Make the first day the best day, or, if school has already started, make the seventh day, the twentieth day, the best day. Regardless of what day it is, whether you are schooling from home or going brick and mortar, we have five ways to make it a high-five back-to-school day. Primerrily pointer: don't get stuck on doing all five at once. I didn't! Just do it like we tell our littles to do it, "One at a time..."
1. SAY THE PLEDGE
Does your child’s school regularly say the pledge? Not too long ago, parents’ response would generally be a “yep!”, but not so anymore. Unfortunate? Yes. Helpless? No way! This only has us more motivated to participate in our kids’ civic education -- starting with The Pledge! And no, it’s not too early to learn! When my children were itty-bitty, we would stop outside our preschool and they’d put hands over hearts as they looked at the flag and said the pledge. Several families walked by and on into class. Though not many others would join us in this civic tradition, we kept it up anyway. Sometimes saying the pledge isn’t about a room full of people doing it with you. It’s about you, taking a moment, pausing in the chaos and helter-skelter of the morning, standing tall and demonstrating with your body and your voice that we live in one incredible (albeit still imperfect) country. You can easily set up this flag (link to a flag) in your home.
Even if your budding patriots won’t slow down to join you, that’s okay. They are watching you, they are hearing you, as they stack their LEGOS, zoom their Hot Wheels, or brush their doll’s hair. Little kids may not yet understand the full definition of allegiance, but they can learn what it looks like from you.
2. SING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM
Your kids may think you’re crazy. Sing what? But really, music lifts our spirits, and “The Star-Spangled Banner” has wonderfully rich content. Take a moment to teach your children about the meanings behind the words and lyrics. This is the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” Your kids are free to go to school! They don’t have to work like a lot of other children sadly do in other countries. Your kids can be brave to try new things! They don’t have to be shy when making friends with new classmates. There’s nothing like a song with meaningful lyrics to help us channel our attention to an important task at hand -- like learning. Need some help keeping the tune? We recommend this album with the national anthem and some other great hits (Amazon Prime members can stream it free, but also available on iTunes).
3. TAKE THE PICTURE
Isn’t the first day of school ALWAYS accompanied by the photo at the front door? Even if it involves stepping outside outside the house to capture the moment, only to go back inside to get started on remote school, the ritual in itself speaks to the significance of marking a new chapter of learning. Don’t forget about customizable signage (basic crayon on 8.5’’ x11’’paper does wonders!), noting the big day. We’ve all seen the signs that have name, grade, and what you want to be when you grow up, but how about asking your child this question, “What’s something you love about America?” What they say just might surprise you, and give you a conversation starter for dinner that night. A picture is typically worth a thousand words, but this first-day photo will speak so much more, especially in this season of COVID. While this school year will be one that no parent will ever forget, read our tips here on how to make it memorable (link to the top 10 article)! If you're like me, you forgot to do it on Day 1 with the hustle and bustle, so Day 3 works well too!
4. MAKE A SURPRISE SNACK -- AND MAKE IT SPECIAL
Move over goldfish. When kids know a yummy reward awaits them, it can serve as a major incentive to keep at it, whatever “it” may be! “It” may be the fact that they’re continuing our country’s proud legacy of education. Let them know that a long, long time ago (1635 to be precise for the grownups; points for the kids who can do the math and figure out how long ago that was), the first public school was built in what would become the United States of America! Decorate your table with a back-to-school theme (think “ABC’s” chalkboards, apples, etc.), and surprise them with some patriotic snacks like the kind you can find here -- or make them together! They’ll experience a sense of self-satisfaction knowing that their little fingers could create something so delicious. Feel free to have any day on the calendar -- not just July 4th -- call for Americana snacks. Instill affection for red, white, and blue all the year through! We tend to put out decorations to indicate special times of celebration, so why not invoke that same feeling with some goodies to liven it up (and make double use of them by memorializing the festivity in your photos!)
5. PRACTICE GRATITUDE
So maybe the day didn’t go so great. Your daughter wouldn’t sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Your son refused to eat your healthy snack. Neither of your kids smiled and looked at the camera at the same time (do they ever though?). And you know what? That’s okay. We’ve been there, too. You can still help your kids end the day strong - with gratitude. Consider keeping a “one line a day” journal at the dinner table or by their bedside. Here’s a small version, and here’s a slightly larger one if your handwriting is bigger; we imagine you’re the scribe. If your little patriot prefers drawing pictures more than writing words, consider this one. Ask your child what was something in his/her day for which he/she is thankful. What went well? What inspired a smile? What was a source of excitement? A favorite moment? Still no answer out of your child? Perhaps she can say she’s thankful the day is over. There’s always something to be grateful for (wink).