The Not-Back-to-School Bag

Confession:  I’m addicted to school supplies.  I get feverish over all of the back-to-school sales and can’t wait to “get high” on the smell of a new box of crayons.  Crayolas® do smell good anytime, but add a wisp of a crisp fall breeze and a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils and I am in heaven.

My obsessive craving of “Essence de Crayola” goes all the way back to Kindergarten.  I remember my giddiness the couple of weeks before each new school year began. I’d fuss over my new clothes:  try on, model, fold and stack, repeat.  I’d daydream about the first day of school. And I’d open and close my pencil box to get that smell of brand new school supplies over and over.

“Back to school” time was always very exciting for me.  I still feel something during that time of year, even though I’m no longer a child or in school, and even though I homeschool my own children.  I don’t know what it is and I can’t explain it.  But it prompts me to do my part to help school supply companies stay in business, and it invokes in me a fervent desire to do something special in our homeschool at that time as well.

So far in our homeschooling journey we’ve schooled year round in some form or another.  It allows us more freedom throughout the whole year and it keeps the kids from hanging out in front of a screen all day when it’s too hot to do much else.  But every “year” in our homeschool has a different theme.  Sometimes we begin our new school year in August, sometimes September or October.  (It depends on how long it takes us to accomplish our goals of the previous year, the scheduling of vacations, how the harvest is going, and it accounts for a few weeks’ break in between themes to unwind and then prepare.) 

The first day of our new theme, I present each of the children with a goodie bag full of things that reflect that theme and our upcoming learning adventures and goals.  There are always little treats in there, like Smarties®, with a note about how smart we’re going to get.  There’s usually a book. Some of the aforementioned school supplies are stuffed inside, often with a thematic twist.  It might include an imaginative toy, role play item, or activity kit associated with an upcoming unit.  One year we were going to be doing a lot of international studies and so I made each child his own very real-looking passport (that we put stickers in as we studied, representing the countries we “visited”).  One year our theme was “Treasure,” comprising units such as Pirates, Knowledge, and Ancient Egypt.  I sent the kids on an elaborate treasure hunt with the not-back-to-school bags being the treasure at the end.

The bags serve multiple purposes.  They mark the beginning of something new; they give a heads up as to what there is to look forward to; and one by one as we take the items out of the bags, we discuss the goals and expectations associated with the tangible reminders. Of course, they’re also just plain fun.

When most everyone else your kids know is getting new lunchboxes and backpacks preparing to leave home for the day, the not-back-to-school bag is an exciting way to prepare your kids to stay home for the day.