Parents at a Montessori school like Evergreen eventually confront an inevitable question: when is my child’s ‘move up date?' in other words, when does my child move to up a new classroom?
At schools like ours, we firmly believe that children grow and develop on their own timeline—not according to arbitrary dates on a calendar. Students are able move from toddler to primary and from primary to elementary at almost any point during the school year– just as long as they are ready for the increased intellectual and social demands of the new setting.
This is in strong contrast to traditional schools where everyone in a class can automatically move up on the first day of school in September. Ready or not.
Mid-year move ups require careful planning, observing and communicating between teachers and parents. Are they worth it?
Absolutely. Consider Anahad O’Brien’s latest New York Times’ Well Blog that worries “students born at the end of the calendar year may be at a distinct disadvantage. Those perceived as having academic or behavioral problems may in fact be lagging simply as a result of being forced to compete with classmates almost a full year older than them. For a child as young as 5, a span of one year can account for 20 percent of the child’s age, potentially making him or her appear significantly less mature than older classmates.”
O’Brien quotes research from Iceland that examined over 10,000 children and found those in the youngest third of their class “were 90 percent more likely to earn low test scores in math and 80 percent more likely to receive low test scores in language arts.”
And students in the youngest quarter of their class are significantly more likely to be proscribed ADD medication. Should we be medicating immature children? Why can’t we give them time to learn and grow at their own pace?
Author and researcher Malcolm Gladwell has found that the link between age and grade placement makes a difference into the college years. In a study of 4-year colleges, “students belonging to the relatively youngest group in their class are underrepresented by about 11.6 percent. That initial difference in maturity doesn’t go away with time. It persists.”
Schools should not punish children because they have the wrong birthday.
As long as there is interesting, meaningful and challenging class work, there is no advantage to rushing a child through the grades. It is better to give him ample time to be the most mature; the leader. Savor the time when your child is at the top—and take comfort in knowing that a school like Evergreen, he can move up just when the time is right.
John DeMarchi is Head of School at Evergreen School in the Silver Spring, Kensignton and Wheaton area.