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.


Why is Kindergarten 5 mornings per week? What are Ambleside Afternoons?

We believe young children will learn best in school if their early childhood is spent in long hours of nourishing relationships and unstructured play. Learning to submit to a routine, helping with chores, running, jumping, climbing, and spending long hours outdoors provide a great foundation for learning. These are the years for careful formation of early habits –attention, obedience, and self-control among a few. Our Kindergarten Program allows children time to make the transition from home to school without neglecting this important foundation for learning. Having kindergarten 5 mornings per week allows them to be in school when they are fresh, but still have time for rest and play in the afternoons. We offer optional Ambleside Afternoons, which include home-like activities, a time of rest, playing outside, story time, etc. for those whose children are ready for a longer day, and whose schedules necessitate this time.

Why does the Ambleside curiculm cover so many subjects?

Ambleside covers 16 subjects a week because our philosophy is to spread a rich feast, to offer many avenues for learning, and to allow the mind of the child to appropriate knowledge. Subjects are taught in short lessons so that the habit of attention can be developed. Poetry, literature, phonics, read aloud, dictation, composition and grammar might, in another school, be grouped under Language Arts. In the same way, world and American history, citizenship, geography might all be grouped under Social Studies. We teach these subjects separately because we are committed to having short lessons (to cultivate the habit of attention) and frequent change (a change is as good as a rest).

What curriculum does Rocky Mountain Christian Academy 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. 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.
– Gouin series for Spanish instruction.

Why do you not give letter grades?

Actually, we give more than grades at RMCA. 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 RMCA. 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 Rocky Mountain Christian Academy, 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 Rocky Mountain Christian Academy 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 RMCA 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 RMCA 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 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 is RMCA different from a classical school?

In the use of great books, profound thinkers, and foundational skills for learning, Rocky Mountain Christian Academy 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 RMCA, 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 RMCA 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 RMCA challenge the gifted child?

The curriculum at Rocky Mountain Christian Academy 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 the Ambleside curricula offers gifted education to every child. Students who have been bored in other schools are delighted to find Ambleside’s education interesting and challenging. RMCA 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 utilize technology in the classroom?

We utilize technology in a manner that supports our students being prepared for all of life. Middle School students are supplied with laptops that they use in writing, creating spreadsheets, and appropriately searching and connecting in relation to their studies. In preparation for this, students in grade 6 are given assignments to learn keyboarding. We are intentional, however, to prioritize class time for “face to face” relational interactions, rather than “face to screen” interactions. The emphasis in our classrooms is on the education our students will not likely receive elsewhere — great books, writing, neat calculations, deep discussions, frequent contact with nature, art, music, handwork, and relationships to persons and ideas from throughout history. Please see a further explanation of our use of technology on our “Resources Page,” which also has some thought provoking articles on the subject.

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 do Rocky Mountain Christian Academy students do on standardized tests?

Rocky Mountain Christian Academy gives the Stanford Achievement Test to its students each spring. While these tests are not effective in measuring the full educational value of our program, they do offer a means for us to compare our students’ progress in reading, math, and language skills with national norms.

Does Rocky Mountain Christian a use the Common Core standards?

Ambleside is not limited to the Common Core. Students at Ambleside are given a broad, classical curriculum which uses whole literature and fosters deep, critical thinking skills. Our goal is not to educate just for a job but for life as whole, as Dr. Daniel Coupland of Hillsdale College expresses clearly and simply:

“Yes, man is made for work, but he’s also made for so much more… Education should be about the highest things. We should study these things of the stars, plant cells, Mozart’s Requiem… not simply because they’ll get us into the right college or into the right line of work. Rather, we should study these noble things because they can tell us who we are, why we’re here… If education has become –as Common Core openly declares– preparation for work in a global economy, then this situation is far worse than Common Core critics ever anticipated. And the concerns about cost, and quality, and yes, even the constitutionality of Common Core, pale in comparison to the concerns for the hearts, minds, and souls of American children.”

At Ambleside we focus on growth in mastery of academic and interpersonal habits and skills, knowing that achievement follows that mastery. However, a singular focus on short-term achievement may not result in desirable character formation.


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.


Rocky Mountain Christian Academy