We have been inundated with Back-To-School flyers and zippy commercials and academic supply lists. We have been given the message, loud and clear, that it is time for us to get our ducks in a row, schedule hair cuts, stuff backpacks and purchase the newest, coolest gym shoes for the children in our homes. School starts soon! It is time to get ready.
And while all of this swims around my head, I cannot help but think that we are somehow missing the mark. It may be true that there is something special about a brand new box of 64, but it is the thing that matters? Is it really where our focus should be during these last, long days of summer? Will our buying frenzy lead to children who are ready for school to start up once more?
Here are some preparations to consider:
1. Let your kids linger outside. In our home, we can already feel the schedules pushing in on our lazy summer days. Team practices, last minute camps, forms to fill out... but my kids want to be outside. They NEED to be outside. Let's make time, before the time is gone, to push our kids out the door and let the sun land on their cheeks as they run and yell and hang upside down in a tree. They need the openness of it... the freedom. They need to think up a game and play with abandon and come in dirty and tired. It matters, even if they beg to play video games inside. They need to breathe deep, to lay in the grass, to watch falling stars in cool evening air. Do it, mommas. While we can.
2. Listen to their concerns and excitements about the year to come. Listen to the way they talk about their friends, their teachers, their school environment. Let them spill the whole of it out so that you know where they are when they step away. Ask gentle questions and then let the words come and look at their faces and read their feelings and help them talk through all that goes into starting a brand new year. You are building relationships here... sending a message that you will hear them. And as the wonder and turmoil of school begins again, you want them to know they can come to you with all that will arise in class.
3. Check the messages you send about school. As a speaker, I have had the chance to listen to mommas from all over, many of whom believe that it is normal, even expected, for children to hate school. Breaks my heart! Never underestimate the power of your words in your child's young life! School does not have to be something kids dread. Be positive about the year ahead! Talk about the privilege of going to school and the amazing things they will learn. Talk about LOVING it and working hard and playing hard and make it all seem like fun... because it is! Kids who go into school ready for a great adventure, often will find one! If last year was hard, speak positively about a new start! If there are areas of concern in your child's school or classroom, please be prepared to get involved. Be an advocate in trouble. Yet, in hardship or joy, speak with chosen words. Your words will replay in your child's mind and heart for years to come.
4. Pray. Pray a lot. Pray for your children, for their school, for the lessons that will be taught and those that are unplanned. Pray for your child's teacher and for the families and for the administration. Pray with your child for those things that concern them and the things they are eager to begin. Let the teachers know you are praying for them, if you feel comfortable doing so. Because as this year begins, you will have a new partnership beginning as well. A new name. A new influence. The teacher your child will be with this year will become a part of your family history. Your child will tell stories about this person and remember field trips shared. Your community is growing and your family is growing and all of it is worth praying about.
5. Read. Read aloud. Have your children read silently. Prepare their minds and their imaginations for the year ahead. It doesn't have to feel "academic"... allow it all to feel fun. Even big kids will listen... so take a few minutes and share a story and let your minds run with the wonder of it all.
Getting ready for back to school has become a commercial event. Search #BTS on Twitter and you will find hundreds of stores using that hashtag to draw you into the next "necessary" purchase. But, getting ready for the year ahead has little to do with the things we must buy. Yes, the Crayolas are necessary. But stand back a bit and squint your eyes and look to see what matters more. Helping our kids to FEEL ready... helping our kids to process what is to come... all of this matter so much more.
It takes so little to make the most of these days. If we think through our getting ready, we can find ourselves teaching our kids to look forward to the year ahead. Raising kids who love school is far more important than buying the "right" shoes. Fostering a positive attitude about school can lead to greater success for our kids, opening doors we don't even know we will need.
These days of summer are numbered. What we do with this time can set the stage for an amazing year ahead.