At the start of every school year, we pick a “theme” (motto) for the year.
This motto is something we use to reflect upon in weekly family meetings, and we review the theme and post reminders of it in our house. I typically create a simple printable to use–and then find places such as bedroom doors, bathroom mirrors, and a spot in the kitchen to hang or post the print.
When we choose a yearly theme, we work together to decide what we think we need to focus on that year. We always pick mottos that are simple–easy to memorize, and easy for the kiddos to repeat to themselves–much like a mantra.
Some years we have chosen more faith-based themes. Other years, we have focused on education and learning. Some themes through the years have included, “I can do hard things,” “learn with joy,” “press forward,” “I can choose the right,” “success” (from the Maya Angelou quote: “success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it”), and “be the light.”
To celebrate our choice each year, we have a tea party on the last weekend before school starts.
The girls get to plan the menu with me, and we pick easy to make finger foods. I stack the choices on a tiered cupcake stand, and they love to be able to pick and choose the small, bite-sized pieces they like. We always include lots of different veggie and fruit selections, and also small finger sandwiches like tuna, grilled cheese, cucumber and cream cheese, and peanut butter and jelly. The girls help me bake a dessert, and we always set the table with a fun (disposable!) tablecloth, and matching disposable napkins and cups (for ease of cleanup).
We like to make the event even more festive with sparkling cider, and I always pick up paper crowns for the girls to decorate and wear during the tea party.
I like to purchase something small for each girl to serve as a reminder of the theme. I have purchased beaded bracelets with the theme stamped on silver in the middle of the bracelet, rubber bracelets with the theme printed onto them, necklaces, keychains, and even t-shirts.
While this tradition is something small, and doesn’t require much effort, I’ve noticed as my girls have gotten older, they truly look forward to and enjoy the time we spend deciding upon the theme and creating the meal.
To follow up during the year, I like to surprise the girls with something called “cookie chats” when they get home from school.
We hold a cookie chat on the first day of school, and then maybe just once every month or two after that. I bake fresh cookies, and have them waiting for them when they get home from school. We sit down with warm cookies and milk, talk about our “high / lows” for the day like always, and then discuss the yearly theme and how it applied to them during the day. It’s a unique way to get past the usual “how was your day?” question, and to delve into deeper discussions.
I’m not sure if this fun event will continue when the girls get to be high school-aged, but I am hoping it does!