We started school today. And yes, there is always learning going on here, but we don’t really fall into the year round school category. I love the idea but it just hasn’t worked out for us in practice. One of the benefits of homeschooling is that we have the flexibility to change what we do year to year and find what works.
This summer we took a very definite break, mostly centered around the swim and dive season. The past two years we have started back to school in August for various reasons (one year I was expecting a newborn in September, it’s usually hot and miserable anyway in Virginia in August, usually by that point of the summer we’re all ready for a bit more structure to our days). This year we had a French exchange student staying with us for the last two weeks of August and I thought it would be more than a little boring for her to have to watch us do school. So we waited until she left to start. Labor Day ended up being a good day to begin as H. is home also. That always makes things easier, plus it gives the day more of a special feel.
I’m a big believer in family traditions. I think a lot of times the best family traditions are the ones that are fairly simple and somewhat quirky, things that kids will remember when they get older as being unique to their family. One of our first day of school traditions is to have a special breakfast that the kids get to choose. For John’s kindergarten year he chose pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream. The past two years it’s been doughnuts. Last week I asked them to think about what they wanted and David asked if it could be ice cream. My initial reaction was “of course not”. Then I thought about it. Really, is ice cream any worse than doughnuts? I’d say not and in some ways it’s probably nutritionally superior. Not that this particular tradition is about nutritional value. So ice cream it was.
The final tradition is that I make up a treasure hunt for them. The treasure is something small, usually a bag with a few school supplies and maybe one or two fun things (Skittles, a big pack of markers for David and a Monopoly card game for John). This year the treasure hunt worked well with our first Five in a Row book of the year, The Bee Tree. In this fantastic book by Patricia Polacco, a grandfather teaches his granddaughter about the sweetness found in reading and books by comparing it to the honey found at the end of a hunt for a bee tree. It’s a great book for beginning a school year. After reading it (and a bunch of other treasure hunt themed books) we talked a little bit about how we’ll go on adventures and find treasure this year in our studies. And then we went on the real treasure hunt.
There was also some pattern block play, a fight to the finish game of Math Dice, some phonics, some spelling, some history review and of course more reading. We found time to try out the new Monopoly card game (fun for all three of us), take a bike ride and go swimming at a recreation center that has a pool with water slides and other fun features.
I always liked the first day of school as a kid. I think it was partially that I liked school and partially that I liked the idea of a new beginning. I still feel just as much of that excited new year feeling in September as in January. I think I was more excited than my kids about today but in the end I think it was a good day for us all.
And if nothing else, they’ll remember that they got to have ice cream for breakfast.