Months before Halle turned six, she shared with me that a “school” party would be the best way to celebrate her birthday. A school party you ask? I had the same question. She clarified immediately as to what this would entail (with a huge excited smile on her face) by letting me know there should be a school bus, school bus decorations, and that everyone could do math problems. “Wouldn’t it be fun?” She was practically beaming when she spoke those words! And it was with that ending comment of hers that confirmed it to me; we would have to have a school party. This is what she truly wanted and I would need to help her come up with something that would honor this birthday wish.
I knew Hobby Lobby and the Party City store would not be of any assistance in finding school related invitations, decorations, favors, or game ideas to compliment this theme. Hesitation was my first thought as I realized we would be completely on our own in coming up with all the ins and outs of this school party. But as the creative juices were forced to be conjured up, and crafty ideas began to surface, I started to share in Halle’s perspective on this whole idea of hers. I agreed she was right, “this will be fun!”
When you think about it, this whole school bus thing really was a great idea. I mean, how totally cool would it be to have a real one show up!!! So I started the party planning process by searching for possibilities in trying to make that happen. But, I was slowly facing disappointment after disappointment as I learned that true rental agencies would cost more than 500 dollars to get a bus here for the afternoon! Sorry, we just weren’t going to go that route. Craig’s List was the next place to try my luck. It was quite an interesting and humorous experience to see the wide variety of items that come up when you type in ‘school bus’ as a search criteria. And being in my desperate and slightly creative mode, these are just a few of the possibilities that I actually played out in my mind and entertained the possibility of.
1) A school bus that had been converted into a wild party bus, complete with disco ball and dancing pole!
2) A retired school bus now painted bright blue with reupholstered seats in crazy colorful animal prints.
3)One of those collapsable play-tents resembling a school bus.
Well, for obvious reasons, we had to rule out the bus with the pole. And Halle was not too keen on the idea of a blue one (“school buses are yellow” she reminded me) and that meant it would not be worth any money to get a bus of an off color. So in the end, it was option 3 that sufficed Halle’s desire for a bus at her party.
To try and pull together some sort of party that would make folks think “school” and “classroom” we also thought the following other ideas would help. Lots of signs were posted around the main areas with words like “cafeteria” (for the pizza line), “teachers’ lounge” (for the snacks and drinks), “library” (on the book shelf in the den), “play area” (where toys for the toddlers laid out), “art” (above some of the girls’ paintings), and “recess” (pointing out to the big play set in the backyard). Some of the bigger home-schooling items were pulled out to serve as props like Halle’s school desk, the American flag, a big chalkboard easel, and this humongous puzzle of the world that Halle had received the night before. Each paper plate that the guests would eat from had student award titles such as ‘Math Whiz’, ‘Star Speller’, ‘Honor Roll’, ‘A++’, ‘Perfect Attendance’, ‘Teacher’s Pet’, ‘Head of the Class,’ etc… written on them. And then a Halle-made alphabet hung on the upper part of the wall around the kitchen to give it just a bit more “class.”
Throw in a bunch of yellow and black streamers, lots of balloons on the floor, and a school bus cake – we felt ready to let the school party begin!! I never did come up with any math problem games that I felt would be a hit with all the kids. But just having it be constant recess time, outside on that perfect-weather day, made the party fun for all of Halle’s friends. We sent her friends home with favors filled with some school supplies (crayons, a pencil that said “learning is fun”, modeling clay, sidewalk chalk), lunch-box snacks, and a star-student award all in a paper lunch bag.
Report card-looking thank you notes are still in the works, but each one I finish just reminds me more and more how much fun Halle had on her special day. I wonder what she’ll come up with for next year…