Ambleside Philosophy of Education

"No sooner doth the truth . . . . come into the soul’s sight, but the soul knows her to be her first and old acquaintance. The consequence of truth is great."

Benjamin Whichcote - 1609-1683

The Ambleside Method is based on the thought and practice of English author, philosopher, and educator Charlotte Mason (1842-1923). Mason recorded her thought in 6 volumes, but distilled its essence into the foundational principles below.

  • Children are born persons—neither good nor bad, but with possibilities for good and for evil*.
  • Principles of authority and obedience are natural, necessary, and fundamental, but they are limited by the respect due the personhood of children.
  • This personhood must not be encroached upon, whether by the direct use of fear, love, suggestion, or influence, or by playing on a child’s natural desire.
  • Teachers, thus, are limited to three educational tools: atmosphere and environment; the discipline of habit; and the presentation of living ideas.
  • Education is an atmosphere does not mean bringing the world to a child’s level. It means considering the educational value of his atmosphere—both the persons and the things in it.
  • Education is a discipline means developing the discipline of habits of mind and body, formed definitely and thoughtfully. The brain is shaped by habits.
  • Education is a life means that children need intellectual and moral—as well as physical—nutrition. The mind feeds on ideas; thus children need a generous curriculum.
  • Education is the science of relations. A child relates to many things and thoughts; thus we train him in physical exercise, nature lore, handicrafts, science, art, and many living books. He requires much, varied knowledge that piques his curiosity.
  • Children are taught, when they can understand, that their chief responsibility as persons is to accept or reject ideas. To help them choose, we give principles of conduct, and offer a wide range of knowledge. These principles should help children avoid some of the loose thinking and heedless action that cause us to live at a lower level than we need.
  • We allow no separation between the intellectual and spiritual life of children. Rather, we teach them that the Divine Spirit has access to their spirits, and is their continual Helper in all interests, duties, and joys of life.

“ ‘No sooner doth the truth . . . . come into the soul’s sight, but the soul knows her to be her first and old acquaintance. The consequence of truth is great.’ (Benjamin Whichcote - 1609-1683)
Observe how it covers the question from the three conceivable points of view. Subjectively, in the child, education is a life; objectively, as affecting the child, education is a discipline; relatively, if we may introduce a third term as regards the environment of the child, education is an atmosphere.”
— Charlotte Mason

*Charlotte Mason was conservative in her faith and did not mean by this principle that children are not born sinners.  Her emphasis was that they are born persons, and like all persons, have capacity to do both good or evil. 

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