The Back to School season can be so hectic, can’t it? There are supplies to purchase and clothes closets to overhaul. I can’t be the only parent with kids that grow six inches every summer! Surely I’m not the only parent with boys who feel they should be able to wear their super-cool basketball t-shirt regardless of the fact that their belly button is dangerously close to showing? Actually, the last few weeks of summer kind of stress me out a little bit.
As harried as this season is for me as a mom, I think it’s harder for the children. Their schedules change, and they lose a significant degree of freedom. It’s nice to have a clear delineation between summer and school. My husband and I wanted to make the beginning of school and the end of summer a celebration for our kids. To help with the transition from summer to school, we instituted a yearly Not-Back-to-School Week.
For the entire week prior to beginning formal studies for the school year, we plan an event every day of the week. I work hard to find fun, engaging activities that completely wear us out! Sometimes our event days are really laid back. We go swimming with friends, to the amusement park, and we have an all day game day with ice cream and popcorn. We also love to include hikes or drives down the coast. Usually our library reading challenge provides us with tickets to a number of activities and we schedule them for that week.
Other years, we go all out on our planning. We might hit a sporting event or concert if we can swing it. This year we’re planning to go camping and white river rafting. Last year, our Not-Back-to-School week extended to 17 days. We took a whirlwind road trip through 10 states and saw 14 national parks. We probably won’t ever top that trip, but it’s something our kids will remember their entire lives.
We let our kids help with the planning two weeks before school starts. They have some really great ideas, and we have a lot of fun researching options together. That week we do all our maintenance tasks. We shop for supplies, and the kids try on all their old clothes. Knowing they have an exciting week of adventure ahead somehow dulls the pain of having mom tear their favorite (and oh, so short) shirt from their possession. It even makes school supply shopping seem tolerable.
Not-Back-To-School Week has been a blessing to our family for a number of years now. Traditions give kids stability and markers in their year. Rather than dreading the beginning of the school year, our boys look forward to an exciting time of family bonding. They leave the summer behind with fond memories of the times they spent with us. One final hurrah during the summer seems to help them focus on the school year ahead as well. They head to their studies calm, collected, and–well–just plain exhausted! It’s a win-win for everyone!
Danika Cooley is a children’s writer who cherishes spending time with her husband and their four children. She is the author of Bible Road Trip, a 3-year Bible survey curriculum for preschool to high school, and her work has appeared in magazines including Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse, Clubhouse Jr. and Thriving Family; and Upper Room Ministries’ Pockets and Devozine. Danika blogs at Thinking Kids.