10 Ideas to Start School Year without Textbooks

Here are 10 ideas for ways to start your school year strong without textbooks.

Maybe you just got on board the homeschool train for this year and are working on getting materials ordered. Perhaps you ordered all your materials in plenty of time for the fall, but some items were on backorder. Or the delivery method is slowed way down. Or maybe, just maybe, you were so busy enjoying the summer that you forgot to order all your textbooks earlier, but school is supposed to start NOW!

Whatever your reason, here are 10 suggestions to help you get “started” with school while you wait for all your materials to arrive and get organized.

Take Some Educational Field Trips

The first few weeks of the school year are great times for field trips to popular attractions. Most schools are not going on field trips during the first month of school, so the attractions are usually far less crowded. Your kids can take their time exploring exhibits, have better access to staff members for questions, and generally enjoy a more relaxed and pleasant trip.

Watch Educational Videos

Are you planning to study world history this year? Maybe you can start your year by watching well-done videos relating to world history. Will someone be learning about marine biology? Check out some cool videos on the subject. Watch videos, discuss them together, read books on the subject, write reports on the videos, draw pictures. BOOM – school work accomplished!

Play Some Educational Games

Study your game collections in a new light – How can they be used for learning? Word games – Language Arts. Strategy games – thinking skills. Combine games with math flashcards – before you take a turn, you must answer a math problem correctly. Dictionary games help to boost vocabulary skills. Games like Risk can help with geography skills. Be creative and put those games to good use!

Write Stories

Have your children write some stories. You could use picture prompts for their story-writing. Or use situations to set them up for stories. Do some “Round-Robin-style” story writing. Have each child begin a story with a few sentences, then pass the paper to their sibling who writes the next few sentences, pass the story on for another few sentences, etc. You could add in some verbal cues like the next sentences need to set the problem, the following sentences need to bring a resolution, and so on. You may end up with some pretty wild stories!  Or you could have your kids work in teams to write a story. After the story writing sessions, you may have your children work on illustrating and publishing their stories. (Language Arts, Art, Digital Graphics, Technology)

Do Art Projects/Home Ec Projects/Life Skills

Do a mini-unit on art to start your school year. Look at different art media, techniques, skills, and methods. Study different artists. Do different art projects – drawing, painting, sculpture, printing, calligraphy, clay – the list is endless. Give the project time some structure and count it as schoolwork.

Another idea could see you focus on home economics for a week or two. Preserving garden produce may require some research into methods of preservation and techniques. Your kids can learn research skills, time management, multi-tasking, organization, even science from preserving garden crops.

Life skills can include everything from doing laundry to cooking/baking, auto maintenance and repair, and preparing your home for cooler weather. And all these skills are important for kids to learn. Do we intrinsically know about changing furnace filters? Or how to clean gutters? (Or that gutters even need cleaning?) Life skills can also include learning about finances. Do your kids know the difference between debit cards and credit cards? Or that you must repay loans with interest? And how does interest even work outside a math problem?

Have Some Fun with Literature

Do a “family book club” for a week. All of you read the same book independently, then discuss the book together. What did each one think of the book? Did anyone dislike the book? Discuss reasons for liking or not liking the chosen book. What did they like or dislike about the main characters and their personalities. Did anyone dislike the ending? What could be an alternate ending?

Do a Dramatic Production

Produce a play. Have your kids write a play or adapt a story into a play. They can then design sets and costumes, rehearse the play, and finally, put on a dramatic production. Invite the grandparents to watch your great play. Serve refreshments that your kids made. Have one of them record the play on video. Future videographer? Who knows?!

Science Experiments and Projects

Do you feel like you never have time to tackle all those interesting science projects during the school day? Maybe you can do them at the beginning of the school year! If you know the general science topic(s) your kids will be studying this year, find some related science experiments and projects to work on while you wait for your textbooks. Give their curiosities a boost – work with them to develop their own theories and hypotheses, design some experiments to test their ideas, and see the results. Teach them to keep records of what they did, what they thought would happen, and what really happened. Help them to learn about scientific variables and how to minimize them. Who knows, maybe you are inspiring a future Nobel Prize winner!

Research and Plan an Imaginary Trip to Somewhere

Have your kids choose an exotic or interesting vacation destination, and then research and plan a “hypothetical” trip to that location. Encourage their sense of adventure. What will they do on this trip? What things do they want to see or experience? How will they get to the location? Will the journey be part of the adventure? Have them research passports, visas, vaccine requirements (not just for Covid-19!), tourist restrictions, etc. Learn about the State Department and how it helps travelers to foreign locations.

What about the food? Research what kinds of foods are typically eaten in their chosen destination. Try to cook some authentic recipes. How much will all this cost? Have them research expenses and create a realistic budget for the trip. Each child can then organize all their information and give a presentation to convince you that their planned journey will be a life-changing adventure. And maybe, they will do such a good job of convincing you that you actually go on their journey with them!

Take a Vacation!

If you have the time and ability, use the time while waiting for your textbooks to take a trip! Travel is a great way to learn, even if you don’t go too far from home! Explore some new environments, some new local history. Take some hikes in new settings. Spend some quality time together before you dive into this new school year.

So, if you forgot to order those new school materials on time, all is not lost. Don’t beat yourself up about getting a late start to your school year. By following any of the above ideas, you can still “do school” even if you cannot dive into all the new textbooks and material. You won’t be wasting days, and your kids might even have a good time!

Do you have some other ideas? Mention them in the comments below. I’d love to hear what has worked for you.

Looking for more information about homeschooling? Check out these articles:

Benefits of Homeschooling

Homeschooling Basics

Back to School

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