Who hasn’t been defined by character or ability? “You are very musical”…or athletic, bright, or mathematically inclined, says a teacher. “You are tone deaf, clumsy, average, and have no aptitude for math,” says a grandparent. Defining a child is a common way to identify who he is, to locate something he is good at, to bolster his self-esteem, to place him in the right track in school, to direct his extra-curricular activities.
At Ambleside, we do not define children by their strengths or weaknesses. Children are not—like unmolded clay—‘incomplete and undeveloped” beings. Instead we view all children as persons, created in God’s image, with a vast potential for a fruitful life filled with interests and relationships.
“Whether for good or ill, our lives are shaped by our habits. Over time, they become our character and serve to shape who we are, how we think, act, work, and relate. It is the goal of the Ambleside teacher to support children in the development of habits that will serve them well for their entire lives.”
Ambleside teachers welcome students into an atmosphere of beauty and inspiration. Classroom furniture is the work of craftsmen. Natural light filters into the classroom. Children observe birds feeding outside classroom windows. Walls display old masters’ works, wise sayings, maps of faraway places, and nature objects the class gathered.
Teachers cultivate an atmosphere that nurtures:
- joy and belonging.
- relationships that include, rather than exclude.
- culture that transcends fads.
- pursuit of, and love for, knowledge.
- wonder, as students relate to knowledge, others, and God.
- delight in work and in the struggle to grow.
- effort and enjoyment of effort’s fruit.
- rigor, challenge, and an opportunity to meet mind to mind.
- variety in work, conversation, and focus.
Moment-by moment, hour by hour, day by day, students and teachers attend and thereby perform spontaneous “acts of knowing.”
Students everywhere attend to something. The question is to whom or to what do they attend? Is it a fleeting thought; self-consciousness; an interest or person outside of school?
As they encounter and feed on the many texts around them, Ambleside students become:
- consistent in habits of directing attention, learning, and working with effort.
- engaged in understanding and expressing substantial ideas.
- proficient in reading rich text, writing essays, and speaking publicly.
- eager to encounter great works of literature, science, music, and art.
- proficient in conversing and reading in at least one foreign language.
- mature in relating to themselves and to the challenges they face.
- mature in relating to, caring for, forgiving, and supporting one another.
- engaged in a life of devotion to God.