At Ambleside we do not view your child as incomplete or undeveloped, like so much clay for us to mold as we please, or as a product to be put through a system for improvement. Nor do we view your child’s mind as a blank slate that is ours to write upon. We don’t think children need to be entertained or indulged in order to learn. And we don’t believe in manipulating children to get them to perform, whether with fear of failure before their peers, pride in besting a classmate, stickers, charts, or candy. We think we have no right to coerce them in any way.
We do, however, view your child as precious and unique, created in the very image of God with vast potential, a person who is worthy of respect. Your child is able and desires to learn, if we educate according to how he or she is designed. We recognize that the mind is a living entity that needs knowledge in order to grow. As the stomach is made to digest food, so the mind is made to digest interesting ideas provided through a rich, generous curriculum. Your student must be fed the best food we can find, in as much quantity as is needed for nourishment. Given the right food for the mind, the right atmosphere and the right training in habit – all of which enable students to do the learning for themselves – your child will love to learn.
Additionally, we do not classify or label our students, for that limits them. Instead, we expect all our students to participate in a broad, rigorous curriculum. All children calculate, solve, attend, explore, ponder, recite, paint, and sing. All are held to a high standard in relationship to self, others, ideas, and work. We will inform students, and gently strengthen them where they are weak. We train them to use their will to choose ”ought” over “want”. As they grow, they will surprise and amaze us with the wonder of their God-given potential.
We consider the process of how a child learns to be as important as the end result of his learning. Did she attend? Did he put forth effort? Was she thorough? Was he kind? Did she respond well to correction? Is he ready to apologize for discourtesies? Ambleside is a place where good habits formed continue to benefit students the rest of their lives.
We believe that students should be strenuously engaged in the work of learning for themselves, and that delight happens naturally when we learn. Thus, our teachers, while being kind and loving, will not attempt to entertain or indulge children in order to get them to learn, as that ultimately leads to passivity in the learner. Rather, we believe that real learning involves both delight and struggle at times, and we consider the struggle to be as essential to the learning process as the delight. We believe it is best for the children to learn in an atmosphere that is peaceful, joyful, simple, rich in ideas and consistent.
Having cut out the use of fear, pride, and manipulation as means of educating children, we are left with but three instruments: atmosphere, training in habits and living ideas. With these, Ambleside students become thinkers. They read with understanding, write with clarity and speak with the courage of their convictions. They appreciate great literature and wonder at the mysteries of science and the glories and tragedies of human history. They develop healthy ways of relating to God, self, others and work. They learn to notice the beautiful things in creation and appreciate beautiful works of art and music. They find the freedom of forgetting about themselves as they endeavor in a text or a project.
In cultivating habits proper to learning, Ambleside students master all areas of study to the fullness of their God-given potential. In cultivating habits proper to mature relational living, Ambleside students master the skills necessary to live full and satisfying lives, rich in devotion to God, service to others, and continuing personal growth.