Mother, educator, coffee enthusiast, director of BookMark Tutors , late night wanderer
It Doesn’t Have to Be Chaos: Making Memories On the Eve of a New School Year During the first several weeks of summer, the school hallways are nearly empty save some stray paper crumpled near the baseboards. The cleaners operate with a skeleton crew, ignoring the litter, the growing dust bunnies, the muddy footprints, and even overflowing trash bins.
In the three weeks before school, things begin to change. You don’t really see it happening, but it’s a fast paced evolution that begins with the seemingly magical appearance of boxes. Beginning in early August, these brown cubes of foreboding arrive in nearly every size and start to spread throughout the building. The sight of these boxes is either panic-inducing or thrilling (I love box-forts, so for me it’s a bit of both), but hundreds of boxes, neatly sealed, are piled across the foyer and throughout the halls waiting for their chance to be open.
If you call me immature, you're not invited in my box fort.
The boxes are only the catalyst for the ensuing mayhem: dozens of drop cloths and paint cans flecking dried paint across the floor; ladders, tool boxes, half-built shelves, bulletin boards, and random planks of MDF seem to lay carelessly wherever they landed; furniture, moved into the hallways, have messy notes for caretakers to recycle or store or move to a new classroom; yellowing books, kept long past their usefulness, are in almost every opened box you look (FYI, your librarian does not want these). The school has turned from dusty quietude to a temper tantrum of disorder and, if you were to visit during this time, you would have no idea how everything would right itself before the first day.
But, when the morning bell rings on that first day of school, there is no evidence of the chaotic disaster that was. Bulletin boards, freshly painted with school colours, welcome the children with warm greetings or inspirational phrases. New furniture, eager to be used, is set in stations for children to best differentiate their learning. Old furniture, not yet wearing thin, has been dusted, wiped down, given a scrubbing, and sometimes even renewed with paint, name cards, or even whiteboard decals.
"This place is so clean I might not get a cold this week!"
It’s these last weeks of disarray that seem to be a tradition ringing in the new school year. Most families preparing to head back -- or head to for the first time! -- feel a similar sense of disorder, chaos, and nerves. Parents begin to panic, worrying about their children’s futures, their back-to-school anxieties, their grades, their social and emotional development, their ability to learn, if their child needs extra help, if they’re not helping enough, if they’re helping too much . . . And kids are bundles of nervous excitement, as well! Who is their new teacher? Will they have any friends in their class? How much homework will they have? Will that grade be too hard?
The first day back to school -- as well as the weeks before and after -- are stressful. But, it doesn’t have to be that way! Parents are the impetus to turning the days leading up to the new school year from moans to memories. Summer break may be over, but there is still plenty of time for memory making, turning havoc to happiness, turning brooding to bonding. Parent’s can change how their children anticipate the first days of school by creating new traditions that both connect you with your kids and jumpstart your, and your child’s, year. Why not try something new during this eve of school?
Parent's often can't wait for school to begin, but let the kids enjoy their freedom for a few more days.
Back-to-School Scavenger Hunt: This doesn’t have to be elaborate and can even just mimic an Easter Egg Hunt, but get your kids into prepping for the school year by hiding their new school supplies around the house or yard. Throw in some sweets, special snacks, positive affirmations from you and other family members, a new backpack, pencil cases, writing tools, crayons, sharpeners, and bookmarks can be fun gifts, especially when they’re a bit unique. Back-to-school sales are going wild right now, so be on the look-out for fun pens, weirdly shaped erasers, and favourite character notebooks.
Back-to-School Interview: Your child is going to change so much in the next year, it’s unreal. Before they grow up one more day, sit-down and have a professional interview with them. Get a “microphone” (a hairbrush will do!), wear professional clothes, and have notecards ready for a Q & A with your kid. Make sure to set-up your mobile phone and record. Here are some questions to ask your kids beyond just learning their favourites:
Who makes the best food in our family? What food do they make the best?
Do you like to cook? What is your favourite food to make?
Does [mom, dad, brother, sister, etc.] do something really funny? What do they do to make you laugh?
What outdoor games do you like playing? Who do you like playing the most with?
What was the funniest thing that happened this summer?
What new fact did you learn this summer?
What would you rate your summer on a scale of 1 to 10? Why?
What do you hope you’ll learn about this year?
If school were a ride at the fair, which ride would it be? Why?
If you could be the teacher for a day, what would you do? Why?
Who makes you the angriest? What do they do that angers you?
Who makes you smile the most?
What has been your biggest challenge?
When have you felt most proud of yourself?
What is the kindest thing you do for someone else?
First Day Memories: You can also do a simplified version of the interview by having your child fill out an “About Me” form. This can be saved in a file folder or even used as a photograph prop (answers written on chalkboards are very popular!). We’ve created a template using Canva, which you can use by clicking this link.
I get messier than this pouring Cheerios into a bowl.
Food, Family, & Fun: Order your child’s favourite takeout, make their most wished-for box of Mac-n-Cheese, and get out the ice cream sandwiches, a fun first week of school treat is having a Smörgåsbord with the whole family. Now, we’re not condoning emotional eating, but sometimes it just feels good to pig out with your loved ones. It may get your kids to open up and talk more about their new class, it may let you hear some new stories or find out about new friends, but one thing it will do is create a fun, bonding experience that your child will look forward to for the rest of the year.
Summer Time Capsule: If your summer was magical, think about creating a summer time capsule. Take time to decorate a Summer 2018 box with photos, special phrases, quotes, stickers, and decals. Inside the box, gather photos, mementos, trinkets, pressed flowers, and whatever else will help remind you of your spectacular summer.
Stress Balls: Homemade stress balls are all the rage with kids in school. It’s a simple craft using balloons and a squishy centre. The squishy centre can be clay, orbeez, rice, flour, beans, oats, lentils, cornstarch/water, slime, gelatin & water, sand, play dough . . . really, you can probably think of even more things for that stress ball middle. Have the kids decorate the balloon, fill it up, and have fun.
Get Baking: Have a bake-day to pre-make yummy treats for breakfasts, lunches, and after school snacks. Cookies, quick breads, and muffins are so fun to bake and easy for even the youngest kid can take part in. But, did you know things like french toast, breakfast sandwiches, personal pizzas or pizza rolls, homemade fruit leather, pancakes, mini quiches, smoothies (in yogurt tubes!), chicken nuggets, veggie fritters, homemade french fries, and more can all be made ahead of time? These quick & easy, make-ahead snacks are great for bonding and for eating.
Handprint Art: Keep track of your child’s growth by creating handprint keepsakes. Use clay or salt dough for decorations or ornaments, cement for outdoor features, or ink/paint for everything else. I’ve seen some people using t-shirts with “Class of 2XXX” to keep their kid’s handprints for every year until graduation.
Via "Where the Smiles Have Been" www.wherethesmileshavebeen.com
Worry stones: Worry stones are small stones with personalized pictures or phrases that people hold to relax their anxieties. Use paint, gel pens, and sharpies and let your kids’ imaginations run wild while they create small pictures on stones. Later, they can carry around their favourites and use them for self-soothing and relaxation.
School year’s eve party: Decorate with balloons, streamers, confetti, photo props, and maybe even a photo booth. Serve up some sparkling cider, tasty treats, and party games to make the night a memorable tradition your kids will enjoy for years to come.
Hold their hands until they won't let you anymore.
Whether it's your child's first day of her first year of school or first day of her last year of school, you might be able to start the year off on a more positive -- and stress-free-- foot. Your new school year traditions may make these last weeks of summer vacation flow more smoothly and, possibly, be something to look forward to all summer long.