Reflections on A New School Year


Some of us are spontaneous and function best in crisis mode. Some of us thrive on routine and plan our calendars weeks in advance. Regardless, I imagine that as each of us made the transition into parenthood, we moved a little closer to routines to make our busy lives work. September seems to be the natural month for "New Year's Resolutions," and now is the time for home routines to set a tone for your student's education.

Routines are a healthy and helpful way of managing the life of your student. And they are necessary for enabling your child to take control of his own education. Good routines include schedules, clear expectations and orderly surroundings.

Schedules allow students the freedom to control their time and learn to make choices. Like a budget, a schedule allows both structure for success and the freedom for choice. Schedules don't always have to be bound to the clock; they can be bound to rituals instead. For example, "When you come in from school, you have a snack; you get your chores done before you eat supper." Children and adults need free time after the strain of work, so create a schedule that allows this. Driving to classes and organized "play" activities every day does not meet this need. A student's well-managed work within the schedule should earn him ownership of any leftover time. Once a schedule is established, the parent is relieved of the constant wear and tear of children who would "rather not," "rather negotiate," or "rather be reminded." A mutually agreed upon schedule becomes, in a sense, an authority for parent and child, freeing both from the effort of decision.

Clear expectations are also essential. Prior agreement on how "a job well done" looks will free the child to either succeed or fail at their task. A standard of excellence, not perfection every time, eventually saves both you and the child from the constant negotiation over what is "enough". Setting clear expectations requires focused training from the adult.

The third part of well-structured routines involves environment. Care should be taken to create an orderly atmosphere. Time should not be squandered searching drawers for pencils and rulers or wrangling over where homework should be done. Neither should students be distracted by the comings and goings of other siblings. When homework is to be done in the open parts of the house, it might be best to designate the homework time as "quiet time" for the whole family.

Routines are particularly effective when the child has been a participant in setting them up. As your child carves out time for a half-hour of reading, piano practice, chores and dinner, he will understand the pressures your family is under to do all things in good time. As he sees you prioritizing the free-time which is so necessary to him-even putting it in the schedule, he will feel valued and respected. As he "signs off" on the routine you have devised, he will know that you are a partner in his success, not the enemy of his freedom.

Ultimately, routines are freeing and empowering to your children and to your family.

— Ginnie Wilcox, Head of School

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