The first month back to school can be exhausting, overwhelming, and even discouraging. If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all, take a deep breath. You’re not alone.
Many homeschoolers experience the same anxiety and stress as new curriculum is worked out, routines are established, and everyone gets back into the swing of learning. We asked veteran homeschool moms to share their tips and tricks for staying sane during the first month back to school. Some of their answers may surprise you, but all will encourage you to keep going knowing that things will get better.
Staying Sane During the First Month of School
1. Try a Little Mindfulness
Since we homeschool year-round, we do not have a traditional back-to-school week. New subjects and new curriculum begin at various times throughout the year. One function that we have found immensely helpful is to practice “mindfulness” with each new subject, new curriculum, or new assignment. We thoroughly discuss WHY we need to do whatever it is that is new. What is the purpose of this subject? Why does this assignment have to be done? Is there a more resourceful or logical way of completing this task? Children of all ages can do this anytime they start anything new. Answering the whys can help bring the big picture into your homeschool.
2. Keep Summer Going
September and October are still summer weather where we live, so we continue the laid-back summer feeling. Summer foods, swimming until the pool is too cold, and lazy weekends. As activities are added back to the schedule and schooling is reintroduced, we set goals for ourselves that lead into the holidays so we all have something to work toward and look forward to. Little incentives can make all the difference!
–Kendra, Homeschooling Girl
3. Do a Trial Run
We do a “mock” first day the Friday before we start. We go through the routine and the schedule. I make it fun with treats, photos, and crafts. We also do a little interview for a keepsake. I have found that this makes our first week go much more smoothly when the kids have an idea of what to expect!
–Christia, Faith Filled Parenting
4. Slow and Steady for the Win
Slow and steady wins the race. I make an effort not to shoot out of the gate too fast. We start slow and add things in until we are back to our regular routine. I go over how the high schoolers want to get their work in for a week and we establish the best way to go about it- so they are on board and ready to go. We also start doing some things a week or so ahead of time like getting to bed on time and/or getting up on time. With three teenagers this is a challenge all its own that doesn’t need to happen the first week of school.
–Heather, Blog, She Wrote
5. Make It Fun
We always start the new school year with a fun unit study about a topic that the kids are excited about. When they are excited about what they are studying, they don’t even realize the reading and writing they are doing is schoolwork. The unit study eases them back into school mode in an enjoyable, painless way.
–Marci, The Homeschool Scientist
6. Let Everyone Have Their Own First Day
I let each of my kids have his/her own first day of school. I start with the youngest learner because his coursework is the lightest. He has a first day and then doesn’t do any school until several days later after all the other kids have had their own first day. On the second day, my next oldest has his/her first day while everyone else is still on summer break. I mark each first day with a few special traditions like a love note from mom, an ice cream date with mom, or opening up a present of new school supplies. This allows each of my kids to be celebrated individually. Plus, it lets me ramp up slowly. For the entire first week of school, I only have to teach one child a day. Because I start with the youngest and progress to the oldest, the coursework starts out easy and gets a little more difficult each day. By the second week of school, I feel ready to tackle a full day of homeschooling everyone.
–Jamie, The Unlikely Homeschool
7. Give Yourself Some Grace
The biggest thing that helps us stay sane the first month back to school is to remember that everyone is getting back into a routine—not just the kids, but the teaching parent(s) as well. In our first years of homeschooling, I expected the kids to be a little rusty about getting back into the grind, but it was always a surprise to me how rusty I was. Sometimes just giving yourself permission to feel that “rust” and work through it is helpful. I have also found it really beneficial to not burst out of the gates all gung ho and ready to conquer the world of education that first month. Relax. Slow and steady wins this race. It’s better to get to the end of that first month and think, “Wow! Look at all we accomplished!”—not, “Great. Look at all the boxes I didn’t get to check off in my planner…” Either of those statements will really set the tone for how the rest of the school year plays out.
–Amy, The Hmmmschooling Mom
8. Back to School Bootcamp
We have what I like to call Back to School Bootcamp the week before school starts. We deep clean the house, organize the homeschool shelves, and get used to being on a schedule after a summer of sleeping in. We ease into our first week with several fun lessons and activities, saving the bulk of our subjects for the second week.
–Amy, Amy’s Wandering
9. Stagger Start Dates
As year-round homeschoolers, we find it helpful to stagger our starting dates for each subject. We often start a new year of language arts in May, science and math curriculum in June, history in August, and so on. By only adding new materials a little at a time, we have time to make any needed adjustments to each subject before our homeschool plate is full. It doesn’t necessarily give clean start and end dates on the calendar, but that staggering system keeps us from being overwhelmed when it’s time to start new curriculum. That’s worth the trade-off for us!
–Emily, Table Life Blog
10. Plan Ahead
The week before we start school I don’t plan anything, which is hard, and I get a bunch of planning done so I’m ready for a few weeks. Then I introduce one or two subjects per week. At the end of a few weeks, we have a full school schedule and the kids aren’t feeling freaked out.
–Ticia, Adventures in Mommydom
11. Make It Special
We always started in the new year a step at a time. So, for the first week back, we only would do one subject, chosen by my daughter. We also liked to do something special on the first day, such as a picnic at the park, go out to lunch, or meet a friend at the beach. My daughter’s outside activities usually didn’t start up until late September, which gave us time to get adjusted to the new year. We also made a big deal out of shopping for school supplies a week or two before we started back. I also tried to make meal prep as simple as possible early on. With my daughter in college now, I can look back and see that these simple routines have created special memories for myself and my family. That includes even just the trips to the store to get those school supplies. When we choose to homeschool, we are not just giving our kids a great education, we are building them up, as well as our families, while making wonderful memories – for them, and for us, too.
12. Start Small
We usually start small the first month back to school. We start with Language Arts and Math the first few days, then add in one subject every couple of days until we’re at full capacity within the first month. It helps eliminate some of the shock of going back.
13. Go On Vacation Instead
Our school start is a little non-traditional. We actually head off to vacation in the last week of August/first week of September. While we are away, public school has begun and we celebrate being a little bit different – a little bit unique. I prep for vacation by packing books and activities that ease us back into our learning schedule; I strew most days and since it is quiet at the beach, we take advantage of empty nature centers, bird walks, and other cool places to explore that may be crowded during the regular season. Our back to school takes place learning about shells or tides, doing different nature art, and taking in sunsets on the beach. The kids each take along a beach read that gets them back into the swing of formal reading that we track during the school year in their book logs and we create a shared family journal of our week or two adventure. It is fun to keep track of everything we discover and also see the changes that have taken place down the shore while we were gone.
14. Take a Break If You Need To
Ease into the new year for the first week or two. Remember that it takes time to get back into the routine and that kids can easily be frustrated when trying to remember where they left off in math or language arts, even after only a short break. Allow your schedule, your children, and yourself, an extra measure of grace and patience, and remember to take a break when frustrations rise!
–Amber, Classic Housewife
15. Make the First Month Back to School a Staggered Start
We do a staggered start …… I start with my oldest (rising 5th grader) and get her settled first for a week. Then, I add in the younger students. Getting into a routine with my oldest child helps me to recognize the areas where she can work independently. This way, I know what I can ask her to do while I’m working with younger students.
–Dianna, The Kennedy Adventures
What’s Your Best Advice for Staying Sane the First Month of Back to Homeschool?
Share your best advice for homeschool moms with us below! We would love to hear what helps make it easier for you to navigate the first month back to school.
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