Rite of passage
When my eldest was due to start school, we got chatting in playgroup and decided to have a ceremony to mark the occasion.
We invited the families in playgroup and a couple of others in our circle who had a child heading to school. Then I sat down with a friend to plan a ceremony. We wanted it to have a touch of solemnity and magic about it. We wanted a rite of passage. We talked about what going to school stands for, what children need to go to school. We decided to bestow some gifts on each child.
This is what we came up with.
We set up gift stations. The gifts were things like a school bag; the uniform or the clothes they would wear for their first day; a pencil or something to represent literacy. At each station, the child was presented with a gift. A few words were said over the gift as it was handed over.
When all the children had their gifts, they changed into their new school clothes, and came to sit on a mat. The mistress of ceremonies read aloud the story Look, There is a Hippopotamus in the Playground Eating Cake (by Hazel Edwards) to the children sitting on the floor at her feet, as school children do.
We invited some older children and grandparents to write a letter to the child about their experience of starting school. We read a selection of these letters aloud.
Finally, we gave each child a little book for them to fill in and take to school to introduce themselves to their teachers. (Transition statements had not been introduced yet.)
We took photos. Everyone brought a plate of food to share. We had a party. The children were excited. The families were emotional. It was lovely.
We did it all again each year until we all ran out of children.