Frequently Asked Questions
Ambleside administers the Iowa Test of Basic Skills to selected grades every spring. 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 with national norms. As a whole, students at Ambleside perform about two grades above their level.
Our books contain rich vocabulary and complex ideas. We cover over 16 subjects a week in each grade. The curriculum at Ambleside is challenging for students and adults alike. We do not define our students by their gifted areas because our focus is to educate the whole person, both strengths and weaknesses. We do not advance students if they are gifted in a particular area, but we do have many resources and strategies to challenge them in the classroom.
Ambleside is founded on the belief that all children have the ability to take something from the rich feast of ideas offered by our curriculum; if the food for the mind is nourishing and abundant, the gifted mind will flourish all the more.
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.
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.
We narrate — in some way — most lessons. Examples of narration include using manipulatives to illustrate equivalent fractions; diagramming the parts of a dissected mushroom; or providing examples of “prevarication” in a class on ethics.
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, a 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.
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.
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.
All students are required to complete 30 minutes of reading every day. In addition, students in younger grades may have up to 30 minutes of other work (math, phonics, grammar). In middle school, students can expect an hour of homework daily in addition to the reading.
Our PE program provides weekly instruction for all grades in personal fitness and team sports. Our children participate in the Presidential Fitness Program and Ambleside has been nationally recognized for our fitness levels achieved for a school of our size. Our students participate in a running challenge program each year and log all their miles run. In addition to our weekly rigorous PE class, each class has ample outdoor time that supplements their learning goals, including nature hikes and organized games between the grades.
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 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.
We believe young children will learn best in school if their early childhood is spent in long hours of nourishing relationships and unstructured play. Learning to submit to a routine, helping with chores, running, jumping, climbing, and spending long hours outdoors provide a great foundation for learning. These are the years for careful formation of early habits (attention, obedience, and self-control among a few) — reading many good books and freedom for exploration and creative play.
Our Kindergarten Program allows children time to make the transition from home to school without neglecting this important foundation for learning.
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.
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.
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. Teachers are required to have an undergraduate degree.
Teachers are required to undergo intensive training in the Ambleside Method of education at our model school in Texas. In addition, we offer frequent classroom observations and in-service training, as well as peer mentoring. Visitors from our model school observe our teachers at least once a year.
Ambleside is associated with Ambleside Schools International, an organization which monitors and supports other schools similar to Ambleside in the United States and abroad. The quality of instruction and integrity of the Ambleside curriculum is evaluated annually. Ambleside is not yet formally accredited by the state of Virginia, but this goal is included in the school’s strategic plan.
Ambleside students have attended public and private high schools. They have transitioned well to both. In our discussions with them, they have admitted to a few weeks of adjustment to earlier hours and the increased homework. They have done well in their studies and have been complimented by their instructors for their fresh insights and critical writing. When queried about the benefits of an Ambleside education, they credit narration with training them to master books, dictation for teaching them to take notes, and “all those written narrations” for training them to write.
Ambleside School was founded with the vision of offering excellent Kindergarten through 8th grade education. The founders had a desire to give students a strong foundation of Christ-centered thinking in the early years, and send them out to apply their skills and knowledge in their high school years.
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.
Our parent volunteers are a critical aspect of our community. We desire to give the parents an opportunity to partner in the education of their children and to give students the opportunity to interact with the broader school community. There is a broad range of opportunities that fit each family’s gifts and abilities. Parents attempt to volunteer 6 hours a month. Families with extenuating circumstances are graciously excused from some or all of the volunteer expectation (new baby, sickness, single parent).
Ambleside School admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis or race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, tuition assistance, or in any other school-administered programs.