“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” – Deuteronomy 6:7
Academic involvement, a wider array of curricular choices, flexible scheduling, spiritual training, spending more time as a family. The reasons for homeschooling are as individual as each parent who makes the choice to educate at home. But one thing that remains consistent for all homeschoolers, a new school year looks a bit different for them than that of traditionally educated kids.
Although there are no buses to catch (and miss), classroom rules to learn, or worries about who to sit by at lunch, some traditional back to school rituals are valuable for students in any type of learning situation. Whether you homeschool full-time, are part of a co-op, use an on-line school, or are involved in a hybrid-style program, here are some ideas to make back to school a fun and exciting time for all.
Mark the Transition
After a few months of popsicles at the pool and sidewalk chalk in the sun, the weather may still be screaming, “Let’s go to the beach,” but students need to know that change is in the air. Identify the occasion by planning an end-of-summer barbecue with friends or a special park day commemorating the upcoming schedule. Not that all the fun has to end, but there is value in helping kids make the mental shift from beach towels to books.
Prepare the Tool Box
The excitement of a new school year with sales, signs and displays are contagious. Last year’s pencil box may still have a few usable crayons, but there is something exciting about getting a few new supplies. A fresh set of markers and some unused glue sticks lets your kids know that they’re embarking on an adventure with new things to learn, investigate and discover, subtly signaling that the start of a new school year deserves special attention.
Get the routine down right away
Homeschooled kids don’t have to “get ready” for school, but as one mom friend told me, they still should. Getting up at a regular time, getting breakfast finished, having her kids brush hair and teeth, do their chores and getting completely dressed is done in her house before learning time begins. The flexibility of homeschooling gives many benefits, but there is also great value in teaching kids promptness and finishing tasks in a timely manner. Make a schedule for the first day of instruction and stick to it.
Make it Official
Check with your local school district and choose that (or a nearby day) for your start date. Write it on the calendar. Count down the days. Gather with other homeschool kids and take a first day photo. Make a first day sign. Journal about it, asking kids to write about goals for the year ahead. Have your students draw a self-portrait (don’t forget to illustrate another one in June). Celebrate this very special day with a special meal with family or friends. Give the day the honor it deserves!
Make New Friends
As a former elementary school teacher, one of my main goals the first few days of school was to create a warm, welcoming and loving environment so that new students would feel comfortable and confident. Homeschoolers can do the same by reaching out to new families in your co-op or hybrid. Ask around your network of homeschooling friends to find anyone just starting out. Lending a helping hand and giving your support to inexperienced moms while offering your family’s friendship, is a great way to start a new year.
Sharing is Caring
Another back to school objective in my classroom was to give my students an opportunity to express any fears or anxiety they may be feeling about the year ahead. Be sure your first few days aren’t simply going over last year’s math facts and reviewing grammar rules. Give your children a way to share emotions and concerns, through journaling, illustrating, or writing paragraphs, letters, poetry or stories. First day jitters can happen even at home.
No matter your family’s school situation, there are some things that ring true for all students at this time of year. As we help our kids pack up their sand toys and pull out their spelling lists, back to school can be a fun, exciting and wonderful time of year.
♡ Kathryn O’Brien is author of children’s picture books and writes for Proverbs 31 Woman.
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