Commemorating new seasons in our life is a healthy practice, for adults and children alike. Marking time with a tradition or special memory gives us a sense of excitement and ownership over our lives.
The slight hiccup with back to school season is that it can sometimes make homeschoolers feel a little left out. There is a small, or not so small, part of us that may begin to doubt our lifestyle as we see all smiling back-to-school faces fill our Facebook and Instagram news feeds each fall. We begin to ask ourselves if our kids are missing out on something by not having the brand new lunchbox and outfit for their first day.
I propose homeschoolers take ownership over the back to school season. To do so, we must first remember that “back to school” is literally an American retail season. The stores and online ads around you are trying to create a need where there isn’t one. Instead of letting those sales for lunch boxes and backpacks sow seeds of insecurity, we can embrace this season as a time of celebration.
Let’s give our kids a tangible ways to celebrate their first day of school. I believe every homeschool family can find some type of “beginning” to celebrate, even if you’re unschoolers or school year-round. It may be the beginning of a new book, or of a new season; just find a marker in time and celebrate.
Pick one or more of the below back to homeschool traditions, or come up with your own; bend them to fit your specific family. It’s all about balance, and creating a sense of excitement in your kids. Trust me, excitement is contagious. When they are excited, you will be too.
5 Back to Homeschool Traditions
1) First Half Day!
Our first day of school is actually our first half day too! The best advice I’ve ever received from a mentor homeschool mom was to ease into my year with a few subjects at a time. If may be hard for those of you who like to check off all your boxes, but a slow start for the year is a healthy way to allow a students’ confidence to grow for each subject as it comes. We start history and science on our first week, add spelling the second week, math the third, and by the fourth week we are full steam ahead. The half day also allows us to do some of the other fun first day traditions.
2) Special Breakfast
Let’s face it, food talks. Make it a holiday for your kids with their favorite breakfast food. If I’m feeling really lazy, I just go to the store the night before and buy a box of donuts! Kids are not picky when it comes to sugary treats; they just want something out of the ordinary, anything that says “This is a special day!”
3) Treasure Hunt
A simple treasure hunt gives real joy to your morning, without derailing the schedule for the day. We have four to five simple clues, and the prizes at the end are always inexpensive and related to school. This year the prizes were erasable colored pencils and chewing gum. It is OK that the clues are easy and the hunt only takes five minutes, because the object of the game is NOT problem-solving hard riddles. The object is to start school with fun! I thought my junior high boys would have grown out of this tradition this year, but it was just as exciting as when they were in 1st grade. We have each boy take turns reading and solving a clue. Make sure you have enough clues for each of your children.
4) First Day of School Pictures
You may think your big second grader is all grown up, but years from now you will look back at and see how truly tiny they really were. Give yourself grace to be authentic. Last year my kids were freshly bathed with new clothes and a beautifully decorated chalkboard sign on their first morning of school. The next year our “first day of school” pictures took place on the fourth day of lessons at 4:30pm and I had to beg my kids to change out of pajamas! Give yourselves a break! You are the mom, the cook, the principal, security guard, and teacher. It is OK to not be the perfectly scheduled yearbook photographer. The key is documenting the beginning of something new, not how Pinterest-worthy your pictures are.
5) NOT Back to School Trip
Celebrate your freedom from the public school calendar! Take your family vacation in late August or September, instead of July. Go on a camping trip, or enjoy the quiet beach all to yourself! Go to museums during weekday daytime hours. Invite your homeschool friends to the best park in your town, on a Tuesday at 10:00am! Use this season to revel a little bit in the freedom we have as homeschoolers.
I hope any of these traditions help you begin your year with excitement!
About the Author
Robyn Joyner is a writer, photographer, and homeschool mother to twin boys. With a degree in Early Childhood, she believes learning doesn’t begin or end with school or college degrees, but is a lifelong journey. She leads the Women’s Ministry Fellowship in her church, and enjoys meal planning, spending time with her husband and children, and reading children’s literature. Robyn blogs at Leading Them to the Rock.
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