Looking back at our first family picnic in August of 2011, I wonder if we had any idea we were joining something much larger than a great place to educate my children. My now-9th grade daughter reached out her then 5-year-old hand to quietly take the hand of our now-8th grade teacher. They walked and observed the interactions of other children, the picnic foods, the humid sweatiness of the woods, the heat of Florida summer surrounded by the picnic-chaos with which we’re all familiar. Only one of them spoke English but a relationship began.
After one year of dropping my 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders off outside our quintessentially Ambleside gate every morning, our youngest daughter entered school and I transitioned to being on campus more. I moved from admiration of overhearing teachers greet each student by name to deeply loving the songs and prayers of morning assembly, the small class sizes, the parent involvement at all grade levels, the discussion of ideas between peers, the student interactions with Chapel Buddies, and the warmth of a community which sees each person as complete and valued. Everywhere one looks on our campus, relationships flourish.
On a recent visit to the Ambleside School of Fredericksburg, TX, I was delighted to be welcomed into classrooms filled with rocking chairs, quality books, beautifully framed art, and children engaged in the work of learning. I saw students take great satisfaction in doing hard work well, whether it be in math, handwork, nature study, picture study, or geography. I heard laughter, camaraderie, music, and challenging ideas. It beautifully felt like home.
It is no coincidence that the description of our school in Ocala and a school in Fredericksburg sound very similar. As our names suggest, both of these schools (and many others across the world) work directly with Ambleside Schools International in providing a high quality education based on the philosophy and methodology of Christian educator Charlotte Mason. A century ago, she wrote:
I have not made this body of educational thought any more than Columbus made America. It has been given to me to see that education has a triune basis, to recognize that education is the science of relations, with due reverence to the educational practices concerning children, and some few other matters which go to make up a living, pulsing body of educational thought which I find to be a wonderful power in the lives of those who apprehend it.
Ambleside of Ocala joined that movement in 2006 with the founding of our member school by Shari and Ken Ausley. Through our partnership with Ambleside Schools International, we continue the spirit of that movement. We are implementing a method of education that is utterly different than the prevailing educational system of our society and culture — an education that is even different than other Christian schools. We are actively looking for ways to further this movement and provide more families and children with a full and rich education – a living education, acknowledging and building upon the relationships before us.
May I suggest you set aside some time, possibly even this summer, to look at the material on Ambleside International’s web page? They have provided several short videos (each less than 9 minutes long) to help us open ourselves to “a living, pulsing educational thought.” Let us open our worlds personally to the “full and rich education” within relationships God has placed before us in nature, our homes, our community.