10 back to school traditions (Back to School Week)

Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and founder of Steady Mom

A note from Jamie: I’ve been getting a few requests for back to school tradition ideas. So it seemed fitting to kick off this year’s back to school week with this repost, which originally published on August 16, 2010. Enjoy!

Welcome to Back to School Week here on Simple Homeschool! Thanks for visiting–be sure to stop by every day this week. We have an awesome line up of posts and giveaways to help you kick off your school year with excitement and enthusiasm.

There’s no better way to celebrate the first day of school than with a special tradition. Kids love rituals and a well-chosen tradition adds meaning to the routines of our lives. Even if you’ve already started school or homeschool year-round, you can still pick a day to honor your children and your homeschool.

If you haven’t yet stumbled across the perfect back-to-school tradition for your family, here are ten ideas to get you thinking.

1. Serve up a special breakfast.

Photo by Jessica Fisher

Okay, if you’re like me you don’t want to spend extra time in the kitchen on the first day of school–there are probably many other things on your mind! But that doesn’t mean you can’t give your children an extra special treat to cultivate excitement on your first day–think doughnuts or cinnamon rolls made or bought the night before.

Jessica Fisher of Life as Mom has a tradition of serving her kids this easy apple pie. Put candles in each breakfast and sing “Happy First School Day to You”–then let your kids blow them out!

2. Take a photo.

Don’t forget to take a few quick snapshots to commemorate your first day.

Have your children pose in front of the same spot each year so you’ll be able to watch the progression of their growth over time.

3. Go for a walk.

My family homeschools year-round, so we don’t really have a first day of school. Recently though, we added a new ritual to our daily routine–each morning after breakfast and before any learning time takes place, we go for a quick walk around the block.

I always try to walk at my children’s pace, whether fast or slow. The other day we paused for several moments, listening to a neighbor’s wind chimes (She eventually came out to ask if we were selling something!). When we arrived back home, Trishna, Jonathan, and Elijah headed straight to the table for a short lesson before playing.

The walk allows little, active bodies to get moving before being required to sit still; it also makes for an easy transition to “table time” when we return home.

4. Write in a journal.

Mark the start of each school year with a journal entry. If you have multiple children, you could invest in a journal dedicated to each one. Spend ten minutes each year writing about that child–his interests, goals, and school subjects.

If you write one entry each year you’ll end up with a fabulous keepsake to give your child when he graduates.

5. Wrap up the school supplies.

In our home, a new workbook is welcomed with a lot more excitement when covered with fun wrapping paper and given as a gift.

Consider adding a “wow” factor to some of the new supplies you’ve purchased by giving them as presents on the first day. Just make sure you schedule in time for your child to use the supplies she receives.

6. Celebrate their growth.

Photo by Devon Weller

Physically, that is. My three are currently obsessed with how fast they are growing, even at times heading to bed earlier in an effort to speed up the process!

The first day of school lends itself to thinking about intellectual growth, but you can also take the opportunity to measure and mark everyone’s height–adding to it each year.

7. Start a new read-aloud.

A gripping story may be the perfect way to ease your students into a new year of learning.

Save the heavy, intense books for a few more weeks when everyone is adjusted to the new school schedule. For now keep it light and entertaining. See this post or this post for a few suggestions.

8. Recite a poem.

For those poetically-inclined parents (of which I am not one!), writing a poem to recite for your kids could be either a tender or a hilarious way to start the day.

Or you could just choose a selection from a child’s treasury to read in honor of each child.

9. Let your kids pick the dinner menu.

Sometimes the first thing my son says in the morning is “What’s for dinner?”

If your tribe is similarly minded, why not let them plan the meal for the first day? Of course they can help prepare it as well!

10. Give your children flowers.

Photo by Sheep purple

Last Monday was my twelfth wedding anniversary, and I walked downstairs to find a dozen pink roses in a vase on the table. Plants and flowers indoors bring a boost of joy to spirits young and old.

Pick a blossom from your garden or a florist nearby to let your little ones know how special they are.

Sometimes as adults we focus too much on the logistics of our plans–we forget that it only takes a few extra minutes to add meaning to them as well.

Don’t allow your first day of school to pass by without stocking up on memories–just pick one idea from the list above and you’ll be off to a great year.

How does your family kick off the first day of school? And see you back here tomorrow for an incredible giveaway!

6 week shred

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She is the co-founder and editor of Simple Homeschool, where she writes about mindful parenting, intentional education, and the joy found in a pile of books. Jamie is also the author of a handful of titles, including her newest release, Give Your Child the World.


  1. We don’t have a first day of school and this week is the wrap up of our 2009-2010 year so my head is definitely in a different space (smile) but I like all these sweet loving ideas to simply bring joy and beauty into everyday.

    Fresh flowers from the garden are of course a favorite around here.

  2. These are great ideas. We sorta homeschool year round but during the summer our load is lighter (we only do math, reading and writing). I think I will incorporate some of your suggestions this week as we have our back to school week. I like to take things slow as the summer winds down and we start our extra curricular activities, coop classes, and incorporate languages, music, history, and science into our days. I had planned on spending this week talking to my kids about what we did last year and what we plan on doing next year. I haven’t ever included them in the planning and organizing but I am this year in hopes they will be more excited about the subjects. I’ll also add measuring the children and journaling to our things we do this week!

    Thanks for posting.

  3. We aren’t quite at the school age yet. However I know that next year when the time comes we will make it very special and create some fun traditions.

  4. Thank You so much for this! I’ve been so focused on planning and haven’t thought about how to make the first day special. Last year we were in the middle of a big move to another state so I started a bit later than I would have liked. This year we’ll be adding my daughter for Kindergarten so, we will definitely have something to celebrate!
    Gina’s latest post: Roasted Zucchini!

  5. What fun! I love these ideas!

    Our first day was today and we had pancakes for breakfast – now I wish I had sung to them, too LOL

    Giggling over your neighbor thinking you were selling something on your walk 🙂
    Kara Fleck’s latest post: Sunday Showcase- Link Love

  6. I love the go for a walk idea!
    Sandra’s latest post: Table Cloth

  7. I love the idea of fresh flowers. I’m trying to remember what my mom did for me but all I can remember right now is the last day of school pizza lunch, or at least lunch out.

  8. We have ice cream sundaes for dinner!
    Mandi @ Organizing Your Way’s latest post: Practical Ideas for Impractical Pieces

  9. sandi hogan says:

    Our first day is next monday. It is so important for me to make the first day special for my two homeschoolers since my other three kids are going to school. I know they will have their stories about how much fun they had and all the new people they met. I think im just goona do them all. From the special breakfast to the walk around the block. Thank you so much for all the help and support.

  10. I love the first day traditions mentioned in the post and comments!

    I’ve been keeping up with first day pictures beside our “crepe myrtle” each year… it grows with them…
    I’ve also managed to keep the tradition of surprising them in the morning with “a magic schoolroom”…. they wake up and come out to the kitchen to find it all ready to go for school- I think I’ll add flowers this year! 🙂

    Great post!!~!
    Rachel’s latest post: Homeschooling- Its More Than Denim JumpersPart One

  11. These are wonderful ideas! I like the special breakfast. I will definitely incorporate several of these ideas when we start in a few weeks. Thanks.

  12. I love some of these ideas. As interest led learners we don’t have a first day of school, so on the public school kids first day of school I take the kids to Chuck E Cheese for pizza and games. Usually we have the place all to ourselves because, well everyone is in school.
    Rana’s latest post: Our new favorite stories! &amp New place to read!

  13. I love your special breakfast idea – so simple yet has so much to offer and a great start to the day!
    lara’s latest post: Helping Your Child With Trigonometry &amp Geometry

  14. I love the idea of wrapping school supplies!

    I would love for you to link this to my Back to School Traditions link up!
    JDaniel4’s Mom’s latest post: Pause Life for a Moment- Bees with Honey

  15. I definitely think you could do these ideas at anytime, not just the first day of school. I am seriously considering a year round method for my family. My oldest is 41/2 so we are still just in learning through life, but I am trying to be more intentional this year about making learning moments happen!
    Johanna @ My Home Tableau’s latest post: Only Have a Minute? Do This.

  16. I really like the journaling idea. I like that a once a year tradition could turn into a great keepsake later on.
    Steph’s latest post: Rotating Toys: Benefits and Tips

  17. Great ideas, I need to do a few of these, although we already started school.

  18. Today was our first day back. We celebrated with Roasted Banana Chocolate Chip muffins – a splurge for breakfast! We have a special “big” breakfast each morning for the first week of school. We also make a big deal out of shopping for school supplies the week before we start.
    Aimee @ Menus and Meals for Moms’s latest post: This Week’s Menu 8/6/12

  19. These are great ideas. We school year round, for the most part. Our new year will start beginning of Jan as I’m due mid December. Our start of the school year always changes so it’s fun to come up with new ways to celebrate the new school year. Great post!
    Elizabeth’s latest post: Bisquick Cinnamon Bun Pancakes

  20. I really like these ideas. The first day of public school is a great time to go on a “Field Trip,” since the usual school-group crowds aren’t out yet, and the summer day camp groups are done.

    My choice would be to go on a hike at a trail we haven’t explored yet.

  21. We don’t purchase a school “wardrobe” per se, but I do buy one outfit for each kiddo and lay it out while they’re sleeping. So they wake up to the new outfit and we do first day of school pictures before we start. : )
    Katherine @ Purposeful Family’s latest post: Shower Time to Pray for Your Kids

  22. Rebekah Williams says:

    Thank you for these ideas!! We are relaxed year-round homeschoolers but I still want to make the first day of public school special for my 5 year old. 🙂 I was public-schooled and I am being affected by what she’s (and I’m) “missing out on” more than I expected!

  23. I love your suggestions.

  24. Thanks for these beautiful ideas, I will try them with my little boy who is off to Big School after much deliberating about HS. This will help to make it a cheerful celebration instead of dreaded moment X leafie.com

  25. Just wanted to say thank you for posting this. Such a great simple idea. We love traditions! Today was is our first day of 3rd grade, in 3rd year home schooling. We just got home from our nature scavenger hunt, that was after our special cinnamon & sugar toast breakfast. The week before my daughter said more then once she was excited for her first day. The years prior she was hoping for an eternal summer..lol. Thank you for sharing!!

  26. cute ideas. can’t wait to use some of them

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