In the next couple weeks, we will kick off two programs that are long-standing Turning Point traditions: PDF Nights (formerly known as “Family Nights”), and Family Groups. Both programs take place once per month during the school year, and each serve to provide our students with opportunities to deepen their connections with people who can make a profound impact in their lives—from their own family members to fellow students and adults at school.
PDF Nights (formerly “Family Nights”)
PDF Nights (Playtime, Downtime, Family Time) are monthly “no homework” evenings when families are encouraged to gather together to play games, enjoy the outdoors, read books, or otherwise spend quality time uninterrupted by personal electronics or other distractions. These deliberate homework breaks are designed to make space for family—a priority that becomes more difficult as the pressures of everyday life increase.
During this morning’s Assembly, I asked returning students to share some of their favorite PDF Night activities; card games, board games, making dinner, playing outside, watching the Emmy Awards, knitting, and even “just hanging out” were some of their answers. But even more significant than the responses I did receive were the ones I did not receive; not a single student mentioned playing video games or using mobile devices, so thank you, parents and caregivers, for following instructions!
We changed the name to PDF Nights after participating last spring in a workshop with Dr. Denise Pope of the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University, co-founder of Challenge Success. Dr. Pope points out that these three categories of well-being (playtime, downtime, and family time) help build “crucial life skills that kids need to become happy and healthy adults.” Young children need unstructured time to explore who they are, how to solve problems, and ways to navigate conflict, says Dr. Pope. Older kids need downtime to reflect, to dream, and to reconnect with themselves and their families.
Weeknights are notoriously hectic. Across the K-8 grade levels, we strive to assign homework that is meaningful, purposeful, and efficient. But even the best homework is still homework, and with early weeknight bedtimes, families often have to wait until weekends to spend time together. And with more structured activities during weekends, easy-going, casual time is becoming rarer.
At Turning Point, we believe one of the ways to nurture happiness and contentment is by finding balance in the many areas of our lives. We hope that these monthly PDF Nights will create rituals that provide time to truly connect with your loved ones, and that encourage you to consider how your child develops good “balancing” skills (and maybe develop healthier habits of your own!).
Upon admission to Turning Point every student is assigned to one of 21 “Families” where they remain through graduation. Each Family consists of approximately 16 students plus four “elders” (teachers and staff), spanning all grade levels. Every student and faculty/staff member of Turning Point participates in this program, from Primary through Middle School, teachers, business office staff, leadership, facilities and tech teams, and everyone in between.
This multi-age environment builds a sense of community in many ways. Younger students develop bravery and adore the time they spend with older students, older students practice responsible modeling and mentoring, and all members of the Turning Point community are inspired to learn, share, and grow together. Meaningful bonds and trusting relationships are formed among children and adults who might not otherwise have occasion to interact during the regular course of the school day.
Family Groups typically meet once per month on Tuesdays. All students and staff meet in their Family Groups at the same time, in varying locations across campus, and work towards common goals.
Our first Family Group event is Tuesday, September 25. On this day, our middle school students introduce themselves to new students and welcome them to their Families. Particularly for our Primary students, leaving the classroom and engaging with other students and adults they do not know very well can feel a bit overwhelming at first. This is why we intentionally build in a day where our new students can meet their older mentors, so there are familiar faces greeting them when the other Family Group events occur.
We will keep you posted on our Family Group activities during the course of the year, and I encourage you to ask your children to tell you more about how they are enjoying their “Family” at school.
As always, if you have any questions or would like to learn more, please feel free to reach out to me or any of your child’s teachers. We look forward to another great year of these wonderful traditions, and are excited to share them with you and your family.
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School