Row of Autumn Trees

Welcoming Fall

Yellow the bracken,
Golden the sheaves,
Rosy the apples,
Crimson the leaves,
Mists on the hillside,
Clouds gray and white--
Autumn, good morning!
Summer, good night!

Officially, September 22 is the Fall Equinox, but signs of the changing season always come much earlier. It’s Summer in name, but culturally, it always feels as though Fall begins with the Back-to-School rush. Fall’s actual arrival can be more subtle. Walking out of my house this morning, it was the first day that truly felt like Fall. The air was cold and crisp, making me finally notice that the oak tree by our door has more yellow leaves and that its acorns are falling to the ground. I gathered up the acorns that still had their caps (stay tuned for a lovely acorn craft!) and headed for the car with a lighter step.

For many people, Summer is the most joyful season. The longer days, the warmer weather, the opportunity (for some of us) to spend more time soaking up the sun. I don’t mind summer, but I love the colder months the most. On hot days, I feel sluggish. When the air gets crisp, something inside me comes alive and a new enthusiasm for life is reborn. This is true in the mild-weathered seaside town where I grew up (and now live again), but it was just as true when I lived in Montreal for my undergraduate work, where the summers were hot and muggy and the winter temperatures routinely hit -40 degrees (which is the point at which Celsius and Fahrenheit converge, if you’re looking for a fun fact). Though I was never out in the extreme weather that long, the cold and the six months or so of snow each year brought me joy through the whole season.

All that is to say that we are heading into my favorite time of the year. Colder weather and darker days may not appeal to everyone, but I have some ideas to carry you through. Especially in this chaotic and stressful year where many of us have lost all sense of normalcy to global, national, community, and often personal crises, I hope these suggestions will help bring some joy and comfort to your Fall season.

Embrace the Season in Your Learning

The changing and passing of the seasons are one of the constant, external rhythms of our lives. Just as creating a routine as a family can help create some healthy norms, easier days, and happier children, embracing and celebrating the changes of the seasons can be a wonderful addition that honors the routines of nature.

Regardless of your childrens’ age, there are many ways to bring the Fall Season into their learning. Songs, games, dances, fingerplays, and stories that honor the changing season are perfect for preschoolers, but are also fun for older children. Older children can find science experiments, math explorations and books that match with the season and can be great at helping prepare seasonal ingredients in the kitchen or to facilitate celebrations together.

Embrace Fall Festivals & Celebrations

Every season needs at least one holiday and luckily, the religions, cultures, and nations of the world seem to agree on that. This year, consider being even more intentional leading up to the festivals and events of the season, whether celebrate the Equinox, Rosh Honshannah & Yom Kippur, Michaelmas, Mawlid, Diwali, Navaratri, Hop-tu-Naa, Halloween, Thanksgiving, or another festival. Celebrate with songs and poems, candles and crafts, contemplation and gratitude, laughter and togetherness… bring moments for exuberance and reverence into your celebrations, if you can, and they will be all the more refreshing. Though many of us cannot celebrate with others in person because of the pandemic, now is a more important time than ever to hold onto your celebrations, if you can. They may look different this year, but they can be just as meaningful.

Embrace Family Traditions

Like calendared celebrations, family traditions can enrich our experience of the Fall. Do you already have special traditions in the Fall? Is there an old family tradition you can revive? Can you create a tradition around a Fall craft, around a special food (see below), a special place to visit, or a way of showing gratitude for one another. Find something that doesn’t cause you extra stress, but that is simple and easy to maintain. For example, I’ve enjoyed having a gratitude jar that we fill up through the week when we see acts of kindness or think of a way that we appreciate each other. Lighting a candle and reading them together on a Thursday (does anyone else need a boost to make it through Friday?) works well! It’s amazing to me how something as simple as lighting a candle makes a tradition or celebration more special.

Embrace Nature

To really connect with and celebrate the season, we have to see it! As much as possible, spend time outdoors. This can mean walking around the neighborhood, going hiking, finding an orchard for apple picking, or just finding a quiet spot outside to sit and wonder at nature. A nature journal can be a fantastic way to connect with the transition into Fall. To get started with your own journal, I highly recommend (and will revisit in more depth!) the phenomenal new book by Emilie Lygren and John Muir Laws, How to Teach Nature Journaling. You can purchase a copy on her website, but following the same link can also download the book as a free pdf to ensure equitable access. I cannot recommend this new book highly enough!

Embrace Seasonal Eating

A friend recently texted me a picture of the beautiful delicata squash she was preparing for dinner and that’s when I first felt this beautiful transition into Fall. There are so many delicious types of seasonal squash to enjoy! It’s time to use up the last of my summer harvest (that poor watermelon has been largely forgotten about for many weeks and is probably destined, at its advanced age, to become a goodbye-to-summer watermelon treat).

Soon, our Schoolhouse by the Sea resources will embrace Fall through apples. You can already start joining us in these explorations through the story of The Little Red House with No Doors and No Windows and a Star Inside, but I’d also love to hear from you: what seasonal fruits and vegetables do you look forward to in Fall?

However you can celebrate this Fall, we’re excited to embrace the season with you!