An Adventurer’s Guide To Back To School

My son and I read “The Kissing Hand” as we curled up together… our last night before he became a kindergarten student. I watched him drift off to sleep, knowing in the morning things would be different. I wanted to do it all perfectly — a June Cleaver kind of breakfast followed by the quintessential words of wisdom that he would remember forever. But instead, we had frozen waffles and messy hair… the things that I will remember with fondness. And I cried. And as I slipped out of his classroom, he caught my eye and held up his little hand, just the way the raccoon did in the story from the night before — reconfirming my commitment to the little moments that make up for the messy hair and frozen waffles.

As an educator of 22 years, I felt a little blindsided by all the newness, fear and questions. I have been on the giving end of teaching for so long that I assumed it would feel second nature to me. But there is something about being on the receiving end that is both luminous and terrifying. Feeling like a piece of your heart now resides outside your body and will now experience a life of which you will only get glances. So I decided to build an arsenal… a tool kit of ideas designed to make for calm mornings, talkative rides home in the afternoon, and precious moments of connection as they fit between dinner and bath time.

I hope some of the tools in our kit will help save your sanity and create some magic moments. Here are some of our favorites:

1. Create a “tomorrow” drawer or cubby. Place clothes, backpack and any other supplies needed in this sacred spot. This little lauchpad will save you a world of morning headaches.

2. Build a list of after school questions and refuse to take silence for an answer. Open ended questions are the best kind as they are often a jumping off point for deeper conversation. Some of our favorites include:

  • How were you kind today?
  • What did you try hard at today?
  • What do you wish you could do over today?
  • When were you brave today?
  • What was the funniest thing that happened today?
  • What is something that surprised you today?
  • What are you looking forward to tomorrow?

3. Set up Monday-Friday hangers in your child’s closet. Choose outfits for the week on Sunday. Let them choose with you as the consultant/suggestion maker (choose your battles wisely).

4. Carve a committed amount of time to do something together. Even 15-30 minutes each week can make a profound difference in your child and your family. There are thousands of fun games and activities that can be completed in 15 minutes. The most important part is to be fully present. Set a timer if you must.

5. Create a “one more time” list of ways to savor the summer one last time. Schedule those activities into the next few weeks. Enjoy a watermelon or a swim at the local pool. Buy some ice cream from the ice cream truck or have a water balloon fight.

6. Create a fall bucket list of favorite things to do this autumn. Place them on the calendar as well.

“Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” — Michael J. Fox

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