...we have relations with what there is in the present and with what there has been in the past, with what is above us, and about us; and that fullness of living and serviceableness depend for each of us upon how far we apprehend these relationships and how many of them we lay hold of. Every child is heir to an enormous patrimony. The question is, what are the formalities necessary to put him in possession of that which is his? We do not talk about...educating him with a view to his social standing or his future calling. We take the child as we find him, a person with many healthy affinities and embryonic attachments, and we try to give him a chance to make the largest possible number of these attachments valid.
Parents and educators often put a child on the path of a single interest (sports, music, or science, for example), based on the child’s environment or on cultural trends. But a true education lets children encounter—and develop vital relationships with—people, ideas, and things.
When a child forms relationships, he develops wide and vital interests and joy in living. His life will be dutiful and serviceable when he understands the laws that govern each relationship. He learns, for example, the laws of work and the joys of work when he grasps that no relation with a person or a thing can be maintained without effort.
Mason warns that interests are not to be taken up on the spur of the moment; they spring out of affinities that we find and lay hold of. And the object of education is … to give children the use of as much of the world as may be. True education, then, lets children make the world their classroom.
Children at Ambleside establish relationships with 16 to 20 areas of knowledge. Their studies provide life-giving knowledge, delight, and beauty.
Study, conventional wisdom says, is career preparation or cultivation of natural ability. Delight, conventional wisdom says, is found in passive entertainment—not relationships with our vast world. But “fullness of living and serviceableness depend for each of us upon how far we apprehend these relationships and how many we lay hold of.”
At Ambleside, children build vital relationships when they:
- participate in a full, varied curriculum.
- identify and explore areas of personal interest.
- complete chores and care for school property.
- relate to students in different grades.
- build relationships with the elderly and other adults.
- spend time with nature.