Not back to School? 6 Easy, Low Prep Traditions for your first day back (& 2 things to avoid)

Finishing your summer holidays and starting a new school year is an exciting and optimistic time. Here are some simple ideas to mark the occasion both on the day, and to give you something to look back on in the future.

Start of Year Photos

Start of year photos don’t need to be fancy. You can just write what year they are now in on paper, and get them to hold it in the photo. Don’t forget to get them to take a photo of you too! Maybe you could hold up a paper that says how many years you’ve been home educating?

As with many photos, these ones aren’t special in the moment, but if you keep taking them year after year, you will end up with a collection of photos that show how your home educating family has changed over the years, so it’s worth sorting them into their own special folder or tag when you archive your shots. That way they are all together.


Questionnaires are fun because they let you document the things that matter to your child right now. They are nice to keep together and look back on, showing how their likes and dislikes change over time, (as well as to see what interests turned out to be evergreen!)

You can download this one for free here:

Not back to School? 6 Easy, Low Prep Traditions for your first day back (& 2 things to avoid)

Edible Treats

It’s fun to start the year with some sort of edible treat and there are lots to choose from. To be honest my kids get some sweets but I know other families buy doughnuts, and if none of that appeals then you could pick up a ripe melon, or some berries, or other special fruit. (If you get a pineapple then you could try to eat it in it’s segments. There is a good video explaining how that works here.)

Alternatively you could cook their favourite breakfast instead!


Who can get through the back to school period without having had a nosy through all the stationary in the shops? Obviously now is the time to work out what your low on and stock up while the prices are cheap.

I like to put out the new pens and pencils if we needed them on the first day of the new school year. I usually add a sheet or two of stickers if I come across ones I think they’ll like.

This year each of my children got watercolour brushes you can fill with water and have on the go (so that they would stop nicking mine!)

Day Trip

If you follow the traditional school calendar and start your home ed back up at the same time that everyone is going back to school then why not use the first day to visit some of the places that were too busy during the summer holidays?

Go to the splash park or the local outdoor pool if the weather is still hot enough, or visit the museum or wildlife park. If you live by the coast go back to the usually packed beaches you’ve been avoiding.

Enjoy the fact that as home educators you have the privilege to occupy these spaces on a day when everyone else is busy elsewhere. Make the most of it while the weather is still lovely.

A Letter of Encouragement

I got this one from Julie Bogart. She wrote letters to her children for them to read at the beginning of the school year.

She wrote about how proud she was of them, how much she like them and enjoyed being with them, and about some of the things they were going to do and learn throughout the coming year. And she also said that she realised years later that her children kept the letters.

Don’t start on a Monday

Don’t do a full week of school. Start on a Wednesday like schools do. It’s just nicer.

And… Don’t Try to Do Everything on the First Day

The first day of (not) school is not a day for all the things! Don’t go from holiday mode, right back into your normal fully home ed day, especially if your days include a lot of academics, and your holidays are very free and easy. The change will quickly make everyone grumpy and disheartened.

Instead, plan to do one or two things (I did some morning time reading, and then maths because we like maths, you mileage may vary), and build up to your normal routine over the first week. It’s okay to ease everyone back into the swing of things, and let’s face it, schools do the same thing a lot of the time.

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