It’s all over my social media newsfeed. Back-to-School sales. Shopping for new outfits. Nail-biting anxiety about whose friends are in which teacher’s class. Adorable posts with kids holding “First Day of First Grade” posters.
Do I miss it? Not so much, now that we homeschool. After only a year of homeschooling, we’ve completely embraced the lifestyle. We love it and I can’t imagine going “Back-to-School.”
But, I know that look in my daughter’s eyes. She feels little pangs of disappointment as camp ends and the other kids gird their loins for another year at “regular school.” My daughter genuinely loved many things about going to school and she has a wide array of friends who still attend public schools. All of them go back in the next couple of weeks.
How do we deal with this Back-to-School transition? We changed schools a few times before we decided to homeschool, so I already have several proven strategies.
Keep it positive.
We chose homeschooling. Ultimately, we made the decision because we believed we could provide a better, fully-individuated learning experience through homeschooling. And that’s exactly what’s happened for her.
Right now, we’re focused on all the things we love about Homeschooling. You might even start building a secret list throughout the upcoming year, just to pull out at this very moment, for next year’s back-to-school season.
Short of having a ready-made list, we can remind kids of their amazing freedom and all of our homeschooling advantages:
- Lots of time to read/draw/play.
- They have a teacher who loves them.
- What’s homework, exactly?
- Spontaneity is wonderful.
- The alarm goes off at a reasonable time in the morning.
- Remind them of all the field trips they get to enjoy!
- Their learning is individualized for them. That means, less boredom. No struggling to “keep up.”
Engage and Enroll
As long as “school” has your kids’ attention, take advantage of it! Engage them about how they want to learn. Stage a Homeschool Board Meeting and brainstorming session.
- What did they love last year?
- Can they name their single favorite moment?
- When was the lowest point of the year?
- What would they like to learn this year?
- Have they developed new interests?
- Have they outgrown certain activities?
- What’s their favorite book they’ve read this summer?
- What kind of field trips would they love to take?
- What gets them EXCITED?!
Write it down and/or have them write it down.
Enrolling your kids in the planning of their own education is a great way to set up your homeschool for success. Do you already hear yourself in six months, when they’re complaining about practicing the guitar, reminding them of how they chose to study this? When you include kids in their own learning process, they’re more invested.
Now is the time to extract promises, get commitments and strike deals. After all, this is how the world works, isn’t it? Roll the video and make a record!
“I promise to keep up with my IXL Math AND I promise to practice my music every day, if you will rent a violin and get lessons for me!”
And not just learning goals. Your process of “back-to-school” planning their homeschool education is its own learning opportunity. Planning and goal setting are huge life skills.
This Autumn momentum is great for looking into the distant future, too. The more your kids understand how goal setting works, the easier your life becomes, sooner, and the better off they are FOR LIFE.
Ask kids to set short-term goals:
- “How soon can you clear out and clean up your bookshelves?”
- “Please make a list of books you want to read this year.”
- “Can you make a To-Do list to finish before we get back to learning mode?”
- “Can you help create a meal plan for the week?”
- “What do you want to master by the end of this learning year?”
- “Have you thought about what university you might want to attend someday?”
- “How many field trips do you want to plan this year?”
And long term goals:
- “When you imagine being a grown up, what kind of work interests you?”
- “What kind of education will make that possible?”
- “How many kids would you like to have?”
- “Where would you like to live?”
“Vision Board” Project
The conversations that arise out of long range goal setting are a brilliant way to discuss important values. Sometimes our kids make developmental leaps that we don’t notice because we’re so close to them. Taking time to talk about “The Forest” outside your usual routine of sitting among “The Trees,” is a great way to get a read on where your child is in his or her overall personal development. It also lets you know what influences them.
You can even make it a craft activity by cutting out pictures from old magazines and creating a “Vision Board” collage of their hopes and dreams. Help them visualize the future they want for themselves.
The collage makes a nice touchstone for later years. Capture their Vision Board with your Portfolio app or on your phone. This is a craft project you want to keep. If you do it every year, it allows them to reflect on their successes, where they fell short, and how their values and goals change over time.
To this day, I still feel that urge, every Autumn, to organize and order my whole life. Without fail. In the past, I’ve jump-started my career with this energy, and now these urges serve me well with homeschooling.
Back-to-School Season is a natural moment for academic “nesting.” We’ve been trained culturally to undertake new challenges when summer ends and our batteries (and Vitamin D levels) are recharged. Even if you school year-round and/or unschool, it’s still worthwhile to periodically take stock and bring order to your home’s various learning spaces. Refreshing supplies is a smart move this time of year, too. Sales are sales. It’s Harvest Time!
- Rearrange the furniture. It helps to refresh the mind and signals a shift toward productivity.
- Put up new inspirational posters, like “Habits of Mind.”
- Now is the time to sell old curriculum, old toys, clutter etc.
- Finish garden season strong. Canning, freezing and preserving.
- County and State Fair Season is here. Attend as a field trip kick off and encourage your kids to enter or make plans to enter next year.
Ice cream parlor in the middle of a Tuesday?! Whaaaaat???
It’s not that hard to jump into activities that will help shake off the end of summer blues.
Failing that, a little out-and-out bribery can help. Bribery can be fun, social and even slightly educational.
- Re-connect with homeschool friends who’ve been away.
- Go to the beach and study marine biology and enjoy the warmest water of the year.
- Take a late summer travel schooling road trip.
- Visit an amusement park during the week for great weather and short lines.
- Consider joining a Homeschool Co-op or start one of your own.
- Join Book Clubs. Join Scouts. Start an entrepreneurs’ club or regular Park Day for homeschoolers.
- Plan to have Pajama Day. Crazy Hair Day. Costume Day. Old Fashioned Day. Monthly? Weekly?
- Get a new pet or foster a rescue.
- (Make homemade) Ice Cream.
Basically, revel in all the advantages we enjoy as Homeschoolers. Maybe call it Back-to-Us season.
When we help kids get excited about learning, this makes our job so much easier! We are the coaches and the cheerleaders, as well as their teachers. We can harness all this energy created by the mainstream education system and the over-the-top commercial interest it generates this time of year. Anything that helps refresh our children’s love of learning can also set us up for a fantastic year of home education!