It’s that time of year again – back to homeschool!

Homeschoolers use their educational freedom to teach their kids in a style and on a schedule that suits their family. That means that some homeschool all year ‘round, others started weeks ago, and some have not yet begun.

It’s the same here at True North Homeschool Academy -some of our online classes have started while others, including our homeschool clubs, will begin later on in September.

We have found that even though we are not returning to a “school building,” home educators have their own back to school traditions.  There is excitement in the air as many of us are beginning a new homeschool year, meeting new students and friends, sharpening those Ticonderogas, and cracking open our shiny, new curriculum.

Some families have simple traditions such as purchasing new p.j.’s, kicking off the year with a field trip, or participating in the online National Homeschool Spirit Week, which is the 4th week of September every year.

We asked some of the Academy teachers to share their favorite “Back to Homeschool” traditions and words of advice as we roll into a fresh (and maybe a little challenging) homeschool year.

Traditions We Love

Dana Hanley is our German teacher and her first day of school tradition involves making Schultueten and filling them with candies and small school supplies. It is a German thing, but over there, the class party is on the first day of class, not the last day of class. Dana says: “ I really like that general attitude. Last year, we did a brand new outfit for each kid, too, because I randomly thought how much I loved getting new school clothes when I was a kid. All of my kids are asking to repeat that one!”

Homeschool Student Theo Pool learns with a hamster in his pocket

Pets are welcome too in the Pool homeschool room!

Tamara Warner Pool shared with us some words of wisdom and a peaceful way to begin the homeschool year. “My children needed a consistent rhythm and flow to their days, so we would gently enter our new school year and gently exit it for our break times. We don’t have “First Day” photos, and we didn’t have “Last Day” parties, but we did celebrate small accomplishments and goals achieved when any of them crossed a “finish line.” If we were involved in a coop or activity, we would build up to that so everyone was prepared for whatever disruption that would bring to our routines.”

Dr. Kristin Moon reminisced about when her kids were younger. One fun tradition they had was that they got the day off on their birthdays (hers too!). As the kids got older and co-ops and college classes mandated, they come to class even on their birthday that changed, but they all still remember those days fondly. She advises us to prioritize relationships over the curriculum. “We get so caught up on finishing books or getting through a lesson plan that it can be easy to overlook when a kid just wants some mom time. As homeschoolers, we can put the books and lesson plans aside when our kids need us to. Don’t ALWAYS be in teacher mode. Yes, as homeschoolers, we are always learning, but don’t turn everything into a forced lesson. It’s ok to go to the beach and enjoy each other’s company; you don’t have to quiz them on how tides are formed. My third piece of advice: don’t get so wrapped up in your role as a homeschool mom that you forget the person who you were created to be. Continue to make time for friendships, your health, your marriage, and your hobbies.”

Sonya Goodwin Hemmings encourages us to: “Be careful as you tailor your students’ education not to eliminate all of the obstacles that threaten to stand in their way. Struggle always precedes growth. It is quite essential. And when parents and their children pray and persevere together through a difficult subject or even a difficult year, the rewards that lie on the other side —shared knowledge, special bonding, and confidence to dig into the next challenge — are incredibly sweet.”

Emily Harkey counsels homeschool parents to “Pray…a lot!” and offers practical tips and reminders. “Think about dinner when you wake up and use a crockpot or Instapot as much as tolerated by your people. Make eating cereal for dinner a special treat when needed. Give lots of hugs and smiles and affirmations throughout the day, especially to your older kids who can work on their own while you work with your littles. During the younger years, remember that if you’ve been able to touch the three R’s every day: reading, writing, and arithmetic- that is an EXCELLENT school day…even if you are unable to replicate it again in another week’s time. Give yourself some slack and grace. Take a teacher’s “in-service day” when you need it and have your kids clean while you take a day away to work on you, and go to the dentist or get your hair cut. Organization and routine is your friend. Pray for your kids and all those who influence them.”

BJ Prammon, our Art teacher, points out that “back to school” can be casual and doesn’t have to be routine. “Our most prominent tradition for back to homeschool is really our lack of formal tradition. I never remember to take a “ first day of school” picture. Back to school shopping really doesn’t happen until October. I don’t like making school charts, and my kids don’t like following them. Even as I write this, I haven’t gotten around to ordering a social studies curriculum for my oldest. I’ll get around to it. We start on a different week every year, with different curriculum and different learning strategies, different goals, and, frequently, different opinions. If any of that could be rolled up into some sort of formal stab at useful information, I suppose it would be this: Don’t let what other people are doing dictate your own groove. Don’t let what last year looked like keep you from exploring this year to its fullest potential, even if last year was a really good year, but especially if last year was a ‘bad’ one.”

Whether you are already back in the swing of things or still in the planning phase, what we can all take away from this collective wisdom is that the key to a great start is concentrating on keeping a school/life balance and focusing on what works for our family.

A huge thank you to these True North Academy Teachers for taking time out of their busy schedules to share with us!