What do weddings, graduations, and sitting in the back yard the day before Labor Day have in common? For the Jones House, they’re all rituals that give closure to what went before, and get us ready for what’s ahead.

Granted, our backyard meeting doesn’t have quite the weight of a wedding or graduation. But it’s important in its own small way.

Darren and I homeschool as a team. For all its advantages, this model has its challenges as well. Like in previous years, Darren had spent the last month and a half planning each child’s course load, working out his schedule so he can cover necessary subjects in the evening after he gets home from work. Meanwhile, I’m the one who implements the daily plans, plus gets kids to classes, plus keeps the household going, all while trying to make space for my writing. So while he’s excited and ready to get back to a routine, I’m mourning the loss of my summer white space.

Obviously, navigating this tension takes a lot of communication, which we’ve learned the hard way. (The Great August 31st Meltdowns of 2010 and 2014 come to mind.) Since Darren and I deal with touchy subjects much better in writing than in person, we exchanged four or five emails discussing expectations and clarifying our thoughts.

That brought us up to Sunday evening.

On the last day of “summer,” Darren and I gathered all the kids out in the back yard as the sun set. He explained, “Mom and I have found out that things go better when we talk about our expectations, so I thought I’d do the same with you kids.”

“Communication rocks!” Sparkler said. It’s a catchphrase Darren and I use. It’s not very catchy, I guess, but it gets the point across.

Darren explained the schedule for our first day, and how he expected the year as a whole to go. The kids weren’t very excited, but the conversation allowed everyone to shift gears from lazy summer to industrious falltime.

Then Darren gave everyone a copy of the prayer that we’ve said for several years now. (I’ve included it below). Everyone has something to read, and over the years their parts have gotten longer as they’ve gotten older. Ranger used to just say, “God is love” because he couldn’t read. Now he reads three entire sentences.

Unlike a wedding or graduation, our entire Back to School ritual takes only about twenty minutes. As soon as they were dismissed, the kids scattered back to their videos, games, and the trampoline. Darren and I sat in the fading summer light for a while longer, and then we headed inside too.

Still, as simple as it is, this little ritual brings “summer” to a definite close and gets us ready to begin “fall” the next day.

Blessing at the Beginning of a School Year

Darren: Blessed be the Name of the Lord

All: Now and forever.

Bookgirl: If you wish, you can be taught; if you apply yourself, you will be shrewd.

Sparkler: If you are willing to listen, you will learn; if you give heed, you will be wise.

Sara: Frequent the company of the elders; whoever is wise, stay close to them.

Gamerboy: Be eager to hear every godly discourse; let no wise saying escape you.

Bookgirl: If you see a person who makes good choices, seek him out; let your feet wear away his doorstep.

Gamerboy: Reflect on the teaching of the Lord; let His commandments be your constant meditation;

Sparkler: Then He will enlighten your mind, and the wisdom you desire He will grant.

Ranger: God made our minds. God made our bodies. God loves us very much.

Darren: Lord our God,

in Your wisdom and love

You surround us with the mysteries of the universe.

Look upon these students, Bookgirl, Gamerboy, Sparkler, and Ranger.

Let them enjoy their learning

and take delight in new discoveries.

Help them to work hard and persevere in their studies

and give them the desire to learn all things well.

Sara: Look upon Darren and me as the teachers.

Let us strive to share our knowledge with gentle patience

and always try to bring the truth to eager minds.

All: Send Your Spirit upon us, students and teachers,

and fill us with Your wisdom and blessings.

Grant that we, students and teachers alike, may follow Jesus Christ,

the way, the truth, and the life,

for ever and ever.

Darren: Grant this through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.


Photo Credit: iStock