How to Teach Our Children to Work Well


Charlotte Mason discussed curriculum not as an end in itself, but as the overflow of a philosophy. Consider the foundation of this philosophy--children are persons, bearers of God's image--and the educational tools to which it directs us: atmosphere of environment, discipline of habit, and inspirational ideas from a banquet of thought.

The written and oral work of the Ambleside curriculum stems from this philosophy, employs these educational tools, and builds on the idea that work is most human when it is not a task to check off or a grade to earn, but a process through which we might become more fully ourselves, respond to knowledge, and co-create with our Creator. So at Ambleside, we train students to work well. They are asked to write, converse, think, paint, compute, listen, illustrate and diagram as a response to their learning rather than to simply complete a task.

Students breathing in such an atmosphere develop a growth-oriented mindset and are intrinsically motivated to learn and work. When students are treated as persons, they desire to know and delight in responding to this knowledge. They begin to focus on the process of work, asking: "What do I need to do to complete the work well? What skills will I use? What do I need to know that I don't know? How should I approach the work as a whole, and in its parts?" As the students give to their work the skills and knowledge they have acquired, they receive from the process of working new insights and knowledge in the sphere that they are exploring. They grow to engage in the process of working well, regardless of variables like grades, feelings, and teachers.

Work is essential to personhood. It is not a consequence of the Fall, but a gift given by our Creator so that we can co-create in, with, and through Him, receiving the great inheritance He offers us. We, and our students, are in communion with the Almighty when we work well.

(This writing is an excerpt from Ambleside Schools International, "An Approach to Work",

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