Library | Videos

Explore an inspiring, Christ-centered view of the child, parenting, and education.

Library | Videos

Explore an inspiring, Christ-centered view of the child, parenting, and education.

When anybody sits down to read, the author who made the book comes and leans over his shoulder and talks to him.


When anybody sits down to read, the author who made the book comes and leans over his shoulder and talks to him.


Welcome to Ambleside Schools International’s video series with Dr. Bill St. Cyr and Maryellen St. Cyr.


We invite you to read and watch these resources to learn about the Ambleside Difference. The goal is to provide you with further insight into the foundational principles and methods that Ambleside encompasses.



As you begin your educational search, you will find the following books to offer an inspiring, Christ-centered view of the child, parenting, and education.


For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay.

This book is written primarily for parents and is an “easy read” introduction to the Charlotte Mason educational philosophy.  Please note that this book projects a more casual approach to this philosophy than you will find at an Ambleside School.


When Children Love to Learn by Elaine Cooper.

This is a great book for educators or for those wanting an in-depth explanation of an Ambleside education.


These books are available for purchase for $15 at the school office or at



ASI Video Series

As you listen, use the accompanying study guides to assist you in making meaningful connections with the content to increase comprehension and memory.

Part 1: Persons or Products?

How do we see the child? As a product whose outcome we determine by putting them through certain processes? As a demigod who already possesses all they need? On the contrary, the child is a person with great capacity, but also with great need for relationships with mature adults to love and support them, inform them, instruct them, and model for them. Through mind-to-mind relationships the child is to be cherished and cultivated to facilitate healthy growth to maturity as a person.


[Study Guide Download]

Part 2: How is the Student Growing?

Rather than focusing on short-term outcomes, Ambleside teachers are concerned about how students grow. They want to know the student is becoming more mature, more curious, more diligent, and more peacefully on task, and that they are developing relationships to ideas in history and math and to people who have lived throughout the ages. These are much larger concerns than a grade on a test. Three instruments are available to the teacher committed to help students grow without using manipulation.


[Study Guide Download]

Part 3: What Are We Drawing Students To?

What we draw children with is what we draw them to. If we motivate children to perform using candy or our approval or grades, we increase their desire for those things while undermining their natural desire for knowledge itself, their joy in work well done, their satisfaction in ideas and beauty. If we take seriously the sacredness of the personality of a child, then we must not manipulate them by playing on their natural desires in unhealthy ways that distort their hearts.


[Study Guide Download]

Chapter 1: The Foundation of Joy

One of the most important responsibilities of a teacher is to set an atmosphere of joy in the classroom, the sense “it is good to be me here with you!” The sense of joy is non-verbal-—it is in the air, breathed in by the children.  A joyful atmosphere allows children to feel safe and free of anxiety so their brains are freed to learn and explore. Visitors to Ambleside Schools often remark, “There is peace here. The students’ and teachers’ expressions are genuine, full of delight and full of joy.”


[Study Guide Download]

Chapter 2: How Atmosphere Sets Affections

Our affections, desires, and motivations are set by our community. The influence of Atmosphere is breathed in and sets the affections, which are “caught, not taught.” The atmosphere of the classroom plays a subtle yet potent role in the heart and mind of a child. It communicates to the child what is valuable and desirable. Upon visiting your child’s classroom, ask, What is communicated through this atmosphere? Is the atmosphere desirable and life-giving? What affections are fostered by this atmosphere?


[Study Guide Download]

Chapter 3: Cultivating an Atmosphere for Learning

When parents select a school, they are choosing a culture that will have a profound impact on shaping the hearts and minds of their children.  Affections and the understanding of how to handle life are “caught” from the community.  The atmosphere fostered at Ambleside supports desires for working well, giving attention, being kind, and reading worthy books for delight.  When you step into a classroom where everyone is directing their attention to the learning, it is the easiest thing to do likewise.


[Study Guide Download]

Chapter 4: The Teacher and the Atmosphere

The role of the teacher or parent hinges on the nature of the relationship of authority between the adult and the children. An authoritarian teacher or parent acts out of their own anxiety and harms the atmosphere. An authoritative teacher, on the other hand, recognizes their authority as vested in the office given by a higher power.  They can rest in their authority and peacefully lead children to do what is good and right in an atmosphere of joy, curiosity, exploration, learning, and peace.


[Study Guide Download]

Chapter 5: Masterly Inactivity

Masterly Inactivity is a peaceful presence held by a teacher that gently invites a child to strengthen their will to do as they ought – for example, to sit up correctly, or show kindness. Masterly Inactivity is not heavy-handed but is peaceful and natural. The wise teacher gently and easily preserves attention with love and joy and a light touch.  This requires both mastery (authoritative skill) and inactivity (a peaceful presence).


[Study Guide Download]

Chapter 6: Aesthetics and Atmosphere

Cultivating a taste for the good, the true and the beautiful begins with setting the Atmosphere. Beautiful music, art on the walls, wooden furniture – they all play a part in fostering the aesthetic sense in a child and valuing the child as a person with great capacity. Children learn from adults around them what is good and beautiful; they respond to what is in the Atmosphere. Ambleside teachers take children’s minds seriously and cultivate those minds with a life-giving atmosphere and aesthetics.


[Study Guide Download]

Chapter 7: Cultivating Tastes

Cultivating children’s tastes and directing their affections toward what is good, true, and beautiful begins with the development of deeply satisfying relationships with the best of literature, music, art, and more, as well as with a consistent habit of working well. The atmosphere of the classroom teaches children what is appropriate and possible. A healthy classroom atmosphere communicates that work is normal and satisfying, that “sweat” is a part of life, that staying on task is noble and good, and that taking responsibility leads to a job well done. Work should be worthy and worth doing and should be done well in a set time.


[Study Guide Download]

Chapter 8: Worthy Work

Worthy work is intrinsically satisfying. Students gain the satisfaction of knowing and of work well done. Well-intentioned adults may inadvertently contaminate the learning atmosphere by using artificial rewards and incentives, which demean the joy of knowing and diminish the student’s capacity for intrinsic motivation. Artificial incentives communicate it is impossible to enjoy history, mathematics, science, and literature in and of themselves; they indicate to the student that “real life” is to be found in the incentives, such as the “Fun Friday” or rewards. Ambleside teachers foster students’ affections for worthy work.

Chapter 9: How Much Does the Student Care?

“The question is not, “How much does the youth know?” when he has finished his education — but, “How much does he care?” Motivation is more important than information.  The student who cares about spelling or science or mathematics will do well and learn these things to the fullness of their God-given ability. We care about those things with which we have developed a relationship; we care about those things which are valued by our community.  The student who cares will do well.

Chapter 10 – What is a Habit?

“Habits are to life as rails are to a train.” Habit is a propensity to respond to a given situation in a certain way without having to think about it. When a habit is formed, a change takes place in the brain; neurons that fire together wire together (Hebb’s Law). By intentionally and carefully forming new habits in children, we can “lift them above their natures,” freeing them from negative propensities. Focused attention is the most important educational habit to be formed because that to which we give attention, we come to know.

Chapter 11 –  Good Habits

“When we learn a new habit, we get a new brain.” Neuroplasticity means the brain is moldable; it actually physically changes as we learn. If you are an adult with children, you are training them in habit, for good or for bad. You are fixing the rails of a child’s life, and it’s much easier to lay those rails well the first time.  Caring adults can intentionally cultivate habits in a relational way so that children grow in habits such as focused attention, neat and accurate work, asking questions, respecting others, working hard, and recovering from emotional distress.

Chapter 12 – Building a Working Alliance

Healthy habit formation occurs when a joyful adult comes alongside a child to help them learn a new habit. We can’t lay down a good habit if we are filled with anxiety, because then the child focuses on protecting themselves from us or making us happy. Children also don’t learn habits well from lectures or punitive measures.  They require a caring adult to create a friendly alliance with them, sow a new idea, and offer to help them form a new habit because it is in the child’s best interest to do so.

Chapter 13 – Establish a Strategy

After inspiring a child with an idea and building an alliance, then, establish a strategy for forming a new habit. Ask the child, “How can I help you?” Often they themselves will offer a great strategy. The adult’s job is to inform the student’s ignorance, and support the student in overcoming their weakness. Discipline is not control; it is formation, cultivation, and helping a child grow up to form healthy relationships. Ambleside teachers prayerfully identify two areas for each child’s growth, and then act with tact, watchfulness and persistence to form new habits.

Chapter 14 – Building the Passion to Know

The true goal of education is to learn, not merely to win prizes or impress others. “Build the character; build the love for learning; build the passion to know; build the discipline to work well” – then the performance takes care of itself.  Ambleside’s curriculum includes a large number of subjects so that students can establish many different relationships. We are shaped by relationships and the ideas that stand behind those relationships. Healthy lives come from hearts and minds being shaped by healthy relationships and healthy ideas.

Chapter 15 – Cultivating Relationships with Learning

In many school environments children choose areas to study which most interest them. But children should be put in contact with a wide curriculum, a rich and varied feast, their “Great Inheritance” of wide relationships with this world.  Too often people grow only in areas that already interest them; yet, we’ve seen real joy and real delight at Ambleside as students learn from a varied array of subjects. We must be very intentional and careful about the dynamics between the teacher, the ‘taught’ and the text, for only then will a life-giving education result. Ideas have the power to shape our hearts and minds.

Chapter 16 – The Method of a Lesson: Part 1

A renewing vision and philosophy of education must lead to an applied method. The first two steps of the 5-part Method of a Lesson used at Ambleside Schools are: 1) the selection of a well-chosen text; this could be a book, a flower, or a musical composition. And 2) a “First Little Talk” is given to connect the student with the idea-rich text. The relationships fostered form what Charlotte Mason meant by a living education. Just as the human body needs nourishment and to flourish, so the human mind needs the nourishment of ideas, and it also needs to exercise. In exercising, the mind attends, reflects, and uses that which it is learning.

Chapter 17 – The Method of a Lesson: Part 2

The Method of a Lesson, as described by Charlotte Mason, is marked by five steps. The last three steps of the Method of the Lesson are the reading of an episode, narration, and the Second Little Talk. While the teacher points to ideas in the text, the children do the actual work of thinking and learning. ”The children themselves must do the mental work. They must engage their minds – they must do the attending; they must do the reflecting; they must make use of the ideas.” Teachers “sow lightly” and use a subtle approach to nourish and exercise the minds of students.

Chapter 18 – Concluding Statements

Growth comes by the formation of new habits, formed with the right kind of intrinsic motivations, which have to be cultivated relationally. Healthy relationships between teachers, students, and texts are crucial. What we draw students with is what we draw them to; Ambleside teachers draw children to worthy ideas, the joy of learning, the satisfaction of work well done, and beauty created. The student who excels to the level of their God-given abilities is the student who cares. Character is shaped by the ideas entertained.

Have questions about Ambleside?
Reach out for answers, to schedule a tour, or to begin the application process.
Have questions about Ambleside?
Reach out for answers, to schedule a tour, or to begin the application process.
© Ambleside Boerne