Advice from AWS Teachers on how to make the best of this school year
1. Focus on your child’s social and emotional progress, as well as his or her academic work. As your child progresses through the school year, she will be developing socially, physically and emotionally as well as academically. Keep in mind that growth in each area may happen at different rates for each child. Ask questions such as, “Who did you play with today?” “What stories did you hear?” “What did you make today?” “Did you talk about anything interesting today?” “What was your favorite part of the day?” “What was your least favorite?”
2. Put boundaries in place for screen time.
Video games, movies and television programs interfere with the work of a child’s imagination and his ability to engage in self-directed play. Media overstimulates the brain but under-stimulates the senses. For a young child, engaging with the sights, smells, sounds and feel of his natural surroundings is an important part of the learning experience. Because children learn by imitation, media can hinder that process even long after they have finished watching the show or playing the game (they will tend to “play out” what they have seen, instead of creating from their own imaginations). We strongly recommend no screen time at all for children ages 9 and under. For older children, screen time should be limited to weekends only, and less than one hour per day. This will not only empower children in their learning, but also boost their self-confidence and personal responsibility.
3. Pack healthy lunches and snacks.
Offering your child a balanced diet of nutritious and wholesome food will help her focus in the classroom and give her energy for the day. Pack lunch boxes full of proteins and nutrient-rich foods, such as hummus, trail mix and granola; fresh fruits and vegetables, such as berries, figs, carrots, cherry tomatoes, avocados and snap peas; dried fruits like raisins and apricots; and whole grains. Kids love popcorn and whole-grain chips and salsa. One of my kids’ favorite snacks is almond butter with apple slices and sharp cheddar cheese. (At AWS we also ask that lunch boxes and thermoses be media-free — no TV or movie characters, please — and no peanut butter allowed on campus!)
4. Keep after-school activities to a minimum.
8th grade teacher, Ms. Lucas advises: Support your middle schooler in learning time management by not over-scheduling them. One activity outside of school is enough. An after-school schedule could look something like this: Snack, then downtime such as swimming, hiking, biking, reading; art projects like drawing or painting; listening to music or visiting with a friend. For teens, there should be a regular hour per day set aside for homework. They should know that nothing else will happen during this time. Next, dinner, then free time, then bed. Don’t let your teens stay up too late. If they have their devices with them in bed, they will stay up later. Suggestion: have them turn in devices to you before bedtime.
5. Create daily rituals, especially for dinner and bedtime.
6th & 7th grade teacher, Ms. Bradley, suggests hanging a schedule of daily rhythm in your family’s shared space. This schedule can be as simple or complex as you like, and can be a place to help remind your child to take his or her violin to school or good shoes for movement days. In our home, for example, we simply have MORNING and BEDTIME, with 3 steps under each one. Dinner can be a time around which to center your family life and connect with your child. Then, the end of the day should be a quiet time of winding down and preparing to rest, to be rejuvenated for the next day.