What curriculum does Ambleside use? A collection of the best editions of the richest 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. Skylark uses two well-known math programs: one that emphasizes computational strength and the other conceptual understanding. Math, grammar and other disciplinary subjects are taught sequentially, precept upon precept, through the aid of well-recognized quality text books.
How does Ambleside challenge the gifted child? Our books contain rich vocabulary and complex ideas. We cover over 18 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. We do not advance students if they are gifted in a particular area, but we do have many resources and strategies to challenge them in the classroom. 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.
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 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.
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.
Why does Ambleside cover so many subjects? Ambleside covers 15 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.
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 improve the whole student. 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.
How often do the children have Physical Conditioning? Every other week grades 5-8 have conditioning. In addition, each class has ample outdoor time that supplements their learning goals, including nature hikes and organized games between the grades.
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 school/ parent partnership is strong enough to continue to educate the child.
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.
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.
What guidelines do you use in hiring teachers? Teachers at Ambleside must be 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 and willing to adapt old ways of teaching to a challenging approach. Skylark teachers are required to attend Ambleside School International’s internship, summer training, and training throughout the school year.
What kind of training do incoming teachers receive? Teachers are required to undergo intensive training in the Ambleside Method of education at one of our member schools. In addition, we offer frequent classroom observations and in-service training, as well as peer mentoring. Ambleside mentors observe our teachers twice a year.
Are you accredited? Ambleside School 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 is not yet formally accredited, but this goal is included in the school’s strategic plan.
How do you utilize technology in the classroom? We introduce technology in the classroom when it supports the education our students are getting from books (Students might work on an Excel spreadsheet in a higher math class). Our emphasis in our classrooms, however, is on the education our students will not receive elsewhere-good books, writing, neat calculations, frequent contact with nature, and exposure to a vast wealth of knowledge.
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 attempt to volunteer 6 hours a month. Families with extenuating circumstances are graciously excused from some or all of the volunteer expectation (new baby, sickness, single parent).
Does Ambleside use Common Core standards? Ambleside is not limited to the Common Core standards.  Students at Ambleside are given a broad, curriculum which uses whole literature and fosters deep, critical thinking skills. Our goal is not to educate just for a job but for life as whole, as Dr. Daniel Coupland of Hillsdale College expresses clearly and simply: “Yes, man is made for work, but he’s also made for so much more… Education should be about the highest things. We should study these things of the stars, plant cells, Mozart’s Requiem… not simply because they’ll get us into the right college or into the right line of work. Rather, we should study these noble things because they can tell us who we are, why we’re here… If education has become –as Common Core openly declares– preparation for work in a global economy, then this situation is far worse than Common Core critics ever anticipated. And the concerns about cost, and quality, and yes, even the constitutionality of Common Core, pale in comparison to the concerns for the hearts, minds, and souls of American children.” At Skylark we focus on growth in mastery of academic and interpersonal habits and skills, knowing that achievement follows that mastery.  However, a singular focus on short-term achievement may not result in desirable character formation.