A Well-Lit Path: A Blog from Westtown School

Back to School Post-Pandemic: Tips to Prepare Your Child

Posted by Maria Alonso & Jessica Morley on June 30, 2021

As we look toward fall and what we all hope will be a “more normal” start of school, there is a sense of excitement as well as a sense of concern. Many children have been home for a full year or more and on top of the normal start-of-school jitters and butterflies, they have the added weight of post-pandemic re-entry fears. We asked our psychology team here at Westtown to share some advice to help children of all ages prepare for school this fall. 

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Topics: Inspiring the Best in Kids

Get Prepped for Finals!

Posted by Fran de la Torre-Shu & Corey Young on May 27, 2021

For some students, simply hearing the words “finals” and “week” used in the same sentence is enough to conjure up thoughts of stress, anxiety, and caffeine fueled all-nighters sponsored by Monster Energy drinks. However, in a year that’s been as tumultuous and fraught with never-ending cascades of challenges as 2020-21 has, making it through finals week unscathed can feel like an especially daunting task. With the right set of strategies, students will not only face their finals with confidence but also will create a foundation of effective work and study habits that will benefit them in college and beyond. 

Regardless of whether it is a freshman preparing to take their first high school final, or a senior who is getting ready for their last one, creating a study schedule should be the number one priority when it comes to preparing for exams. Building an effective study schedule helps to identify knowledge gaps, reduce procrastination, and limit the stress and anxiety that comes with trying to cram everything in at the last minute. Because each student has their own learning style, the best way to build an effective study schedule is to create one that fits one’s individual needs. Check out the following tips for creating a customized A+ Study Schedule from Westtown’s Learning Center:

  • Prioritize the weakest subjects first.
  • Have a clear understanding of what will and will not be covered on the exams.
  • Choose a visual format to organize tasks, deadlines, and materials needed.
  • Make the schedule, then stick to it.
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Topics: Inspiring the Best in Kids

Get Your Garden Ready...as a Family!

Posted by Westtown School on March 26, 2021

Spring is in the air and that means it is time to get your garden ready!  Whether you are working with a backyard garden, a container garden, raised beds, or just want to know how to start the process, we have some helpful information for you. Recently, our in-house expert Tim Mountz, Sustainable Agriculture Teacher at Westtown School, shared his thoughts on gardening. Farmer Tim, as he is known to our students, reminds us that gardening is a great activity for the whole family AND can get kids excited to eat fruits and vegetables. So step away for the screen, grab your shovel, and let’s get to it!   

If you do not already have a garden or set area, here are some suggestions for choosing a location. 

It is best for your garden or container to be in an area that receives direct sunlight for the majority of the day.  An area close to the kitchen makes it fun and easy for transport. Remember to plant some of our aromatic friends such as lavender, rosemary, and sage. Don’t  worry if you do not have land, containers are great for smaller, portable gardens!   

When should garden prepping begin?

If you are interested in prepping for a vegetable bed, now (March/April) is a great time to start raking and weeding the area. Be sure to dig and rake to loosen all the soil below. Roots like loose soil and will grow better in this environment.  Once you clean out the area, let it soak up the sun and dry out. If you are more interested in perennials, now is the time to  cut them back. You can do the pruning and have your little one help gather the cuttings. The cuttings are a great addition to your compost, too!

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Topics: Inspiring the Best in Kids

Curl Up With A Good Book

Posted by Westtown School on February 17, 2021

 

Winter is here and this year, more than ever, we are hunkering down at home.  When it’s cold outside, what better accompaniment is there to your favorite blanket, chair, and hot beverage than a good book?  Whether you like to read alone or gathered with your family, we have some great suggestions from our in-house experts —our librarians—at Westtown School

Lower School Suggestions from Lower School Library and Media Specialist - Heather Tannenbaum

  • Heather's top new pick!  Author Matt de la Peña and illustrator Christian Robinson (the team behind the Newbery Medal and Caldecott Honor-winning Last Stop On Market Street) are back with Milo Imagines the World, a beautiful new picture book that celebrates the power of imagination. Every Sunday, Milo and his sister take a long train ride to visit their mother. To entertain himself on the ride, Milo watches the people around him and draws what he imagines their lives are like. Eventually he comes to realize, you can't really know anyone just by what they look like. (All ages.)

  • Looking for something like your childhood favorite, Charlotte's Web? Try Saving Winslow by award-winning author Sharon Creech. Louie is not great at keeping pets alive for long. So when his dad brings home a sickly mini donkey named Winslow, will Louie be able to save him? His strange new neighbor Nora is doubtful, but Louie is determined, especially because caring for Winslow makes him feel connected to his brother who is far away in the army. Will Louie be able to prove to everyone —and himself — that he and Winslow are both stronger than people expect? (Grades K and up.)

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Topics: Inspiring the Best in Kids

Navigating the Holidays in 2020

Posted by Westtown School on December 15, 2020

The holiday season is upon us! While it is a special time of the year, the holidays can also be stressful. The year 2020 has magnified some of our normal holiday stress and brought about new challenges. We asked our in-house experts at Westtown School about different strategies we can use during the unusual holiday season of 2020. Here’s what we learned in our Coffee with the Counselors series.

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Topics: Communication and Children, Inspiring the Best in Kids

No Screens Required

Posted by Catie Nicholson on October 20, 2020

Whether your children are learning virtually, in person, or a hybrid of both, I would guess that you  have a heightened awareness of our child’s screen time over the past few months. As I wrestle with that as a parent and teacher, I remind myself that movement and noise—constructive noise, that is—have always been part of my classroom. In my traditional teaching  environment, it was not odd for a teacher or parent walking the hall to hear my students chanting sentences to check their writing, acting out their favorite simile, or racing one another outside to demonstrate why the Pony Express was so effective.  

My “traditional” way of teaching has had to be reinvisioned for the realities of delivering education online during a pandemic. Challenge accepted, COVID-19! As a teacher I have always utilized movement to help my students learn, and in this age of virtual classrooms and added screen time, the need for movement has become even more important. It is evident with my students and my own children that they need opportunities to move, to get outside, and to learn away from screens. In fact, studies have shown that there is a connection between movement and memory. Physicians encourage their patients to get out and move because of the benefits it has on mental clarity and overall health. A student who is active displays better focus, cognitive processing, and memory retention compared to those who spend the day sedentary. Keeping the body active is necessary for overall physical and neurological health. 

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Topics: Inspiring the Best in Kids

Essentials for Every Student: Routine, Action, & Autonomy

Posted by Corey Young on September 5, 2020

In his famous 1953 essay, “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” British philosopher Isiah Berlin separated people into two distinct groups—hedgehogs and foxes. Foxes, wrote Berlin, are sleek, cunning creatures who try to use dozens of strategies to solve complex problems. Conversely, hedgehogs are simple and methodical creatures who integrate a unified, or principled, approach to problem-solving.

For parents and students alike, trying to navigate the distance learning environment and all of its complexities can feel especially challenging at times. Regardless of whether your approach to problem solving resembles the cunning of the fox, the principality of the hedgehog, or a hybrid of both, understanding how, and when, to implement the right mix of strategies will be a key factor to sustaining success in distance learning. For those who aren’t sure where, or how, to start coordinating their strategic route to success, utilizing the three key elements in, what I call, the Student Circles of Success, should provide you with a solid foundation. 

Student Circles of Success


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Topics: Communication and Children, Inspiring the Best in Kids

I Am Because We Are

Posted by Maria Alonso on August 4, 2020

Living on the six hundred acres that comprises Westtown School’s  campus is an absolute gift. I have the privilege of walking through myriad paths and trails on the campus each and every day. It is during these walks that I do my deepest thinking, ponderings, and wonderings about most any aspect of life. The other day I set out my walk with a rather simple question: What does the world need right now?  My question was  prompted both by the ongoing challenges of the pandemic and the recent —though long-standing— battle against racism in our country.  For the first ten minutes or so, my brain rambled and came up with a number of “heady” responses, none of which informed my gut that it was an “aha” moment or a meaningful revelation of any sort. So I decided to shut down my “monkey brain,” as many meditation teachers call our active noise-making noggins, and focused my attention on the winding path beneath my feet. When I choose to quiet my mind,  it is not uncommon for songs to pop up out of nowhere. My childhood memories are filled with music and song as I come from a very musical ancestry; my maternal aunts and uncles were the Cuban version of the VonTrapp family in The Sound of Music. I began to hum a tune that my mother would harmonize to when I was a child. My mother, Antonia, had this uncanny ability to harmonize to anything that possessed a melody and so her voice echoed in my ear:

What the world needs now is love, sweet love

It's the only thing that there's just too little of

What the world needs now is love, sweet love

No not just for some but for everyone.”

-Words by H. David and Music by Bacarach in 1965

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Topics: Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens, Inspiring the Best in Kids

Say Yes to Change with Radical Acceptance

Posted by Maria Alonso on April 22, 2020

In March of 2000, I was in Washington, D.C. and overheard a colleague speaking about a Buddhist psychologist named Tara Brach who would be speaking that evening at an after-dinner event. Instantly hooked by the Buddhist-psychologist combo, I decided to attend. Within minutes, I was mesmerized by this small, soft-spoken, gentle woman whose quiet, melodic voice and light green compassionate eyes immediately sent me into a highly relaxed state. In her talk on radical acceptance, she spoke about the idea of moving towards what upsets us rather than moving away from it (with the use of denial, distraction, or otherwise). In fact, she recommended a most revolutionary idea which came to her as she was speaking to us (talk about being present in the moment and how creativity springs forth). Dr. Brach instructed us: “Invite your fear to tea.” I have practiced this approach and have taught this to so many patients over the years and it is a game changer! You may wonder, How can I apply this to our current situation?  The script can sound something like:  “Hello, Coronavirus, would you like to come to my porch and discuss some items over tea?  Perhaps we can chat about what’s been going on in the world. Where you are going with this, because I am scared, disoriented, sad, and weary and after all, I do have a life to get back to.o, scratch that, reset...I have to accept you are here and that I need to make some adjustments and changes in my life, so that I can then see a new way forward with possibilities that can ground me and center me back into life again.” 

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Topics: Communication and Children, Inspiring the Best in Kids

The Power of Perception

Posted by Maria Alonso on April 8, 2020

We humans are meaning-making machines and it is ultimately our perception (or what our mind chooses to see) that informs the story we tell ourselves and others about what is happening and what it means. As a graduate student of psychology, perception was an area of study that I did not fully appreciate and simply experienced as a topic to review and file away. Thirty years later, I believe that perception is everything and that it is one of the most powerful tools that human beings possess. Perception determines and drives our approach, attitude, and actions in any given situation. The current global pandemic we are facing —and our varying responses to it— is a testament to the power of perception and how it impacts our experience, our behaviors, and the choices we make moment to moment. Even though our perceptions are informed and shaped by our personal life experiences, we humans have the capacity and the freedom to choose what we see, what we hear, and how we feel. These become the threads that weave the story that we tell.

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Topics: Inspiring the Best in Kids