Ambleside Schools International Articles
The Greatest Benefit Gained
Culture — the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. I never realized until I went to college that woven into an Ambleside education are lessons that instruct one in culture. The Ambleside curriculum is very rich, broad, and well-rounded. I didn’t simply read about Abraham Lincoln or study algebra in the same way that other secondary school students did. Rather than having reading assignments for homework, I read and discussed living books together with my classmates. We made discoveries and came to understanding, and I was enlightened to the past. I listened to “Rhapsody in Blue” — not as background music while I was writing or doing homework — but I had the opportunity during my school day to sit and listen and appreciate the beauty Gershwin heard and was able to convey in his music. I visited art museums in Washington, D.C. — not only to look at the paintings and sculptures — but also to reflect on and discuss an artist’s life and consider what influenced his work. I read Shakespeare — I didn’t just trudge through his scripts as I later witnessed my high school classmates do — I lived, breathed, and loved Shakespeare. I can understand and appreciate his wit and finesse at a deeper level.
I didn’t leave these things behind when I left Ambleside.
“A Magnanimous Mind”
Now, when I study, I listen to music by the great classical composers I studied at Ambleside like Bach, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky. When I visit a bookstore, rather than head towards the New York Times Bestsellers section, I search out the shelves with the smaller selection of old poems and plays. I still look at a painting with an eye and a mind to analyze the artist’s style and contemplate the deeper meaning in his masterpiece, rather than only looking at the surface. Sadly, I can’t discuss these kinds of things with most of my peers. They look at me strangely when I become excited about “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” They don’t understand my love of history and for things of the past. Subsequently, I could have meaningful conversations with my college professors and others who may have had various interests different from mine, because I acquired a broad range of knowledge from my education and experience at Ambleside.
A Magnanimous Mind. —It is a mistake, perhaps, to think that, to do one thing well, we must just do and think about that and nothing else all the time. It is our business to know all we can and to spend a part of our lives in increasing our knowledge of Nature and Art, of Literature and Man, of the Past and the Present. That is one way in which we become greater persons, and the more a person is, the better he will do whatever piece of special work falls to his share. Let us have, like Leonardo, a spirit invariably royal and magnanimous.
~ Charlotte Mason, Ourselves – Book I, Chapter 3
Narration and dictation are two skills I didn’t encounter during my education anywhere else besides Ambleside. Narration is telling back what you’ve just read. A portion of a text rich in ideas is read, and the student retells that part using as much detail and author’s language and as thoroughly as possible. Dictation is intently listening and writing exactly what the teacher dictates. The Ambleside student begins to develop the skill of narration in kindergarten. Dictation begins in third grade when students have developed better handwriting and spelling skills. Through these skills and habits, Ambleside fosters the student’s ability to concentrate, translate, listen, and transcribe with proficiency. I know that narration and dictation enabled me to maintain focus during hour-long college lectures and take notes quickly and thoroughly. These acquired skills of listening and writing simultaneously greatly helped me in my college studies.
Confidence to Face Challenges
I carry with me the fond memories of the annual Shakespeare Festival at Ambleside. My favorite role was Dromio of Ephesus in “The Comedy of Errors.” One part that continues to impact me, even though I never played the role, is Bernardo in “Hamlet.” I had wanted to be Bernardo because he spoke the first line in the play1, and I was so inspired by his character, that I memorized every one of his lines before we finished reading the play! On any given day, I can still recite from Act I, Scene 1 and thereafter! This has given me confidence that I can face any challenge that comes before me. If I can still remember the lines from a Shakespeare play that I learned ten years ago, learning about vectors in physics or memorizing formulas in chemistry are small feats in comparison!
This is an excerpt from a conversation with a student who attended an Ambleside School from K-Eighth grade. She is currently a software engineer at Google.
1 “Who’s there?”