Ideas to Ponder was written by an Ambleside Teacher
At Ambleside we often discuss our “paradigm shift’: from textbooks, grades, and stickers to “living books,” “narrations,” and “habits.” It’s difficult, for many of us. We’re not just learning about a method of education; we’re learning again how to learn. Often I hear a parent say, “I’m glad my kids are getting this kind of education.” You ought to be glad. I would know. I was one of them.
Before I was sixteen years old, I had never received a formal grade. I wrote my first formal essay when I was fourteen. We used a science textbook once for about two weeks before my mother threw it out. In our home there were no workbooks, stickers, rewards, or detentions. We were expected to do as we ought, because we ought.
You see, I was blessed to grow up in a Charlotte Mason homeschool. My mother read For the Children’s Sake while my sister and I played pioneers in the woods or drew the solar system on the sidewalk. Our school day was full of books and more books. Queen Elizabeth, Bilbo Baggins, the planet Saturn, Purple Coneflowers, and Leonardo Da Vinci were among our daily acquaintances. We told back in the car, in the kitchen, in copybooks that are still stacked in the backs of our closets. Education in our home meant the direct confrontation with real things – real books, real nature, real ideas – and the struggle that follows as your mind digests new knowledge.
“The mind feeds on ideas,” Charlotte Mason wrote, “and therefore children should have a generous curriculum.” From a young age I was privileged to feed deeply and widely at a banquet of knowledge. We learned about ideas, not just facts. And we cared about what we learned. We cried when Beth dies in Little Women and became outraged at Benedict Arnold’s treachery. Everything we read took root inside us, and we lived it. This is a joy that I still get to experience alongside my students each day, in my Ambleside classroom. I see the excitement on their faces, and I recognize it, because I have felt it, too.
At times, I think our method of education seemed frivolous to outsiders – as though my parents weren’t concerned enough about our preparation for college or the workplace, as though they were gambling with our future.
But a Charlotte Mason education is an inheritance within. Jesus said, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good” (Luke 6:45). On the outside this education may seem impractical, but on the inside a child has amassed a treasure beyond rubies – and certainly beyond any career goal or college award. I have never wished that my parents had given me more tests or grades, that they had replaced our family love affair with learning with a staid set of workbooks and drills. But I daily feel thankful for the riches of my education.
As we partner in this great work of education, let us remember that we are feeding the souls of persons, who deserve to feast on the riches of God’s creation. One day, they will thank you for it.
An Ambleside Teacher