This year was our fifth “first day” back to homeschool.
Although my family homeschools year-round, in the fall we usually begin a new curriculum or implement new systems or routines in our homeschool. Leading up to this time, I like to take two to three weeks off between the end of summer and the new school year to help me and my family begin the new school year with excitement.
This school year, in particular, my family has a lot on our plate. While I didn’t have the margins to add a lot of hoopla to our back-to-school time, I did want to do a few things to make it special. As I was looking online and brainstorming ways to do that for my own family, I compiled a list of ideas for you to refer to as you plan yours.
As you enter into your new school year, remember that the most important thing to prepare is yourself. Your kids will enjoy the decorated school area and the trinkets and outings, but what they will remember most is their connection with you. Take some time to cast a vision for your school year, journal, and get excited about learning alongside your children this year. As you think about how to make the first week of the new homeschool year fun, do only what serves your family well and brings you joy and peace. Stay away from the comparison trap and striving for perfection. Add a few of these ideas into your school day, but most importantly, communicate to your children that you LOVE being home with them and have the best job in the world being their mama and teacher.
Ideas to bring joy to your first day back-to-homeschool
1. The night before back-to-homeschool
Try starting a tradition for the night before the first day back to homeschooling.
In my family, our tradition is to have an ice cream sundae bar and board game night the evening before we start our new school year. We talk about the previous year, all we did and learned, plus the upcoming year’s plans. We also give the kids a small school supply gift and pray over each of them.
You could make this tradition anything–the key is doing it each year and making sure to have some time to connect with your children’s hearts about the upcoming school year during that time.
2. Prepare a special breakfast
Serve a special breakfast the morning of the first day of school or surprise your kids with a trip out to breakfast!
In my family, we love to cook and try new recipes. Here are some of our favorite special breakfast recipes we've tried over the years:
3. Decorate the school area
Simply add balloons and streamers to your school area, or gather some new long-term decor and freshen up your space as a surprise for your kids. I love these posters from Cavallini Papers for an inexpensive, fun way to redecorate our area.
If you don't want to add anything to your space, try decluttering your area by removing any of last year's projects or school items to make space for the new year of school and start fresh.
4. New school supplies
Make school supplies extra fun by wrapping them in gift wrap or by creating a scavenger hunt for the kids to find them. Throw in some bonus supplies you don’t normally get like character erasers, special art supplies, and new fidgets for them to play with when you are reading aloud.
Check out our Amazon Storefront for items I love.
5. Introduce a visual schedule
To set up your days for the best success, I recommend using a visual schedule to support your children from the time they are very young. Download, personalize, print, and laminate our Daily Rhythm Bundle and introduce a visual schedule to your kids. This will help keep your day flowing, and kids love to see what is happening next as they move through their day.
Connect with your children and arrange the schedule to start the day with any subjects or studies they are excited about.
6. All About Me
Have your children create a self-portrait and write down some of their current favorites to look back on and remember who they were at the beginning of the school year. When I do this with my kids, I like to include their favorite book, food, song, hobby, and current best friend. You could also easily find a freebie online with an All About Me template for the kids to fill out. This is a tried-and-true way to take a snapshot of who they are at this point in time and see how they evolve throughout the year.
7. Ask your children what they want to learn
The first day of the new school year is a great time to connect with your children and talk about what they want to learn about this year. Give your kids some sticky notes and invite them to write down topics and stick them to a wall in your school area. Then, plan some time to learn each thing they wrote. We like to do this all year long! Some of our favorite things we've studied as a family have been ideas my children suggested.
8. Start a fun unit study
Start your school year off by exploring a unit study that will really excite and engage your kids. If you're new to homeschooling, unit studies explore multiple academic subjects through one topic, making it easy to teach different ages and bring everyone together during your school day. Unit studies are often more hands-on than other school work.
In my family, we like to use nature as a catalyst for unit studies, exploring topics like storms, apples, reptiles, and birds of prey. We use Treehouse Nature Study to guide these lessons, which includes poetry, music, art, nature walks, crafts, experiments, and more.
9. Play games
Games are such a great way to foster connection and learn cooperation skills. There are so many amazing games out there that also invite you into learning. Instead of using a math curriculum on the first day, try playing a math game! My favorite source for finding good games is The Waldock Way. Whenever I need a fresh idea, I head over to her blog and can find so many to choose from.
10. School outside
Surprise your kids by packing up all of your school materials on the first day and taking it out in the backyard with a picnic, or on the road to your favorite park. Bring a blanket and some lunch and enjoy the freedoms of homeschooling from day one!
11. Field trip
Plan a field trip for the first day to kick off the year. We love visiting museums, nature centers, and the zoo. Bring a camera and some clipboards for your older children to take notes of things they are observing and learning and create a notebook page of the day when you return home.
12. Poetry teatime
Have a special teatime in the afternoon, complete with a treat, tea, and your favorite poetry books. Set the table with a pretty tablecloth and light a candle to make it extra memorable.
Whether this is your first year homeschooling or you've been homeschooling for years, the start of a new year is always an exciting time. I hope these ideas help you find meaningful, intentional ways to kick off the new year that will bring joy to your family.
If you have any back-to-school traditions you love, please share them in the comments below.