If there is anything my kids love to collect it is paper. When I have them clean out their school drawers, they make piles of art papers, church papers, story papers, and scribble papers. The piles of paper make me so grumpy, I don't even ask my kids permission before throwing things away. I just start decluttering!
At one point, I found I had grown to despise the paper clutter so much that I stopped documenting anything at all from our homeschool! I knew there had to be a happy medium between distracting piles of paper clutter and throwing everything away. So I decided to document our year with a minimalist approach that didn't allow the paper mess get out of control.
I am grateful to live in Michigan, a state with no homeschool regulations, so all the ways I document our homeschool year are strictly for sentimental reasons or personal accountability. I don't have to do it. But I choose to because I want to have special mementos to pass down to my kids.
Plan Memory Making Moments
Even though I am not a crafty mom, I added Artistic Pursuits to our homeschool to accommodate my children's intense interest in art. They loved our weekly art explorations, and I even worked on my own art alongside them! They ended up with some beautiful pieces to document the school year.
Although it is not my personal preference to do art, I made a point to inject memory-making moments into our routine. Maybe for you it's something else:
- playing board games
- having poetry teatime
- learning new songs together
- going on nature hikes
Whatever activity you choose, the memories you build together establish a special family closeness. I try to focus on one memory-making activity each week because I know those are the things my kids will cherish as they mature into teens and young adults. Besides knowing history and science, math and composition, I want my kids to remember happy family times from their childhood. So I am deliberate about planning and documenting special moments from our days.
File Completed Work in a Binder
As my kids complete handwriting pages, copywork, writing projects, or math worksheets, they stack the papers in a drawer. At the end of the week, I add the pages to their three-ring binders. When the school year is complete, they love seeing all the completed worksheets! I marvel over their improvement and file the work away in boxes, keeping the empty binders to fill again the next year.
Keep Track of Progress and Be Encouraged
When we teach our children every day, their small, incremental progress sometimes goes unnoticed. We may get bogged down in today's deficiencies and forget how far children have actually come. For example, maybe my son's handwriting seems terrible at the moment, but when I compare it to work from four months ago, I can see genuine growth. Then both my son and I are encouraged to keep pressing forward.
A focus on perfection results in unreasonable expectations. Instead of seeing the progress that our kids have made, we have a sense of disappointment that our children can sense. The solution is to document work all along and look at it periodically.
Likewise, we can also underestimate our kids abilities when they are advancing quickly. This year Tenderhearted Boy read through his Sonlight grade 2 readers at an incredible speed, so I have already started him on the grade 3 readers and have been making myself notes to keep challenging him next year.
A huge advantage to homeschooling is that kids can work at their own pace! It is up to us to keep track of their progress and focus on bringing out each child’s personal best.
Put Art and Completed Projects in Individual Boxes
Each of my children has a single box to fill with their favorite homeschool projects. When it is full, I have them evaluate the work to decide what to keep and what to toss. This method prevents the paper clutter from getting out of control. As they get older, they become choosier about their favorite works of art since they have to make space for new items. By the time they are finished with school at home, they will have a box of their best artistic treasures!
Create a Memory Book for Each School Year
The last two years I have asked my children fun questions to record their personal highlights of the year. This year I can rely on Sonlight's Memory Book to provide both the questions and the fun themed papers on which to record them. Some of my kids' favorite pages have been
- favorite historical figure
- a list of the books they read
- extra activities they participated in
- vacations and field trips
It is a PDF format so you can print copies for each of your kids!
Take Pictures of Daily Homeschool Life
Back when I was homeschooled, there was not the same easy way we have today to document our homeschool days with pictures—mobile phones, digital pictures, and social media! Part of documenting my homeschool year is taking pictures of our favorite, or even the not so favorite, parts of daily homeschool life:
- nature hikes
- read aloud moments
- messy art tables
- poetry tea times
I even get in the picture, too, from time to time! I wish my mom had taken selfies when I was being homeschooled, and I know my kids will want photos of me, too.
Documenting your school year doesn't have to be elaborate. It can be as simple as taking a few extra photos and coming up with a no-fuss storage system for select papers and works of art. Whether your goals are for state documentation or merely sentimental reasons, you still get the added benefit of seeing tangible growth from month to month and year to year. That kind of encouragement can keep you homeschooling through hard times, and it's a huge perk to documenting your homeschool.