Mr Adam Lear | Head of Junior School:
A quick kiss on the cheek, a kind word and you wave goodbye to your child as they enter the school gate. Another exciting day of learning awaits within. Yet optimal learning requires much more than a smartly-worn uniform and a child’s presence in the classroom. What can we do as parents to prepare our children to have the best chance of fulfilling their potential at school and indeed in the significant learning opportunities that before and after school hours? Throughout this term, I’ll be sharing what researchers are telling us, and some of my own thoughts and experiences as an educator and a parent. I hope you find them helpful.
Nutirition: Is your child enjoying a diet of clean, real whole foods including a rainbow of vegetables at dinner time and some fresh fruit for school? Each morning, it is important that your child is nourished by protein (eg: eggs and legumes), healthy fats (eg: avocado) and complex carbohydrates (eg: wholemeal bread/cereal). And rather than sugar-rich fruit juice, a fibre-rich feed on a piece of fresh fruit and a glass of water is much better for health, energy and hunger regulation. Ensure your child’s lunchbox is packed with similar snacks and lunch foods. Low sugar-yogurt, fruit, low-salt rice crackers, cheese, carrots or even corn-on-the-cob are a few healthy options. Avoid sending pre-packaged grab-and-go treats that are often high in sugar. We ask all parents to support our efforts to be a nut-free school (including spreads), but there are many seeds children can snack on that are just as delicious and nutritious as nuts, while being safe for those with nut allergies.
Exercise: The Australian Government department of health provides the following recommendations regarding physical activity for school aged children:
- For health benefits, children aged 5–12 years should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every day.
- Children’s physical activity should include a variety of aerobic activities, including some vigorous intensity activity.
- On at least three days per week, children should engage in activities that strengthen muscle and bone.
- To achieve additional health benefits, children should engage in more activity – up to several hours per day.
To reduce health risks, children aged 5-12 years should minimise the time they spend being sedentary every day. To achieve this:
- Limit use of electronic media for entertainment (e.g. television, seated electronic games and computer use) to no more than two hours a day – lower levels are associated with reduced health risks.
- Break up long periods of sitting as often as possible.
Sleep: Brain development, the immune system, attentiveness and so much more relies on good sleep. For children aged 6 to 12, regular “lights out” time (eg: 7pm) preceded by at least 1 hour of non-screen time and a routine that relaxes the brain (such as being read to and/or reading to oneself) promote the sleep children need. Children’s bedrooms are ideally kept at a cooler temperature during sleep times. The Sleep Health Foundation recommends children aged 6 to 12 have between 9 and 11 hours sleep per night.
Maintaining High Expectations: The students of St Luke’s Grammar are among the most fortunate in the world. As parents, you demonstrate daily the depth of your commitment to providing all they need to fulfil their potential. In addition, you are well-educated, industrious, compassionate and cooperative citizens. Also, our school is incredibly well-resourced and our teachers are not only excellent, hard-working educators, but deeply care about each and every child in our school community. What more could our children need in order to excel? The answer is, our expectation that they will.
It doesn’t always sit well for us to set high expectations for our children. Sometimes, out of compassion, we are more prepared to make sacrifices for our children (or expect others to do so) than we are to ask them to push on or push through, emphasizing that we believe they can do it if they have another go. They have all they need and are surrounded by people who know them, believe in them and care about them. However, their effort and perseverance is what is needed. This can apply to such contexts as academic or sporting challenges, friendship issues or participation in activities and with people they are less comfortable.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating for the “treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen” school of thought. Above all, our children need to be deeply secure and confident of our unconditional love for them. But if we really want to build our children’s learning power, we need them to flex some muscle and they need to know that their parents and teachers are providing all they need and are unified in believing they can meet our high expectations of them.