desire is to train students in habits and to support their weakness in every way possible.  Natural consequences are used as much as possible for inappropriate behavior (for example, undone homework may result in after school study time).  Classroom interventions, a conversation in the hall, jogging instead of playing at recess, a visit to the principal, are all strategies used in training our students.  If a student is unresponsive to the teachers or administration, the child may be sent home.  Consistent difficulties in discipline generate a broadened discussion to determine whether the school / parent partnership is strong enough to continue to educate the child.

Q: What is narration?  Why is it emphasized so much?

A:  Narration, in simplest terms, is “telling back” whatever has been read, seen, or heard. A student who narrates is asked to use the author’s own language, sequence and detail in their retelling, not in a parroted way, but in a way that makes the material their own.

Narration is used in all subjects, including the disciplinary ones.  Narration is a simple, yet powerful tool for the development of the mind.  As a result, children learn to acquire knowledge from books; select, sort, and classify ideas; supply both the question and the answer; visualize; express themselves readily, fluently and with vitality; assemble knowledge into a form that can criticize, hold an opinion, or bring one thought to bear upon another.

Q: How is Ambleside different from a Classical School?

A: 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, logic stage, and a rhetoric stage.  At Ambleside, we see the mind as an immature, but complete spiritual organism. While we recognize that facts and information are necessary parts of education, we also believe what Charlotte Mason taught to be true.  She claimed that an intellectual diet of facts alone was like a meal of sawdust to the body and that the mind lives and grows upon ideas.  And so, our curriculum emphasizes ideas which allow students to form relationships with knowledge rather than merely memorizing information about the subject matter.  We integrate the elements of the trivium into every grade level. While we acknowledge the developmental sensitivities as children pass from one stage to another, we believe the child is capable of acquiring skills and cultivating higher order thinking throughout childhood.

Q: Why does Ambleside cover so many subjects?

A: 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 Humanities.

Q:  Why do you not give grades?

A:  Actually, we give more than grades at Ambleside. Teachers assess students daily in narration and conduct, and weekly in math and writing. Our students receive an extensive narrative evaluation of their academic as well as their character development twice a year. In addition, twice yearly our students have 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 strengths and weaknesses 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 good grade.  We have found greater understanding and learning happens when our students search their papers for teachers’  comments rather than glance at the grade and feel satisfied or discouraged.  We would rather put before our students the challenge of doing their best work, than the contentment of getting the grade they wanted. In our classrooms students rarely ask, “Do we need to know this?” They simply apply themselves to learning.

Q:  Do you accept students of different faiths?

A:  Yes, Ambleside does not require any student or parent to sign a statementof faith, as long as there is clear understanding and support of the school’s commitment to Christ-centered education. Teachers, staff and board members are all required to sign a statement of faith.

Q:  How do you handle doctrinal differences in the classroom?

A:  We cultivate in our classrooms the idea that we are all children of Godand 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.

Q:  What guidelines do you use in hiring teachers?

A:  Teachers at Ambleside 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. An undergraduate degree is preferred for our teachers.

Q:  What training do your incoming teachers receive?

A:  Teachers are required to undergo intensive training in the Ambleside Method of education at one of our model schools. In addition, we offer frequent classroom observations and in-service training, as well as peer mentoring. Visitors from Ambleside Schools International observe our teachers several times a year.

Q:  How do you utilize technology in the classroom?

A:  We introduce technology in the classroom when it supports the education our students are getting from books (Students might work on an Excel spreadsheet in a higher math class). Our emphasis in our classrooms, however, is on the education our students will not receive elsewhere-good books, writing, neat calculations, frequent contact with nature, and exposure to a vast wealth of knowledge.