We attempt to define a person, the most commonplace person we know, but he will not submit to bounds; some unexpected beauty of nature breaks out; we find he is not what we thought, and begin to suspect that every person exceeds our power of measurement. I believe that the first article of a valid educational creed—‘Children are born persons’—is of a revolutionary character… We must either reverence or despise children; and while we regard them as incomplete and undeveloped beings … rather than as weak and ignorant persons, (whose ignorance we must inform and whose weakness we must support, but whose potentialities are as great as our own), we cannot do otherwise than despise children, however kindly or even tenderly we commit the offence.
- Essex Cholmondeley, The Story of Charlotte Mason
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.
As persons, all children at Ambleside:
- experience a broad, rigorous curriculum.
- calculate, solve, attend, explore, ponder, recite, paint, and sing.
- are held to a high standard in relationship to self, others, ideas, and work.
- learn without the external motivation of grades, rewards, punishment, or manipulation.
- participate actively in the learning process each day.
- learn to complete punctual, accurate, neat, work.
- Demonstrate complex thought, mastery of material, and academic skill.
- receive support as they master the habits of a life well-lived.
- encounter a wealth of ideas and knowledge in well-written books.
- complete tasks worthy of their attention, time, effort, and thought.