Q. How does Ambleside approach student work?
a. The philosophy and method of education at Ambleside encourages intrinsic motivation and a growth-oriented mindset which frees our students to develop a love of learning.
In your typical American classroom, students engage in an assignment-work‑completion routine, and in doing so, they develop habits of approaching work. Often the motivation is to finish the assignment at hand, get on to the next task, and do what is required to earn the desired grade. When students work with these ends in mind, they master the assignment‑work-completion routine, an extrinsic system imposed by well-intended educators. The process, the act of work itself, takes on a secondary role. This system encourages them to develop habits aimed toward a good-enough outcome—at the expense of working well. Students are driven by such questions (whether implicit or explicit) as “What do I have to do to get an A?”
What would happen if work in school was a natural response to knowing, not reducible to a letter and number or praise and approval? What if students wrote, conversed, thought, painted, computed, listened, illustrated, or diagrammed, as a response to the learning that occurred rather than as a task to complete? What if they knew that working well was a normal human response to work? And when they faced challenges or misunderstandings, personal weaknesses, or ignorance, a teacher or a parent came alongside to support the weakness and inform the ignorance? Students would be motivated by intrinsic value found in knowing. They are made aware of the beauty in meeting mind to mind with their Creator, through an understanding, limited or vast, of His created order.
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. Why is habit formation such a focus of Ambleside faculty members?
a. Good academic and moral habits, are what Charlotte Mason referred to as the “rails of life”. At Ambleside we understand that without the habit of attention, for instance, a person will not be able to learn fully, nor is he or she likely to love learning. Attending to the subject before him or her allows the student to engage the ideas present in such a way that will ignite curiosity, which is essential to the development of lifelong learning.
Q. How do Ambleside students do on standardized tests?
a. Ambleside administers the Stanford Achievement Test to students at the end of their sixth grade year. While these tests are not effective in measuring the full educational value of our program, they do offer a means for us to compare our students’ progress in reading, math, and language skills with national norms. Typically, Ambleside students perform at “Post High School” levels in all subject areas.
Q. What athletic activities does the school offer?
a. Ambleside School of Fredericksburg promotes life-long sports. Students take part in physical conditioning twice weekly. The five life-long sports our students engage in throughout the year are swimming, running, hiking/rock-climbing, tennis, and golf. Additionally, students are given the opportunity to engage in active play and exploration at least twice daily at break times.
Q. Does Ambleside use the Common Core standards?
a. Ambleside is not limited to the Common Core. Students at Ambleside are engaged in a varied and rich curriculum which fosters deep, critical thinking skills. Our goal is not to educate just for a job but for life, and, regarding the Common Core, as Dr. Daniel Coupland of Hillsdale College expresses clearly and simply:
“Man is made for work, but he’s also made for so much more… Education should be about the highest things. We should study these things of the stars, plant cells, Mozart’s Requiem… not simply because they’ll get us into the right college or into the right line of work. Rather, we should study these noble things because they can tell us who we are, why we’re here… If education has become –as Common Core openly declares– preparation for work in a global economy, then this situation is far worse than Common Core critics ever anticipated. And the concerns about cost, and quality, and yes, even the constitutionality of Common Core, pale in comparison to the concerns for the hearts, minds, and souls of American children.”
At Ambleside we focus on growth in mastery of academic and interpersonal habits and skills, knowing that achievement will follow said mastery.
Q. How will being in a small school benefit my child(ren)?
a. Studies have shown that small schools produce, on average, students of a higher academic standard than larger schools. This has been attributed to “the culture of engagement”. Students in small schools do not just have the advantage of greater attention from the teacher due to smaller classes, they also benefit from a school culture which is a lot more manageable. It is far easier to tailor education plans to suit smaller groups than it is to do so for larger ones. Other areas such as discipline, teacher-parent relations, morality, spirituality and ethos are far more manageable in smaller schools. Students are more easily engaged and therefore included in the school life and program
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. What is the physical location of Ambleside School of Fredericksburg?
a. Ambleside School of Fredericksburg leases space from The Greater Life Christian Center at 106 S. Edison Street, just south of Main Street. The school is not associated with the church in any way, but does appreciate the use of such a beautiful building.
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. Although, 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. Our curriculum emphasizes ideas, not information, and integrates 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. How do you measure student growth and achievement?
a. We believe letter and number grades are an inadequate measure of student growth and achievement. 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. How do you handle discipline issues?
a. 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 results in after school study hall) with a goal of reconciliation and restoration.
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.
Ambleside policy prohibits the use of corporal punishment.
Q. Do you accept students of different faiths?
a. Yes, Ambleside does not require any student or parent to sign a statement of 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 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.
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.