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We’re nearing back to school time for those in conventional schools. Soon, my Facebook and Instagram feeds will be covered with first-day-of-school pictures. Over the last couple of years, I must admit that I felt a little envious of all the first day of school hoopla. We school year-round, so we hadn’t observed a “first day” since my oldest started kindergarten.
Those who know me well know that I don’t believe in wasting any time being envious of others. Envy is a sign that I need to make a change in my own life. I reminded myself that my family could have our own “not-back-to-school” traditions, and do them anytime we chose to. I’ve been on full-on brainstorm mode for our not-back-to-school party ever since! If you’re looking for a way to celebrate the first day of homeschool, I hope this gives you some ideas!
Take some first day of homeschool pictures
You’ll be glad to have a yearly photo of your kids whether they’re going out of the house for school or not. I love the photos that have become so popular over the last few years of the child in the 18-year-old-sized t-shirt with his graduation year on it. No reason we can’t do those! Of course, we could also take some pictures in our PJs…
Give special first day of homeschool jammies the night before
One of my favorite things about homeschooling is that we don’t have to get dressed if we don’t want to. Why not start a tradition of getting a new pair of jammies for the night before the first day of homeschool? These matching ones for the whole family are cute!
Make a special breakfast at home
For special days in our house, I make rainbow pancakes with sprinkles. What’s your special breakfast menu?
Go out for breakfast
My kids love Krispy Kreme donuts. They can stand for 30 minutes or more watching the donut machine. You might consider visiting there or one of the many other restaurants that isn’t crowded now that everyone is back in school.
Sit on the porch and wave to the school buses going by
Ok, I’ll admit this one is a little tacky. It also won’t work if you’ve got a kid who’s desperate to ride the bus. However, I don’t know about you, but I always feel extra-glad to be a homeschooler when I see the moms and kids running to the bus stop in the morning while I sit in the kitchen with my coffee. Maybe we could wave discreetly to the bus from the window?
Take a ride on a public bus
If you do have a child who is sad about missing the opportunity to ride on the school bus, you could take a ride on a public bus to a restaurant, playground, or fellow homeschooler’s house.
Many community pools close once the kids have gone back to school, but if yours is still open, enjoy the peace and quiet you’ll find there. If you’ve got a backyard pool, maybe you could swim while taking a brain break or enjoy an educational show on Netflix while hanging out in floats.
We make our own popsicles in my house, and I love the idea of coming up with a special “first day of homeschool” recipe. If you’d like to make your own, too, here are the molds we use.
Go to the library
We always hate fighting the crowds at the library in the summer. Why not take a trip there now that it’s empty to get some books to read?
Go to a local museum, zoo, or other kid spot
As I mentioned with the library suggestion above, the best thing about school starting is that all the destinations that are popular with families will now be uncrowded again. We love going to the National Aquarium and actually being able to touch a stingray or poke a jellyfish. Take your pick of the fun (and educational) places around you and enjoy your trip!
Go to a movie matinee
I know I sound like a broken record, but you’ll no longer be fighting for a seat at the movie theater. It might be great to get up, do your lessons, and then go to movie!
Organize a First Day of Homeschool picnic with homeschooled friends
My secular homeschool group did an amazing potluck picnic at a playground last year. We ate some great food, the boys played for hours with new and old friends, and I got to chat with lots of like-minded moms. It was a blast!
Gift some new school supplies
The Germans have a really cool tradition of making a Schultüte or school cone for the first day of school. Here’s a diy video for one which looks so easy that I think even this arts-and-crafts-impaired mama could do it.
You could also wrap up some supplies in traditional wrapping paper or just leave them in a basket in your homeschool area. Everybody loves sharp pencils, clean notebooks, and new art supplies.
Do a First Day of Homeschool scavenger hunt around your home or backyard
How fun would it be to do a scavenger hunt to find the new books and school supplies?
Have a game day with some favorite educational games
I am always amazed by how much we learn playing games together. Concepts are absorbed so well when the kids don’t feel like they’re learning. Here are some of our favorite games (for a 5 and 7-year-old).
Make a First Day of Homeschool “About Me” page or book
There are all sorts of resources out there for collecting data about what your little homeschoolers are like at this age. Dr. Seuss’s My Book About Me would be a great keepsake. Alternately, you could print out the book here, and complete it as a first day of homeschool activity.
Measure your child’s height
If you do this every year on the first day, it will be a fun way to mark their growth.
Trace your children’s hands
Like the height measurement above, this will be a fun way to see how much your little one grows each year.
Make a First Day of Homeschool time capsule
You can make all this data-collecting even more fun by adding the info to a time capsule that you hide or bury to pull out at the end of the year. Other stuff you might consider adding to the time capsule: a photo of the kids, an example of their handwriting or a picture that they drew, a copy of their schoolwork or lesson plan for the first day, or a list of events in the news. Even better would be including something fun to do outside in the summer weather like bubbles, sidewalk chalk, or water balloons. Plan to dig up your time capsule on the last day of school to reminisce and have another party.
Decorate your school area with balloons or streamers
We always decorate the house with balloons and streamers on my kids’ birthdays. I know they’d get a kick out of seeing our homeschool area decorated, too.
Go for a First Day of Homeschool bike ride to a favorite spot and do your first lesson there
How fun would it be to pop your books in a backpack, ride your bikes to a playground or favorite nature spot, and spend some time reading under a tree?
Bake a First Day of Homeschool cake or other dessert together
Baking is a wonderful time to practice reading and math with younger homeschoolers. And, of course, it’s a great symbol of celebration! If you don’t have a favorite cake recipe, this is our go to.
Make a fun lunch
Maybe you didn’t wake up early enough to make a special breakfast. (No judgement here!) you might consider making a fun lunch. My Food for Kids board on Pinterest has some ideas.
Go out for ice cream
Can you tell that celebrations in my house always revolve around food?
Read the same special First Day of Homeschool book every year
You might enjoy reading a book every year that features a homeschooled character. Here are some ideas:
- Ippie Unschooled by Nicole Olson
- Treasure Hunters Series by James Patterson
- Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr
- Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie S. Tolan
- This is My Home, This Is My School by Jonathan Bean
Do a fun science experiment
The first day of homeschool might be a fun time to do a classic messy science experiment such as Mentos in Coke or a vinegar volcano. Here’s a great roundup of some experiments you might enjoy.
Surprise your kids with some new educational apps on their tablets
Although we try to keep screen time in check, we often use our tablets as part of homeschooling, especially when I’m working one-on-one with one of my boys. It’s very useful for the other one to be able to spend his time practicing handwriting, reading, or playing an educational game. Here are some of our favorites.
- Epic Books: this kids’ book subscription service has more than 35,000 titles, and it gamifies reading by giving badges for accomplishing different reading goals. Click here to get 30 days free!
- Teach Your Monster to Read: both my kids have begged to play this game, and they hardly even notice that they’re learning phonics
- The Human Body by Tiny Bop: teaches kids about their bodies and how they work
- Dragonbox: makes math really fun and easy to understand
Have an arts and crafts day
For a relaxed and fun start to your homeschool year, you might spend the day doing some arts and crafts. If you’re feeling pressure to make it “educational” you might like these STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, & Math) ideas.
Have a First Day of Homeschool dance party
I love dance party breaks as a regular part of our homeschool days. It’s a great way to fight a bad attitude or just take a brain break. If you need some song ideas, here’s a playlist.
Create a list of all the things you’d like to do this year
The first day is a great day to brainstorm field trips you’d like to take, books you’d like to read, or subjects you’d like to learn about.
Do all your classes outside for the day
If the weather is nice today, why not do your lessons in the backyard, on the balcony, or at the park?
Spend the day snuggled in your jammies and reading books
If all of the stuff listed above sounds like too much, why not try our favorite homeschool activity? Snuggle up on the couch and read together (and you don’t even have to be in new pjs). It’ll be just as memorable as all the fancy stuff.
There you go—some ideas for ways to create a memorable ‘not-back-to-school’ tradition for the first day of homeschool. I should also mention, though, that you should totally opt-out of this stuff if it feels like too much work. Pick a tradition that feels right (or not!) and enjoy this first day of homeschool with your kids. Homeschooling for our family, has been an important part of designing a life that works just the way we want it to. Regardless of what you choose to do (or not do!) I’m wishing you a wonderful homeschool year.