The following is a guest post by Charity Hawkins.
As soon as possible after we finish school in the spring, I like to sort through all the piles of papers and clean up the clutter from the past year. And by “I like to,” I mean, I dread it, but I make myself do it, and feel so much better after it’s done.
But organizing all the paper that comes along with homeschooling doesn’t have to wait until the end of the school year. In fact, implementing a few of these ideas now might save you hours later.
So I thought I’d walk you through what my year-end record keeping looks like. If you find yourself wondering how others deal with the piles of school-related stuff, read on:
Part 1 – My Own Records
This took me about 3 hours on the computer.
1. Any documents required by your state. If you’re not sure what your state requires, look up the information online or contact your state or city homeschool support organizations.
Examples of state-required documents might be: copies of letters of intent to homeschool, lesson plans, paperwork with the state, etc.
My state doesn’t require any documents, so I don’t have these. If I did, I’d probably keep these in a separate 3-ring binder labeled “State Homeschool Documentation.”
Those are really the only essential documents. All the other items that follow are optional.
2. A high-level yearly wrap-up. (This took me about 2 hours.) This tells what curricula each child used or what main areas we studied. I just set it up as a table in Word.
This is meant to summarize what we studied and provide information for a transcript (and I did need to do that this year).
I might also include pictures of projects my children did. For example, the medieval feast they attended, or the Play-Doh Stonehenge model they made.
Pictures are especially good for preschool activities.
I did a “save as” of last year’s wrap up, then plugged in the new information. Usually in December I start this and include the activities from the summer and fall so I don’t forget them. Of course you could also do it as you go along throughout the year.
If you have only preschoolers, your categories would be more general and age appropriate, such as:
- Gross Motor Activities (ex. playing outside, helping sweep)
- Numbers/Pre-Math skills (ex. counting, baking, sorting silverware or socks)
- Science/Nature study (ex. planting a garden, raising caterpillars)
- Bible (songs, Sunday school)
3. A Reading List. ( This took me about 1 hour to type up.) This is a list of the books we actually read. I keep a list on the fridge where I scribble down our read-alouds, what the kids read on their own, audio books, and sometimes what picture books we read.
Books are such a huge part of our education, it really does give a better picture of what we studied and learned this year.
I printed those two documents out, punched holes in them, stapled them together, and added them to my 3-ring binder labeled “Yearly Wrap-Ups.”
After I had the yearly summary in my binder, I was now free to throw away any other planning documents.
Part 2 – The Children’s Work
This took me about 4 hours of UNINTERRUPTED time.
First, set aside a good chunk of kid-free time.
Supplies I use:
- a couple of plastic tubs
- 5 ¼” accordion-type “wallet” folders with a stretchy string
I did not file papers during the school year. I just had the kids put any loose papers (math worksheets, copywork, etc.) into a basket in the schoolroom. I put their better coloring sheets from Sunday School or the YMCA into another box. Artwork went on the art wall upstairs.
Around Christmas when the baskets were full, I stuffed all the papers into a brown grocery-store bag and then ignored it until spring.
On my organizing day this spring, I gathered up all the new piles of papers, the overflowing grocery store bag, artwork, and every other piece of kid paper I could find from the last year, and dumped it into a huge pile.
1. Sort papers by child (and toss the junk) (This took me about 1 hour and 45 minutes.)
Now remember, I had the summary in my binder. This was purely sentimental. I just like to save my children’s favorite pieces, remembering their sweet selves at this age.
In order to honor those special items, however, I needed to toss a lot of junk.
I kept things like:
- most of their writing
- most of their copywork
- hardest math worksheets or ones with cute drawings or “I Love You Mom” written on it
- a few math pages from the beginning of year to show progress
- most of their artwork
2. File school papers for each child. (Total time – 1 hour)
You’ll see in the pictures on top of each child’s pile of papers something labeled “Main Lesson Book.”
This is a concept I borrowed from Waldorf schools. This was the first year we did it and I loved it. Each child’s main lesson book had the papers they really labored over, ones they worked on for hours, with beautiful art or copywork. I think it really honored their time and effort.
I took that Main Lesson Book (you could use an empty 3-ring-binder), then added tabs. I had tabs for history, copywork, creative work (things they did on their own), math, etc.
I quick-sorted their schoolwork pile into subjects and kept the best.
By the way, it’s shocking to me how much work we (they) do in a year. So many weeks I feel like we’re not accomplishing anything, but we just keep going, gathering one stone at a time, and then we step back and realize we’ve built something beautiful together.
The now-stuffed-full Main Lesson Book fit neatly in the brown accordion file. I added any other random things, labeled it with the child’s name and year, and put it in their plastic tub.
3. File art/craft papers for each child. (Total time 1 hour.)
This was pretty easy. I basically stuffed all the artwork into an accordion file, labeled it, and put it in the tub.
I did select a few favorites to keep on our Art Wall.
After filing – my two older children had 3 accordion files: one for schoolwork, one for artwork, and a cumulative one for writing that spans years. My four-year-old doesn’t have writing yet, so he just has two files. His “schoolwork” is just little workbooks or coloring books.
Whew! I then put the accordion files into the plastic tubs, labeled them if needed, and put them back in their home in the attic. Each tub holds about 5 years’ worth.
It’s such a great feeling to have that done. It’s one of the jobs I dread doing each year, and I’m so happy when I go in our clean schoolroom, all ready to start fresh next year.
4. Go do something you like. (Total time – at least an hour or two.)
Seriously. You’ve earned it. Celebrate a job (and a year) well done!
A wonderful book for organizing and decluttering is Secrets of an Organized Mom by Barbara Reich. I loved it. It’s not specifically for homeschoolers, but as we all know, the state of chaos or organization in our homes certainly does affect our homeschool.
How do you organize your school records and children’s work?