For many kids, the first day of school is heralded by the arrival of the school bus, but for a growing number of children across the country, the classroom is as close as the kitchen table. The National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) estimates than more than 2 million K to 12 students in the U.S. – or 4 percent of all school-aged children – are homeschooled. For them, the first day of school holds its own excitement.
Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool.net, offers these ideas for celebrating the first day of homeschool -- many of which also work if you’re celebrating the first day of traditional school as well. If you haven’t yet stumbled across the perfect back-to-school tradition for your family, here are ten ideas to get you thinking.
1. Serve up a special breakfast. Okay, if you’re like me you don’t want to spend extra time in the kitchen on the first day of school–there are probably many other things on your mind! But that doesn’t mean you can’t give your children an extra special treat to cultivate excitement on your first day–think doughnuts or cinnamon rolls made or bought the night before.
2. Take a photo. Don’t forget to take a few quick snapshots to commemorate your first day. Have your children pose in front of the same spot each year so you’ll be able to watch the progression of their growth over time.
3. Go for a walk. My family homeschools year-round, so we don’t really have a first day of school. Recently though, we added a new ritual to our daily routine–each morning after breakfast and before any learning time takes place, we go for a quick walk around the block. I always try to walk at my children’s pace, whether fast or slow. The other day we paused for several moments, listening to a neighbor’s wind chimes (She eventually came out to ask if we were selling something!). When we arrived back home, Trishna, Jonathan, and Elijah headed straight to the table for a short lesson before playing. The walk allows little, active bodies to get moving before being required to sit still; it also makes for an easy transition to “table time” when we return home.
4. Write in a journal. Mark the start of each school year with a journal entry. If you have multiple children, you could invest in a journal dedicated to each one. Spend ten minutes each year writing about that child–his interests, goals, and school subjects. If you write one entry each year you’ll end up with a fabulous keepsake to give your child when he graduates.
5. Wrap up the school supplies. In our home, a new workbook is welcomed with a lot more excitement when covered with fun wrapping paper and given as a gift. Consider adding a “wow” factor to some of the new supplies you’ve purchased by giving them as presents on the first day. Just make sure you schedule in time for your child to use the supplies she receives.
6. Celebrate their growth. My three are currently obsessed with how fast they are growing, even at times heading to bed earlier in an effort to speed up the process! The first day of school lends itself to thinking about intellectual growth, but you can also take the opportunity to measure and mark everyone’s height–adding to it each year.
7. Start a new read-aloud. A gripping story may be the perfect way to ease your students into a new year of learning. Save the heavy, intense books for a few more weeks when everyone is adjusted to the new school schedule. For now keep it light and entertaining. See this post or this post for a few suggestions.
8. Recite a poem. For those poetically-inclined parents (of which I am not one!), writing a poem to recite for your kids could be either a tender or a hilarious way to start the day. Or you could just choose a selection from a child’s treasury to read in honor of each child.
9. Let your kids pick the dinner menu. Sometimes the first thing my son says in the morning is “What’s for dinner?”If your tribe is similarly minded, why not let them plan the meal for the first day? Of course they can help prepare it as well!
10. Give your children flowers. Last Monday was my twelfth wedding anniversary, and I walked downstairs to find a dozen pink roses in a vase on the table. Plants and flowers indoors bring a boost of joy to spirits young and old. Pick a blossom from your garden or a florist nearby to let your little ones know how special they are.
Sometimes as adults we focus too much on the logistics of our plans–we forget that it only takes a few extra minutes to add meaning to them as well. Don’t allow your first day of school to pass by without stocking up on memories–just pick one idea from the list above and you’ll be off to a great year.
How does your family kick off the first day of school?