Three Questions

Kindergarten with Mrs. York:

Christina Rosetti's poem, "Love Came Down at Christmas" poses two questions: "What is Incarnation?" and "What is Divine?" Perhaps the full depths of these questions are too deep for us to fathom in one week of time together in the Kinder House, but we have pursued great discussions surrounding these questions this week as we anticipate the coming of Christmas. It is beautiful and good to see the divine in our relationship with numbers and letters, his daily incarnation amongst us! He truly is Immanuel, God with us! All around! We have also been considering Leo Tolstoy’s "Three Questions", by John Muth. He asks, “Who is the most important one?, What is the best thing to do?, and When is the right time to do things?” Although all the students claimed Jesus as "the most important one", we were able to discuss how we can honor Jesus by honoring the people who are made in his image. We put this into practice during our time at Celeste Care where we joined residents in singing carols and making cards together. During our time together, the "most important one" became the person we were with, the "right thing to do" became to talk with them and make cards with them, the "best time to do things" became right then. May we all remember to ask these simple and profound questions during our busy waiting for the advent of the Savior.

Brain Gym

Ambleside families frequently ask the question,“What exactly is the Arrowsmith Program?” No, it’s not a tutorial on Classic Rock, but a cognitive program based on the principles of neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity, is essentially the brain’s ability to change by reorganizing itself through the formation of new neural pathways. Through targeted cognitive exercises tailored to each individual student, areas of cognitive function are strengthened and allow students to overcome their learning struggles. Just as no two students are alike, neither are their strengths and weaknesses. The goal here is to strengthen the capacity of the student to learn, understand, absorb, retain, and process; thereby laying the foundation for learning. The Arrowsmith Program targets the specific areas of struggle, so through daily cognitive exercises learning can take place more easily. Often people hear of the Symbol Relations class or “Clocks” exercise taught on our campus. It's one of 17 cognitive functions addressed within the program. In layman’s terms, it’s the critical function that helps us understand the world, oneself, and others. It's involved in processing concepts across all academic areas, such as understanding quickly what we read or hear, gaining insight, reasoning logically, seeing connections between ideas, processing cause and effect, developing flexibility of thought, and mathematical reasoning.

In essence, if we were to imagine a “brain gym," this exercise would be the heavy barbell working out the higher order “muscles” of our brain. You may consider the Arrowsmith classroom that "brain gym."

Born Persons: Week 1

Children are born persons

Have you ever wondered what makes Ambleside such a special place? I often ponder that question and have since I first stepped foot on campus some six years ago. I didn’t know half of what I know now, and I still don’t know half of the whole, but have come to know more about what makes this place feel different. I would like to use this column over the coming weeks to highlight some of the truths I have come to know that explain how Ambleside creates an atmosphere where people see education, and children, differently.

In each of Charlotte Mason’s six volume series she begins with a brief outline of her 18 principles of education. Her first principle states that children are born persons. This principle, so simple, yet so often trespassed, is the foundation on which all the others find their bearing; it is the solid rock upon which stands Charlotte Mason’s house of education and it is the principle that makes Ambleside different from many in the realm of education. CS Lewis echoed this sentiment when he reminded us that, “[we] have never talked to a mere mortal.” We are both material and immaterial beings. We possess characteristics of the finite and the infinite. We are are more than animals. We are not just our brains.

You may ask, then, why does the immaterial component of persons have relevance in education, and not just in the church or in the home? The answer is this: the notion that children are born persons relies on the existence of the mind at the time of birth. The mind is a component of our spiritual being that, from the very beginning, instructs our material being (such as the brain) in the truths we were made to know, thus making it the conduit for the Holy Spirit and the chief instrument of education. Educators must see this reality in order to respect personality.

The practical consequences of adopting this view of persons necessarily restricts the way we can, with respect to personality, interact, teach, care for, and bring up our children and students. More succinctly, if we are to adopt this notion, there are things we must do and things we must not do. I will tackle the practical application, or musts and must nots next time. ~Mr. York

Los Pollitos to El Colibri

"There is a subject or class of subjects which has an imperative moral claim upon us. It is the duty of the nation to maintain relations of brotherly kindness with other nations; therefore it is the duty of every family, as an integral part of the nation, to be able to hold brotherly speech with the families of other nations as opportunities arise; therefore to acquire the speech of neighbouring nations is not only to secure an inlet of knowledge and a means of culture, but is a duty of that higher morality (the morality of the family) which aims at universal brotherhood; therefore every family would do well to cultivate two languages besides the mother tongue, even in the nursery."- Charlotte Mason

From singing "los pollitos" in Kindergarten, to reciting the poem 'El Colibri' in first grade, from speaking different series in 2nd and 3rd/4th grades to unfolding the beginnings of Spanish Grammar in 5th grade, we have delightfully begun to be acquainted with the language of Spanish. Through song, recitation and conversational series, the children's eyes and minds are bright and open to the beauty of knowing and speaking a foreign language. We continue to speak and discuss how knowing Spanish creates an avenue for us to know our "foreign neighbors" and how the door of hospitality becomes an open one to our neighbors. We remain so very grateful to be exploring the world of Spanish!!

~Mrs. Acton

Our Town

In one month, our high school students will perform Our Town by Thornton Wilder. Before creating the cast list, building the set, and performing before an audience, the high school students read the play in order to understand the important messages that Thornton Wilder implicitly weaved in the dialogue of each character. Mr. and Mrs. Gibbs, an important couple of the play, tell us that they had never seen each other before getting married. Mr. Gibbs explained to his wife that he worried they would run out of conversation, but they never did. Even after many years of marriage, they still find conversation that bonds them together. We stopped and discussed what we can learn from two people who had an arranged marriage. We realized that sometimes people view getting married as the end goal in a relationship; we find a person we like, date, and marry! Sometimes people do not think about life after marriage but assume everything will work because two people love each other. What Mr. and Mrs. Gibbs taught us is the wedding day is only the beginning of a beautiful journey. Our happiness or goal is not about the perfect wedding but about the years and years of endless conversation and devotion we promise to give to our partner on our wedding day. The wedding is only an official start to a prosperous life of building love, a home, and a family. ~Ms. Dickens, Grades 7 &

Campus Dedication

"But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You.”

In his book, Mere Christianity, CS Lewis draws our attention to the nature of this quote from 1 Chronicles 29:14. He says, “every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given to you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already.” The author goes on to illustrate his point by telling the story of a young boy who asks his father for “sixpence” in order to buy him a birthday present, pointing to the fact that because he has essentially purchased his own birthday gift, the father is sixpence none the richer. Similarly, all we have to offer God is from Him and we do well simply acknowledge the nature of the relationship and offer thanks.

Last Saturday, we gathered together to acknowledge that reality- that all we have, and thus all we have to give back, is from His hand. The Lord has been the sustaining force behind Ambleside in all its endeavors, and Saturday morning we paused to contemplate the nature of this arrangement and to give thanks for all of the things, people, places, and ideas, which have come from His hand, then we offered them back to Him.

It was such a joy to be together as we sang Be Thou My Vision, prayed from the four corners, and over each place of learning and living. Each day is a new day of discovery and thanksgiving on this campus, and ceremonies like the one we engaged in on Saturday will further solidify our new home, in our minds, and in our hearts, as truly a gift, a miracle.

Furthermore, as the Lord did in the beginning, and always over the years, he continues to use the gifts, talents, resources and wisdom of committed, thoughtful, and faithful teachers and parents here at Ambleside who work hard to give this gift to their children and to the children of others. I want to extend a special thank you to Brittany Durst for coordinating more than we know and for getting all the food and refreshments just right, the school board members who got here especially early to help set everything up, and all the wonderful folks who volunteered their time getting the school looking great for the event. It’s a joy to be a part of such a fantastic community. Have a great week! Mr. York

A student's view - Children as Persons

A child is a person in whom all possibilities are present -- present at this very moment.

-Charlotte Mason

I began attending Ambleside in second grade. Now, as a junior in high school, I can look back at my time at Ambleside and recognize the impact it has had on my life and my character. One of the key parts of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education is treating children as persons. Mason says in her book, Ourselves, that “Boys and girls, youths and maidens, have as much capacity to apprehend what is presented to their minds as have their elders; and, like their elders, take great pleasure and interest in an appeal to their understanding which discovers to them the ground-plan of human nature.” At Ambleside, children are treated as persons, not as children, who as such, lack the ability to know. Each student at Ambleside is treated with respect and taught responsibility, and are thus given the freedom to make their own decisions of whether to do right or wrong. Being treated as a person and being given many responsibilities has helped me mature and become a better version of myself.

In Mason’s book, School Education, she talks about the rights that children should have as persons. These include being responsible for their own work, choosing their own friends, using their spending money however they choose, and being given free reign in their play. Each of these things help them in different aspects of their life. For example, Mason says that many parents and teachers “do not let children alone enough in their work. [They] prod them continually and do not let them stand or fall by their own efforts.” She goes on to say that in our society, we are always prodded to do our work, and that we are too lazy to do it the first time. From being at Ambleside, I have developed an excellent work ethic because my teachers hold me responsible for completing my work on time. This was developed from a young age by learning how to pay attention in class, and taking initiative to listen to the reading in order to narrate. As I get older, there is more responsibility involved with my schoolwork. But because I was expected to be responsible as a young child, I am conditioned to pay attention, complete my work as best as I can, and not to procrastinate. By giving children responsibilities earlier in life, they have more opportunities to choose between what they should do and what they should not do, which is what Mason means by discovering “the ground-plan of human nature.” When they learn to have responsibility like adults, they can make mistakes (which are inevitable) and learn from them before the consquences become detrimental.

Another right that Mason says children should have to be treated as persons is for children to be able to form their own opinions. By letting a child hold their own opinion instead of forcing it on them, Mason says that “a child [can] be trained ‘to refer his conscience as his king.’” During my years at Ambleside, I have learned to form my own opinions while discussing topics in Literature, History, Citizenship, Spiritual Classics, and many other subjects. When we talk about moral issues, the teacher doesn't give us their opinion, the students develop opinions from the truth of the text and then discuss what was found. This has helped me develop and mature so that I am able to inform and defend my beliefs, whereas others without this education might not have a well-developed conscience capable of forming a grounded opinion. Mason wants us to know that children and young people can form opinions and discuss and defend them, and they should be allowed to do this because they have the capacity to understand truth.

Ambleside has given me so many opportunities to be more responsible in my young life. From the time that I was in fourth grade, I was entrusted with a “little buddy,” a student in a grade younger than me. During chapel on Wednesdays and at all-school lunches, I would be responsible for my younger buddy. During this time, I would sit with my buddy and show them the proper way to sit, listen, eat, and have a polite conversation. I would also need to remind them what to do if they were talking or misbehaving. This experience helped me become more responsible by caring for a student younger than me, but it also helped me to be reminded of what I needed to do.

There are many advantages to treating children as persons. Everything that a child is held responsible for prepares them for adulthood, and to be a hardworking and strong adult as well. Every small detail that goes into treating children as persons will have an impact on their later life. Because of the experiences I have had during my time at Ambleside, I can say that the way my teachers treated me has helped me to become a mature, respectful, and responsible person, and I am grateful.

Emily Ashman - 11th Grade