Partnering with Parents at Ambleside


Partnering with parents in the education of their children is one of the unique guiding principles of Ambleside School.

Charlotte Mason, whose educational principles inspire our classrooms, began her work over one hundred years ago with parents.  In the England of her day, she noticed that many professions "enjoy the help and profit of cooperation," sharing a common wisdom, experience, and enthusiasm, pooling resources for training, and setting a standard for good work.  The Parents National Educational Union (PNEU), which she founded, became an inspiration for parents and teachers alike.

Mason wanted the same benefits for the vital work of parents. "No other part of the world's work is of such supreme difficulty, delicacy and importance, as that of parents in the right bringing up of their children, " she said in a 1888 publication.

"The first function of the parent is that function of discipline which is so cheerfully made over to the schoolmaster...Where his parents fail, the poor soul has one further chance in the discipline of life; but we must remember that the parent who willfully chooses to leave his child to be 'broken in' by the schoolmaster or by life leaves him to a fight in which all odds are against him."

As we forge a partnership together, it is well for us to remember "we live in a redeemed world," where the "possibilities of virtuous training are unlimited." 

As we approach Parent Teacher Conferences next week, it it a good time to consider how parents and teachers might work together in the education of children.

It is obvious that good communication is foundational to an effective partnership between any school and home- not just at Ambleside.  Our October conferences set a time early in the school year to address students' strengths, identify weaknesses, and develop growth strategies.  As we carefully listen to each other, we gather accurate information and begin to understand.  Trust develops, ideas spark, and solutions emerge that are far more life-giving than any we might come up with on our own.

Less obvious, but possibly more critical to the effective education of your student, especially at Ambleside, is your intellectual engagement in their learning.  

"Parents do not always consider how far a word of interest from them goes to convert the dead words or a lesson into a living idea, never to be lost,"  Mason says.  Parents can inspire the intellectual life of school by "knowing how their children are getting on in their studies, being ready with a word of encouragement; they may feel and show hearty interest in the matter of their children's studies and make them a matter of table talk." 

Our "Classroom Updates" for October from all of the teachers are available this week, so you will be able to review these with your students and bring more questions to the conferences as well.

Are your conversations with your children inviting them to engage with you in an intellectual exchange of ideas or is your relationship with your children centered on small matters and narrow interests?  It wouldn't take much to change things- just a little curiosity about what your child is learning when you meet face to face with the teacher, reading the "Classroom Updates" is a great way to start!

Ginnie Wilcox, Head of School

References: The Story of Charlotte Mason, pages 22-24; Parents and Children, pages 65-67.

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