As so many families, including our own, prepare to begin our school year, I can’t help but reflect on the previous year (our family’s first one homeschooling) and feel so grateful for all the blessings that homeschooling has brought to our home. I am also extremely proud of all of the hard work the kids (and we all) put in last year to make it such a great year. What better way to celebrate the start of our second year than with some fun ideas! We asked some of our Kolbe families and compiled a list of 10 great back to homeschool traditions to kick-off the new school year.
1. Gift-Wrapped Surprise Supplies! Nothing gets my kids excited like the idea of a surprise... no matter how small. Wrapping up their new supplies (even dollar store ones) will surely get some ooh and aah’s and add some excitement to their first day. Some families even giftwrap the books! If you’re feeling extra adventurous, a scavenger hunt for the surprise goodies would be a sure hit!
2. Field Trip! As homeschoolers, we have awesome flexibility. What a great way to celebrate that with a first day family field trip! If your students take any live or online courses, plan it for the Friday before their classes begin. Head for the zoo, museum or park and bring along those new nature journals, crayons, and pencils to document the day with drawings and notes along the way.
3. Vision Board: Goals gone crafty! Gather the family around the table or the living room floor with a poster and some old magazines, stickers, markers, and crafting supplies. After a family discussion about the upcoming year, everyone can contribute with cut outs or drawings of this year’s homeschool goals. After being decorated, it can be put up to remind us throughout the year. Prefer less mess? Write a bucket list instead!
4. Pick a theme (verse, phrase or song)!When we were at our parochial school, every year the school had a unique faith-centered theme. Now we can gather together as a family to think of a unique theme for each year for our homeschool. It can be a special bible verse, special prayer or a catchy phrase to keep the family energized throughout the year. While we are at it, we may pick a theme song too!
5. “All About me” Interviews! In my days as a classroom science teacher, I would have the students create their own paper lab coat cards filled with questions all about themselves as a yearly ice breaker, and a way to get to know them. At the end of the year, I would hand them back and the students loved seeing how much they had grown and changed. In homeschool, this is a perfect memorable activity for the first day. We may do these in worksheet form or as true interviews (a video would be fun to watch later!). We might come up with our own questions or find some pre-made ones like these from Elizabeth Claire, which even have Catholic-focused questions sprinkled in!
6. Design-and-Make Your Own Covers! For our family’s nature journals, I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted, so we purchased small spiral notebooks with a blank cover that were easy to carry and customize. Our family spent an afternoon each designing and decorating our own. This year we plan to whip out some markers and decorating supplies to make all of our notebooks and folders this special. We have also seen some families hand make beautiful textbook covers out of cloth or wrapping paper!
7. Plan a family Saint Calendar! One of the many rewards of homeschooling for our family has been how much we have learned about the saints and planning special celebrations around feast days. Our days can sometimes be busy, but this is something we want to keep up. This year, we are going to sit together, fill in our calendar with all the big feast days and pick one saint for each month to learn about and plan a special celebration around. It can be anything from crafts, coloring, movie night, fieldtrip, special dinner, or a party. We also plan activities around the liturgical year, but this will give us a chance to dig deeper into 12 saints.
8. Schedule Monthly FUN Days! While we are working on our calendar, one of the other exciting things we will be planning this year is “Fun Days”. These are special days in the school year that we will plan an out-of-the-ordinary day or theme. From something simple like Pancake Day to something silly like Talk Like a Pirate Day, there are tons of interesting and silly ideas (like these that include ideas by month). Although we don’t attend our parochial school anymore, we are still very much a part of their community. Catholic Schools’ week was always a fun spirit week that we can include in our FUN days as well as in our prayers.
9. Decorate the Classroom! Balloons, streamers, posters and signs up as a wake-up surprise the morning will be a huge excitement at our house. We found lots of supplies at our local dollar store, but even paper signs with crayon-written words of encouragement will goa long way.
10. Pizza and Ice Cream OR Fancy Breakfast Party! (or both!) A pack of confetti themed napkins and plates (to match our classroom decorations)will add a festive touch to any meal. Some families plan elaborate and awesome breakfast for the first day with A-B-C or smiley-shaped pancakes, donut tower challenges and fresh squeezed orange juice. A pizza and ice cream party to end the day is a family favorite at our house that might be the perfect wrap up to a wonderful day.
No matter what plans each of our families makes for these special first days back, we pray that the Lord be ever-present in our homes this school year and always. May the lessons we will learn this year help our families grow together in our Catholic faith, knowledge, and character.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us.
Vanessa Delgado graduated with a BS in Civil Engineering (FIU) and worked in the field for several years before feeling called to transition her work into Catholic education, focusing on STEM. She started an Engineering Academy at her alma mater, and taught middle and high school before joining Kolbe Academy. She resides in South Florida with her husband and three young children.