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As I approached the front door of Starbucks one morning in August, I was struck with dread as I read the sign on the door. This store will be closed for renovations through the end of September.

My daily stop at Starbucks is an integral part of my day. I have a set routine. The people there know me and know how I like my coffee. Grande Red Eye in hand I am ready to hit the road and start my day. From there I get on to the highway and head straight to school.

Surely finding another Starbucks, mapping out a new route to school, getting to know new people… were bound to disrupt my life and throw off my equilibrium. I wondered and worried a lot about the impact of the store closure on my ability to start school off on the right foot.

Slowly I made peace with the idea of a new location for coffee. At the new location, the baristas got to know me and learned my favorite drink.

The bulletin board had information about neighborhood events I never would have known about.

I figured out the parking situation and explored new ways to get to school.

On the way I explored unfamiliar neighborhoods and made some new discoveries.

So it is with our children.

Children thrive on routines. When children know what to expect, they are more willing to do it and feel confident and independent. Predictable events provide a foundation for their lives. Consistent schedules support young children’s ability to self-regulate and move through their day calmly.

Children also need opportunities to stretch and take on new challenges. Teachers reflect on the child’s skill level and independence and formulate ways to expand them and help them achieve the next set of goals. The gap between what a child has already mastered and what they can achieve with a little guidance and instruction is referred to as the Zone of Proximal Development. Parents and teachers model for children and show them what they are capable of achieving.

Learning takes place when there is some disequilibrium. The feeling of being slightly imbalanced and slightly unsure pushes all of us to experiment and to learn.

We sometimes hope for the calmness and security of our old reliable routines; being with the same friends, working with the same materials, eating the same foods…. going to the same Starbucks. The old reliable routines don’t give us the chance to see that we can do so much more.

We encourage our children and should encourage ourselves to reach beyond, explore new paths and challenge the status quo. It feels unsettling and stressful to watch our children in new and unfamiliar territory, but it feels wonderful to see how capable they are of expanding their horizons.

When we push a little bit within the zone of proximal development, with the right love and support and guidance, we are all certain to make new discoveries, learn new things, and achieve new accomplishments.

May 25,2020 /  2 Sivan 5780