Our Family's Annual Back-to-School Traditions

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Our annual end-of-summer, back-to-school routine has become more than just a to-do list. It’s become a Clark girl tradition. Each year my girls and I plot, plan, and anticipate enjoying these little glimmers of girl time as we bid summer farewell and anticipate the new school year. I have found that by treating these things with excitement rather than dread, our experiences are elevated. Making family tasks like these fun and exciting isn’t always easy, but I have found it’s almost always in the way you present it. Making an afternoon of shoe shopping, for example, keeps me and my daughter relaxed and resilient when bumps in the road arise. And let’s face it, when you’ve got a daughter who hates wearing shoes and who has an extra narrow heel, they always do. So, yes, shoe shopping is on our annual traditions list. Among a number of others. See for yourself!

  • It’s that time again. 1 of 12
  • Clothes shopping 2 of 12

    This is likely at the top of everyone's list, but to make it more fun than grueling, I try to channel my own inner teen and remember how awesome it was to start school with at least a few fashionable key  items. We don't shop a lot during the year so my kids really look forward to the late August shopping days! Plus, considering our annual first day of school photos are a must for my family, the outfit symbolizes, in a single photo the look, feel, anticipation of the year ahead. That's exciting stuff!  (Photo: Me patiently waiting, waiting and waiting outside the dressing room.)

  • The haircut 3 of 12

    Reinvention is one of my teenager's favorite parts of back-to-school. The end-of-summer haircut is a big part of that. She loves being pampered at a "hip" salon which is something I can only pay for once a year or so. She opts for the start of the school year so it's become our salon tradition. This year she decided to go bold and cut 10 inches off! I documented the entire transformation (including donation to Locks of Love). Take a peek at this year's cute short haircut.

  • School supplies 4 of 12

    I know for a fact that this is on everyone's list. The sales in every retail store prove it. Personally, new school supplies make me giddy so this outing is among my favorites. Being a huge fan of the visual arts means that stocking up on a mixture of creative mediums is a must. This year I even sorted and organized every craft supply in the entire house just for this occasion. Now, we know what we have and what we need.

  • Snack stock 5 of 12

    My kids and I work together to stock the pantry up with the quick, easy, lunchbox ready snacks. They enjoy the freedom of choosing their own favorite snacks. From granola bars to Cuties, dried fruit to almonds, we start the school year out right by having a set selection of packable food items at the ready! These are the same kinds of snacks I carry extras of in the car considering snacking on the run is another part of our school year! I usually have a few go-to breakfast ideas ready too, like this Teen Power Smoothie or this simple egg recipe. Yum!

  • Shoes 6 of 12

    My youngest daughter has the most difficult time finding shoes that fit her. And, of all ironies, she's by far the hardest on her shoes so they need to be replaced regularly. For the start of school, we try to start early with shoe shopping to take the pressure off. Because we've had really rough shoe outings (the shoe store brings out the worst in both of us) we have called a truce and vowed together to make it a fun tradition and keep our short-tempers in check. It doesn't always work, but once we secure at least a small arsenal of shoes, she and I are both very happy (and relieved).

  • Sorted and organized 7 of 12

    I love the idea of starting out the new school year organized. Seeing that I'm not a very organized person (I have major clutter trouble) we do have to really put some effort into this one. This year we've done some serious clutter-busting damage in a good way! The lesson is, the more you can get rid of, the easier it is to organize what's left. Another lesson is that the more space you have available for the new school year's "stuff," the better your whole year will be. Oh, and speaking of room, the more clothes they purge before our annual clothes shopping trip, the more room they have for new clothes. Win win.

  • Pedicures 8 of 12

    I think it's only fair that mom gets in on some of the action this time of year. That said, my girls and I started the pampering pedicure tradition many years ago. We all look forward to some time to slow down and relax together before the pace of school  speed us up again. Calling it a tradition means it a non-negotiable outing (we put in on our calendars) so we're sure to take this time for ourselves every year.

  • Backpacks and lunchboxes 9 of 12

    There's something exciting about picking out your backpack and lunchbox for the new school year. I guess they could be considered a school girl's "signature pieces." I remember loving this part of back-to-school shopping when I was a child, so I really get into it with my kids. This is another part of the process that we try to do early to avoid the pressure of things being out of stock too close to the start of school.

  • A Disney Day 10 of 12

    Traditional trips to Disneyland and/or Disney's California Adventure is how we kick off our summer AND how we wind it up. These trips are ones we all savor and treasure. And it's something I love to document each year.

  • Intentions 11 of 12

    Each August I take a little time to reflect on the coming year. I wake up early when the house is quiet, and I set some intentions for the school year ahead. Because this time of year feels more like New Year's for me than New Year's does, I use this time to look to the future and create some plans and strategies for how I want the year to shape up for me as a mother. I highly recommend it a practice like this!

  • Sleeping in 12 of 12

    If nothing else, I try to let my kids get as much sleep as possible before school starts.  No one benefits from sleep deprivation, so stocking up before the big schedule shift is essential! I promise that on their traditional sleep-in days, I will not wake them up (even if it's 1pm)!

Some of our list might resemble yours. But, perhaps there’s a few “must-do” traditions on your list that you look forward to each year. Keeping in mind that the days can be long but the years are so very short, can help us to really enjoy this time of year with our children. Here’s to savoring our last summer moments together!


For more about Tracey and how she elevates the everyday, visit her at

For the story about how she and her teen got here, take a peek at their first post at Reframed.

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Want to have a better day? Check out 10 ways to do just that! 

Article Posted 2 years Ago
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