This spring feels different in a million ways. Some of us aren't even exactly sure when the last day of school even IS. Here are some suggestions on how to celebrate the finish line of a school year that ended differently, but still matters.
Yesterday, I had to take a picture of my daughter for her virtual 5th Grade Stepping Up Ceremony. I had her hold a sign with the date of the last day of school on it. But, when I went to write the sign I froze. The End of the Year Ceremony will be available online on June 18. The last day of online school is May 29th. The official and original last day of school is June 12. I was taking the picture on May 14. Help! What day is the last day?
This has been a spring for the record books, but maybe not for the calendar, or the yearbooks. Which we hope to still get, sometime in July?
We need this school year to end, not just because we are all one dropbox away from losing our minds, but because we need closure. Closure says, good and bad, that is done. It's behind us. We can move forward.
There were plenty of losses this spring. But there were gains as well. Celebrating the end of the school year provides a chance for everyone to reflect on what they did.
These accomplishments were not all in the classroom, such as beating the last level on Smash Bros, sleeping in the best bed forts, or simply learning to endure uncertainty. But these accomplishments matter.
Let's recount highlights of backyard camping or even low points of seeing Mom totally lose it, and then take to her bed. We did it all. And it's worth reflecting on and then saying goodbye.
As virtual home school winds down, and our communities begin re-opening, summer vacation holds uncertainty. Our kids may still be grieving the loss of sports seasons and spring musicals. And no matter the state of your year, once final exams are over, everyone loves that dismissal on the last day of school.
But, that's not happening this year. So do something differently.
We have a saying in our family, "Don't have a worse thing - Have a different thing".
Be careful not to build year-end rituals around moments or locations that magnify the losses. My daughter and I drove to her middle school a few weeks ago to pick up her belongings. A wonderful teacher handed us a trash bag with her name on it, the remnants of 7th grade. We felt a little bit worse.
When you celebrate the end of the school year how can you do it differently? Especially with the absence of conventional teaching, the school day, or classmates. Go somewhere outdoors and make a day of it. Camp out. Build a fire and play charades.
Don't drive by the elementary school and peer into the window. A dark side of me is drawn to this option, but, really, for the sake of your student...celebrate differently.
Often awards are given out on the last day of school. So, give out awards around your table or campfire. These can be the awards your kids have always wanted! "Learned to ride a bike during a Pandemic", "Most Episodes of Liv and Maddie Watched in a 2 month Period", "Most S'mores Eaten During Quarantine". Give awards to your spouse, to your dog.
When we give awards, we pause and say to our family, just as a teacher says to their classroom, "I saw you do this. I'm proud of you. You contributed to who we were during this season. We wouldn't be us without you."
Make the awards ridiculous, if needed. Remember, we're celebrating differently this year.
Can you give the yearbook as a Last Day gift? Did your school sell t-shirts as a fundraiser? Consider giving something small to mark the end of the school year.
Perhaps your last day celebration will be more about looking forward this year, instead of looking back. You know what your family needs, so choose gifts accordingly.
If you don't want to focus on school, think of a "Welcome to Summer" gift for each child, or the family. Maybe this is when the kids get new goggles or flip flops, or you finally spring for the backyard trampoline.
These last few months have been difficult for everyone in different ways. Our kids, without warning, took on many changes and still shoulder unknowns. Take a moment during your end-of-year celebrations to affirm them.
Be sure to mention the high points of the school year before the coronavirus. Remember and affirm all they overcame in algebra, the fine work they created in art club, or that epic game they invented during recess. Go ahead talk about the Halloween Parade and the Holiday Sing. Tell them how proud you are of them. Assure them that this year was one in a 100 and they have worn it well.
Give them a blessing. This could be in the form of a Scripture verse or a line of poetry. You can think through their favorite songs, or movies and pull out an encouragement, challenge or word picture that uniquely fits them.
With words and rituals, we can send our kids off to what is next. This is our chance. We get to be the teacher with the time to praise our child for all the stuff we wish everyone could see.
There's a lot we can't do right now. But we can celebrate our kids and what they have walked through and overcome. May is usually insanely busy with concerts, ceremonies, banquets, and summer sports start-ups. It's not this year, so let's take the time to see our kids, celebrate them, bless them, and send them on.