Back-to-School Treasure Hunt

After a few years of homeschooling, we found ourselves in a bit of a rut that created 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 really looking 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.

So in a moment of inspiration, I came up with the idea to do a back-to-school 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-school 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 started with their first clue, which they had to work together to solve. It was important to me that this was a teamwork activity, not 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.

The prizes often included new school supplies—crayons, markers, erasers, rulers, notebooks, colored pencils, art supplies, 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 board game, a new DVD, or an Adventures in Odyssey CD set.

If you’re looking for a fun, easy-to-implement, and inexpensive way to celebrate the start of a new school year, you might consider doing a back-to-school treasure hunt. Laughing together, celebrating milestones, and working together have all built some very special, long lasting, happy memories for our family and I hope they do the same for your family as well!

Here are some examples of clues to help you get started. (I know! They’re corny. Go ahead and laugh. It’s okay. Really!



CLUE #1 (to be handed to the child/ren to get them started)

Our back to school 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 feet go

[Hide Clue #3 where you keep socks or shoes]


Clue #4 won’t be found in the tub
But you might be surprised to find it nearby

[Hide Clue #4 somewhere near the bathtub or in the linen closet]


Words and phrases, people and places
To find Clue #5 look between the pages

[Hide Clue #5 on a bookshelf 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 treasure in the dryer]

Nancy Manos and her husband, James, have two daughters whom they homeschooled all the way through high school. The Manos’ home education journey was a rich, rewarding, sometimes challenging experience, and Nancy is passionate about encouraging others in the homeschool adventure. Nancy and James have been on the board of directors for Arizona Families for Home Education (AFHE) since 2004 where Nancy serves as the Convention Director as well as the Editor and Graphic Artist for AFHE’s quarterly magazine, the Arizona Home Education Journal.