by Christina Brown, August 20121

Back to school is different for kids who go to traditional schools: backpacks, locker chandeliers, and the school list that we spy moms trying to fill at the local Walmart. These traditions don’t always work for those of us who school in our PJs.

I wanted my girls to look forward to back-to-school. Here are some ideas I found that got them excited, and me too!

1. Take pictures on the first day. Go outside. Pictures always look better outside. Don’t be a perfectionist. Try to catch your kids’ personalities. Tell them in advance so they can plan what to wear. Don’t rush. Let them pose. Be silly—no rules!

2. Put together back to homeschool bags for the first day of school. My kids look forward to this every year. I use pretty or colored gift bags, but you could use backpacks or paper lunch bags as well. Ask your kids what they would like for school.

For preschoolers to high schoolers, here are some ideas for things you can include in the bags: gum, candy, sharpened pencils, markers, crayons, their own paper, a journal, stationary, glue sticks, colored pencils, erasers, games, sharpeners, Legos, hair clips, Pez candy and dispensers, Lifesavers, chocolate, socks, pocket knife, snacks, notebooks, calculator, cool pens, punching balloons, shaving cream, a special razor, crafts, coupon for classes they want to take, makeup, nail polish, dollar bills, coupon to a coffee house or coffee, homemade coupons, special drinks, and that little something you usually do not let them have. My youngest wanted vitamin water. Who knew?

3. Write a letter to your child. You can mention things you are looking forward to this year, character issues you are proud of and ones that need work, a Bible verse for encouragement, thoughts on the new school year, and anything else you would like your child to remember. I have done this every year, and what memories they hold! Many of these I would have forgotten.

4. Confer with your kids to find out what they would like to study during the year. Buy a book or check one out from the library on the subject and incorporate it into your studies. For example, we saw a shark at the beach one summer, and my youngest was interested in sharks that year. Investigate things that align with your child’s bent. And start slow, don’t do every subject the first week.

5. Ask your kids what they would like to do for the school year. What would they want to accomplish or try? This is like creating a school year bucket list of goals: field trips, mission trips, theater productions, movies, games, sports, 5Ks, camping, friend dates, etc. We keep these on large index cards and go through them throughout the year to see if we hit our goals.

6. Plan a special lunch or breakfast for the first day. Sometimes I need a kick start to get inspired. My girls had their ideas about what kind of meal would be special for them.

7. The best way I have found to get my kids looking forward to back-to-school is for me to look forward to it. Get organized. Pray. Make it special. Mention it often. We are so blessed with this opportunity to homeschool; it is infectious to show gratitude (by our actions and the words that come out of our mouths), for just how blessed we are!

Here is to a successful, prosperous, and most excellent year! Cheers!

Christina Parker Brown is a homeschool momma of three (two she graduated) and the author of AKAHomeschoolMom.com, Yard Sale Secrets for Buyers and Sellers, Alphabet Smash, and My Adventure Book. She loves pictures, is a hopeless logophile, and always brakes for yard sales. Christina has homeschooled over twenty-one years and co-moderates the largest online Christian homeschool support group in Charlotte, CCHNET. Christina’s passion is to encourage others to intentionally connect faith, family, and fun.