Inside: Learn how to make your first day of homeschool special with these 50 ideas! Get a set of printables with first day of homeschool activities your kids can do.
Starting school is a big deal for public schoolers. Why shouldn’t it be for homeschoolers too? Just because the kids aren’t leaving the house doesn’t mean the first day of homeschool shouldn’t be special.
*Full Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase after clicking through, The Unexpected Homeschooler may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read full disclosure policy here.
Here are 50 fun traditions you can choose from to use on your first day of homeschool.
1. First Day Pictures
I can remember my brother and I standing in the driveway in front of our garage door while my mom snapped a bunch of pictures on the first day of school each year. We have some real doozies!
Make your back to homeschool pictures creative with all the fun options we have these days. How about using giant photo props? I saw these huge crayons banks at Target in the dollar section and thought they would be adorable props for younger kids.
Here is a video showing how to make a cute back to school photo frame prop.
2. Set Up a Photo Booth
Kids love to take silly pictures. It easy to set up a photo booth with a sheet or a blank wall and just add photo booth props. I have created some for you. You can print them out on cardstock and tape them to popsicle or shish-ka-bob sticks to hold. You can get them in the download at the bottom of this article.
Grab these photo booth props at the bottom of the page!
3. Decorate Your Classroom
Okay I’ll be honest, we don’t have a classroom. My kids don’t even have an area of their own to do school. We just use the kitchen table, living room, back porch, or any other area we feel like doing school in. But the kitchen is the main area where school starts each day. You can decorate whatever room you use with balloons and streamers. You can even use the streamers to make it look like those crazy beads they hung in the doorway in the 70s.
4. Start with a Few Subjects Instead of Everything
We never start with all our subjects on the first day. Pick a few to start with (perhaps the basics like math, reading, and writing) and then each week add another. It only takes a few weeks to add everything in but your children will have time to get use to the new materials slowly.
5. Make a Special Breakfast
Donuts are a hit in my house. They are not the greatest way to start the day, but they are fun and a special treat. My 9-year-old will do just about anything for one. Donuts will be the highlight of her day. Another fun idea is to make food from your heritage such as scones or shortbread if you are Scottish or a toasted baguette with jam if your French.
6. Give Coupons for Each of Your Students
Make a book of coupons for your kiddos to use throughout the school year. Or you can print out these cute ones I found from The Planted Trees.
7. Have a Poetry and Tea Party
We started poetry and tea time for the first time this past year and my kids enjoyed it. It would be fun to set up a special tea time with funny poems about school for the first day.
8. Countdown Chain for the First Day of School
Do you get the question “When does school start?” One way to fix that and build excitement leading up to the first day is make a countdown chain. Your kids can rip off one chain each day leading up to the start of school and there will be no question about when you are starting. I have included one in my printables at the bottom.
9. First Day Gift
One idea some families do is giving a small first day gift to each child. It can be something like a new mouse for the computer, smencils, a pretty planner, or erasers in fun shapes.
10. All About Me Page
Have each of your children fill out the All About Me page on the first and last day of school and see how they have changed. You can 3-hole punch them and keep them in a binder. It will make a nice keepsake when they graduate. I have included one in my printables.
11. Create a Vision Board for Your Year
Getting your children involved in what the school year with will look like creates enthusiasm and a sense of ownership. You can create a vision board on a posterboard, whiteboard, or use the free online version of Canva.
12. Start in the Middle or End of the Week
We never start our first week of school with a full week. We like to ease back into it, so we start on a Wednesday or Thursday and have two to three days of school the first week. And if you live in the U.S., you can start the last week in August, and have four days the next week because of Labor Day. On the third week, you will go five days and your kids will have gotten back into a routine.
13. Go Out to Dinner
As a celebration on the first day, you can go out to dinner. There is a lot of preparation leading up to school and not having to cook that first day is nice. Your kids can discuss what they liked and disliked about the first day and tell Dad everything that went on.
14. Picnic Lunch in the Backyard or at a Park Nearby
Picnics are just fun! You don’t need to prepare anything fancy. Put your food in a bag and head outside. Throw a blanket on the ground and the kids will love it. Even putting a blanket on the porch is fine.
If you have a park close by you can walk to, that is even better. We live across from a river and have a walking trail right in front of our house. If we walk a little ways down the trial, we can get to a small boat dock my girls love to visit. For our first day this year, I’m thinking of letting them picnic down there and then do some nature study after.
15. Family Movie Night
A nice way to end you first day is with a family movie night. Pop some popcorn and everyone can gather around the television and watch a family favorite.
16. Let Your Kids Pick Lunch
Kids enjoy having a say so in their meals. Why not let them choose something special for their lunch that day? You could even let them prepare it.
17. Try Gameschooling
We are adding gameschooling this year. Have you ever stopped to think about the benefits of board games? It might surprise you to learn that games make your child’s brain healthier. They also teach life skills.
Depending on the game, they will also cover subjects such as:
- Language skills
Surprise your kids with games instead of books the first day of school.
Here is a new game we just got that we love! This one will get your kids up and moving and the entire family will enjoy it.
18. Take a Field Trip
The first day of school is one of the best days to take a field trip. Often the pools and parks are still open, but the public school kids aren’t there. This means you have them to yourself!
19. Have a Back to Homeschool Party with Another Family
Most homeschoolers know other families who homeschool or belong to a co-op or organization. Kick off your new year with a back to homeschool party. Our co-op used to do a big picnic at a park. It was a lot of fun and a great way for new homeschoolers in the area to meet other families.
20. Face Painting for Art Class
All kids love face painting. Have art class the first day of school and you or one of your children who likes to draw can face paint each of the kids.
21. Have a Scavenger/Treasure Hunt
Do you get sucked into new school supplies like I do? It doesn’t matter if I have a drawer full of markers, when I see those new shiny packs of markers for fifty cents, I have to pick more up. Create a scavenger hunt for the kids to find all the new materials you bought. At the end, you could have Shultute waiting for them. See the next idea on how to make one.
22. Make A German Schultute
Make a Schultute. The word Schultute stand for German school cone. It’s a paper cone which you decorate and fill with school supplies and treats. What a fun way to start off your first day!
23. Create Bucket List for the Year
Over the summer we think of things we want to do during the year but they never happen. Sit down with the kids and make a bucket list of ideas to do. Look at the list and pick one thing for each month, or every other month, and pencil them in on the calendar. You are more likely to do them if your kids help plan them and you put them on the schedule.
24. Special Snacks
Snacks are part of every homeschoolers day. In fact, when it hits 10 am, it seems like they are ready for another breakfast. These edible crayons are so cute and would be perfect to hold them over until lunch.
25. Name Your School and Choose a Mascot
Many families give their homeschool a name. In fact, if you issue a diploma when you children graduate, you will want to have a school name. On the first day of school is a great time to come with ideas for the name. We named our homeschool CME Academy, which uses the initials of my children. It’s also fun to create a mascot, or if you have pets, make them the mascot.
26. Make Handprint or Thumbprint Art
As you can tell, I am a fan of creating keepsakes with my kids’. Another easy idea is making handprint pictures to record the size of their hands each year.
27. Use Erasable Pens
My kids beg to use pens in school. The only kind I let them use are erasable ones and they leave a lot to be desired. They don’t write or erase well and that takes the enjoyment out of using a pen. Meet PILOT FriXion Color Sticks Erasable Gel Pens. These are awesome! They come in 10 different colors and really erase. They write smoothly and make school fun. Surprise your kids with pens they are allowed to use in school this year. They will think you are so cool.
28. Do Mad Lib Stories About Your Homeschool or Family
I remember doing Mad Libs when I was a kid. My oldest daughter discovered them and walks around asking everybody for random words to fill in the blanks and then gets a kick out of reading the story.
I have created a homeschool Mad Lib you can use on the first day of school which will have your kids cracking up. It’s in the set of printables at the bottom.
29. Dance Party
If a dance party doesn’t put everyone in a good mood, I don’t know what will. Your kids will laugh and giggle in a matter of seconds and your first day will be off to a good start.
30. Decorate Binders/Folders/Notebook
They make some really cute school supplies these days. However, they can be pricey when you have several children to buy for. Why not buy the plain ones and let your kids design the covers how they want? You can print out pictures of their favorite characters or print their name written with a cute font and design for them to color.
31. Get Outside the Classroom
Go for a walk and let nature be the teacher for a half an hour. The fresh air and a change of scenery will do everyone good.
32. Start a Journal
Starting a journal is another way to create a keepsake. Have your child write about his favorite activities from summer and date the entry. Do this every year for the first day of school and your child can look back through them and see how his handwriting has changed, his entries have gotten longer as he learned to write better, and just remember all the memories made over the years.
33. Measure Your Children
If you use the first day of school each year to measure your kids height, you won’t forget and will see how much they have grown since the last year. Find a roll of newspaper print or craft paper, measure out a 6 foot piece for each child and label it with his name. Measure the child like normal and then mark his height on the paper with the date. Roll them all up together and hold them with a rubber band to store until next year.
34. Choose a New Read Aloud
Most homeschool families love to do read alouds. One the first day of school have a few options you’d like to read and let your kids pick which one they want to do. Then gather around the living room and read a chapter.
35. Recite a Poem
Find a great poem about school you can read during poetry and tea time.
Here are two favorites:
I love to do my homework,
It makes me feel so good.
I love to do exactly
As my teacher says I should.
I love to do my homework,
I never miss a day.
I even love the men in white
Who are taking me away.
“I cannot go to school today,”
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
“I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash , a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I’m going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox.
And there’s one more— that’s seventeen,
And don’t you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut, my eyes are blue—
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I’m sure that my left leg is broke—
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button’s caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle’s sprained,
My ‘pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb,
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow’s bent, my spine ain’t straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is— what?
What’s that? What’s that you say?
You say today is … Saturday?
G’bye, I’m going out to play!”
36. Do School Outside
Getting out of the house and doing school in a different environment is fun. Even if it’s just to the back porch. Your kids will be more excited to grab their school books and get to work.
37. Look Through the New Curriculum
Chances are there’s some new curriculum you bought for this year. For the first day, let your kids look through it and explore what they will learn. Maybe read the introduction section of each and set up any notebooks or binders they will need with them.
38. Wear Pajamas
More than likely you don’t do back to school clothes shopping and because everyone thinks homeschoolers do school in their pajamas, why not buy them a new pair and wear them on the first day of school for fun? If you plan on doing school pictures, you may only want to wear them through breakfast and morning time and then change. But be sure to get pajama pictures first!
39. Make a Video About Themselves
We live in a digital world and kids love to make videos. Let your children make a video about themselves. They can tell their age and grade and what they like to do. Let them be creative and then everyone can watch the videos together when they’re done.
40. Paint or Draw Self Portraits
Another cute way to document your children’s skills is painting or drawing a self portrait. Have some paper and different supplies on the table like markers. colored pencils, or chalk pastels for them to use. Having a mirror at the table is helpful.
41. Do Something the Public School Kids Can’t Do
There are a lot of activities homeschoolers have the freedom to do because they are not in a classroom for eight hours. This is one reason we homeschool. For some homeschooling fun let your kids go jump on the trampoline for a while or run through the Slip n Slide.
42. Pick a Word for the Year
Just like people pick one word to focus on for the new year, you and your kids can pick a word that will be the theme you work towards during your school year.
Some possible words are:
Print your word out on a piece of paper and hang it where you can see it every day. Be sure to discuss it, do some activities and devotionals on it, and revisit it every so often to see how you are doing.
43. Timeline of Summer Activities
If your kids went on trips or took part in camps or activities, creating a timeline with drawings or printed pictures is a fun way to remember them. You can make a big one like a mural or a small one on a poster.
44. Write Fun Messages on the Mirror or Windows
Use dry erase markers or Crayola Window Markers to write some fun messages on the mirrors or windows in your house as part of your decorations.
45. Write a Special Note to Each of Your Children
When you children come to the table or their desks, have a personal note written to each of them on special stationary. They will treasure what you write to them.
46. Have Your Children Write a Note to Themselves
Have your children write a note to themselves about what’s going on in their lives, what they are interested in, and their favorite things. Then have them put it in an envelope and save it to read at the end of the year.
47. Create a Team Building Puzzle
There are a lot of sibling squabbles that go on when a family is around each other all day every week. It’s good to start the year off with team-building activities. I have created a puzzle your kids can do to help them work together. It’s in the printables at the bottom.
48. Make School Uniforms
You can make school uniforms by creating tie dye shirts or design a decal made with your school name or motto on it. These are great to wear on field trips to keep track of every body.
49. Start a New Tradition
If you have not started any traditions for your first day of homeschool, start some this year. Or if you have, add a few more to make your first day more memorable.
50. Pray Over About Your Year Together
The most important thing you can do on the first day of school is pray over your new school year. Ask God for wisdom and guidance and that your home will be a peaceful place where you children can learn and grow in Him.
If there is one thing I have learned over the years, it’s that these school years fly by. When I first started homeschooling, I focused so much on making sure my children were learning everything they should, I often forgot to loosen up and have fun. I now have one child graduated and wish I would have concentrated on other things instead.
I have two left in school and I am becoming more relaxed and letting go. Our first day of homeschool will be quite different from it was years ago. We plan to have fun and ease our way into our homeschool year.
Relax and enjoy those first few days of school. Your children will have a much better attitude about starting school.
What first day of homeschool activities do you do? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to add more to the list for others to try.