After a few years of homeschooling, we found ourselves in a rut that led to an undesirable sense of monotony. This went against the grain of the joyful learning experience I desired and worked so hard to cultivate for our daughters.
In talking with my husband and taking a close look at our routine, I realized that our life had become one long, continuous stream of schooling without any significant celebrations or milestones to mark the end of one season and the beginning of the next—particularly the celebration of a new school year.
This was especially true during the years where we took very little time off during the summer months. And, of course, there were many years where it felt like math or grammar or spelling were never ending because we just continued on from one level to the next.
An inspired idea: a treasure hunt!
In a moment of inspiration, I came up with the idea to do a back-to-homeschool treasure hunt to kick off the new school year. It was the perfect activity to build an atmosphere of excitement and celebration for the girls—and for me, too! The back-to-homeschool treasure hunt became a tradition that lasted many years in our home education adventure.
The night before our first day of school, after the girls went to bed and the house was quiet, I got to work writing clues—silly, rhyming clues that made us all giggle.
The treasure hunt began with their first clue, which the girls had to work together to solve. It was important to me that this was a teamwork activity for our daughters rather than a competition to see who could finish first. Each clue would lead them to another clue hidden somewhere else in the house.
Some years I hid prizes with each clue, so they collected treasure along the way. Other years the treasure was discovered all at once at the end of the hunt.
Ideas for treasure hunt prizes
The prizes often included some fun new school supplies—markers, erasers, cute notebooks, colored pencils, art supplies, stickers, etc.—and there were candy treats as well.
One year we splurged on an electronic dictionary for each of the girls. Other years the rewards were things like beanbag chairs, a new board game, movie, or an Adventures in Odyssey recording set. Gift cards, books, a new item for one of their collections, and trinkets each would enjoy also worked well as prizes.
Create special memories together
If you’re looking for a fun, easy-to-implement, and inexpensive way to celebrate the start of a new school year, consider doing a back-to-homeschool treasure hunt. Laughing together, celebrating milestones, and working together as a team have all built some very special, long-lasting, happy memories for our family and I hope they do the same for your family, too!
Sample clues to inspire you
Here are a few examples of clues to help you get started. (They’re corny, I know! Go ahead and laugh. It’s okay. Really.)
Be creative and make the clues as complex or easy as you like to fit your kids’ ages and skill. You choose the number of clues, too! To begin the treasure hunt, you’ll hand Clue #1 to your kids. The rest they’ll find as they follow each clue to the next. Index cards work well for this activity, but you can use any cardstock or paper you have handy.
Your back-to-homeschool treasure has been hidden with pleasure.
Look for Clue #2 near a tool used to measure.
[Hide Clue #2 where you keep measuring cups or spoons.]
Right foot, left foot, hole in the toe.
To find Clue #3, you must know where coverings for feet go.
[Hide Clue #3 where you keep socks or shoes.]
Clue #4 won’t be found in the tub. But you might find it close to the suds.
[Hide Clue #4 where you keep shampoo or bath soap.]
Words and phrases, people and places.
To find Clue #5, look between the pages.
[Hide Clue #5 in a history book or dictionary or where you keep your library books.]
You’re getting warmer. Hurry! Don’t stumble.
The treasure you seek can be found in a drum where your clothes take a tumble.
[Hide the prizes/treasure in the dryer.]