Not everybody does the first day of school the same way. There are some families who jump in exactly the way they left off the month before, without making too big a deal about it. Then, there are others who start with making a huge breakfast, taking creative photos of the kids, and holding a special kick-off celebration.
Whatever works in your family is always the best way to go. Remember, homeschooling is about you and nobody else.
One idea I love, that worked well for us as the kids got older, is to “stagger” the first day of school.
It’s not always as fun as doing a BIG first day. But it has BIG benefits in other ways.
What I love about staggering first days is that I get to spend an entire “first day” with every child. We can make it as special as we want — and it’s all about them.
On a child’s first day, we go over all of the books or curriculum I have planned for the year, and I show them exactly how each is supposed to be used. I make sure the student understands all of our resources in detail, including where each book is kept, where to find the resource sections, what to notice while reading through the chapters (e.g. vocabulary words or review questions), how to take notes from that book (if I am requiring it that year), how much is to be completed in a day, where to put any completed work so I can see it, and anything else.
We do the same thing for non-book things, like art or science supplies, DVDs or web sites I have saved for their use, logs they are supposed to fill out, online courses, or anything else the student is assigned that year. I work with them to make sure we both understand the language that is used, any difficult instructions, what needs to be photocopied or filled-in, or anything else that needs understanding and training early on.
On that child’s first day, we also go over what is expected by the end of the day, what the general time frame might be, and we do a dry-run through any schedules or plans I have put together for that day. The dry run includes chores, quiet time, outside activities that need to be coordinated with the rest of the family, or anything else that make sense for that particular student for that year.
Something I also like to do on the first day is organize that student’s work area. We use our time to find favorite supplies, decide where to hang charts or calendars, locate a favorite chair or school-time toy, and talk about where the student would like to store his stuff for the year. (I used to organize my kids for them. As they got older, they enjoyed participating in the process, plus it was more meaningful to them since they chose what made them most productive and comfortable.)
Basically, every child gets a personalized first day. Focused just on them.
It’s like training, but it can also be fun.
Staggered first days means I am able to sit with each child and be there to personally help and explain anything that might arise during the course of the day. At the end of the day, we end the day with some family treat or perhaps a small reward for that child.
It also means I am able to spot road-blocks right away, and make a change that immediately impacts the next day. That actually happened to us this year, when my son and I noticed that a book I had selected was way too easy for him. We actually spent an hour going through the chapters looking for one that was even remotely challenging for him, and finally decided together to scrap the book altogether and go with something else the very next day. (Working with him was the only way to really test the book out in real time. I’m so glad this happened!)
When I stagger first days, I always feel like every child gets a special first day just for him. It’s nice to start a year knowing I gave my full attention to a child before the multiple-student chaos begins!
I know this may not appeal to everyone, but I wanted to explain how it has worked for us. As my kids get older, they no longer need so much attention and individualized academic coaching any more, but I use this idea in other areas of their lives. I highly recommend you try this if you think your kids could benefit from personalized first days.
Good luck! And if you try it, come back and leave a COMMENT about how it went!
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