Ever since I was a child, I have loved the first day of school. I loved it more than my birthday some years. The anticipation was exhilarating, the smell of new books, new backpack, and new sneakers intoxiyfing, and the adventure of new classmates, new teacher, and a new classroom full of hope and promise. Even as an adult, I remember walking through the double doors of my first teaching assignment for professional development during the week before school started and taking a deep inhale of the “smell of school”. I love, love, love school.
Homeschooling is a little different. There are new sneakers, new school supplies, and sometimes new books. Many of ours arrive second hand from ebay, so not quite the new book smell. However, there is not the smell of school, the unknown of a new teacher or classmates, the anxiety of the new seating chart and who to sit by at lunch. Homeschool first days are a little less exciting, but that is not always a bad thing. I have learned over our seven years homeschooling to use that to the advantage.
So yesterday, on our first day of homeschool for the eighth year, I embraced our few first day traditions. I made homemade cinnamon rolls. The dough is prepped the night before, risen slowly overnight in the fridge, and then taken out to rise the morning of for 30-60 min before baking. The kids actually get up excited for cinnamon rolls if nothing else.
I bring out the new school supplies and books on our first day. The kids make signs of what grade they are in this year and I take a picture of them with their sign outside. They fill out an “All About Me” page and I print and glue to photo to it. These go into their binder for the year, and then into the memory box forever, an idea I got from another blogger at learningliftoff.com. The kids put names on workbooks, label dividers in binders, get a tour of what I moved around in the school room, and go over our general day to day schedule. And that’s it. No actual work or assignments. And, I love it that way. Simple, predictable, easy.
The second day of school, we start our classes. We do the first assignment in math, ELA, history, Bible and science. I ended the day at 3:30pm for my ninth grader after her Spanish lesson, even though she had not finished her ELA assignment, and told her tomorrow is another day. Why? Because I learned years ago that it takes a good 2-6 weeks to establish a good daily routine. Until then, just get done what can get done and move on. Plan less, give space, take it slow, keep it peaceful.
Does this approach work? For us, it does. My moody thirteen year-old finished her “Nicole the Math Lady” lesson for Saxon Algebra 1, turned to me smiling, and said, “Maybe this year won’t be so bad after all.” She is not a math fan, so hearing her say something so positive after her first math lesson was encouraging to me, too. I gave her a quick hug and kiss on the head and told her how happy I was that she wanted to homeschool this year (my kids have the choice each year, this is our eighth year homeschooling, and no one has gone back to public school yet). My youngest, who has never attended public school, opened her Singapore math workbook today and took a deep inhale before doing her first assignment. She told me how she loved the smell of new books at the beginning of school. Me too, babe, me too.
Maybe it is genetic, this love and excitement of a new school year. Whatever the reason, embrace it. If it is not a thing in your homeschool, create it. What do your kids love about learning? A first day field trip isn’t our thing, but maybe it is what your kids would love. Maybe making school t-shirts, a trip to the local library, watching a PBS documentary, or going out for snow cones would make a first day enjoyable for your crew. Keep the love of the first day of school adventure alive. Keep it special. It is a sacred day.