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A Long Break Away from School…Part 1

By Gina Goostree, Head of Lower SchoolB

With our anxiety rising, we wonder, can life get anymore hectic or stressful? As important as time management is, there is a rather simple strategy with powerful results: take a break! Take a long, long break!

Working hard and balancing assignments, projects, quizzes, tests, social obligations, are all part of a successful student life, but breaks are important, too. Families are busy these days. After work, school, extra- curricular activities, meetings, housework, preparing dinner, and the other inevitable realities of life, there is not a lot of time leftover. So, what should parents do when their children have Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring Breaks from school? Spend some quality time with your children. Turn off all electronic devices and your children will receive many benefits.

When speaking with school children, one common theme they mentioned was experiential learning with parents. Some children enjoyed hunting, fishing, drying apples, baking with their mother, working on projects with their dad, goofing around, watching movies, painting, crafts, and game nights just to name a few of the activities they love to do with their parents. Your child does not necessarily know they are learning while having fun with you. More importantly, parents and children are making lasting memories.

If you feel the need to travel during these breaks, I suggest purchasing the book, “V is for Volunteer”, a Tennessee alphabet, by Mike Shoulders. Your child will discover Tennessee’s natural wonders and fascinating history while traveling through the book from A to Z. This is a great book to read with your child, then, take a few field trips to travel throughout Tennessee to learn about our home state.

Speaking of reading….go to the public library with your child. Reading is developmentally important for children as they expand their vocabulary, learn empathy, and develop their imaginations. Libraries are an exercise in the joy of possibility. Children can read anything, be anything, and imagine anything.

Go outdoors with your children. This creates healthy life styles while actively moving with your child. Taking children in the environment where learning takes place is a great way to spend quality time with your child. Go outside during cold weather as well as warm. Children are so busy playing and having fun that they often forget the cooler or colder temperatures. Here are some suggestions for getting your child into the great outdoors:

  1. Inspire curiosity by being curious yourself.The most important part of prioritizing the natural world is to give your child the gift of enthusiasm. A parent’s excitement is contagious to their children, and when we show awe in nature, our children follow suit.
  2. Simply be in nature with no other distractions.Just show up and observe. Find a spot near a pond or creek and encourage your child to wait and observe. If they are still and quiet, they may observe nature uninterrupted.
  3. Limit electronic devices while commuting.While carpooling in the mornings, turn off the devices and instead encourage your children to look out the window. Early morning skies are beautiful with arrays of different colors and birds. Talk to your children about the different patterns clouds make while commuting.
  4. Seek out natural, untouched spaces and return often to them.A suburban field, edge of a forest, or even a small ravine at the end of the street can be teeming with wildlife and spaces to observe and explore. Returning to the same spot throughout the seasons will allow for observations of change and cycles of life.
  5. Stop thinking about nature time as leisure time.Time in nature is an essential investment in our children’s health

and well-being. Changing our mindset will change our priorities. If we view nature time as essential to good health, we will be more likely to engage in it. Nurturing creativity and wonder is part of the responsibility as parents if we want to raise healthy, well- balanced children.

6. Read about nature with your child.

Want to encourage and inspire? Check out books from the local library that are colorful with nature language and adventure.

7. Plant a small garden.

If you have the space, help your child plant a few vegetables. Bean and pea plants grow quickly and can be eaten when mature, teaching your child about food and the wonder of growth.

8. Look at the stars.

Drive out of the city some morning or evening for your own stargazing with a blanket and/or telescope or binoculars. Stargazing offers a deeper, more expansive understanding of the infinite. Allow time to think about it, and talk with your child about that wonder.

9. Get organized.

If your older child is interested, encourage him/her to get involved in the local community. Find an outdoor space, like a field or creek, to restore, and encourage your child to become an active participant in protecting it.

Have you ever thought of hosting a family game night? Nothing brings families together like some friendly competition. These days, there are more ways than ever for your entire family to stay entertained. Although your children may find it hard to believe, there was a time long, long ago when families used to gather around the table and play real-life, interactive games together, well into the night.

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