Boys Adrift or Boys Anchored? - Part 1


Picture these two scenarios:

First scenario:

It’s a snow day.  No school.

There are several young boys with nothing to do.  

A plan is created among them.

Each boy goes to the basement of his individual home. Ear sets on.  Volume maxed out. The Xbox action begins. Hours later, each boy is still glued to his intense Fortnite game, while mom endlessly and frustratingly calls her son to come for dinner.  A fierce parent-child battle ensues as mom forces her son to unplug “playing with his friends.”

Second scenario:  

It’s a snow day.  No school.

There are several young boys with nothing to do.  

A plan is created among them.  

Each individual gets his snow gear so he’s ready to play in the neighborhood woods and hills.  It’s below freezing temperatures. The adventurous sledding and snowball battle action begins. Hours later, each boy is exhausted and cold, but grinning, satisfied, and ready for an exciting conversation around the dinner table. He tells of his adventurous real life experience in the snow, how he endured the bitter cold but how he loved “playing with his friends.”

The first all-too-familiar scene is being played out in homes across the USA.  Boys are glued to their beloved video games in lieu of real life relationships and real people experiences.  Video gaming is a virtual reality play date with friends. 8.5 million concurrent ‘friends’ were reportedly playing in December! (1)

The second scenario is a snow day with Ambleside boys: venturing out to sled, building snow forts, and battling peers in a snowball fight .  

Most parents can look at these scenarios and see the benefits of playing outdoors versus playing in front of a screen for hours.

The benefits of the second scenario are noteworthy.

Real people. Real experience.  Real life bonding with peers.  

Action. Adventure. Teamwork.

Strategy. Communication.  

Conquering fear. Endurance.



Tired bodies that sleep deeply.

We know which scenario we prefer our boys to experience on a snow day!!

On the back cover of Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax, MD, PhD, it says, “Something scary is happening to boys today. From kindergarten to college, American boys are, on average, less resilient and less ambitious than they were a mere two decades ago…”  In his book, he discusses five factors that are driving the growing epidemic of unmotivated boys and underachieving young men.

Video games are only one of the five factors.  Dr. Sax discusses some boys being motivated by the “will to power,” stating that video gaming meets the need of boys to be in charge of their environment, and “to conquer,” explaining how some boys can easily become addicted to video games and lose motivation for other areas in life.   He calls for balance and setting limits.

“No child is born wanting to be a great scientist, or composer, or teacher, or entrepreneur.  They have to learn something of the scope of human possibility beyond what they see in a cartoon video game like Fortnite.  In other words:  it is your job, as the parent, to educate desire:  to instill a longing for something better, more lasting, than video games.”

What does all of this have to do with an Ambleside education?

So much!  Charlotte Mason is all about educating desire.

An Ambleside education offers a learning environment that sets up boys to be anchored, not adrift. Ambleside discourages harmful use of technology.  Parents are encouraged to limit screen time. Younger students do not have access to computers in the classroom, unlike their peers at many schools.

Students are encouraged daily to develop the habit of imagination, to create, to be curious, to learn in the outdoors, and to love books.  Boys are allowed to pick up sticks, to build forts, and to play outside in the sun, rain and snow! All our students are given a feast of ideas with short, focused lessons.  They are not lectured “at” all day long, losing motivation. Their minds and spirits are cultivated to enjoy, to experience, and to love learning.

We believe the Ambleside community of parents ought to join together, even if it’s no easy task, to continually encourage our students to experience life in real time with real people.  In doing this, we would see a new generation of boys anchored, not adrift.

- Jessel Newton, Ambleside Parent & Debra Christenson, Ambleside Board Member

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If you’d like to get a copy of Dr. Sax’s books, stop by the Ambleside office.  We have three for sale: Boys Adrift, Girls on the Edge, and The Collapse of Parenting.  And, mark your calendars for the Ambleside School Spring Fundraising Dinner with Dr. Sax on Friday, March 15th, from 6 to 9 pm at Valo Park in McLean, VA.  

See details at!

(1), This is Why Fortnite is so Addictive by Sylvie Tremblay,  December 15, 2018.

(2)  Psychology Today, Fortnite, Boys, and Self-Control:  What can research tell us about the latest videogame craze?  By Leonard Sax, MD, PhD, May 12, 2018

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