“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” Aside from scripture, this saying by G.K. Chesterton is a favorite quote. I’ve often told my children gratitude is like a magic wand or superpower that transforms our thoughts and hearts. It is working its magic on me even now as I write, remembering some of God’s abundant gifts showered on our family over the past year.
On June 14, 2019, my husband and I realized we had a decision to make. We had been working toward bringing Arrowsmith, a respected neurocognitive program, to our community in Tennessee. On that day in June we learned that circumstances would not allow us to launch the program for the upcoming school year. Our older three children had left the nest, Aaron worked from home and we had flexibility. If our school could not open an Arrowsmith program, should we uproot and move to access the program elsewhere?
An online search revealed about 40 places in the country with active programs. But we wouldn’t leave our church, friends, and home of twenty years for Arrowsmith alone. We have two children at home still, and we wanted a school that would provide an excellent, biblically -consistent education as well. We cut our list to only Christian schools with an Arrowsmith program – down to 17 choices. Susan Schaffer Macauley’s book For the Children’s Sake had profoundly shaped our understanding of education since we first read it back in 1996. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the dream combination existed – a Charlotte Mason school offering the Arrowsmith program.
My google search brought up a link for Ambleside Ocala. I clicked, and within the hour we were dialing the school office.
Jennifer and Emmy responded graciously to my repeated calls asking about everything from school openings to Ocala real estate. We could only make it to Ocala during July when the office was closed, but Valerie interrupted a beach trip to meet with us, and Esther drove us around town to get a feel for the area as we prepared for a move. By August 14, two whirlwind months after that first day, we had rented out our TN house, said goodbye to our adult children, moved into an Airbnb, and our two youngest kiddos were uniformed students in Mrs. Phillips’ seventh grade class.
Ambleside Ocala plays a vital role in coming alongside us, as parents, in the weighty task of training our children. While we do not abdicate our responsibilities to these terrific teachers, my husband and I are grateful for the opportunity to entrust Michael and Julia to the instruction provided here. The benefits show up in a variety of ways. I might repeat some little instruction to my son until I’m blue in the face, but then Mrs. Gibboney may teach the same truth in such a way that a light comes on in Michael’s mind. We may tell our daughter she is precious because she is made in the image of Christ, but when Mrs. Lacefield shows genuine joy in being with her, that truth comes alive in Julia’s heart.
Our pastor often says that education is a form of humility. We are acknowledging our need. And God, in His kindness, has given us one another to help shoulder our burdens. To Mrs. Martin He has given the gift of a mathematical mind coupled with a compassionate heart and our son benefits. To Mrs. Philips He has given calm patience, a brilliant smile, and quick sense of humor, which was perfect for welcoming our children when they were strangers here. While I’m bustling around under the tyranny of the urgent, Mrs. Dersch is quietly directing our kids to delight in the color of changing leaves. Somehow we had never introduced our kids to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, but Mr. Head shared it with them and they in turn got to “introduce” it to me. It is not possible to name everyone the Lord has used to enrich our lives since we came to Ambleside last fall. Many I will never know – the volunteer who organized the closet so my daughter could quickly replace a ruined shirt, the word spoken by a staff member when our son needed just that encouraging nudge to go on with his day, the grueling bookwork and decision-making done behind the scenes that work together to allow the school to operate.
As Ambleside families, this story is true for all of us. We have each received rich blessings from God through the hands and feet and words of people in the Ambleside community. Not the least of these are the children themselves! When your little ones greet me in the car line in the morning, their wide-eyed wonder delights me as they tell about their new baby brother, upcoming visit with Grandmother, or the cicadas in their backyard.
So I am taking this time to give thanks. Thank you to the teachers, the staff, the board, the host church, the local government, the parents, the children. Thank you to God for bringing our little family to Ambleside School of Ocala. Thank you for bringing us happiness doubled by wonder.