How to Have an Amazing First Day of Homeschool

Whether you're trying out full-time homeschool or doing virtual learning due to the coronavirus pandemic, kick off the year with an amazing first day. We rounded up expert homeschooling tips, must-have classroom supplies, easy meal ideas and more.

Back-to-school season is officially here. And whether your child’s school has shifted to virtual learning or you’re ready to give full-time homeschooling a try, this handy guide will help you navigate the process.

We’ve talked to the experts and broken down everything you need for a successful first day, including fun activities, classroom supplies, homeschooling tips, meal ideas and more.

Fun Ways to Mark the First Day of Homeschool

Father at taking a photo of his son.Sally Anscombe/Getty Images

Sure, you’re not physically going back to school—but it’s still important to commemorate your kiddo’s special day!

Gift your kid a back-to-school kit.

Whether you have an elementary, middle or high school-aged child, every kid can use a back-to-school kit. Stock one with fun goodies, practical products and any other items they’ll need throughout the school day.

Tell the story of school.

Easing the transition between summer and the school year can be difficult. But Kate Davis, a photographer, movement facilitator and homeschool parent from North Carolina, explains that her family uses story and rhythm to get kids acquainted with a new routine. “Before the school year or homeschool year starts, we like to tell the story of school every night before bed,” she says. This includes sharing how many sleeps are left before school, a preview of the morning schedule and what the day will look like.

Take first-day pics.

Pick out a favorite outfit, grab a white board and snap up those smiles. Trust us—you’ll be thankful for the memories. Get more fun back-to-school ideas.

Make a back-to-school cake.

We love any excuse to celebrate, and back to school is the perfect time to bake up a cake or some fun cupcakes. (These are our favorite recipes.) Bonus: Light a candle atop the cake for each kid, and let them make a wish for the upcoming school year!

Plant a seed—literally.

On the first day of homeschool, have each kid plant a flower seed in a pot. (Herbs work well, too.) Throughout the year, help them water, fertilize and care for their budding plant. Your little ones will learn that growth, like learning, takes hard work, patience and commitment. This project is a great way to add a little life to your home classroom, too!

Bury a time capsule.

No doubt about it: 2020 is a year that will certainly go down in history. Make the most of it by creating a time capsule packed with photos, newspaper clippings, first-person accounts of the pandemic, letters to a future self, trinkets, etc. Bury the capsule in the backyard (or, for less mess, in the corner of a closet) and retrieve it on the last day of homeschool. We love making these back-to-school DIY projects, too.

Write down goals.

Before you head into the school year, take the time to help your kids write down a few goals. They can be specific to learning, building friendships, developing a hobby, etc. Revisit the goals a few times throughout the year and adjust as needed.

How to Make an At-Home Classroom

Mother homeschooling daughter and son at dining tableKlaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Just like you might have a home office space, your child needs a designated spot for learning. These are our top tips and tricks.

Set up a designated learning space.

It can be helpful to have a designated zone for homeschool sessions. But as Kelsey and Jason Steffen, small-business owners and homeschooling parents from Idaho, explain, “Don’t feel like you have to mimic a public school classroom. You don’t need to go out and buy a bunch of manipulatives or wall hangings…the couch or the kitchen table work just fine.”

Stock up on supplies.

While you may not need a specific list this year, it’s still a good idea to go back-to-school shopping. Pick up pens, pencils, notebooks, folders—all of the essentials. You can skip buying a new backpack and lunchbox, though.

The best stay-at-home classroom products
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Make a schedule—and stick to it.

This may be the most important piece of advice we can offer: make a schedule. It will keep you (and your little ones) on track throughout the day, and make sure it’s in an easy-to-view area, like on the refrigerator. “Kids thrive with a routine,” the Steffens, who’ve been homeschooling for 10 years now. “They thrive when they know what to expect—and what’s expected of them.”

Psst! These slow-cooker recipes sync with your schedule.

Designate a question time.

If you are working from home while school is in session, it can be tricky to balance the needs of your workplace with the needs of your family. One way to limit interruptions? Build a designated question time into the homeschool schedule. The Steffens suggest teaching your kids how to work through problems on their own and how to switch to a different task when they get stuck. And, if you have a family with multiple ages, get the bigger kids to help out the younger ones.

Reach out to your community.

Whether you’re transitioning to full-time homeschool or participating in temporary virtual learning, remember that you are not alone. “If you’re homeschooling, but you’re still trying to feel your way around, know that there are a lot of other families out there doing it that you might not even know,” the Steffens say. Reach out to fellow parents, teachers, librarians and other resources in your community.

The Best Back-to-School Foods

Mother cutting her young son some melon at home in the kitchenNick David/Getty Images

Keep your kiddos fueled up and ready to learn with quick, nutritious meals. Here’s what we’re making for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack time. (Try having your kids make their own meals, too!)

Breakfast

Start the day off right with a quick, nutritious breakfast. We suggest keeping a variety of easy recipes on hand, plus some grab-and-go options like granola bars, breakfast wraps, yogurt cups and fresh fruit.

The best on-the-go breakfast products
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Snack Time

Snacks should be self-sufficient—meaning kids can grab them whenever they’re hungry. Try setting up a snack station within reach of little hands, and stock it with single servings of your family’s favorites—start with these homemade snack ideas.

Healthy snacks kids (and adults!) love
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Lunch

Start by scheduling a lunch time that works with everyone’s schedules. Then, make a meal plan designed for the whole family to enjoy—no one wants to make four different lunches every day! We suggest soups, sandwiches, pasta salads, wraps and these make-ahead meals.

Easy lunch ideas the whole family will eat
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Dinner

After a long day, reach for make-ahead freezer meals, 30-minute suppers, dinners your kids can help make and other easy options. Try to eat together as a family and talk about what everyone learned that day.

A year’s worth of school-night dinners
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