What has happened to me? Why am I sitting up at night in front of my computer writing a blog post? I considered (and discarded) ideas I could share. I went on a walk, thinking of what to write about and my mind returning to Ambleside High School.
Our high school is relatively new and you may have not had the opportunity to be on our campus, so I want to take a moment to fill you in.
You may have heard some things, like,…it’s sooo small. That is true. There are currently only 25 students and the building is only about 6,000 sq.ft. We do not have sports teams; also, true. It is new and the unknown is scary; it is new, that’s true, but scary? Maybe not.
There are many things I could share, good and beautiful things: the quality of books they read; how deeply they discuss real ideas; how well students write; the rigor of the curriculum; the opportunities that exist for dual enrollment. The list is quite long and moderately impressive. (Mr. Zedler gives a great presentation on it, and I’m certain you could make an appointment with him to talk about it.)
Yet, above all the academic strengths that are evident, my personal “selling point” is how well our Ambleside High School Students care. When I think of my two sons and what I want for them as they grow and mature, I don’t think, ‘I sure hope they have a lot of friends in high school’ or ‘I hope they have fun’, or ‘they’ll be able to get into a prestigious university.’ There might be nothing wrong with those things, and maybe, they’re things that my kids will enjoy. The want I have for them is to grow into men that love Jesus, that care for people, that serve those around them. Will Elijah be a good father? Will Samuel be a good husband? How will they honor God with those relationships? That is what I pray about, that is what keeps me up at night. Do I want them to get into a good college and be successful? Sure, but is it at the top of the list? No.
While on the High School campus and in the classroom with students, I have observed how well they care for one another and for the work they do. They are joyful. They are growing in the ability to do hard things, things that might be new and intimidating. They are growing in relationship with each other, with God, with the work they do. They support each other and encourage one another. It is not today’s “normal;” it is not what kids are doing in most high schools.
I recently had the opportunity to join a group of local business leaders at the CEP (Ocala Chamber and Economic Partnership) to meet the new Marion County Public Schools superintendent, Dr. Diane Gullett. She asked what we saw as areas of improvement the school system could provide. The first three comments were, ‘I think the schools should do more Social-Emotional Learning curriculum with students’, ‘I wish schools did more to help students be in relationship with others. Young employees at my business struggle when things do not go their way relationally’, and ‘What can be done to improve leadership skills?’. I was very proud to confidently say, ‘Ocala has a school that does those things and it happens to be right across the parking lot.’ I love being out in public and getting the opportunity to tell people what is going on at Ambleside and at our high school. It is genuinely something to be proud of.
Here I am delighting in the struggle that is me writing, trying to learn better to do a hard thing that I might not like. I should answer the question from earlier: what has happened to me? Something fantastic has happened to me. God had placed our family in this Ambleside community. He has established a place where I am so very excited to send my two boys for much more than an education. On any given day, they spend seven hours being loved well and learning what caring looks like. I feel so blessed to have a place they can continue this education when they reach high school.
The question is not – how much does the youth know when he has finished his education, but how much does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet? And therefore, how full in the life he has before him? – Charlotte Mason
P.S.- I am incredibly proud of how this school has handled working through COVID this first semester. I think we might be the only school in the county that has not had to send classes home at some point. I hope you all have a great Christmas. I look forward to continuing to be vigilant with you when we return to the classroom in January. – For the children’s sake.