First Day of School Disaster or Success?

Thirty years of homeschooling means we have had thirty first days of homeschool.  Would you believe that in the beginning, I regularly ended up in tears by the end of that particular day? I expected an exciting, productive, energized day getting back to school with my children. Instead it turned into frustration, bad attitudes, and most of what was scheduled was not accomplished UNTIL . . . the Lord showed me the secret to success. I needed to have a first day of school before my real first day of school!!

The reason my first day of school failed was because we would:

  • Have a special breakfast – more prep and clean up
  • Have first-day-of school surprises at the breakfast table – needed to be put away before school started
  • Take first-day-of school photos – more grooming and time necessary plus the time for the individualized photos for each child
  • Hand out new school books – not part of accomplishing the day’s lesson
  • Set up school notebook – very time consuming
  • Discuss assignment sheets and daily assignment expectations – more time not given to the day’s lesson.

All of those were very special parts of our first day of school, and we truly enjoyed each of those pieces. However, doing them on the first day of school meant that we didn’t have enough time to accomplish our math, English, history, and other studies that day. Therefore the children felt behind before we started, I was disappointed that the schedule didn’t seem adequate, and the day ended with less-than-joyful spirits all around.

Then the Lord gave me the idea of having a pre-first day of school. We did all of those special activities on a day before I wanted to really begin school. In doing that, I quickly discovered they took a whole day to do.  It was a delightful day accomplishing those things without trying school work too. On the real, true first day of school, we were ready to roll with our full-fledged academic work. Smiles, productivity, and an accurate schedule – it was so much better than the tears from the past.

If you are getting ready to start your homeschool year, maybe you and your children would be blessed by a pre-first day of school that you fill with all the memory making activities and organizational tasks that you have tried to fit into your first day of school on top of academics. I think you will love the results!

Trusting in Jesus,

PS-Sarah gathered some old and new pictures of Maxwell beginning-of-school days. The pictures are not necessarily from the same year, but we did list them in order from Nathan down to Mary.

Nathan, Sarah, and Christopher in the early years
Nathan, Sarah, and Christopher in the early years


The younger five
The younger five
When Mary was the last student, and she didn't need any supplies, her treat was chocolate. Can't go wrong with that (especially if you're a Maxwell girl).
When Mary was the last student, and she didn’t need any supplies, her treat was chocolate. Can’t go wrong with that (especially if you’re a Maxwell girl).
Mary's last school picture.
Mary’s last school picture.

“Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go:
keep her; for she is thy life.”
Proverbs 4:13

13 thoughts on “First Day of School Disaster or Success?”

  1. I was thinking the other day this would be Mrs. Maxwell’s first year without a pre-first day and school year. What a wonderful labor of love offered for 30 years to your family for His glory. Thank you for sharing with others the lessons learned as a Mom during those 30 years.

  2. Really admire all you have accomplished. Love hearing the bits of wisdom you share from your experiences.

  3. so thankful to find this! we start official school this Monday; so, we will spend Friday having fun, doing pictures, and going over the “rules”! I’ve made the “let’s have fun the first day” mistake 2 years in a row! not this year! let’s get to work is this year’s theme!! God Bless you and your beautiful family!

  4. Such cute pictures. Some of the kids still look the same. Nathan, Joseph and Mary for sure. What memories those pics must bring back for you. I have a chest full of pics and cards that my older children made for me. I love to look at them.

    We have what we call “mock day” before the first day of school to get some things out of the way.

    Is it bittersweet that you will not be having a first day of school this year?

    Bittersweet yes.

  5. Precious photos and I’m sure they bring back some special memories for your family. Love Mary’s last school picture – lovely young lady. 🙂

  6. This is a brilliant idea! We are so totally doing this. And this year I will have a Third grader, a first-and-a-half grader, and a kindergartener! I feel like we’re in the sweet spot. Thanks for this trick of the trade, Teri!

  7. Adorable photos! I think this is the first time I ever saw a photo of Sarah where she was really little. Her hair looks so blond!

    I noticed that in the earliest pics, your schoolroom looks similar to a traditional school classroom, with desks and a timeline. Later on, we see Sarah at the dining room table. Was it easier for your family to “do school” there?

    Oh, and I recognize that first grade A Beka math book with the giraffe on the cover. My niece had that same book.
    I had individual meetings with the children on the couch and then they would go to various quiet places to do their school work. The school desks were used only in the beginning. We moved on to what we liked better.

  8. This is a great idea! I would love to share this link with my blog readers in an upcoming post I am writing about starting school! So many times we stress ourselves out about how the days are “suppose” to look like, and forget to see the joy in what they DO look like. Thanks for sharing Teri!

    Sure, that’s great ;).

  9. my mom recently retired from teaching and spoke fondly about her first and last days of school. i remember her discussing her “last” last day of school!

    for me, i don’t get overwhelmed easily, so i find those tasks pretty quick and simple. my kids are dressed and ready to go and i get up early and have it all prepared. we also don’t have high academic expectations for the first day of school. sometimes, it’s all in the attitude. 🙂

  10. I have been thinking of doing this … Good motivation to implement a change.
    Except I plan to have a Thursday for rules and routine, then Friday with a light day of school before starting the next week in full.
    Thanks again, for your wonderful ideas and advice… and the pictures!

  11. Great ideas! I’m giving myself a week prior to the start of school to work on lesson plans, syllabi, and assessments. This year is bittersweet, my son will be in 6th grade, so at the end of this year we will be half-way through his education.

  12. This is one of the best tips that I have learned from you to help our homeschool run smoother. We have been doing this for a few years now and it has become so special to us. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

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