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From Here to There

Ambleside steeps you in an environment of learning and

appreciation of beauty that never leaves you.


Before Ambleside, I attended traditional Christian schools. In third grade, I was depressed, acting out, behind in math, trailing in reading, and I hated school. I was deeply convinced that I was stupid. My parents were fearful for my future, questioning if I would even graduate high school.


When I came to Ambleside, I was treated as a whole person. While “children” cannot be trusted or depended on, “persons” can be expected to grow. Andrew Hayes, teaching math, sat me down and said that “you can do hard.” There are two parts to this: the power of the message, and the relationshipwith the teacher. I knew that he was for me and cared too much to let me continue living any other way but as my best self. Messages you speak over students stay with them.


When I was at college, I heard about this program that would allow honors students to be an Oxford student for a term. The only problem was that I had the wrong major and the wrong GPA. I added a history minor, got my GPA up, wrote essays, found references, and applied. It took about a year and a half to make it in. That was just to get there. They don’t have classes at Oxford. Instead, you meet with a professor one-on-one for an hour each week. Between meetings there is a reading list and a ten- page paper. These reading lists were twenty books long, with ten academic articles. I was taking two tutorials. I was reading forty books and twenty articles and writing two ten-page papers every week. It was also the first semester in my life that I got all A’s. Not bad for a kid who couldn’t read.


The second thing that Ambleside does is steeps you in an environment of learning and appreciation of beauty that never leaves you. Let me take you back to Oxford. Not only did Ambleside prepare me to succeed in this environment, but it also allowed me to find so much joy in learning and beauty. I would walk down the street and see a plaque that Hopkins was buried in the church. I had read his poems! Shakespeare’s favorite Oxford pub? I’ve acted out his plays. C.S. Lewis’ house? I’ve read his books. The light post from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? I rode my bike past it every day!


This doesn’t just apply to Oxford. Last month, I was working as a ranch hand and the family I was working for had guests over. I came in for dinner covered in dust and looking quite the part and started talking to one of the guests about his experience as an artist. I asked who his main inspiration was, and he said Van Gogh. I said, “I love Van Gogh,” and pulled out my phone and showed him my screen saver, Van Gogh’s irises. He was a little confused by the cowboy with the love for Van Gogh. You see, Ambleside follows you wherever you go.


I want to take you back now to that kid in third grade who hated every moment he was at a desk. What I don’t want you to hear is that I can read widely, think deeply, and overcome challenges. What I want you to hear is that I was placed in an environment that taught me I could read widely, think deeply, overcome challenges, and find beauty. Sam without Ambleside would be a very different man.


My transformation at Ambleside was not an immediate process. I did eighth grade twice; a bit of a victory lap. A student’s mind is like the field a farmer plows, tills, rakes, and harrows. He plants seeds months before even seeing the first seedling. Then, after months of looking like nothing is happening, it yields a crop thirty, sixty, a hundred-fold.


We are buying land. We are staking territory for light, hope, growth, and love in a broken world. Some of this land is rocky. Some of this land is costly but is very fertile. We are saying now that the land is too good to lie fallow. Too good for thorns and thistles.


We are going to plant Van Gogh’s sunflowers, Renoir’s roses, Monet’s water lilies, Pissarro’s flowering orchards, and Wordsworth’s daffodils. There will be music and poetry for every season: Keats’ “To Autumn,” Robert Frost’s walks on snowy evenings, and Shakespeare’s eternal summer that shall never fade. We will nourish it with the word of God, organize it with mathematics, discipline it with transcription, and irrigate it with watercolors. We are extending our property lines, and we will watch the land burst into bloom.


Sam Lorden

Student alumnus of Ambleside School of Colorado

Ambleside Magazine