A rusty orange maple leaf fell from a branch along my running route this morning. Trees don’t really begin to show their fall colors in the northeast until October, but you’ll always notice a few turning in late August. I’ve always felt they’re an early warning system, designed to tease humanity that it’s time to gear up for a change of seasons. For most of us in the Maple & Lather family, the change of season means back to school, a wind-down of summer vacations, and a focus on new beginnings.
Yet on this specific calendar turn, things are different. Many of us are keeping our children at home, our summer vacations have been geo-fenced and socially distanced, and it’s hard to tell what a new beginning might be when we’re still waiting for the end of a pandemic.
So, for those who are looking for a little inspiration, we offer a few back to school rituals that you can enjoy with your kids, whether they’re staying at home or heading to the classroom. Even if you’ve been staycationing in your backyard all summer, these activities will give you a fresh start as Labor Day arrives.
Ritual 1: Chalkboard Dreams
Every year, I get a photo of my niece and nephew in Atlanta. They’re standing on the front porch holding up a chalkboard that shows like a resume for elementary school students. The chalkboard lists what they want to be when they grow up, the name of their teacher, their favorite subjects, and other whimsical facts (movies, toys, friends) about them. This year, once the photo was taken, they turned right around and went back into their makeshift home-school, but I was still impressed that their parents staged the ritual as if they were heading off to school – backpacks, lunch kits and all. Not only did it give the kids a chance to capture their aspirations, it also made for a great digital postcard to send around to family.
Ritual 2: The Companion Candle
Here’s something fun conceived by someone in our Maple & Lather family. The school year is a new beginning, and just like a birthday, it’s a great time to wish upon a candle. Instead of presenting a cake with skinny tapers, though, gift your kids a Maple & Lather candle and have them wish for something they would like to accomplish for the year. Perhaps they want to learn a new language, take up a hobby, or read a special book. Every time they take a step towards their new endeavor, they can burn the clean, soy candle. Its long-burn and subtle scent will be a pleasant and constant companion to young learners. As most of us will still be spending more time at home, it’s important to create home-based rituals that help us enjoy the space around us.
Ritual 3: School Supply Scavenge
Hands down, my favorite back to school ritual was going to K-Mart and filling my cart with duo-tangs, pens, and pencil crayons. Actually, I think I still enjoy the nostalgia of seeing the Walmart entryway transformed into a school-supply emporium. But let’s face it, most of us have hundreds of pencils and pens hidden in various rooms around the house. This year, we had our kids scavenge our house, collect pens, sharpen pencils and collate a back-to-school kit. Once the existing stock was taken, we organized a trip to our local store, and added any items still missing. The school supply scavenge is a lesson in sustainability – more information here – and minimizing waste as much as an adventure.
By the time the autumn leaves really do turn and fall, we’ll be well into another year of learning, of discovery, of friends. Since the beginning of time, rituals have helped us mark these cycles of life, and this year should be no exception. Have a great school year, everyone!