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Ways to Make This School Year Special

Ah milestones!

Every year the first day of school sneaks up on us. It’s a big deal. We’re all nervous on the first day of school – wearing our new clothes and hoping all goes well. The kids are worried about new teachers and classmates, even on the years when they are not starting at a new school. I’m worried about whether they are going to have a good day, whether the driving will make me crazy and what the odds are that I can make it through the year without needing to be four places at once (slim to none)

Over the years I’ve accumulated a lot of tricks & ideas for making the first day and each school year special. We don’t do them all every year, but there are at least a few that have become a tradition. You might want to try some of these to ease your own first day jitters and also to create a lasting memento of your child’s school years. I only wish I had mastered some of these sooner!

I’ll have kids in preschool, elementary, middle and high school this year. It’s my wish that they all have a wonderful school year.

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  • First and Last Day Pics 1 of 19
    First and Last Day Pics
    This sweet idea comes to my from my friend Julie of Angry Julie Monday. I've always taken a first day of school photo of my kids and I like to take that photo in the same place (front steps) every year. I love the idea of the signs and taking a photo on the last day as well. So fun to document the changes!
  • Walking to School Rocks 2 of 19
    Walking to School Rocks
    If you are close enough to walk to school (or the bus stop) with your kids, I highly recommend it. It's a far nicer transition than hopping in and out of the car. It's a great time to talk about hopes and fears or go over what happened that day.
  • Use an Old Backpack the First Week! 3 of 19
    Use an Old Backpack the First Week!
    Here's the thing about backpacks. They have to take some amount of abuse and they have to be age/school appropriate. You might do all the research and buy what you think is the BEST ergonomic backpack (worth the massive expense) and your kid will say they love love love it only to swear it is the worst most embarrassing backpack on the planet a week later. It's prudent to survey the scene and settle into what's cool this year before dropping serious coin.
  • Do Tip the Driver 4 of 19
    Do Tip the Driver
    Dude. I get four kids out the door by 7 am most days. This doesn't happen without coffee. Be good to yourself. The oxygen mask theory applies.
  • Everyone Loves Notes With Food 5 of 19
    Everyone Loves Notes With Food
    I've been known to buy bananas with cute stickers. My kids love notes in their lunch. The banana doesn't fall far from the tree? It's a nice touch to stick a note in with a lunch or snack from time to time. It doesn't have to be long or deep. Try knock knock jokes.
  • DIY Lunches 6 of 19
    DIY Lunches
    My 7th grader is delighted that her 3rd grade brother is going to have to make his own lunches this year. 3rd grade was the year that I started asking my kids to contribute to some or all of their daily lunch packing duties. I also advocate that they bake cookies and snacks over the weekend to pack up for school lunches. I spend less, they take pride in their work. Win win!
  • Celebrate with Froyo! 7 of 19
    Celebrate with Froyo!
    When I was a kid we went to Friendly's every time there was a reason to celebrate school accomplishments. After recitals and the school play, after I won an award. My kids get froyo. It's a small ritual, done infrequently enough that it always feels special. Maybe you don't have a froyo place by you (shocking, you must live in Antarctica!) but pick a ritual to celebrate with. Your kids will feel special every time they get to do something/go to someplace special
  • Protein for Breakfast! 8 of 19
    Protein for Breakfast!
    Frozen waffles save my life on a daily basis but I am loathe to serve them to my kids without some protein. Protein breakfasts make for better days. Put some almond butter on your waffle. Eat an egg. Make quinoa porridge instead of grits! I seriously believe in good breakfasts - especially on test days and any time your kids don't get enough sleep! PS I'm sorry if you are vegan and this pile of bacon picture offends.
  • Picture the Walls 9 of 19
    Picture the Walls
    Every year I like to take pictures of all the kids artwork on the walls of their classrooms and in the hallway. It's easy to forget what their world looked like and there is no straighter path into the world they occupy than these walls. Sure, you're bound to save your own kid's art but it's an even more wonderful memento to see it in context.
  • Outfit Up 10 of 19
    Outfit Up
    When people ask me for my #1 tip as a mom of four, I tell this this lifesaving trick. Once a month I go through my younger kids closets and make up and hang outfits. I create enough for 3 weeks of school days. Trying to match their clothes in the morning is a nightmare. My spouse has been known to mistake their pajamas as daywear and they each would put on their siblings wildly small/big clothing if left to their own devices. Even the groggiest 7 yo can grab a hanger and dress himself in the outfit already assembled there.
  • The Best Idea I’ve Heard in a While 11 of 19
    The Best Idea I've Heard in a While
    I got this idea via eavesdropping (literally, walking down the street and listening to two moms talking on Catalina Island - props to them!) and I'm not sure where it originated. I wish I'd done it with all my kids. Basically you buy This Dr Suess Book and on the front inside cover you write your wishes for your child for that year. At the end of the year you sneak the book to your kid's teacher and you ask them to write a note about your kid and their "predictions" for the future on the inside back cover. When they leave for college, you give them the book. Wish I'd heard this idea sooner!
  • In it To Win It? 12 of 19
    In it To Win It?
    I'm going to confess that I hated, HATED the reading medal program at my son's old school. It felt far more like parental busywork and bureaucracy than an actual program to promote literacy to me. I could have dug in my heels and refused to take part. But the thing was, he loved it. Those medals meant a lot for him. So I filled out the forms in triplicate, and sucked it up. It's their school year, and their experience. Sometimes you gotta set your own emotions aside and go with the flow, even when it feels like swimming upstream. After the medal ceremony, I got to have Froyo.
  • Honor Thy Teacher! 13 of 19
    Honor Thy Teacher!
    A good teacher truly deserves all the kudos and accolades you can heap on him/her. It's a tough job, one I am sure I could not do. Gift from the heart if you are so moved, as I was by "Ms Kerry" who received this Lisa Leonard Ornament at the end of my eldest's 8th grade year. I'll be eternally grateful for the effect this teacher had. I took a photo of the gift so we would remember as well!
  • Lunchboxes with Character 14 of 19
    Lunchboxes with Character
    Remember what I said about backpacks and "surveying the scene" before dropping coin? The same applies for lunchboxes, with a few twists. 1. You will need extra lunchboxes for when your kid loses their lunchbox. 2. The more unique the lunchbox, the less likely your kid is to lose theirs. Buying the same black one from Target that several other kids have will only speed the lunchbox loss process.
  • The Lunchbox Wars 15 of 19
    The Lunchbox Wars
    Do you see this fabulous bento box? Behold! I actually filled it myself. At a workshop. I won't even pretend I am packing this kind of heat (cool?) on a daily basis. But it is a welcome treat now and again. Don't beat yourself up if you can't pack a perfect lunch daily. In fact you might consider signing up for school lunches a few times a week to take the pressure off yourself. I recommend Monday & Friday. Those are my days off from lunch duty.
  • Wear the Crown. Own the Crown 16 of 19
    Wear the Crown. Own the Crown
    When your preschooler makes you a crown you should wear it. You should take goofy photos of yourself wearing it. Trust me.
  • School Supplies Shop All Year Round 17 of 19
    School Supplies Shop All Year Round
    It's a good idea to stock up on the basics you know you will need all year long, when they are on sale. But remember what I said about backpacks and lunchboxes? Same applies to folders and notebooks. Last year it was Bieber. This year it is hot pink. Try and stall a few days so you can see what the other kids have or you may be dealing with asks to buy the same thing twice. If you MUST shop before school starts, do it with friends! There is safety in numbers.
  • Teens Like to Back to School Shop Too! 18 of 19
    Teens Like to Back to School Shop Too!
    Much of the focus for Back to School shopping is on little kids. By the time they are in High School kids may scoff at lunchboxes and eschew backpacks in favor of a giant purse (girls) but odds are they still will want to personalize their locker. It's like a pre-dorm room. A home away from home. Let them pick out a few things to organize their space and their school life!
  • Say Whiskey! 19 of 19
    Say Whiskey!
    See this photo? Both of my kids were positively miserable. They were standing in front of the house, stressed about starting a new school and not wanting me to photo them. But I made them say "whiskey" not cheese. You cannot say whiskey without smiling. Manipulative? Yes. But I like this picture better than the scowling one!

Do you have a special tradition or ritual for the first day of school? I’d love to hear about it!

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Shocking Truths about Teens

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