Thursday, 14 December 2017

C Columns

Ambrose School Twenty-three years and still growing

Like students everywhere, Ambrose students love to show their enthusiasm for their school's teams. Here, students cheer on their basketball squad. (Photo provided by Ambrose School)

By Molly Blakeman

In 1994, five families gathered to consider founding a classical Christian school in Boise. The success of Logos School in Moscow, Idaho, had spurred dozens (now hundreds) of schoolsto open nationwide. Only three students in the 2nd grade arrived for class at Foundations Academy on the first day in the basement of Ustick Baptist Church. The school grew rapidly, to35 students its second year and around 70 the third. Continuing to add one grade per year, the school graduated its first class of eight students in 2006.

After two relocations, 10 years of design and five years of intensive planning and fundraising, all 12 grades moved into the school's current building in 2009 and its name was changed to The Ambrose School. Currently, there are around 600 students in grades K-12 and around 50 full- and part-time faculty and staff. The Ambrose School is one of only 40 accredited schools belonging to the 280-member Association of Classical Christian Schools.

Classical Christian Education

The classical method is based on the “Trivium” — an understanding that no matter how yourchild learns, he or she goes through three phases. In grades K-6, students are excellent at memorizing (Grammar Stage). In grades 7-8, students become more argument-oriented. They are ready to be taught logic and critical thinking (Logic Stage). In grades 9-12, students becomeindependent thinkers and communicators particularly concerned with their appearance to others. To this end, classical education teaches them rhetoric, the art of speaking, communicating, and writing (Rhetoric Stage). The education culminates in a senior thesis and defense and a class trip through Europe.

Isn’t a Bible class enough?

Classical Christian schools teach from the perspective that the real power is in teaching ALL subjects from the perspective of the Christian worldview. Classically educated students will notdistinguish between God’s creation and science; between God’s order and mathematics; or between Church history and world history. Throughout the curriculum, an inseparable association exists between the subject and its Creator.

Conventional education operates on the philosophy that education is neutral — that it merely conveys fact and that facts do not require a spiritual context. Classical Christian education believes that facts can only represent truth when taught from a Christian worldview. There is no neutrality. And unlike a public school, students are free to discuss and debate opposing views such as evolution to solidly prepare them to face an increasingly hostile world well armed with facts, logic, and persuasive arguments.

A rigorous curriculum 

Ambrose students are expected to work hard. There is no “easy A” and focus is on progress. Is the student improving? Are they reaching goals? This leads to a sense of accomplishment for the student and incentive to continue improving. Parents are encouraged to guide their student to strive for goals rather than obsess over straight A’s or feel defeated after one failure. Ambrose graduates report that not only did these high expectations prepare them well for college, but that it wasn’t until their junior year of college that they reached the same level of academic rigor that was expected of them at Ambrose.

Up until 1900, everybody received this style of education. Then along came John Dewey andthe progressives who sought to transform public schools into training grounds for jobs. Today, many schools still state their primary goal as “college and career readiness.” Ironically, although Ambrose does not list college and career readiness as one of its goals for a graduate, this educational style nevertheless leads to students who outscore every other school in the Boise area on college preparedness exams such as the SAT and ACT (see http://theambroseschool.org/academics/measuring-success/).

Hogwarts & Houses

Thanks to J.K. Rowling, Ambrose is often referred to as “Hogwarts” partly due to the building and uniforms, but also because all 7th - 12th grade students belong to “houses” similarto those of English boarding schools. At Ambrose, think of houses as a club everyone gets to join. They are critical to forming a smaller community for every student and promoting mentorship between older and younger students. Incoming 7th grade students are inducted into one of six houses during the annual Upper School Retreat. Houses compete against each other in intramural sports and serve in the broader community.

Think. Believe. Serve.

Ambrose students are encouraged to “Think with Confidence. Believe with Courage. Serve with Compassion.” The newest school-wide service event is “Feed the Need,” partnering with Homestead Ministries and Boise Rescue Mission to package over 10,000 soup mixes and distribute them throughout the Treasure Valley. Students trade their uniforms for t-shirts and jeans and take shifts throughout one school day in September each year.

The Arts, Sports, and More

Ambrose puts on a traditional Christmas program each year, currently held at the Morrison Center and televised on Christmas Eve and morning. Music and the arts are central to training students in God’s objective standards for beauty. Students can choose from choral and orchestragroups. All students are trained in fine art and drama through imitation of the great masters, learning how the arts both reflected and influenced culture throughout history.

In sports students learn to glorify God through teamwork, diligence, and self-sacrifice. Ambrose students can compete in volleyball, basketball, cross country, lacrosse, golf, mountainbiking, and club soccer.

Mock Trial is another area where classical Christian school students excel since they are well-practiced in logic and rhetoric skills. Ambrose and Logos repeatedly face off in the state tournament, with Ambrose taking the state title and placing sixth nationwide in 2016.

A new educational option for 2017-18 school year

In an effort to provide a classical education to as many families as possible, Ambrose is opening a new 2-day shared instruction model called the Bridge Program. These students will meet two days a week on campus with an Ambrose teacher, then work at home with a parent the other three days. This program is roughly half the cost of the 5-day program, and provides parents with curriculum, training, and grading. Students graduating from the Bridge Program receive an Ambrose diploma. This fall, the Bridge Program opened with grades K - 8, and will expand to high school grades the following years.

Molly Blakeman is communications manager at Ambrose School. For more information, go to TheAmbroseSchool.org.

 

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