How we change with the seasons—without a school calendar

Changing with the seasons

Written by Melissa Camara Wilkins.

For a long time, we didn’t really mark the changing seasons in our family. Without a traditional school calendar to follow, or any obvious signs in nature (we live in Southern California—it’s pretty much all sun, all the time), our days looked more or less the same all year round.

I always wanted to note the turn of the seasons somehow. I liked the idea of having rituals that our kids would remember and look forward to—but it seemed like one more (impossible) thing to add into our days.

Between reading aloud and making sandwiches and playing board games and riding scooters and investigating the migratory patterns of monarchs and resolving conflicts and walking to the park and tidying up before bed, there didn’t seem to be a lot of time for a maypole to celebrate spring or a candle walk on the winter solstice.

But it’s really hard to reflect on where you’ve been and how much you’ve grown when one week bleeds into the next, on and on forever. I didn’t want our days to be lost in the swirling vortex of time, and I didn’t want to create a family culture of always-on, without regular markers to guide us. At the same time, I still had small children.

Yes, I wanted the maypole, but I needed something simpler.

Changing with the seasons

We started by adding in small practices that would help us connect to the seasons without requiring anything arduous like planning ahead. Here’s what we came up with.

Bring on the Books

It’s not really fall until you’re reading about leaves and pumpkins, and it’s not really winter until you’re reading about snow. That’s how I feel about it, anyway, so now we keep a basket stocked with books-of-the-season in the living room. (Frequent trips to the library help keep our basket full.)

Some people get changing weather, we get changing books. It helps.

First Day / Last Day Celebrations

The last day of summer calls for ice cream, don’t you think? And the first day of fall is a good reason to bake apples with cinnamon-sugar on top. (Yes that does mean treats two days in a row, if you’re keeping score.)

We try to do a little something special on the first and last day of each season, as a way to bookend those months. Our celebrations don’t always involve dessert foods, I promise.

Whether it’s planting seeds on the first day of spring or lighting candles on the first day of winter, we always pick something simple that we already have the supplies for.

We want a fun way to mark the passing of time, not another obligation to add to the to-do list.

Changing with the seasons

Reflection Time

We try to take some time at the change of each season to talk about what we remember most from the last few months. (Dinner conversation: accomplished!)

Then we think about the season to come. What’s going well? What needs to change? What do we want to learn? What do we want to practice? What do we plan to celebrate? What do we need to let go of?

The answers we come up with are almost never what I would have guessed.

Seasons for You

I don’t get taller anymore—two of my kids are taller than me and I don’t think I’m going to catch up with them—but even so, I’m still growing and changing. None of us are “done,” we’re all works in progress.

So I try to find a few quiet moments to reflect on that, too. Where have I been, where am I headed? Especially if our family has seen big shifts lately, who am I here and now?

If you’re turning over those questions too, I put five of my favorite tools into a free mini-course for you. It’s called Find Yourself, Free Yourself : five little lessons on slowing down, listening for the voice inside you, and figuring out who you really are.

You can get that here.

Changing with the seasons

Now that some of my kids are older, I’m wondering what other seasonal shifts make most sense.

What else can we bring into our family culture that will be meaningful, but not overwhelming? (Okay, maybe I still want to make the maypole thing happen.)

How do you mark the seasons at your house? I need your ideas!

About Melissa Camara Wilkins

Melissa Camara Wilkins is a homeschooling mom of six in Southern California. She writes about being who you were made to be and letting go of the rest.


  1. We do have actual seasons where we live, and that means that clothing changes, how we play outside changes, how we eat changes. I used to try to do seasonal crafts and all kinds of activities that just don’t feel possible anymore now that our family is so much bigger than it was just a year or two ago. It is enough that holidays and birthdays come around over and over again. It is enough that we switch from pasta salad and watermelon in the summer to warm pasta and butternut squash soup in the winter. It is enough to play outside on warm days and on cold ones. It is enough to put away clothes that are too small and find clothes that fit growing, changing bodies. It is enough to keep journals and to go back and read them together–laughing and marveling over changes we didn’t see happening. There is neither need nor energy for a maypole. 🙂 But if you really want one, you could get some friends together and have one next spring–make it a party!
    Anne’s latest post: A Week, Briefly (In Which we Rest from our Usual Labors)

  2. Hi, We live where there are distinct season – Switzerland! And our children attended Waldorf schools for a few years (now International School) but we still keep up the tradition of a “Nature Table” or corner. If your children can’t find conkers and autumn leaves to put on it in S. Cal., you could change out a couple of postcards with images of summer at the beach with some shells, then postcards of autumn trees with red apples, then snowmen or santa or the Alps and sledding and a postcard of tulips … you get the idea. I’m sure some items from sunny California nature could be added.

  3. My kids know that fall is here when I start stocking up on hot chocolate and begin to bake everything containing pumpkin known to man. They know winter is here when the baking shifts to cookies, and we make our milk carton gingerbread houses. When spring arrives, the blinds are open, and I’m allowing the sunshine to stream in after being a hermit all winter long. And summer isn’t here until the hot chocolate stockpile has transformed into popsicles and freeze pops!
    Shelly’s latest post: Why Do People Think School Is the Only Place to Meet New People?

  4. We have developed two annual outdoor parties that we invite our friends to attend at our home. In the spring we host an Easter Egg hunt, which includes a bbq and often croquet. In the fall we host a Harvest Party, which includes costumes, outdoor games and a bonfire. I am so thankful for these events. It does take effort, that I don’t always want to give, but they do mark our lives in a happy, wholesome way.
    Rachel at Stitched in Color’s latest post: the Half Rectangle Triangle

  5. Thanks for this post. Very sweet and honest. I too have had many good intentions to create celebrations that celebrate than have actually happened around here. I am grateful that my kids are still young and I can add as I go. We do several fun field trips in the fall that help us mark the season. But that’s about it. I love your idea of seasonal books.
    I’m reading a book on Jewish parenting and their emphasis on traditions and how it marks the stages of life. Love that idea.

  6. Love this! We slow down in winter. More games, more books, more inside stuff (crafts, baking, cooking). We get outside, but we can’t stay out as long as we do at other times of the year and so it’s all fireside learning and tea and twinkle lights 🙂
    Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley’s latest post: Bring Books to Life with Ivy Kids

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