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15 fun first day of homeschool ideas to get kids excited about learning

Start your new school year off right with these fun back-to-homeschool games and activities from parents and experts.

15 fun first day of homeschool ideas to get kids excited about learning

The end of summer marks the start of back-to-school season for public schoolers and homeschoolers alike. In a classroom setting, it’s typical for kids to be greeted with name tags on their desks and a schedule of icebreakers and activities to help them get to know their new classmates and teacher. But, what should homeschoolers do to celebrate the first day of school?

“The first day of homeschool is a great opportunity to set the tone for the homeschool year,” says Xuan Klevecka, a California-based holistic education coach, homeschool parent and creator of The Homeschool Front. “First day activities can communicate to the child what to expect in their homeschool environment and can also help to foster enthusiasm for the year ahead.”

Just like other students and teachers, homeschoolers have a variety of activities, field trips and traditions they can take part in to celebrate the first day of school. These options not only make learning fun and inviting, but also help establish what kids can expect and even look forward to during the rest of the school year. Here, parents and educators share their favorite first day of homeschool ideas and how to plan the perfect back-to-school itinerary for your homeschooled kids.

What are the benefits of planning first day of homeschool activities?

Whether you homeschool year-round or follow a two-semester school schedule, the beginning of a new academic year is a big occasion. Even though kids aren’t returning to a traditional classroom, they might still have some big feelings about the transition, says Katrina Sloan, a homeschool parent, former elementary school teacher and creator of Home Learning Kit.

“In a homeschool, it isn’t quite the same as going back to a public school after the summer, but there can still be some anxiety,” she explains. “Along with this, if you take summers off or slow down during the summer in your homeschool, doing activities can make the transition back-to-school more fun and not a downer.”

Doing special back-to-homeschool activities is also a chance to celebrate your children’s educational accomplishments and get them invested in continuing to learn and grow. “I think it helps create excitement and joy for the start of the school year, and it kind of celebrates your children maturing and all their previous hard work to get to this point,” Sloan adds.

Lastly, doing something special to mark the start of the new school year is an opportunity to strengthen your bonds both as parent and child, and as student and teacher. “First day of school traditions can create wonderful family memories and help to signify the importance of education in a home setting,” Klevecka explains.

How to start preparing for the first day of homeschool

If you haven’t started planning anything special for the first day of school, don’t worry. Your back-to-school activities don’t have to be elaborate, complicated or expensive. “The goal is to make the day memorable and exciting, not complex,” Klevecka says. “A simple tradition such as a special breakfast, a nature walk or reading a favorite book together can make the day feel special.”

As you’re planning activities, try to keep your overall education style and goals in mind, says Sloan. She recommends choosing games and activities that:

  • Are simple and enjoyable for everyone.
  • Show kids they can have fun while learning.
  • Tie in to topics and/or lessons you plan to teach.
  • Relate to your goals for the rest of the school year.
  • Get kids thinking about their own goals and interests.

There are many options depending on your family’s interests and budget. “Remember that the focus should be on creating a positive atmosphere for learning and fostering a love for education,” Klevecka adds.

First day of homeschool ideas for every age, budget and learning style

To give you a jumpstart on planning for the new school year, here are 15 unique and engaging first day of homeschool activities, games and traditions to consider.

Parties and traditions

1. Make a back-to-school time capsule

Make memories with a first day of school time capsule inspired by Fatema’s Art Show. You can include current photos, interviews with each child, letters or drawings to kids’ future selves and fun trinkets. Bury it or put it away somewhere safe and open it together at the end of the school year.

2. Plan a special first day of school breakfast

“I recommend a fun breakfast to start the first day,” Sloan says. “Food makes everything better.” She suggests breakfast ideas like a waffle bar or smiley face pancakes to add a bit of fun. If you’re feeling creative, try making these pencil-shaped back-to-school pancakes from Miss Honey Home.

3. Take first day of school photos

Image via Arvitananda/Instagram

Back-to-school photos aren’t just for kids going back to a classroom; they’re for everyone! Grab some cute signs with the kids’ grade levels, like homeschool mom Arvita Ananda did, or ask them to put on their favorite outfits. A first day photo is a great memory to look back on throughout the year.

4. Host a back-to-homeschool party

Image via RabbitTrailsHomeschool.com

Kick the school year off in style with a back to homeschool party using cute, free printable decor like these designs from Rabbit Trails Homeschool. Customize your party with your favorite snacks and treats, music and maybe even a game or two. It’s a great way to boost everyone’s mood.

5. Surprise kids with first day of school gift baskets

Image via ModernClassicalHomeschool/Instagram

Mark the transition to a new grade with a first day of school basket inspired by Modern Classical Homeschool. These baskets include essentials like pencils and watercolors, as well as fun surprises. Best of all, the baskets are reusable and refillable for each new year.

Games and activities

1. Design an at-home escape room

@itgirlgetaways

DIY Escape Room at Home! The kids LOVED it and wanted to make it a family tradition. It took 6 hrs to set up but it was totally worth it. 😮‍💨😅 #familyfunathome #blackfamilytiktok #blackfamilygamenight #blackfamilygames #diyescaperoom #escaperoomathome #escaperooms

♬ Impossible Motion – DJ BAI

Older kids will get a thrill from this DIY escape room idea from It Girl Getaways. You can challenge kids to solve riddles, spell words and complete math problems to work their way towards their “escape.” It’s a great way to kickstart their brains and get them engaged in learning for another year.

2. Set up a school supply scavenger hunt

Image via RockYourHomeschool.com

What do you get when you combine reading practice, physical activity and getting pumped for the new school year? This school supply scavenger hunt from Rock Your Homeschool. Not only will kids love the idea of using their school supples for a fun game, but it will also get them invested in helping you set up the school area.

3. Make it a board game day

@thewaldockway

Today was our first day of homeschool. We had the perfect first day playing games. How do you celebrate the first day of school? #thewaldockway #firstdayofschool #homeschool #homeschooling #gameschool #familytime

♬ original sound – Jessica | Homeschool Mom

Is it OK to only play games on the first day of homeschool? You bet it is! Jessica of The Waldock Way recommends playing board games that help kids learn in different ways. You can incorporate trivia, math, fine motor skills, spelling and so many other skills. Plus, you’re bonding and discovering that learning is a lot of fun.

4. Go on a field trip

Image via Xuan Klevecka

“One of our favorite first-day-of-school traditions is to embark on a field trip,” Klevecka says. “Each year varies, and it could be anywhere from visiting a local museum, going on a hike or exploring a historical site.” Not only are field trips fun and interactive, but they also set the tone for a year of exploration and discovery, she adds.

5. Host the homeschool Olympic games

Challenge kids to a series of engaging and educational Olympic-style games, like measuring how far they can slide a cup full or water without spilling it or running a relay to transport (and count!) as many spoonfuls of dry pasta as they can. TikTokker Adrianna Paige gets the credit for this idea, which she uses as a rainy day activity. It can be repurposed for a gold medal-worthy first day of school.

Learning and goal-setting

1. Create your own back-to-school family puzzle

One of Sloan’s favorite back-to-homeschool activities is a family puzzle collage using paper puzzle pieces. “Each member draws a picture of something they are looking forward to doing or learning that year. You put all the pieces together and hang them up to remind everyone of the excitement for the new school year,” she explains.

2. Conduct first day of school interviews

Image via PinkBayDesigns/Instagram

Do first day of school interviews using a free template, like this one from Pink Bay Designs. It will give them some writing practice, help you capture your kids’ interests in the moment and create a charming keepsake. Fill another one out at the end of the year to see how much they’ve changed.

3. Plan a “Day of Discovery”

You’ve spent a lot of time and energy planning for the school year. Now, let the kids see what you have in store for them! Julie at Happy Strong Home does a back-to-school “Day of Discovery” during which her kids play with their new school supplies, go through their curriculum, ask questions and talk about what they’re most excited to learn.

4. Make it a themed learning day

Choose a book your kids love and plan your first day of school around it. For example, Mialca, who runs the TikTok account MisfitMom_Mialca258, planned her preschooler’s first day around the book “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.” It included a themed breakfast (palm tree cinnamon toast and fruit), plus themed activities, like a sensory bin and art. You can tailor this idea to any age group.

5. Write first day of school letters to each other

This idea comes from school teacher and TikTok influencer Amanda Monroe. First, read the book “A Letter To My Teacher” to your child. Then, have them write a letter with things they want you to know and what they hope to learn this year. You can also write your own letter to them. It’s a great way to align your goals for the year and get some writing practice, too!