Dear Flint Hill School Families,
Can you believe that we are at this point in the school year? I always have this vivid image when the school year starts that we are charging up a mountain, and once we get to the peak, which is right now, it seems that we go down or through the next semester even faster, almost like a slide.
This year, in particular, I feel like we started the school year at a full sprint. Believe it or not, I ran the high hurdles in high school and college. I remember the hours I used to practice coming out of the blocks, making sure that I was up to full speed before I hit the first hurdle. There was no pacing. There was no getting into a rhythm. You came out with everything you had, and then one after the other, you had to take on the hurdles. Always leaning forward and still making sure that you could pick up speed as the race went on. That is what this school year has felt like — coming out of the blocks and tackling hurdles as they came.
Overall, this has been an amazing year; we have had some incredible moments of enormous success and excitement. And we have had moments of pain, disappointment, and frustration. All of it is part of life and part of the human condition. However, each event, good or bad, has drained some energy from the bucket of energy we carry with us. Our students in the Middle and Upper Schools are feeling a particular kind of pressure during exams this week, after putting in the hours required to study and balancing all of the things going on in their young lives.
Winter Break is now ahead of us, and that is exactly what it should be — a break. We all need to step away, students and parents alike. Your children have been working hard and learning, and you have been busy balancing your life and driving them to all kinds of activities and events. We need to be able to step back and take a deep breath. We need to do some things differently than we have been doing them throughout the semester. We need to take advantage of the change of pace, a different daily schedule or routine, and focus on getting some rest and rejuvenation to help clear our heads, as we bring closure to this part of the school year. Let’s help our children and ourselves prepare for that next charge, as we crest the mountain.
Here are some things you can do for your children and consider for yourselves:
- Focus on rest. Even if you are staying close to home instead of traveling, make sure that everyone gets plenty of rest. Give everyone permission to sleep late in the morning. It is a gift we can give our children and ourselves occasionally. You may even consider napping or going to be bed early. Whatever it may be, we need just to let some things go. So many of us are “type A” personalities who thrive on a constant sense of motion and activity — we never give ourselves permission to step back and relax. This is the right time to do it! It is healthy to get some much-needed rest.
- Enjoy your family and friends. This time of the year gives us a chance to be with family and friends. Find new and different things to do together. Watch a movie together, play a board game, cook a meal or create a new snack together. Look through photo albums from years past. Take long walks together. The bottom line is that you enjoy the time together. Life goes by far too quickly, and it will seem like only a moment when you look back and realize how quickly your children have grown up. If you work outside the home, try to leave work behind when you are with family and friends. Don’t try to balance it all. Family always comes first. It is what we need more than anything during this winter break.
Do something fun that you’ve put off. So often we say things like, “Oh, I wish I could read that, watch that, or listen to that.” “I don’t have time right now.” “I will do that when we get our break.” Guess what? This is it! Now is the time. Read that book you have been putting off for a long time. Watch that movie you talked about wanting to see. Visit that museum, go for a run or a walk. Do whatever it is that will allow you to look back and feel as though you truly took advantage of the break. The Flint Hill family has all been going full tilt since the start of the school year. Let’s help set the example for our children and help them develop, as a habit, the need to take the breaks they need to be their best selves. Having some “me time” is not selfish; it can be restorative and energizing.
I wish every one of you the very best during this special holiday season, and best wishes for a very exciting new year ahead!
John M. Thomas
About the Headmaster
Since 2005, John Thomas has served as Flint Hill’s Headmaster. He is a graduate of the McDonogh School in Baltimore, Maryland, and holds degrees from Randolph Macon College and Towson University, with a certificate in school psychology from the State of Maryland. He is co-author of “Psychodiagnostic Evaluation of Children: A Casebook Approach,” and has articles published in the book “Parenting Teens: Collected Essays by Independent School Educators” published by the Secondary School Admission Test Board. John has served on the Board of Trustees for the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS) and the Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington (AISGW), and is a current Board member for Emerging Scholars. He and his wife Emily, a former teacher, have three grown sons, three daughters-in-law and four grandchildren.
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