Good mother that she was, Abigail Adams offered sage advice to her son John Quincy in 1780: “Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” Knowing this, we parents serve our children best when we plan for their education at an early age.
These important formative years are ripe with opportunity, as the brain is forming connections for hundreds of functions, while the child’s social skills and attitudes are developing. Often referred to as a time when neurological windows are opening and closing, these years create the foundation for later learning and a happy life. It is a time when potential can be raised and problems can be more easily solved.
During these years when the door to the future is opening, independent schools can make the difference between an acceptable and a superior education. Independent schools have the advantage of smaller classes, enriched learning programs and easy access to teachers and administrators. They offer more personal environments, where well-articulated values and a common purpose create a strong sense of community. These attributes add value to a child’s education. This is a time when academic skills and a child’s moral compass are being created. At its best, the experience ensures that the child will know the joy of learning in the security of a second family.
By middle school, children typically move into schools with different levels of instruction, so prior preparation is essential. By this time, children should know how they learn as well as how to be organized and manage homework. Socially, middle school is a time of identity with a peer group. The peer group will play a major role in determining those behaviors that children at this age will find normal and acceptable. Schools that teach, monitor and reinforce positive values improve the likelihood that this early adolescent period will go well.
If you are thinking about application to an independent elementary or middle school, consider the benefits of significant participation. In small classes, children participate more often, learn faster and remember more. When the drama production is being prepared — everyone is needed. In sports, on the newspaper, or during community service projects, everyone’s role is important.
Through repeated opportunities to lead, participate and succeed, children develop pride and confidence, traits that are essential to make the most of their high school years and beyond.
When you are ready to learn about an independent elementary or middle school, visit Web sites, read brochures and talk to other parents at the school. There is nothing like a tour while students are in session to help you sample a school’s atmosphere first hand. Finding the best fit for each level of education can reap rewards that will be a lifelong gift to your child. When the applications are complete, the acceptances are in, and it is time to make a decision, trust your parental intuition. After all, you know your child’s needs best. Abigail would be pleased that you took her advice.