Frequently asked questions


Let Us Answer Your Questions

How do Ambleside students do on standardized tests?

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 two grades above their level.

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How does Ambleside challenge the gifted child?

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. 

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.

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What curriculum does Ambleside use?

A collection of the best editions of a wide variety of books has been assembled by an international team of educators. 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. Math, grammar and other disciplinary subjects are taught sequentially, precept upon precept, through the aid of quality textbooks.

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What is narration? Why is it emphasized so much?

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 isten to the thought of the author and 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.

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How is Ambleside different from a classical school?

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.

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Why does Ambleside cover so many subjects?

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.

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Why do you not give grades?

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 support a student’s growth.

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.

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How much homework can I expect?

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.

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How often do the children have PE?

Our PE program provides weekly instruction for all grades in play, personal fitness, and team sports. In the early years, Kindergarten through 2nd grade, students learn how to play childhood games, like “Steal the Bacon” and “Kick the Can.”  In the middle years, 3rd through 5th grades, the students are introduced to the rules and skills of team sports, such as soccer, basketball, and flag football.  For students in 6th through 8th grades, our fitness program focuses on life skills, such as exercise, fitness, and outdoor craft. In addition to our weekly PE class, each grade has ample outdoor time that supplements their learning goals, including nature hikes and organized games between the grades.

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How do you handle discipline issues?

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 partnership between the school and the parent is strong enough to continue to educate the child.

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Why is Kindergarten only three days a week?

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.

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Do you accept students of different faiths?

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.

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How do you handle doctrinal differences in the classroom?

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.

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What guidelines do you use in hiring teachers?

Teachers who wish to apply at Ambleside are required to have an undergraduate degree and complete a rigorous application and interview process.  Knowledge of the Ambleside philosophy is a great benefit.  In general, teachers at Ambleside must be hard workers, organized, 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.

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What kind of training do incoming teachers receive?

Teachers are required to undergo intensive training in the Ambleside Method of education through  In addition, we offer frequent classroom observations, in-service training, and peer mentoring. 

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Are you accredited?

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 School is accredited by the Association of Christian Teachers and Schools, whose accreditation process has been approved by the Virginia Council of Private Education as authorized by the Virginia State Board of Education.  Ambleside School is also accredited by Accreditation International and the National Council for Private School Accreditation.

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Where do Ambleside students go for high school?

Ambleside graduates have been accepted at the following public and private schools:

Public High Schools

  • Academy of Science (Loudoun County Public AOS)

  • Briar Woods High School

  • Dominion High School

  • Herndon High School

  • Langley High School

  • Marshall High School

  • McLean High School

  • Midlothian High School

  • Oakton High School

  • Potomac Falls High School

  • South Lakes High School

  • Thomas Jefferson School for Science & Technology

Private High Schools  

  • Ad Fontes Academy

  • Dominion Christian School

  • Georgetown Visitation

  • Grier School

  • The Heights School

  • The Madiera School

  • Oakcrest School

  • Trinity Christian School

  • Trinity School at Meadow View

  • Veritas Classical School

  • Virginia Academy

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Do students transition successfully from Ambleside to other schools?

Ambleside students have transitioned well to both private and public high schools. 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.

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How do you utilize technology in the classroom?

Our emphasis in the classroom is on the education our students will not receive elsewhere, such as reading good books, practicing writing, calculating neatly, and spending time outdoors. 

Students in 7th and 8th grade use Arduino micro-controllers and laptops to create real-world projects and write computer code. This learning module requires logical thought, discipline, and creativity, helping  students move from technology consumers to technology creators.  They cultivate habits of real work, real creativity, and real accomplishment.

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What is your requirement for parent involvement hours? What if a parent is unable to volunteer that much?

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 are asked to volunteer six hours a month. 

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What differentiates your school from all others? 

We use the Charlotte Mason philosophy to develop habits of learning in a non-competitive but stimulating academic atmosphere where students are guided to be in relationship with God, self, and others. 

Daily oral or written narrations allow each child to think about a text. Through asking why and how, students are active, not passive learners. Memory retention and mental focus improves and each student feels valued under this method. 

Each grade is capped at sixteen students, so every child talks and is known by the teacher and their peers. 

Few students own a cell phone and none are permitted in class.

Our students work hard during the day so their afternoons are free to enjoy time outdoors, participate in sports, or pursue a hobby. Any work at home is purposeful and limited.

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Where do you see your school in five years? What will be different? 

We will have full K-8 classrooms, which means a total of 144 students at our school. We have signed a long-term lease for use of the facility at 8980 Brook Road, McLean, Virginia, starting in the Fall of 2018. 

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What kind of student is most successful at your school? 

All students are welcome. Students are not identified by their strengths or weaknesses, nor will they receive prizes or a rank among their peers. All students focus on learning, not besting a classmate. 

A student who learns to labor with a problem not yet grasped, who remains on task when uncertain of the outcome, who struggles to completion when hand or mind are tired, who experiences the reward and negative consequences of their actions, will grow in character and be successful at Ambleside. 

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Why should we choose your school?

Choose Ambleside School if you want to foster a robust learning experience and self-discipline in your student. From detailed Science and Nature Journal sketches, to Composer and Artist Studies, to mid-week House Games and our annual Shakespeare Festival, students grow mentally, socially, and emotionally into young people who look adults in the eye and carry themselves with poise. 

Ambleside School partners with Ambleside Schools International ( a community of educators practicing a Charlotte Mason pedagogy. There are over 20 schools around the world using a similar curriculum and sharing training and leadership resources.

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