This is such an exciting time of year! All those new school books have arrived in the mail, and you’re thinking through how to use them. (Okay, so it’s also a little overwhelming, I know…)
But even the kids are starting to look forward to starting homeschooling again as they look at their books! Most kids are ready for some routine again as summer comes to a close, even though they may not say so.
However, sometimes switching from the more relaxed summer learning to a more structured learning environment in the fall can be challenging.
How do we make a smooth transition from the more carefree summer months to the structure and schedule of a new school year?
I believe homeschooling should be a mixture of fun and learning all through the year, and especially so that first couple of weeks of school!
- Be excited about starting school! Your attitude will rub off on the kids, and if you’re ho-hum or stressed about school starting, they will be too. But if you’re super excited and talking about how you love the new curriculum, and how you’re excited about what you’ll be learning – the kids will get excited too!
- Consider doing a field trip that first week – or even on the first day of school! I wanted that first day of school to be exciting and fun, and so we often went on a field trip the first day of school. One year we were able to travel with my husband on a business trip the first week of school, and we went to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago for the first day of school!
We all loved field trips, and it made that first day of school extra fun to go somewhere special. If you can choose a field trip that fits in with what you’re going to be studying in science or history this year, that’s awesome, but don’t stress out about doing that – just find something that everyone will enjoy. It can even be something like Valleyfair or the State Fair – I know they’re not necessarily educational, but they’re fun! It’ll create memories that will last for a long time. And it’s one of the perks of homeschooling – you can choose to go on a field trip whenever you want!
A great resource for finding good field trip ideas is the Minnesota Field Trip Library: https://www.mnfieldtriplibrary.org/ If you live outside of MN, check with your state homeschool organization for great field trip ideas.
- Find a great read-aloud to read together as a family. Reading aloud to your kids can be one of the best family bonding times you’ll have in your school day, and the benefits to your kids are amazing! Check out my blog post “7 Benefits to Reading Aloud to Your Children” to learn more.
- Take “first day of school” photos. It makes that first day a little more special and you can look back at those “first day of school” photos and see the changes in your kids over the years if you do this as a tradition. I’d also encourage you to document some of what they’re doing by taking photos throughout the year too. You’ll be glad you did!
- Try the slower start academically. You can do a slower start to your academic year by starting with one or two subjects the first day, adding another the next, and so on. That way you and your kids won’t feel as overwhelmed by starting with all the subjects at once on the first day. By the end of the week (or maybe the 2nd week), you should have been able to start all the subjects and by the end of the first month, you’ll have gotten into a routine and will know how to best fit all the subjects in each week.
- Play educational games. Some of the best learning happens as we play games together with our kids! If the games are educational, they’re learning math or phonics, or whatever the game focuses on, plus playing games will teach good sportsmanship and being considerate of others. I recommend incorporating games into your school days all through the year, especially with young children. Check out my blog post: GREAT Gifts: Educational Games! for game ideas
- Take a moment to share words of encouragement with each of your kids individually that first week. Tell them how much you love them and are thankful for the opportunity to teach them at home. Encourage them by telling them the good character qualities you see in them, and how you’ve seen them grow in certain areas, such as responsibility or respect. Challenge them to think about how they want to grow in character this year.
- Take time to talk through family and personal goals with your kids sometime that first week of school– let them have input on what you hope to accomplish in this school year and how you’re going to do it.
If they’re a part of the discussion, they’re more likely to participate enthusiastically in all you plan to do. Be creative on how to make this a fun and engaging experience for the kids. This is a great way for them to learn how to set goals for their lives on a regular basis as well. And it gets them excited for what’s in store for the year also!
Family Ministry goals:
It’s a great bonding experience to do family ministry together! For several years, our family was involved helping with the start of a church plant and the kids were almost as involved in serving as we were! It was definitely a family ministry opportunity.
What is something your family could do to serve God together?
Maybe you want to reach out to your neighbors and be more of a blessing to them – talk through how you can do that best with your children.
Here are some other family ministry ideas: Feed My Starving Children, your local church and some specific ministry within it, reaching out to refugees through World Relief, helping the homeless, helping families in Texas after the flooding, or one I just recently learned about- My Refuge House (a home for girls who have been saved from the sex trade in the Philippines).
The list of ministries that you can help with or support is endless! Seek the Lord for how you can serve Him as a family.
Character building goals:
Do you want to see your children become more responsible? More respectful? Is there a character quality you can focus on for the next month? Obedience, Kindness, Self-control, Gratefulness… check out my blog posts on these character qualities and get some ideas on how to work on them with your family. (put character building, or kindness, or self-control in the search box and you’ll find them!)
Do you want to help your children memorize scripture? Learn to spend time reading God’s word on a daily basis? Or learn to pray more regularly? Talk with them about what spiritual goals they might want to set for the year. Spiritual goals can be set for the whole family and also for each individual child. And set some for yourself too!
Download my free Homeschool Evaluation and Goal Setting worksheet! I’ve created a goal setting document that you can use to help you set goals for each child – and you can download it for free from my website! Find the request box on the right side of this page and sign up to receive it free!
- Pray with your kids about these goals and the school year. Your example of depending on the Lord will be more contagious than any teaching you might give on the subject of prayer and trusting God. May your faith and trust in God shine so bright that your kids are inspired to trust God more and more.
- Remember to incorporate “Delight-Directed Studies” right away those first few weeks. Delight-directed studies are basically subjects or topics that your child is especially interested in, such as dogs, cats, horses, computers, etc. As you see that your child has a special interest in something, you provide the resources to help him or her learn more about that topic. As they learn about what they’re excited about, or ‘delighted’ in, they’re also learning to research, and to share the information with others! Plus, delight-directed studies help to develop a love for learning in your child!
May you have an amazing first few weeks of school – and an even better school year ahead!