An Ambleside teacher and alumna speaks about the importance of Art instruction
A child is a person in whom all possibilities are present -- present at this very moment.
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