Children all over America today are donning new backpacks, outfitted with brightly colored tools to help them soak up a year’s worth of learning. Most sport new clothes, hoping to fit in with their peers. They nervously mount school bus steps or exit the car, looking for a friendly face. 

Homeschoolers gather at the table or classroom to learn with their siblings. Moms and dads feel a mixture of unwillingness to let go, relief in getting a break from their bundles of energy, or feeling both responsibility and excitement for another homeschool year.

I reminisce about my own school day memories. My first day of kindergarten and first grade were a mixture of wonder, fear, and opportunity. After leaving my girls at kindergarten and preschool their first time, I felt both lost and free. Our ten years of homeschooling were days of wonder, confusion, giggles, frustration, success, failure, and unimaginable blessings.
The years of being a single mom after an unexpected divorce were excruciating for all of us. I struggled to help my girls through the pain even as I grappled with my own. Re-entering the work world in my forties left me depleted and distracted, and I prayed God would be the Father, husband, and Comforter we needed. And He was.
Now I’m the mother of four precious grandchildren; our oldest starts kindergarten next week. She’s bubbling with excitement about her teacher and this new world of learning. Her mom and dad share the familiar mix of joy in this milestone and the teary-eyed realization that she’s growing up fast.    
Perhaps you’re somewhere in this mix today, with children or grandchildren in school. I’m not an expert, but God has taught me much over the years. These are the things I know are important – some I did well, and others I wish I’d done better:
Pray – Pray with them before they go to school or before your school day at home. Pray for their minds, their relationships, their bodies, those who teach and influence them, and most of all for their spirits to be open to the work of God.
Listen – Listen to what they say with their mouth as well as body language and facial expressions. Listen to their conversations with siblings and friends in the car. Get to know their hearts, and how to best pray for and encourage them.
Speak – After you’ve listened, speak God’s truth in love. Ephesians 4:29 gives four crucial points: keep it nourishing, say what’s helpful, build them up according to their needs, and say it in such a way that it will benefit anyone who overhears.
Stay Involved –If you’re able, be there in person to greet them after school, help with homework, get to know their friends, go on field trips, volunteer to chaperone parties. If you work full time, check in by phone, attend games and concerts, and make a date with each child regularly when they can have your undivided attention. Grandparents are terrific date partners too, and perfect reading buddies.
Touch – Many children hunger for meaningful, appropriate touch. A hug, pat on the back, secret handshake, gentle touch on the head, nudge on the arm, and cuddles are just some of the ways to quench the skin hunger of kids within our reach.  
Our children are our legacy. They are worth the investment of time, attention, love, and prayers. Even if you’re breathing a sigh of relief today that “the kids are finally out of my hair!” remember to hold them close in your heart.  Let them know how important they are to you, and to God.