What is the Right Age for Boarding School?
When people first hear about Arthur Morgan School, they often ask, “Who goes to AMS?” For many, boarding school can bring up some pretty negative images. They question why parents would choose to send their middle schoolers away. They speculate that some sort of behavior problem must exist. Their worries make sense. Military schools, wilderness programs, and plenty of boarding schools focus much of their efforts on addressing challenging behavior patterns. AMS just isn’t one of them.
A Place for all Middle Schoolers
AMS’s goal is to create a safe space for middle schoolers to be themselves. The typical AMS student is actually the typical middle schooler. They are caught in that delicate age between being a child and not quite yet a teenager. They are curious about the world and want to be a part of it, but also want to feel safe. They are sensitive, but try to put a brave mask each day. The typical AMS student is what so many of us were when we were 12- 15 years old.
When Maria Montessori first wrote about her ideas for middle school, one of the core ideas was to get the student out of their house. “During this difficult period of adolescence it is desirable to have the child live outside his habitual surroundings, outside the family, in the country, in a peaceful place, in the bosom of nature,” she wrote in her book, From Childhood to Adolescence. Montessori did not believe this setting was only for troubled students, but for all middle schoolers. She believed it was the right age for boarding school.
Following Montessori’s Vision
Arthur Morgan School offers that environment for its students. With 100 acres of farm and wilderness, outdoor trips, weekly work projects and community based living, AMS students are able to access a variety of physical and social environments where they experience success, struggle, and growth. They find purpose in physical work and being a contributing member to their community’s function. AMS offers a valuable experience from which all middle schoolers could benefit.
The Ideal Student
But that’s not the answer many parents are looking for when they ask, “Who goes to AMS?” What they really want to know is whether their child will thrive here. Although we would love to simply answer, “YES,” the question is fair because not all students flourish equally. Although our school will provide a supportive environment where middle schoolers can be themselves, your child will be more likely to take advantage of everything we offer if they:
- have curiosity about the natural world and how it works
- enjoying learning in a variety of settings, both academic and experiential
- desire to express themselves artistically
- like being outdoors
- keep themselves entertained through a variety of activities and projects
- enjoy making deep personal connections with their peers and adults
- can work hard
- think a lot about their impact on the world and the environment
- like to challenge themselves through adventure
- are social justice minded, and
- want to be part of a respectful and conscientious community
Of course not all of our students have all these characteristics. Students who exhibit even just one or two of these traits tend to find AMS an inspiring and welcome home. Many of our middle schoolers will even pick up new interests or abilities while they are part of our community.
Making the Choice
Choosing to send a child to boarding school is a hard choice, especially when it’s middle school. Many parents question whether it’s right to send their kid away, wonder if it will weaken their relationship. At AMS we believe boarding school is exactly what middle schoolers need. We understand that by participating in a community where their input and involvement is valued and appreciated, they learn their true potential and capability. Often instead of a weaker relationship, our parents find when their young adolescents return home, they are more confident in themselves and therefore able to form stronger and more genuine connections.
-By Nicholas Maldonado