I hope this year is going exceptionally well for each of you. From a school perspective, I must say that things are going great! There is a tremendous spirit of support that is hard to find in many places but it is commonplace here. I hope that none of us, in particular me, ever takes this for granted.

Recently, I was asked a question about whether or not a child should stay at Advent through 8th grade. (And this really applies for all K-8 schools). I answered, “It depends on the child, but generally speaking, absolutely! A child should complete the Advent program. If needs are being met, if your child is learning, if the partnership between school and home is going well….” Having said this, each family must examine its own desires, hopes, and dreams for these foundational years. We know that parents are counting on a school to guide, protect, and support their most precious gift.

Typically, middle school involves grades 6-8. There may be junior high, or a year or two with different names, but please note the word “middle.”  It implies being between things. Advent would argue there is something to be said for not being in the middle as adolescents. As our children may look older and at times act older, they are children going through a delicate age of emotional and physical changes. In the best of situations, these “middle” years are turbulent, challenging, and at times, just plain hard. Advent’s inclusive and intimate culture provides support and a safe place for the tough challenges these years bring.

Birmingham has some of the strongest independent schools and public school districts anywhere. Most families have great choices. However, we believe the Advent K-8 model, generally speaking, best serves students in the “middle years.” Over the last several years, attrition has decreased tremendously in our upper grades as more students are staying for our entire program. We believe each student and the school as a whole are stronger for completing the Advent experience.

From a personal perspective, many of you may not know that before I came to Advent I served in various capacities, first in a very large K-12 school, the last ten years there as high school principal. I then became Headmaster in a K-8 school that added a high school. I have a unique perspective that is relevant to this topic and I am more than willing to share my experiences and thoughts for interested parents.

In my four plus years at Advent, I have seen students leave prior to the completion of our program and I am confident those who left Advent early advanced their new schools. I know that many also benefited from their new school experience. Our intimate environment along with our program of study allows students to be themselves for a few more years. They get to be the big guy or gal on campus. Research indicates that a K-8 environment provides the best probability for this desired outcome. NPR Article on the middle

There are times when parents request recommendations for early Advent departures. This places faculty, and even me, in a difficult position. Most often we want to have the opportunity to continue to love, support, and educate the student we are recommending. Another challenge is we may believe that staying at Advent is better for the child for reasons that our experience and research would support. That being said, we will continue to write recommendations but we want parents to understand the challenges for faculty in doing so.

I welcome a meeting with any parent struggling with where their child needs to spend perhaps his or her most formative years. I want to help each family make an informed decision and let them know we care. Blessings to each of you as I know these years can be tough. I have been there as a parent, and while part of me would love to do it all over again, there is also a part of me that is delighted that I am on the other side of these “wonder years.”  We love what we do here and we love our students! Go Panthers! #adventinthemiddle

Palmer Kennedy

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