Why Choose a School that Ends in the Eighth Grade?
Montgomery School is an independent, co-educational day school serving prekindergarten through grade eight in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania. The School is dedicated to the development of each child in mind and body through academics, fine and performing arts, and athletics in an enriching cultural and physical environment. The School is equally committed to the development of each child’s character, with an emphasis on integrity, respect, responsibility, and service to others. This is Montgomery School’s mission statement. And the reason that Montgomery School specifically focuses on prekindergarten through grade 8 is quite simply that the School’s Board of Trustees, faculty, and administration firmly believe this is the ideal setting in which to educate children.
Kevin R. Conklin, Head of Montgomery School, understands this phenomenon and believes strongly in the benefits of a PK-8 education. Following is an excerpt from an article Conklin recently wrote on the subject:
“We live in a world where our children are presented with situations on a daily basis that in previous generations was the purview of the grown-up world. That discrepancy, that fine line has been nearly washed out as children are faced with myriads of information, from the world of their peers, the multiple aspects of television, cellphones and especially the internet. This phenomenon has caused a precocity in children that makes them appear socially savvy. In the end, we find that children are not savvy at all, but these premature adult attitudes increase insecurity and self-consciousness. Time after time we hear parents say, ‘Oh, my child is growing up so fast.’ The longer we forestall adulthood and all of its trappings, the more our children will love to learn, and the more likely they are to keep that sense of learning as a precious commodity.
Childhood is the time leading up to adolescence and high school. During this time, physical, intellectual and social development is not necessarily in sync, and sometimes appear to be at odds. Intellectually, it is not unusual for a child to be extraordinarily articulate, but struggle to put those words on paper in a paragraph or essay. Likewise it is not uncommon to see a 5 foot 10 inch seventh grader who still wants to be a little boy or a third grade girl dressed in the latest teen idol outfit appearing ten years older than she is. These developmental contradictions are the tempering furnace of childhood. Addressing these issues and supporting our children through them is crucial.
Nevertheless, we cannot be naïve in interpreting the world that our children will face. By teaching them how to be responsible for themselves and each other we teach them to understand their actions and the consequences. Experience shows that PK-8 schools are uniquely qualified to address these issues by focusing solely on childhood development. At each step of the way, schools like Montgomery School provide intellectual, physical, and social experiences in a community made up solely of children and teachers.
One of the most important periods of childhood development is middle school. This is the time when children are making that leap from childhood to adolescence, it is the time that children are experimenting and becoming independent. It is a time of great hesitancy and insecurity for children. At any given point in time they may move from speaking eloquently at the dinner table with confidence and maturity about fairness and justice, and later that evening break down over having to complete a simple chore. Middle school aged children are experimenting with adult experiences, and in order for them to be successful at this, K-8 schools ensure that through these experiences that we give them responsibility and put them in positions of leadership. We are in an extraordinary position at Montgomery School to provide children with opportunities that are the real-life challenges of our community. Their decision making and their abilities to take on the responsibilities as the oldest students in school are not only important for their development, but they are necessities for our community to thrive. Everyone needs role models; our youngest students look up to their older peers for ways to behave. When eighth graders know that their responsibilities are not just window dressing, they are more than likely to step up to the challenge. We prepare and guide our students in a developmentally appropriate way for the decisions and choices that they will be making in high school and beyond without many of the social distractions that compromise the delicate balance between being mature and being precocious.
Childhood encompasses the time from birth through burgeoning adolescence. When children enter high school they have acquired many of the cognitive and most of the physical tools of adulthood. They are able to think conceptually and have reached puberty. High school and college are the training grounds for adulthood, The time of childhood education through grade 8 should enable children to take this journey at their own pace while still preparing them for the intellectual, social and physical challenges they will face in the ever-long journey through adulthood and life.”
Montgomery School believes unequivocally that the ideal school is one in which the students feel safe and accepted; a school where the students are not bombarded with the social distractions of their older counterparts; a school which focuses solely on their intellectual, social and physical development; a school, such as Montgomery, which serves students from prekindergarten through grade 8 in preparation for a successful experience in secondary school and beyond."