Our Homeschool

Storing Schoolwork Without Losing Your Sanity

As soon as your toddler begins drawing those adorable pictures with crayons or your pre-schooler learns to write “to mom” on every picture he draws, you start to wonder:  what do I keep, and what can I sneak into the trashcan recycling bin?  And how do I keep the “keepers” from taking over my drawers and desks and bookshelves?

When dealing with toddlers and pre-schoolers, it is evident that the process of creating has far more meaning than the end result.  In fact, over the past 7 years of tossing artwork, I’ve never once been asked “hey, where’d my picture go?”   We frequently have recently-produced artwork displayed on our fridge, but when these paintings mysteriously disappear, I’m not questioned.


[You can also hang pictures on your painted walls or windows using painter’s tape such as ScotchBlue.  (We just call it the blue tape.)  It peels off without taking paint with it or leaving a mess on glass windows.  I was so thrilled the first time I used this tape!  Hat tip to homeschooling momma Kristi for sharing this great idea with me.]

Several years ago we obtained a large supply of large, white paper.  Large surfaces are so great for young children, because artwork is still mostly a gross-motor skill, and it’s simply less-constricting.  The larger the paper, the more creative the children can be.  I do save all of the paintings my kids do on this paper; I write the date and the child’s name on the back, then add it to a stack high up on a closet shelf.  Because of its uniformity of size, my husband and I think some day we could bind them all together into a fun coffee-table-type book, or maybe even use them as wall-paper somewhere.  We do a lot of painting at our house.

The remainder of the artwork is carefully sifted.  The pre-schooler’s personal favorites (and mom’s favorites) go into a binder with plastic sleeves.  It is easy for the children to learn to slide their works into the sleeves.  Our pre-schoolers get 2 binders of their own; the second is for their early writings.

Beginning in kindergarten, then, the children each get a full dozen set of binders, one for every major academic subject.  I prefer the kind with the clear, plastic sleeves on the outside cover, and I color-code them and label them with the child’s name and the subject.  Our art binders are larger than the rest.  The children learn to put their “best work” and “favorite work” into their binders.  Mom gives a lot of suggestions, but ultimately it’s the child’s decision what to put into them and how.  I provide plastic sleeves (easy) as well as 3-hole punchers (a little more tricky.)  Each child will record their work in different ways, some more crafty than others.  You can find great ideas, inspirations, and free print-outs at NotebookingPages.com.

I love our binders.  I love looking through them and seeing the progress that a child has made over the months and years.  I love watching the children flip back through work they did months ago, thus reinforcing all of that knowledge without my help.  I sometimes see them pull out work that they think they can now do better, and re-do it or decorate it.  And I love taking comfort in the knowledge that if anyone ever wanted to see “proof” that I was schooling the kids, all I would have to do is point them to these great portfolios.

In addition to their binders, each child also has a labeled drawer in the classroom where they can put works-in-progress or creations that don’t fit into binders.

Now, storing your Montessori educational materials is a whole ‘nother ball-game, and I’ll add a post on that soon!

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