Easy Binder Method for Homeschool Documentation
Updated: Jul 21, 2021
But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner. ~
1 Corinthians 14:40
When we first started homeschooling, I was pretty stressed about making sure we did everything right. When it came to documentation, I didn’t really know what we needed so I was keeping EVERYTHING! It didn’t take long before I realized that keeping every single paper and workbook was not feasible so I had to figure something else out. I spent a lot of time on Pinterest looking for ideas and landed on the “Binder Method” as I like to call it.
The Binder Method felt like the easiest way to keep myself organized and take up a minimal amount of space. It is easy to set up and takes very few supplies. I use a 1 ½ or 2 inch binder and sheet protectors, other than those 2 items, you will need a 3-hole punch and a printer/copier. I basically have 6 different sections in the binder of things I keep. In Illinois, we pretty much have no requirements from the state so I just keep what I think is important to have on hand just in case we are questioned at some point. Before you sit down and make a comprehensive list of what you want to keep in your binder, you should definitely check with HSLDA for your state’s requirements.
1. Schedule of School Days The first thing I have in the front of the binder is my Schedule of School Days so I can easily flip it open and double check our schedule and when we have breaks. At the end of the year, I print off my actual attendance record and slide in the sheet protector behind my schedule. I generally try to schedule around 180 days of “school” but in my opinion, schooling happens pretty much every day in some capacity.
2. Grade Report The next section is quarterly grade reports which I just print off at the end of each quarter and slip in a sheet protector so this section takes up 2 sheet protectors. I found a really great excel spreadsheet that I use to keep track of attendance, grades, curriculum, extracurriculars and field trips.
3. Standardized Tests Illinois doesn’t require testing but we did opt to take the Iowa basic skills test at the end of our 6th grade year and at the end of 8th grade we plan to take the PSAT 8/9 just for our own benefit. If your state requires standardized testing then I recommend putting the results in the binder for the grade level your child is in when tested.
4. Curriculum Section This will definitely take up the biggest chunk of space in your binder. For every subject, I make a copy of the Cover of the textbook or resource I’m using along with the table of contents. I do this for every resource I use for that subject, even if it is just something supplemental. I put the cover and table of contents in a sheet protector then I 3-hole punch any tests, writing samples, and important assignments and place in the binder behind it. For something really important such as the US & Illinois Constitution tests (which would be required if my son went back to public school for High School), I put the entire workbook in a sheet protector along with both the practice and final tests.
* Once we start high school, I will also include Course descriptions in this section. A course description is just a more in depth look at each course; what is covered, materials used, method of evaluation, etc. Course descriptions are important supporting documentation for high school courses that may be asked for by colleges when submitting your child’s transcript. It will be important to make these course descriptions at the beginning of each course so they are readily available when asked for. You certainly don't want to have to go back and try to recreate them 3-4 years after your child has completed them. HSLDA has some helpful information about course descriptions that I definitely plan to look at before we start high school.
5. Medical information In this section, I put copies of any physicals, eye exams, dental exams, immunizations, etc. that we have during the school year. Again, Illinois doesn’t have any requirements for this but we still try to stay up to date on any exams we would need to have if we attended public school.
6. Certificates/Awards This is the “brag book” part of the binder. I make copies of any awards (such as 1st degree black belt promotion) or certificates (such as completion of Emergency Medical Skills Challenge) and put in sheet protectors at the back of the binder. Keeping copies of these things in one place makes it easier to go back and see what all was accomplished during the year. You could also add some pictures of field trips, etc in this section to complete your child’s portfolio.
For us, that is everything we keep from the school year. Again, you’ll want to check your state requirements and make sure you have everything covered that may be asked for. I’ve seen where some people file paperwork every day then go through once a month and cull out anything they don’t think is needed. I am not that organized so I stick everything in the front of my House of Dolittle Planner and about once per month I sit down and enter in all of our grades and put everything that I feel needs to be kept in our binder.
At the end of the school year, I slide my planner and any supplemental workbooks I want to keep inside the binder or rubber band them to the outside of the binder and put it all in my overflow cabinet in the basement. Once you start lab sciences, I would recommend keeping the lab workbook with your binder as well. So far, I’ve kept all of the binders since we started because I have the space to. If space becomes an issue then I will go through the lower grade binders and consolidate what I personally want to keep into one binder.
I hope these tips help you simplify your documentation strategy. I would love to hear your tips and tricks for taming the homeschool paperwork!