Our school year finally came to an end. This year that was so filled with trials and triumphs, lack of sleep and sweet baby toes . . . this year that involved the sale of our home and a move into a new one . . . this one that dealt us with dog stitches after a buck attack, kid stitches after a rough slip on the slide, and a couple of awful stomach bugs . . . yes, this year of preschool and 1st grade and co-op and dance and athletics and nature walks and physical therapy classes- finally came to an end.
In May, we celebrated our victories alongside our other homeschool friends at our group showcase. There, we celebrated the workbooks we completed and the art projects that hung on our walls. We celebrated the books that we read together and the curricula we checked off our lists. But most importantly, we celebrated our learning, those moments of discovery that happened in the midst of it all, the learning that took place many times even outside of “school”. We celebrated our family and all that we endured together as we faced new routines and challenges. We celebrated our year.
And so in order to prepare, I stepped back to reflect on what it was that I wanted to capture. How could I keep a piece of this year for me? For the kids?
I had thought of this before, and in my early efforts, I attempted to put together a keepsake binder for our son with all of his favorite and most memorable pieces. The process of saving and hole-punching, however, soon made me weary, and when my daughter joined our “school”, I realized I needed something a bit more efficient.
I began with a four-drawer filing cabinet, leftover from my days of educational consulting. I decided to dedicate a drawer for each of the three children with an extra drawer for my co-op notes and classes. In each drawer, I created a hanging file folder for the current year along with one for “keepers.”
Completed workbooks and handouts automatically went in the current year folder throughout the year (or the trash can if they were too redundant) and “keepers” were placed in the designated folder after we filtered through them to select our favorites.
This was our holding tank where the kids put all of their completed projects and art pieces.
About once a month when it filled up, we went through each piece and decided what to throw away, what to hang on the wall, and what to keep. It never took more than 10 minutes or so, and it was easy to streamline the process so that it didn’t become too tedious. At the end of the year, we went through the “keepers” folder one more time and did a final toss of things the kids were ready to let go of.
Alongside the papers and workbooks, I also took pictures, pictures of the kids’ special projects along with ones of them working at home, on field trips, on nature walks, and just enjoying the homeschool life. On my computer, I created two “homeschool” folders, one for each child and copied in the pics as I uploaded them each month. At the end of the year, it was easy to upload the pictures online and print them out at our nearby print shop. It also allowed us to keep a memory of the big projects without having to box them in a storage unit.
Then, came the fun part. I put out a number of supplies, including scrapbook paper, markers, stickers, fancy scissors, and stencils so that the kids could decorate a few scrapbook pages with their favorite pictures. For the rest of the pictures, we used 12″x12″ photo sleeves that hold 12 pictures on each page front and back. This allowed us to get in quite a bit of pictures for the year in only 4-6 album pages.I then paper-clipped all of the “keepers” and slid them into a page protector sleeve. Nice and easy!
We also added a front page with a typed-up page of our curriculum choices and a “first-day-of-school” picture. (This was last year’s front page.)
Our homeschool showcase also included a special encouragement booklet, signed by their friends, which also included a special page of favorites, so this went in the “keepers” sleeve as well.
It was such an easy project and one that was easy to maintain. For our showcase, we took out the completed workbooks and art projects and bound the scrapbook pages with leather string.
In the future, I hope to bind all of the pages in a keepsake album for each child and throw in a USB drive for typed-up reports and written compositions. It will be simple and thoughtful–without too much clutter.
I have already set up our new file folders for the upcoming year. For now, I am keeping the file folders with previous grade level work — as long as they fit in the filing cabinet. Our state does not require any written documentation, but the kids enjoy looking over the past couple of years to see how much they have grown in their learning. As long as it fits, it stays, but once it gets too full, I’ll toss out the first years to make room for the new ones.
I’m hoping over time, we can look back through this album and remember the most important parts of our years without being overwhelmed with clutter or boxes of stuff. I’m hoping it’ll hold the memories that capture a special part of our family homeschool. I’m hoping we can keep this little bit of today and carry it with us unto tomorrow.
How do you document your homeschool or school year?
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