Frequently Asked Questions

We have answers to your questions about an Ambleside Education.

Frequently Asked Questions

We have answers to your questions about an Ambleside Education.

Things become much more to us when we remind ourselves that somebody has thought each thing out; and this sort of thinking-out is very delightful.


Things become much more to us when we remind ourselves that somebody has thought each thing out; and this sort of thinking-out is very delightful.



What ages and grades do you cater for?

We serve children from age 3 to 12 (Pre-school to Grade 7 equivalent)

What curriculum does Ambleside use?

We have a partner relationship with Ambleside Schools International (ASI), from whom we derive our curriculum. The curriculum has been carefully selected by experts in the application of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education with and is evaluated, supplemented, and improved each year through a collaborative effort of all member schools. This is a broad, varied and rich curriculum where the learning materials have been carefully selected to provide what Charlotte Mason called “the food of the mind.” Materials are thoroughly reviewed on a regular basis to ensure the learners are using the best possible books and materials available, and that they have a good balance of local, international and classical influences.

The following information comes directly from Ambleside Schools International.

The Ambleside curricula is comprised of skill-based (disciplinary) and content-based (inspirational) instruction. These are not mutually exclusive forms of instruction—each discipline is infused with inspiration; each inspiration requires its discipline. Disciplinary and inspirational instruction work in tandem, enlivening students’ rigorous engagement with ideas and natural growth in knowledge.

Curricula consist primarily of living books, narratives. These nourish the mind, allowing it to assimilate information and gain knowledge. Some are classics that stand the test of time; others feature beautiful language, universal themes, rich characters, or intricate plots. Still others offer disciplinary information in an inspirational, accessible format.

The Ambleside curricula provides:

– a wide and varied course of study.
– an alternating weekly plan for skill development and content mastery.
– exposure to knowledge that is vital, fruitful, interesting, and idea-rich.
– books characterized as representing “the best thought of the best writers.”
– materials that aid in understanding and exploring, without diluting, the discipline.
– grade level sequences for core subjects, among them mathematics, grammar, composition, and phonics.
– grade level sequences for inspirational subjects, among them citizenship and science.
– science observations and experiments correlated with science texts.
– handwork projects and picture study reproductions.
– abbreviated versions of Shakespeare’s plays.

What are the main principles of Ambleside's teaching method?


Here learning is the focus, not trying to outdo a classmate. Students are stimulated to observe, explore and understand – free to learn for the pleasure of learning.


We believe that the process of growth and learning is as important as the end product. Instead of asking we rather ask Did she put in the effort? Did he attend? Was he thorough? – and so cultivate habits that serve children for the rest of their lives.


Real learning happens in an atmosphere that stimulates children to wonder, to ask why and how. Our students are not just learning for a test result, they are growing as people.


Incredible care is taken not to identify a child by their strengths or to limit them in their weaknesses. We believe that all students can learn and grow to their great potential for a full and fruitful life.


Children live in relationship with God, self, others, creation and the world of ideas. It is these relationships that are cultivated in the educational process through our broad, challenging, beautiful curriculum.


Children will naturally delight in the feast of ideas set before them. However, there will also be times of struggle. Struggle is as essential to the learning process as is delight, and victories won through struggle bring the most growth in character.

Why do you not give letter grades?

Actually, we give more than grades at Ambleside. Our students receive an extensive written evaluation of their academic as well as their character development twice a year. In addition to weekly assessments in math and grammar, twice yearly our students have week-long essay exam periods that are an important educational evaluative tool at Ambleside. The reports of progress and the exams are further supplemented by parent teacher conferences where the parents and teachers discuss strong and weak areas and strategize on ways to partner and improve the whole student. Our goal is for students to be engaged learners, more interested in gaining knowledge than in getting a grade or besting a classmate. We have found that greater understanding and learning happens when our students search their papers for teachers’ comments rather than glance at a grade and feel self-satisfied or discouraged. We would rather put before our students the challenge of doing their best work, than the contentment of just getting the grade they wanted. In our classrooms students rarely ask, “Do we need to know this?” They simply apply themselves to learning.

What is narration? Why is it emphasized so much?

Narration, in simplest terms, is “telling back” whatever has been read, seen, or heard. A student who narrates is asked to use the author’s own language, sequence and detail in their retelling, not in a parroted way, but in a way that makes the material their own. Narration, at Ambleside, is used in all subjects, including the disciplinary ones. Narration is a simple, yet powerful, tool for the development of the mind. As a result, children learn to acquire knowledge from books; select, sort, and classify ideas; supply both the question and the answer; visualize; express themselves readily, fluently and with vitality; assemble knowledge into a form that can criticize, hold an opinion, or bring one thought to bear upon another. We narrate – in some way – most lessons. While frequently oral, narration may also mean using manipulatives to illustrate equivalent fractions; diagramming the parts of a dissected mushroom; acting out the story of Joseph; painting a picture of a scene from a reading; writing a thoughtful essay; or providing examples of “prevarication” in a class on ethics.

What guidelines do you use in hiring teachers?

Teachers at Ambleside must have a daily commitment to Jesus Christ, and must be creative, thoughtful, engaged learners with broad interests and educational knowledge. Teachers who thrive at Ambleside enjoy ideas, read regularly, and are passionate about our philosophy and willing to adapt old ways of teaching to a challenging approach. We value experience with teaching children, graduate education, and we require at least an undergraduate degree.

What difference does it make to have a “philosophy driven school”?

A philosophy is simply a set of answers to questions. In reality, all schools follow some philosophy, even if it is “we do what we want”, or “we do a little of this and a little of that”. Most cannot articulate a philosophy, but use a materialist/behaviorist approach that attempts to manipulate children into learning. The philosophy to which Ambleside adheres is cohesive and consistent with a Biblical view of the child. It has been extensively applied in real life with thousands of children and has proved to be both practical and profound. We know of no other philosophy of education that is so consistent with a Christ-centered worldview, and that fosters both excellence and humility in student and teacher alike.

How is Ambleside different from a classical school?

In the use of great books, profound thinkers, and foundational skills for learning, Ambleside is similar to classical schools. Our view of the child’s mind is different from that of many classical schools. Is the mind a vessel to be filled, or a spiritual organism with an appetite for all knowledge? The trivium used in many classical schools approaches the mind as a vessel to be filled, and segments knowledge into a grammar stage, a logic stage, and a rhetoric stage. At Ambleside, we see the mind as an immature, but complete spiritual organism. We emphasize ideas, not information, and integrate the elements of the trivium into every grade level. By the rhetoric stage, a classical education will be similar to an Ambleside education. However, at Ambleside we do not artificially limit or label a child’s mind; we expect to be delighted and surprised by the creative expression of even our youngest students.

How does Ambleside challenge the gifted child?

The curriculum at Ambleside would challenge a gifted adult, so a gifted child has no difficulty finding material to stimulate the mind. We do not define our students by their gifted areas because our focus is to educate the whole person-we value character as much as intellect. It has been said that Ambleside offers a gifted education to every child. Students who have been bored in other schools are delighted to find Ambleside’s education interesting and challenging. Ambleside is founded on the belief that all children have the ability to take something from the rich feast of ideas offered by our curriculum; if the food for the mind is nourishing and abundant, both the gifted minds and the average minds will be well fed.

How do you handle doctrinal differences in the classroom?

We cultivate in our classrooms an idea that we are all children of God and fellow travelers on our journey of faith. In matters of faith, we seek to unite our students around the person of Jesus Christ, allowing many issues of doctrine to take second place. Teachers are asked to refer students to their parents to resolve controversial doctrinal issues. We seek unity in essential matters of faith and welcome diversity in the non-essentials. The overarching principles for any sensitive discussion are love, respect, and understanding.

How much homework can I expect?

All students are required to complete 30 minutes of reading every day. In addition, students in earlier grades may have up to 30 minutes of other work (math, phonics, grammar, written narration). In middle school, on average, students can expect up to an hour of homework daily in addition to the reading. The homework will not be busy-work or work given simply to fill the time.


How do you handle discipline issues?

We have a school-wide discipline policy that is published in our handbook. Students are expected to come to school ready to learn and respond to the authority of the teacher. Our desire is to train students in habits and to support their weakness in every way possible. Natural consequences are used as much as possible for inappropriate behavior (for example, undone homework may result in after school study time). Classroom interventions, a conversation in the hall, jogging instead of playing at recess, a visit to the principal, are all strategies used in training our students. If a student is unresponsive to the teachers or administration, the child may be sent home. Consistent difficulties in discipline generate a broadened discussion to determine whether the school / parent partnership is strong enough to continue to educate the child.

Parental Involvement

What is your requirement for parent involvement hours? What if a parent is unable to volunteer that much?

Our parent volunteers are a critical aspect of our community. We desire to give the parents an opportunity to partner in the education of their children and to give students the opportunity to interact with the broader school community. We have a broad range of opportunities to fit each family’s gifts and abilities. Calls for assistance and volunteer opportunities are communicated via the Parents’ WhatsApp group. Families with extenuating circumstances are graciously excused from some or all of the volunteer expectations (new baby, sickness, single parent).

Do you accept students of different faiths?

Yes, Ambleside does not require students or parents to sign a statement of faith, as long as they have a clear understanding and full support of the school’s commitment to center on Jesus Christ. Teachers, staff and board members are all required to sign a statement of faith and code of personal conduct.


What kind of training do incoming teachers receive?

We make a significant investment in our teachers by requiring intensive training in the Ambleside method. Each incoming teacher attends a weeklong intensive Ambleside teacher training Institute in addition to the week of in-service before the beginning of school in January. In addition, we send our teachers to Internships at our sister schools to train and have the opportunity to observe their peers in action. Twice each year, they are trained by representatives from Ambleside Schools International in their own classrooms, in addition to being observed and mentored approximately weekly by our Principal.


What are your Values?

At Ambleside School of Durban, our core values are

HONOUR – A ‘culture of honour’ is perhaps one of the most important pillars of our school: sincere respect for each person, kindness towards each other in speech and actions, believing the best of a person always, and upholding them both in their presence and their absence. This value also works itself out in deep integrity – honouring oneself and God, even when nobody is watching.

EXCELLENCE – We are consistently working towards being the best version of ourselves as staff, and guiding the learners to do the same. We aim for growth in areas of weakness and to gently inform areas of ignorance. We value effort, and resilience through struggles. We believe each person bears the image of God, and as such is capable of creativity and excellence in all areas of our lives.

INCLUSIVITY – Highly committed to inclusivity, we intentionally work to accept and include each person equally, regardless of any difference between us. We believe that we can work together and accept each other even when we do not hold the same opinions, perhaps have different backgrounds, beliefs, and life experiences, or make different choices. All of these can be surmounted by love.

Are you accredited?

Yes, Ambleside School of Durban is fully accredited through Ambleside Schools International. This accreditation requires a Self Study, a Plan for Continuous School Improvement, On-site Evaluations by Peers, and Annual Reports with a Five-Year Cycle of Re-evaluations. We are pleased to have met their high standards of quality.

Where do Ambleside students go for high school? Do students transition successfully from Ambleside to other schools?

Ambleside students have attended public and private high schools and have transitioned well to both. They have done well in their studies and have been complimented by their instructors for their fresh insights and critical writing. When queried about the benefits of an Ambleside education, they credit ingrained academic habits with easing the stress of a heavy load, narration with training them to master books, dictation for teaching them to take notes, and “all those written narrations” for training them to write well.

Does Ambleside Durban offer sport?

Ambleside has collaborated with another school in the area to be able to offer sporting opportunities to our learners. A variety of team and individual sports – such as cricket, soccer, netball, dance, chess, cross-country etc – are available at the sports campus in La Lucia, as well as interschool games, competitions and possibilities for provincial selection.

What about Fees and Financial Support?

School fees will be discussed during your Introductory meeting with us.

Financial support may be available to families who need it.

Click here to download a copy of our fee structure:

Fees for 2023

Ambleside School seeks to be a vehicle for the training and equipping of parents and teachers who seek to benefit from the insights of Charlotte Mason as they are given living expression at Ambleside.


Families thrive here who…

  • Desire their children to be formed through a Christ-centered education.
  • Value lifelong learning and growth in a multitude of spheres, intellectual, spiritual, physical and relational.
  • Approach challenges with a growth mindset.
  • Support a rigorous and relational classroom environment.
  • Engage in and encourage their children toward meaningful pursuits both in and out of the classroom.
  • Want to see their children prepared for responsible, insightful, and creative participation in society.
  • Partner with teachers for the formation of their children.
  • Are community-oriented and desire to be involved in doing life together.
  • Resonate with our Foundational Convictions. (link to page)
  • Pursue “living well,” as defined by pursuing optimal ways of relating to God, self, others, ideas, creation, work, and leisure.
  • Are humble, proactive servants within a community.
  • Value the habits of excellent work, sweet thoughts, and self-mastery, and growing in a rich intellectual life filled with inspirational ideas and great works.


Parent Volunteers

Parent volunteering is a vital aspect of our community which fosters connection, partnership, and sacrificial service. We desire to give parents this opportunity to partner in the education of their children by volunteering their time and talents in areas of need at the school. Parent volunteers support the teachers, staff, and leadership of the school by willingly serving and responding to their direction.


We ask parents to volunteer at least four hours a month, unless graciously excused for extenuating circumstances. We have a broad range of opportunities to fit each family’s gifts and abilities, because we believe that serving is one way to become more like Jesus, who came to serve and not be served.