Every spring, a palpable feeling comes over our nursery school. As the weather warms and we hide away our winter jackets (finally!), our students emerge from the winter months transformed.  They have grown increasingly mature, social, verbal, independent, confident, and much, much more.  This maturity and growth is visible throughout the school.

Spending time in classroom 8 earlier this week, I found myself on the rug working with a group of children studying maps; particularly, a map of the JCC. We were building an elevator out of hooks and yarn, as the children have spent a lot of time riding the JCC elevators exploring each floor.  I found myself as engrossed in the project as the four or five children.  Suddenly I felt a slight tapping on my shoulder, and turned around to see a girl in the class holding a clipboard, paper, and colored pencil.  She said, very politely, “Can you please slow down? I’m trying to write down all your words. Can you say that again?” Already on her paper were dozens of the hallmark up-down squiggly lines of an emerging writer. She would repeat this directive a few times during the play.  The student had absorbed the practice of our teachers to observe and record the children’s play; the teachers’ ubiquitous clipboard and pen had become the student’s.  The tables, had we been using them, were turned.

This is happening throughout our classrooms, and no doubt in your homes as well. Standing by the doorway to the school each morning, I have noticed that more and more of your children walk in slightly ahead of you.  Children who spent many months clinging to your pant-leg or buried in your shoulder as they entered the school now confidently (bravely!) walk in on their own.  The child’s body language displays this newfound independence: head up and shoulders high, eyes wide and smile large, often holding the hand of a classmate-turned-best friend.

How do we respond as our children grow? By giving them even more opportunities for independence and maturity. Some of our classrooms now have the students prepare their backpacks before pick up; some have the children make the schedule at the beginning of the day; all have modified the routines in their class to reflect the change in their students over the past several months. 

Join us as we modify our routines to reflect your child’s growth. What more can they do for themselves?  Your child can carry their own backpack as you enter and leave the school. They can help prepare their snack or lunch. They can take the recycling to the basement, swipe a metrocard (with a little boost), choose their own clothes and dress themselves, and much, much more.  Way back at Parent Orientation in September, you heard me quote Alfie Kohn in stating that if you want to raise children who are capable of making decisions, you have to give them opportunities to make decisions.  The same is true in this regard: as our children grow more mature, they need opportunities to use their independence. 

My challenge to you is to find one daily routine with your child that you can modify to reflect their growth.  Maybe it is carrying their own bags home from school, or leaving that stroller at home, or helping out with a newborn baby sibling.  Whatever it is, talk to your child about it.  Tell them you’ve noticed how much they’ve grown this year.  And yes, commiserate afterwards with your fellow parents about how he’s no longer your little baby! Most of all, marvel with us as we watch your children transform before our eyes. The growing independence of a child is a beautiful thing, and we are privileged to observe it daily.

Shabbat shalom,