Last night was our 4th Annual Burns Family 'Back To School Eve' dinner. It's a tradition we've been doing ever since our firstborn started school. I love it for two reasons. One - after the FUN that is Summer...we want our kids to grow up looking forward to school starting again. The first day of school shouldn't be something to dread, or an "end" to the fun. By turning Back To School into an event with an "EVE" (think Christmas Eve)...it makes it so going back to the classroom is something to anticipate and celebrate! Two - I have found this family dinner is a great way to take away those "first day jitters." Even for our oldest, who will be in the third grade this year, the first day is always a little daunting. Will I like my teacher? Will have friends in my class? Where will I sit? Who will I play with at recess? All these questions are talked out and worries put to rest around the comfort of the family dinner table. Everyone realizes, being excited and nervous is normal!
The past three years, our Back To School Eve decorations have been very classic and vintage. So, this year, I wanted to punch it up a bit. Once I knew what our Family Theme was going to be...the color scheme sorta fell into place all by itself. Our celebration was very COLORFUL! Roy G Biv colorful to be exact.
I set the table with the same, old lace tablecloth I use all throughout the Summer and used three lengths of ruffled, rainbow crepe paper for a table runner (just run the crepe paper through your sewing machine with the stitch length set as long as it can get and it ruffles right up) I placed Alphabet flashcards (these are always at my dollar store) in order, down the middle of the table as well. For centerpieces, I put white dahlias in little galvanized pots and added rainbow colored, yarn pom-poms, I had hot glued onto wooden skewers, to the arrangements for FUN! Sprinkled around everything else was silver star confetti and Bazooka bubble gum. And lots of votive candles, of course.
Part of our tradition is to come up with a new family theme every year. For the 2012-2013 school year, our theme is "Be Bright." The turquoise and yellow windows hang outdoors year round. So to "brighten" them up for our dinner, I made a rainbow felt bunting and spelled out our theme with silver glittered chipboard letters.
At dinner, we talked about how we can each Be Bright, both at school and at home, and how "Being BRIGHT" can have more than one meaning. We discussed finding opportunities to "be the Rainbow in someone else's cloud." (Inspired by the quote by Maya Angelou). And how being compassionate, and shining God's love, is just as important and rewarding as being smart!
Each kid's place was set with a chalkboard dinner tray (I found a set of 3 ugly green trays for $1 at the Goodwill and spray painted them with chalkboard spray paint!) and their own rainbow chalk. For "favors," each child received a felt Apple bag filled with torn up book pages, a glue stick, pencils, erasers, bubble gum, a pencil sharpener and a mini highlighter.
Part of our family tradition as well, are the CROWNS! Each year, I make the kids different ones. This year, I used the foam ones you can get at Michael's, in their $1 bins, as a template, and covered them with felt in rainbow shades. Then I zigzag stitched around the outside edges in contrasting colors and added some ric-rac, school-y charms, buttons and bling!
Wyatt thought the traditional crown shape looked too "princessy" and he opted for just a rounded (upside down visor) crown instead. I think it looks a little random, but he was happy...so me too!
Each year, we go around the table and discuss things the kids are anticipating in the upcoming school year - as well as ways they think they can live out our Family Theme.
Megan is looking forward to 3rd Grade because that's when they start Science on a regular basis. She is excited to see who else is in her class. And happy, because 3rd Graders get to ride their bikes to school. She thinks she can Be Bright by being nice to new kids at school and reading everyday.
(It's getting dark outside! And my phone was all I had to take pictures. Boo.)
Molly is looking forward to 2nd Grade because she likes who her teacher is going to be. She is excited to do her Endangered Animal project. She thinks she can Be Bright by helping someone on the playground if they get hurt and always following directions.
Wyatt is looking forward to Jr Kindergarten because this year his classroom is "upstairs" (translation = only cool, big kids get to have classrooms upstairs). He is excited to ride bikes and dig for treasure in the sandbox. He thinks he can Be Bright by being a good listener and a good sharer.
We ate outside. A final farewell to the lazy family dinners of Summertime. For dinner we had build your own burgers, rainbow fruit kebabs, and baked zucchini fries
For the kids' drink, I filled their glasses with rainbow ice cubes (made with Kool Aid) and then topped it off with 7-Up. The grown up version = champagne with rainbow lifesavers. YUM!
For dessert we had Rainbow cake in a jar with sparkler candles!
Finally, I really wanted to come up with a way to encourage our kids to "Be Bright" throughout the year. Each of them was given a wooden treasure chest at dinner and allowed to color it. Over the next few months, if one of them SPYS someone in the family "Being Bright," then they come to me and ask for an apple and a marble. They write on the apple how the person was Being Bright and present it to them with a marble. Once their treasure chest is full of marbles, they win the right to pick what we do as a family on Sunday Funday.
It's my hope this will make "Being Bright" FUN, and teach our kids to be aware of each others' actions as well as learn to encourage and praise each other.
After dessert, the kids blew out the candles and helped clear the table, changed into jammies and made it into bed at a decent hour. (This earned them their first marble!) When I kissed them goodnight, I couldn't help but feel Full. Content. At Peace. Back To School Eve has become one of my favorite family traditions...and I think I've grown to need it as much as the kids to. To calm my nerves and settle my woes. To wrap my brain and heart around the FACT that they are, yet again, another year older!
CLICK HERE to see all our past Back To School Eves