Let’s Play: Organizing & Creating for Back-to-School

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Back to School: Free Draw & Planning

The family calendar.

My little one will be considered a big kid by school standards this September. As you enter second grade, the teachers no longer look for a parent at 3pm pickup for walkers. The kids file out of the classroom, down the hallways and burst out the doors onto the playground—free! No one checks to see that my girl has an adult. Yikes! A new fall plan will be in place just in case I am running a minute late. Fall plans are also in the works just to keep us running as smooth and stress free as possible…

Two summers ago we started a large wall calendar just for a summer drawing project. We added a bit of play to our organizing. I put up a 3 by 3 inch blank paper for each day of the month in the traditional calendar grid. At some point during the day, one of us would draw a picture, attach a photo, postcard or ticket from our summer adventures. Once the papers were all stacked, the summer of 2011 turned into a great little book of memories. That fall it became a 30 by 40 inch photocopied version. The grid boxes were large enough we could draw, mark family birthdays, events and holidays. Most importantly for the school year, we had room to add symbols for school events, physical education, music and art days. We had fun organizing the school weeks and had a little jump start making sure all were prepared each morning with little visual clues as reminders. First grade had a large oil cloth chalkboard calendar. Yes, the new oil cloth comes with a chalk board finish option!

Second grade is taking us back to daily drawing. “Mom, I miss those little sheets of paper for drawing each day.” Turns out that a few minutes of waiting time while I grab the last few things for my day, provided treasured free draw time. My daughter often draws silly, crazy things for fun. Sometimes I get little visuals into her day that spark a conversation about school happenings or social issues. Sometimes I get little quotes from the teacher. My current favorite being a simple word “zfloss”. Zfloss? It has all the double consonants possible at the end of words. I like these grammar hints.

If the organized daily calendar is not a good fit for your family, try artist trading cards. All ages of kids and adults can participate by creating a daily drawing, collage, design or sentence. Keep a little stack of papers near the door with a pencil or pencil. Nothing too elaborate. Just simple and fun. Display them. Share with each other without judging artistic ability. The process is not about masterpieces but having free draw included in your day.

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Carrie St. JohnCarrie St. John

Carrie was born, raised and attended university in Michigan. As a child she rode bikes and explored her rural neighborhood freely with siblings and neighbor kids. Mom and Dad never worried. The kids always made it home after hours wading in the creek and climbing trees in the woods. After college she moved to Kyoto, Japan to study traditional Japanese woodblock printing. In 1995, she began a career at a small Chicago firm designing maps and information graphics. Life brought a move to Northampton in 2001. Carrie completed her MFA at UMass in 2004. Her little love, Sophia, was born in 2005. The two live in downtown Northampton where they constantly make things, look forward to morning walks to school and plan each spring for additions to their plot at the community garden. Carrie continues to do freelance work for clients here and in Chicago.

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