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You’ve finally made it to the first day of homeschool adventuring! By now, you’ve checked out your options and decided on your homeschool curriculum. You’ve gotten organized and have your planner filled out. Maybe you’re an overachiever and even ironed and laid out the kids’ ‘first day’ outfits! But now, it’s time to put all that legwork and planning to the test: actually starting school.
The first day of your homeschool won’t make or break your year, but starting on the right foot will make your life easier. Let’s talk about some good habits, tips, and memory-making inspiration to get you and the kids excited for day one.
Take “First Day of Homeschool” Pictures!
I probably don’t have to tell you to take pictures on your child’s first day of homeschool. After all, plenty of parents love making memories this way. I even know moms who plan out the outfits their kids will wear in these pictures weeks in advance!
Taking first day pictures can be more than simply a time-capsule addition, however. Especially if you’re using cute printable signs like these, you can see a snapshot of who your child is, what their interests are, and their capabilities. You can also use these images to capture important information about your child’s starting point for portfolio creation down the line. It might be a handwriting sample (if you let the child write their own answers out), or maybe it’ll show how much they learned in science when they changed dream careers from soccer player to paleontologist!
Explain your Homeschool Schedule
You might have already answered your child’s scheduling questions ad nauseum in the days leading up to today, but go over your year’s schedule one more time. Or if the kids haven’t heard it yet, spend a chunk of your day explaining to them what each day of homeschooling will look like.
Kids thrive on repetition and routine, so help them get into a schoolwork groove quickly by keeping things structured. Some of the best advice my first mentor teacher ever gave me is to start the year MORE structured than you think you’ll need. You can always relax things if you need to. Creating a habit of unstructured chaos and disorder, however, is much, much harder to change.
So what are some tools you can use to give structure to your day? Many families have special start-of-day routines, like reading a book from the “morning basket,” singing special songs, or having recess. If your child previously attended an in-person school, you might consider using routines they had in their other school, like the pledge of allegiance, “bell ringer” writing prompts, or circle time. This familiarity can help ease them into your new routines.
Finally, you might want to hand a visual of your family’s homeschool schedule out on the first day. For older children, a schedule taped to their binder or folders might be enough of a reminder for what they should be doing and when. For younger children, perhaps you could have them help you write out the schedule on poster paper and hang it in your designated school area. Extra visual cues will help them get settled and on track faster!
Do One Fun Activity on the First Day of Homeschool
Just like you, your child’s brain is wired to continue doing things that they enjoy. Help them view homeschooling as one of those things!
You might do this by playing a review game to see what they remember from previous years, going on a field trip or nature walk, or allowing them to spend some time researching a special interest.
Maybe you plan on letting them watch a YouTube series to learn certain subjects- let them preview that! If you’re starting the year with a unique or exciting unit, have them do an experiment, read an intriguing excerpt, or play a simulation that piques their interest in the subject. The more engagement you can generate on day one, the easier it is for that to snowball for weeks, if not months.
Set Appropriate Boundaries
This is the part of homeschooling that every parent dreads (at least every parent I’ve met). You know you can’t allow them to run wild or they’ll never get anything done, but you’re afraid of squelching their love of learning. Setting boundaries doesn’t mean becoming a tyrant, however! In fact, kids need boundaries in order to fully flourish, academically.
Every family’s boundaries will look different based on their family culture. Perhaps you really can’t abide by screen time during school hours. Another parent might care most about having everyone working in the same room so they can monitor everyone. Yet another parent really needs to hold boundaries about respectful language so both parent and child can homeschool effectively. Just pick a few, core boundaries you need to set for everyone to reach their full potential, and don’t be unrealistic in your expectations. Your kids might not actually thank you (though I have had some students who did!) but your kids will be better off for your boundary-setting.
Create an identity
The first day of your homeschool can be a great time to do activities that help build group identity. Public school teachers do this all the time by having kids create group norms, decorate their spaces together, or create a class handshake. You can use similar tools to help your kids feel like they belong and are a valued member of the little homeschool. This is slightly different from belonging to your family unit, and can be especially important if non-family members do homeschooling activities with you.
I know one homeschool family that picks out “uniforms” for their kids to wear on school days. (I’m told it helps cut down on laundry for the mom, too!) Other families choose to give their homeschool an unofficial but fancy name, like the Young Scholars Academy or the Martinez School of Excellence. You also might choose to do things like design a homeschool ‘coat of arms,’ come up with a unique motto, or create a secret password to enter the homeschooling space. These can be especially important tools if any of your children are struggling with the decision to homeschool, as it can make them feel like part of an exclusive club or like they have insider knowledge.
So there you have it! All my best tips and tricks to have an awesome first day of your homeschool adventure. Don’t forget to check out these awesome, printable “first day of school” signs. You can get them in chalkboard, underwater, or outer space themed, or get one that’s specific to your child’s age and let them customize it with their dreams and favorite things!
Hillary is a former teacher who went rogue and became a freelance writer. When not offering support and advice to homeschooling families, she tends to her own garden, family, and cat. You can connect with her on her website, homegrownhillary.com.