Providence Preparatory School has been back to school for just over 3 weeks. Having worked in traditional 5-day-a-week education for over 20 years, I am adjusting to the University-Model that only has elementary students meeting "At-School" 2-days-a-week and off campus for "Satellite-Classes" 3-days-a-week.
Here are some of the differences I have noticed already:
Energy - Students and teachers arrive at school excited about the day ahead. There is a unique atmosphere when the school day starts. With on-campus teaching happening only 2 days per week, students seem rested and eager to see their friends and teachers. Teachers also have a day off in-between classes and only teach one or two classes on the days that they are on campus giving them plenty of time to focus, prepare and rejuvenate before arriving back on campus to teach.
Culture - The high level of energy works to help create the prevailing school culture. Due to the fact that students are only on campus 2 days per week there is very little class time that is not purposefully planned. Teachers are expected to utilize all of their allotted teaching time and students learn to respect the need to be attentive while the teacher is teaching. So, what we experience is very focused class periods surrounded by scheduled activity breaks such as brain break, recess, and physical education type classes. Additionally, students tend to cherish the time they have with friends at school due to the fact that they are only on campus with each other 2 days a week.
Family-focused— The University-Model provides an atmosphere that fosters meaningful interaction between parents and children. The true value of the University-Model is that parents serve as co-teachers with experienced professional educators. The “at-school” teacher develops the weekly lesson plans, teaches academic concepts, administers and grades quizzes and tests while at the same time serves a valuable resource to support the parent during the "satellite" school days. One thing that stands out to me is the depth of connection developed because the parents are so intimately involved in the learning process of their children. Who knows better how a child learns than a parent? In this model, parents are given the resources to capitalize on this knowledge and help their children grow academically and spiritually.
When I served as headmaster of a traditional 5-day-a-week school it seemed as if the school dictated the family activities each week. Naturally, students were out of the home and away from parents every weekday while they attended classes, but that wasn't the only time the school would determine a families schedule. Evening PTO meetings, sports/fine arts practices and homework also interfere with parents ability to influence family time. The University-Model gives families control over their time.
As the back to school routine approaches, fueling our children for a day of intellectual, social, physical and emotional growth shouldn’t be overlooked. Our bodies receive energy from the foods we eat, therefore the quality of our dietary consumption goes a long way to determining the quality of our day. This is important for adults and equally important for children who are still maturing and growing.
Here are a few tips to help get the new school year off to a nutritious start:
Plan a meal schedule - breakfast, lunch, and dinner and maybe even snacks
Before the stress of the work week begins plan out a meal schedule for the upcoming week. The more detailed the better, but at the very least writing down a breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu will free up your mind to think about other things. The beauty of a written meal plan is that you are thinking about it when you are not under pressure to produce a meal for your family, and it is a written record that can be re-used as often as you like. Start by just listing out foods for each meal, then you can pick items for each meal of the day off your master list. Once you get accustomed to planning your meal schedule, you might even want to start planning out snacks, as well.
Planning meals in advance is a great way to make the next two tips a bit easier to follow.
Make healthy breakfast choices - cereal is not enough to fuel the start of a day
It has been said the skipping breakfast is like trying to start a car without the key. It is easy to drop a packaged pastry and a juice box on the table, but that is not the type of fuel that will kick start the energy systems your child will draw on until lunch. Make sure that you child’s breakfast has plenty of protein, fruits/vegetables, and some healthy fats and very, very, little sugar to start their day of on the right track.
Now that you have his or her metabolism churning from a nutritious breakfast, staying fueled throughout the day means an equally nutritious lunch is a must.
Pack nutritious lunches - Make sure there protein in their lunch. Limit processed carbs. Include healthy fats. Minimize sugar. Water to drink.
Like breakfast, lunch is also very important. Think of lunch as putting gas in the car for the 2nd half of a long trip. Your child will likely be facing energy depletion and a decrease in focus by the time lunch rolls around. It is imperative that the food he or she eats for lunch adequately support brain and physical activity for the remainder of the school day. Lunch should include foods high in protein like lunch meat, tuna, and natural peanut butter (less processed sugars), carbohydrates (2 slices of bread will suffice for processed food) like fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats like avocado, bacon bits, olive oil (dressing for salad). When packing a lunch consider sugar as an enemy, therefore, water is the best drink to provide with a meal. Carbonated drinks, sports drinks, and juice pouches are often provided out of convenience, but they are packed with sugar and excessive use will make it harder for children to stay attentive as the day progresses. Lunch is fuel for the 2nd half of the day!
Of course, every child is different and circumstances like allergies, food aversions, and any number of other issues can make meal time a challenge. Although there will likely be obstacles to overcome as you move towards healthy energy supplying food choices, one thing is certain...the quality of the food a child eats will effect his or her ability to reach optimum levels of growth and development.
If you have any questions about planning meals or healthy food choices, I am happy to help. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.