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The Gift of Time

January 5, 2014

By Kyle Armstrong, Associate Head for Academics

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.

A measurement in minutes for one year made famous by the Broadway hit Rent. Time can be measured in different ways, but none of us can escape its passage. As you think about the New Year, consider the simple yet profound gift of time for your child[ren]…

Time to Wonder

Just as Walter Mitty does in the famous 1939 short story written by James Thurber, allowing children time to wonder, daydream, and create is crucial to their development. Mitty’s daydreams were heroic and seemingly far-fetched, and we can only speculate that his mind went to these places to combat the mundane nature of his life, but maybe his daydreams represent our deepest desires to make an impact on the world?

As we enter 2014, create space in your home for blog-1dreaming, tinkering, designing, and creating. Children deserve time and space to explore, build, and make playful decisions.

This only happens when we, as families and educators, resist the urge to overschedule and hold dear time for generative thinking. The guts of solving any problem consist of time, collaboration, and trial and error. Make 2014 a year of wonder.

Lead Dialogue

Many times as adults in conversations with kids, we tend to control the pace through giving direction, making a point, or downplaying their ideas. Of course, there are certainly times when children need direction and advice, but leading conversations rather than directing has a different feel altogether. Consider these three points in conversations with kids:

Become a Question Generator

Resist the temptation to give answers during a conversation. When questions arise, turn those questions back toward your child. While they ponder, provide them with leading ideas that may take them closer to a solution. Author Thomas Berger once said, “the art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”

Protect White Space

Allow time in dialogue for white space. In other words, be comfortable with pause in conversation. Too often we hurry discussions without giving space for reflection. Think about a piece of lined paper that has white space in the margins, except insert that white space throughout a conversation. That space can be valuable real estate for reflection, appreciation, and consideration for other ideas.

Listen versus Hearing

Many times in conversations that involve some type of blog-2problem solving, I often find myself searching for a solution in my head as others are talking. Although I might be hearing them, this is different than listening and considering. In fruitful dialogue with children, it is crucial that their ideas are validated and considered, because working through this process with them fosters design thinking and problem solving. They must navigate through this trial and error in order to develop as resilient solution makers. Create time in conversation to work through your child’s ideas by truly listening with your whole self.

Understand Plasticity

As we learn more about brain development, researchers tell us there are certain periods during the first 20 years of life when the brain is ripe for growth. Dr. JoAnn Deak states “if the brain is used during one of these periods, not only is it stretched and made bigger, but also it seems to enhance its plasticity for a lifetime.” This is one of the reasons why schools promote early childhood education (preschool and prekindergarten) and early foreign language exposure. Exposure to listening, talking, singing songs, etc. during the early stages of childhood “sets up the language sectors of the brain to be able to do things [language based] throughout life.”

blog-3With adolescents in particular, we all know that the prefrontal cortex – the area crucial for organization and decision-making – is not fully developed. Research indicates that the brain acts like a muscle, meaning it must “DO the work to change it.” In thinking about middle schoolers, simply telling them to be organized and scolding them to be responsible is one thing, but allowing them time and space to work through issues of organization and independence fosters growth in the prefrontal cortex.

Ultimately, performing almost any task successfully requires a certain amount of time and trial and error, so practice modeling resilient behavior and take an over the shoulder approach, but strongly resist the urge to perform these important tasks for your adolescent. They deserve time to become makers and doers.

Happy New Year to all, and I hope 2014 is a great year. Give the gift that you cannot see, hear, or feel – the profound gift of time.



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