Ambleside Articles

Browse more Ambleside Schools International Resources.

Watchwords — Duty

An understanding of the meaning of must, moved by ought, a heart stirred by that which a person owes to another, that which a person is bound by natural, moral or legal obligation to pay, do, or perform. 1



Duty directs us to consider the meaning of ‘must.’ In light of our culture where we tend to live for things rather than for others. What is our role in bringing up dutiful persons?


The infant soul is born a law abiding being, with a sense of may, and must not, of right and wrong. And — this being so — who has not met big girls and boys, the children of right-minded parents, who yet do not know what must means, who are not moved by ought, whose hearts feel no stir at the solemn name of Duty, who know no higher rule of life than ‘I want,’ and ‘I don’t want,’ ‘I like,’ and ‘I don’t like’? 2


Hearts are stirred by desires. We have forfeited our sense of duty to obey our parents, love our neighbor, honor the aged, remember the Sabbath to “this amoral commercial culture (that) has proved potent because human beings love things. In fact, to a considerable degree, we live for things.” 3


Questions to Consider

  • How might we bring traditional religious meanings to our everyday life with children?
  • How might we provide meaning in a sense of duty for our children to everyday life without living through things, creating ourselves through things and depending on such material for meaning?

1 Paraphrased from Charlotte Mason’s Home Education and Noah Websters 1828 Dictionary.

2 Charlotte Mason, Home Education. (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1989) 14.

3 James B. Twitchell, Lead Us Into Temptation, The Triumph of American Materialism. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999) 19.