A School with a Child Development Perspective

Children are not miniature adults – a second-grader is not a deficient twelfth-grader. Children have a unique set of needs that must be met at each developmental stage to progress toward healthy growth and maturity.

Traditional schools will decide what they want a twelfth grader to know by graduation – then divide that by twelve! This practice is not only ineffective, it is harmful to the young child. As the intensity of information and expectations increase every year for a high school graduate, those expectations are pushed down to the earlier grades, creating developmentally inappropriate standards.

Instead, Caulbridge asks what is needed for the healthy development of a five-year-old, a seven-year-old, or a ten-year-old, to ensure that grade-level expectations will be met as the child moves through the grades?
The kindergartener has substantively different needs and learning capacities than a teenager. When learning reflects the developmental stages of the child, mastery is more likely to be effective, empowering, and enjoyable.

“The research is really clear on this point. Kids who achieve the best outcomes in life – emotionally, interpersonally, and even educationally – have parents who raise them with a high degree of connection and nurturing, while also communicating and maintaining clear limits and high expectations. Their parents remain consistent, while still interacting with them in a way that communicates love, respect, and compassion. As a result, the kids are happier, do better in school, get into less trouble, and enjoy more meaningful relationships,” reports Daniel Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center, and the author of several books on child development and neuroscience. While Dr. Siegel refers to the parent relationship here, children spend a large part of their day with teachers, who have significant influence in this healthy child development.

Caulbridge educators work from a child-development perspective and understand that meeting the child’s needs relevant to their phase of development is foundational to learning and school success. Only when children are engaged with developmentally appropriate activities in a nurturing environment can developmental milestones be reached and real learning occur.