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back to school

Fall Leaves Fall is the perfect time to share my thoughts on the importance of traditions and creating an environment for your family that is joyful, happy, and full of love. The beauty of traditions is that they provide memories that capture wonderful moments over and over again. Your kids look forward to them and eagerly await the promise of another year of festive celebrations. Whether it’s your annual decorating of the front door with the pumpkins they’ve made over the years, or the hanging of the bats and black spiders on the dinner table light fixture; traditions create suspense and anticipation of fun to come.

I‘d love to share some of my traditions to inspire you to join in, as well as encourage you to keep up the traditions you’ve started. Some years, I’ve been so beat, I couldn’t imagine pulling my decorations out from the basement, yet after I did, the expressions on the kids’ faces are payment enough for digging deep and following through. You can do it!

I’ve already shared my pumpkin, bat, and spider traditions earlier, so here are a few more. Most years, I decorate the house to be Halloween ready for the kids when they wake up on October 1st. I love the excitement on their faces as they discover it all decked out for the season. This year however, it happened in stages. The point is that it happened. However you do it–just make it happen! Imagine how fun it is for your kids to wake to a house all festive and fun!

I love to bring out all of my Halloween bowls, platters and dish towels to make the month of October one huge celebration. I’ve picked many of them up over the years after the Holiday and on sale–Target is great for that! As the kids bring home their crafts and art projects, I hang them everywhere. The best way to hang them is to laminate them first. I go to a local home school store which laminates for 25 cents a foot; it’s such a steal! I then cut out the creations and put yellow sticky tack on the back and hang them everywhere: on windows, doors, cabinet—honestly wherever the stuff will stick. After the season, I pull them down and save the yellow tack and use it for the next season of creations.

To store the laminated works of art, I staple two poster boards together on three sides and leave the fourth open. I write the name of the season or holiday on both sides and store everything inside. I keep all of the poster board holiday files close at hand in a closet so it doesn’t feel like I’m moving heaven and earth to decorate throughout the year. Sometimes going into the basement to get decorations feels like one step too many. And there you have it, a festive house decorated with your children’s works of art and laminated to be keepsakes forever!

One last tradition I will share with you is to create a holiday book collection. As many of you know, or will learn, I love books. My kids have grown up surrounded by them. My earliest and fondest memories with my kids come from the warmth and comfort of the kids on my lap or snuggled up close to me enjoying a book.  Reading creates that “cozy” that has always been so important for me to nurture as a Mom.

To inspire you to begin your collection or to keep adding to it, here are a few strategies to making it meaningful and memorable for years to come. First, I buy one book (not one for each child—in case you were wondering). I date it, write the town where we live, and then write a note sharing a snapshot of our family’s blessings and current successes and challenges. I always end with a line of gratitude for each other, our faith and our health. I then set it out on the counter after the kids go to bed so it is the first thing that they see when they enter the kitchen in the morning. That book is then passed around all morning long, and then it is added to the coffee table of Halloween books from past years. You can see my top five Halloween books by clicking HERE.

The Halloween books stay out all October long until we usher in November and the Thanksgiving books. After Halloween, I store the books out of sight in the basement until the next year. I love this tradition as much as the kids. And no matter the age, they all reread those books every year. I watched my senior in high school reading one yesterday while having a snack. Reading the books from when they were younger brings back those memories, good, sad, scary and wacky that we can relive each and every year. And that’s the beauty of creating a tradition.

The most important thing about Back to School Night is that your kids know that you are excited to meet their teachers and learn about their school community. You are your child’s most important advocate and Back to School Night provides the first opportunity to create a partnership with your child’s new teacher and staff.


Back to School Night kicks off your partnership. It allows you an opportunity to get to know the people who will be spending time with your child. It also provides a glimpse into the curriculum, the teacher’s experience and their philosophies. To make the most out of this evening, start off by introducing yourself.  Shake the teacher’s hand; let them know that you are excited to meet them and appreciate the work they have done to prepare for the year. (ie. “The classroom looks so fun," or “What a neat year you have planned for the kids.”) Be honest with your praise– everybody enjoys sincere recognition.


Next, make sure the teacher has a good idea of who your child is, academically and socially—the clearer the picture, the better. Many teachers provide an information sheet for you to complete regarding your child; their strengths, challenges, likes, dislikes, interests, etc. and ask you to turn it in at Back to School Night. If not, take some time before you head out and jot down some notes regarding any information you think the teacher would need as they begin the year instructing your child. Remember, you are your child’s first and most important teacher– share your wealth of information. I promise the teachers will appreciate it and respect you for making the time to partner with them to make it the best year for your child. I have such respect for teachers. Like us, they work hard!

Every year at this time, I’m reminded of one of my favorite books: Oh, the Places You’ll Go, by Dr Seuss. As your kids start school, a new grade–maybe in a new town, whatever the transition, the message is timeless and overwhelmingly realistic, positive and encouraging. The book starts confidently with “Congratulations, today is your day. You’re off to great places, you’re off and away!“ You then get a dose of reality, with “I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that bang ups and hang ups can happen to you.” The coolest thing about this book is that it gives you an opportunity to relate to your kids, talk about how everyone has “bang ups and hang ups,” even you! This book is all about encouragement and accomplishment sprinkled with failure…Life.  Run out and buy this one if you don’t already have it. It’s a classic. Check it out on


Consider The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn to help ease the anxieties of separation when your little ones head back to school or off for their first day ever. Sweet Chester, a raccoon doesn’t want to go to school. His momma gently lets him know that “sometimes we all have to do things we don’t want to do.” Momma raccoon’s solution is dear and one that has helped my kids take my love with them wherever they go. This book will become a family favorite, I promise!  Check it out on



Great question. Like any muscle, the brain can atrophy if not used, and some of those important skills your child spent a year mastering can fade. My approach to keeping my kids intellectually fit is pretty easy going, yet consistent– I encourage them to read, write and play throughout the summer.


To begin, make the library one of your first destinations this summer. Take advantage of the summer reading programs that begin at birth and span every age group up thru high school. Most programs encourage kids to set a goal as to the number of books they want to finish before the summer’s end and incentives are given along the way to entice them to achieve their goal. An entire world of learning and adventure opens up to your kids at your local library. We make multiple trips each week– it’s our routine, make it yours, too.


Next on the literacy front is writing. This one isn’t as simple, yet very important. My strategy to keep my kids writing is to encourage them to do it daily. Every summer I buy the kids composition or spiral notebooks and they journal each morning. Writing well is a skill, and the only way to develop it is to practice. I want my kids to be confident writers– more so than their loving mother. J Yes, it’s quite possible that your kids may not like their new journal routine, and, they may even complain. I’ve personally heard almost every complaint, yet my response is this, “My job is to keep you healthy, and that includes your intellectual health. I’m confident that you will think of something fun to write about!” To start your kids off, you may want to suggest that their first entry is to make a list of all the things they want to do this summer– places they want to visit, people to play with, etcetera. Make it fun! Then let your kids write whatever comes to mind each morning. At our house, my kids write for about 20 minutes and it’s for their eyes only. They all get into it and it becomes easier and easier for them and you! Start today– you won’t regret it! Also, all ages join in; scribbles, pictures and stickers are all early learning. Your younger kids may want to dictate their entries to you. Great, support them, have fun and watch their love for writing grow!


Finally, it is time to play– games that is. Your kids will stay mentally sharp and have fun at the same time.  All it takes is a deck of cards and some board games. Think back to when you were a kid; remember card games like war, gin rummy, hearts, concentration, or spoons? Those are great ones and all require number computation– math.  Board games also sharpen skills like critical thinking, spatial reasoning, strategy, and the list goes on. Our latest family favorite is Qwirkle, and the kids love Risk, Blokus, Connect Four, Yahtzee, Scrabble, etcetera. Keep a game or two out on the kitchen counter or table and start one up after dinner– if you set it up and invite them to play, chances are, you’ll have little trouble getting your kids to join in. Enjoy!