School Years Memory Book Tutorial

The lives of our littles are filled with memories, accomplishments, achievements, growth, and drastic change during their grade school years.  I’m realizing that as my children age, I can easily forget some of the little things of who they were before.  The process of maturing and aging brings about constant change.

I desperately want to remember it all.  I want to remember how tall he was at 7 years old.  I want to remember the funny one-liners that seemed to roll off his tongue.  I want to remember that his favorite movie was How to Train Your Dragon and he could watch it over and over and over again as if it were his first time seeing it.  I want to remember what his drawings looked like at 6 years old.  I want to remember it all.

As much as I desire to hold onto the memories, I recognize that everything that comes home during the school year cannot be kept and preserved.  I also recognize I have limited time and need a system of preserving their school years that would be both efficient and meaningful.  And I wanted a way to preserve these years that would allow us to reflect on them together.  One day I want to pass these memories to them so they can share them with their children.

I created  a binder that I use to preserve the important stuff from the grade school years.  And today I’m going to share with you how you can make your own.  In addition, you can download the free School Days Printables for each year that will allow you to record information through the years.

There are several ways you can create a School Years Book for your children.  If you are the crafty type, you will love the tutorial I’m sharing today.  If you are not the crafty type, you may prefer to pop into Target and pick up one of their super cute binders for $10 and save yourself the time of making the actual binder yourself.

I made a school years binder for each child.  Inside the binder is a divider for Pre-K through 6th Grade.  I would suggest you do a separate binder for the Preschool years.  Within each section is a fill in the blank series of questions that are the same each year.  Questions such as favorite color, favorite movie, friends, family vacation, etc.  There are places for your child to draw a picture each year (I love to see how their drawing changes through the years).  There are places to record the funny things they said through the year, memorable experiences, you get the picture.  I also include within each section several different sized page protectors.  I use the large full sheet protectors to house items that cannot be hole punched and you don’t want lost in the shuffle.  I use the 4×6 and 5×7 page protectors to insert school and sports pictures from each year.  (I do not use this binder as a photo album.  I use it for school pictures and sports pictures so you can note the changes from year to year).  The rest I leave available for all the items that will come home that you never want to forget.

When report cards or progress reports come home, they get hole-punched and put into the binder.  When awards or certificates are earned, they are punched and put into the binder (or you can put them in a page protector).  Basically any item from the school year that you want to hold onto and display in a manner that allows you to easily reflect on, goes into the binder.

Now, if you decide to make one of these and you want to do it the quick and easy route, all you need to do is purchase a large 3 ring binder (at least a 2 inch in size), a pack of index dividers to label for each grade, and a few different sized sheet protectors.  Next, download my free School Days Printables.  Assemble your binder and you are ready to go.  This will take no time at all!

If you would like to make one yourself, read on for the full tutorial!

This will be the final product

Supplies Needed:

  • 2 Inch Chipboard 3 Ring Binder (I like the ones with the black spine.  If you get a plain chipboard binder, you can paint the spine whatever color you want.  Just an extra step I like to avoid) (The cheapest place I’ve found to purchase these binders is Bulk Office Supply)
  • 2 sheets of 12×12 heavy decorative cardstock for cover, back, and spine of binder
  • 9 sheets 8 1/2 x 11 heavy cardstock for dividers (if making Pre-K thru 6th grade)
  • 1 inch circle punch
  • 2 inch circle punch
  • corner rounder
  • tape measure
  • paper-cutter
  • Mod Podge
  • Foam brush

Steps:

  • Using your tape measure, measure the dimensions of the front cover of your binder.  (I’ve learned the hard way that each binder measures differently.  If you are making multiple binders, you need to measure each binder rather than trying to measure one binder to make 3.)
  • Using your paper-cutter, cut your cardstock to the measurements.  Lay it on the cover of your binder to make sure it is as close to exact as possible.  You don’t want it to hang over the binder much if any at all.
  • Take your corner rounder, and round the 2 corners of your cardstock that will be the front edge of your binder.  Like this…

then it should look like this, just like the front of your binder.

  • Do the same step for the back cover of the binder with your 2nd piece of cardstock
  • From the scraps that you cut off your front and back cover pieces, you will have what you need for the spine.  Take one of the scrap pieces and cut it to the length of the spine.  The width should be perfect.
  • Now you should have your front, back and spine cover pieces cut and shaped to adhere to the binder.
  • You will glue your cardstock to the binder with Mod Podge.  I have found it MUCH easier to make the cover look just about perfect if I have the binder level before gluing the cardstock down.  As you can see in the picture below, I use a couple of books propped inside my binder to make my binder as level as possible.  Next I lay my front cover piece down and position it prior to gluing so that it looks exactly how I want it to look.

  • This is the slightly tricky part.  So just move slowly here.  I have found that I can make the cover look smooth and beautiful if I glue it down section by section rather than coating the entire cover with Mod Podge and laying the cardstock on top.  It takes a couple of extra minutes.  But the finish will be fantastic!  If you apply Mod Podge to the entire cover then try to lay the cardstock down, you could end up with bubbles that are a real pain to deal with.  Once I have my paper positioned just right, I lay my left arm firmly on the paper and binder close to the bottom of the binder to keep it in place.  Then I use my left hand (still with my left arm holding the paper down) to lift up just the bottom of the paper.  Using my right hand, I will apply Mod Podge to the bottom 2 inches or so of the binder then firmly press down your cardstock.  (This sounds more complicated than it is.  It’s not.  The point is to get the bottom of it glued down so your paper won’t reposition on you).

  • Once you have the bottom glued down, work your way up the entire cover.  Apply Mod Podge to the next 2 inches up, going all the way across, and firmly press down.  Each time taking care to push out any bubbles or excess glue.  It usually takes about 5 sections to make it to the top.  The total time will only be about 2 minutes.
  • Repeat this exact process for the back cover.
  • The spine is easier.  Coat the spine with Mod Podge and lay your cut spine cardstock firmly into place.
  • At this stage you will have the front, back, and spine covered with the cardstock.   You are 1/3 of the way done!

  • Using your computer, type up what you want the front and spine to be labeled.  I label my front with my son’s name then the spine to say “Andrew’s School Days”.  Print on cardstock.  Mod Podge on printer paper doesn’t do as well as it does on cardstock.
  • Mod Podge your labels and any other embellishments onto your cover and spine.

  • The final step for the outside of the binder is to seal it with Mod Podge.  I recommend 2 coats.  Using a foam brush, brush on the Mod Podge to cover the entire binder.  I prefer to lay the binder opened up so I can do the entire binder in 1 step.  Using a foam brush, apply the Mod Podge taking care to brush in the same direction.  Wait about 20 minutes between coats.
  • While waiting for your Mod Podge to dry, you can begin to construct the inside of the binder.  At this point, you can either buy index dividers or you can make your own.  I usually make my own so I can use the colors I want and completely customize them.
  •  Using your 2 inch circle punch, punch 7 circles from one of your 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of cardstock.  These will be used for your divider tabs.
  • On your computer, type up the labels for your dividers.  Pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st Grade, Etc.

  • Using your 1 inch circle punch, punch out each of the labels you just printed out.
  • Glue the 1 inch label punches to the 2 inch cardstock punches.  Now you have your divider tabs.

  • Glue each divider tab to one of your 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of cardstock to create your index dividers.
  • Hole punch your index dividers.

  • Place index dividers into your binder and assemble the rest by filling with printable pages and page protectors.

Your children will love this binder as much as you do.  They will see how much you treasure their hard work, and you will love having one place to store it all, to protect and preserve it.  I’ve discovered my little guys on numerous occasions flipping through their books admiring their work, creations, and awards.

Linked to

A 4th of July Family Tradition That Could Change The World

As we celebrate our country’s independence today, I would like to encourage you to spend time praying with your family today for our nation.  It’s a family tradition that could change the world.  Imagine the impact of families around the world praying together for our nation.  May our hearts be filled with gratitude today for the men and women who have sacrificed their lives to bring us the freedom we enjoy today.  May we thank God for protecting us and blessing us the way He has.

The following links provide wonderful inspiration and reflection on what we are celebrating each 4th of July.  Andy Stanley is one of the most gifted communicators I’ve ever listened to.  The messages are brief but incredibly rich, and I can’t think of a better way to begin our 4th of July celebrations than to listen to these messages, reflect on what God has done for us, and pray for our nation.

If your children are old enough to listen to a sermon for about 20 minutes, I would encourage you to listen to these together as a family.

A New Look At America’s Christian Heritage Part I

A New Look At America’s Christian Heritage Part II

I hope your 4th of July is full of fun memories with friends and family!

Giveaway Winner

Congrats Stephanie Parlee on winning Rory’s Story Cubes!

DIY Dry Erase Picture Frame

My favorite part of summer is having my boys home for extended periods of time allowing us ample opportunities to create special moments and memories together. My boys are still at ages where they love being with me, and they love having projects that we can work on together.  Working on a craft or creation together provides us with a bonding experience that each of us treasures.

I’ve posted this project on our family blog in the past.  I’m posting the idea again here because it is such a popular one and is one your kids or grandkids can easily do, even on their own.

Do you have empty picture frames sitting in a drawer somewhere?  If not, you can buy them for $1 at the dollar store or Wal-Mart.  A picture frame dry erase board is so useful around the house.  I love to make them using cardstock that coordinates with the decor, which is much more fun and interesting than the plain white boards.

We have found uses all over the house for these picture frame boards.  We use one on our family command center wall for writing out our weekly menu, we use one in the kitchen for writing our scripture memory for the week, and we use them in the boys’ rooms for their personal hygiene chore charts.

They also make great gifts.  The boys and I made these for our niece and nephew for Christmas to coordinate with their bedrooms.  We added their names to them and a little fun embellishments.  One of my nieces has enjoyed making these herself to give to friends as birthday gifts.

Today we are making one as a gift to go along with a meal we are providing for a friend who recently had a baby.  We will use it to announce the menu for what we are providing.  A fun little gift the family can continue to use in their home even after the meal is devoured.

Supplies:

Picture frame (size is up to you depending on what you plan to use it for.  I have made all different sizes and they are all fun!)

Decorative cardstock (I’ve even used fabric scraps)

Scissors or paper cutter

Tape measure (only if using scissors rather than a paper cutter)

Ok, here is the so simple tutorial, it can hardly be called a tutorial.

Step 1: Measure and cut your paper to fit inside your picture frame.  We are using an 8 x 10 frame, so we cut our cardstock to those dimensions.

Step 2:  Insert the paper inside the frame behind the glass

Step 3:  Write a message

That is it!!

Options:  Add a hanging ribbon to the frame.  Or embellish the cardstock for added interest.

A Sweet Storytelling Tradition & Giveaway

(Photo courtesy of Rebecca Kryshtalowych)

One of my favorite times of the day is bedtime.  It is a sweet time of the day when the kids have quieted down, and their hearts are softened and eager to give and receive.  Sword fights have ceased, the little boy smell has been washed clean and replaced with a fresh scent, the brotherly bickering has ended, the heavy running feet have slowed to soft little tiptoes, and the loud demands have been replaced with softer tones sharing stories and asking questions.

One of my very dear friends, Rebecca, was over one day with her son James, who is great buddies with my youngest son, Andrew.  Rebecca was telling me about their bedtime routine and how James would tell stories and include Andrew in his story every night.  Rebecca and her husband Greg have a bedtime story tradition with James where they begin the story and let James create the rest of the story prompting and guiding him when needed.  What a sweet way to go to bed at night!

Here is what Rebecca shares with us about their family’s bedtime tradition:

“We always start the story…’once upon a time there was a small boy named…’ and then, James will say his own name. We continue to feed him “ideas” and he fills in the gaps with people, activities, places, etc. For example—

 Once upon a time there was a small boy named:  James

And another small boy named:  Andrew Robinson (he ALWAYS says this one next!)

And his other friend:  Mallory

 One day they decided to play: baseball with blue bats

they met at the: baseball field

 and so on and so on…James develops the story with a little guidance from us. It’s fun and different every day. And, James loves it! The reason Greg started to do this is because James wouldn’t let us sing him songs before bedtime. He didn’t like it….our tradition with Andrew was to sing songs to him after we read bedtime stories. So, we have a different tradition with each child”

For so many reasons, I just love this tradition.

  •  Creativity is ignited in the child.
  • The child has a say in what will take place.  His little voice is being heard in a positive light.
  • It’s the same but different every night.  Same setting, different story.
  • You have the opportunity to learn and understand your child better when you are hearing what is in their heart and mind
  • Could be a great tool for the child who isn’t as verbal or doesn’t express feelings well verbally

I’d love to hear some of your bedtime traditions.  Please feel free to comment to share your thoughts with us!  One lucky commenter will receive Rory’s Story Cubes.

Comments must be submitted by Sunday night at 11:59 pm.  Leaving a comment gives you one chance to win.  Leaving a comment with links to posts on twitter, Facebook, pinterest, or your blog referencing this post will give you two chances to win.  Winner will be drawn at random and announced Monday.

Intentional Summer Memory Making Resources

Click the links below for some excellent summer resources to inspire your journey for an intentional summer.  When we tearfully send our  children back to school this fall, let’s look back fondly over our summer memories knowing we took hold of every single moment.  Intentionally.

Summer Survival Tips for Parents (audio podcast May 30th, 2012 Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast with Kathy Peel)

Ideas for summer fun and learning (From Family Manager)

Make Summer Count Activity Calendar (From Thriving Family)

Chores, A Tradition? Part Two

Today’s post is a follow-up to the previous post, Chores, A Tradition?  Part One.

I mentioned that we have started and stopped many different chore systems in our home.  We have used chore charts, we have used online chore sites, we have used the index card system.  You name it, we have likely tried it.  Each system seems to work great for a time, then gradually fades away until we are back to me doing the bulk of the work.  I also mentioned that one reason our systems didn’t last long had to do with the fact that we assigned chores that would go unnoticed if not completed.  Or they were so small, I would just do it myself rather than call the boys back to complete the job.  No one wins this way.  The kids weren’t being trained to do a job completely, their work ethic was not being developed the way we would hope, and quite frankly, I found myself bitterly muttering, “Why am I constantly cleaning up after everyone in this house?”

Raise your hand if you like a nagging wife or mom?  That is what I thought.  Who wants to be around someone like that?  I didn’t like to hear myself sound like that.  Nagging is not known to create family harmony.

So here is what we came up with:

  1. Using library card style envelopes, I labeled each one with a child’s name.
  2. Next I tacked them to our organization wall, aka family command center.
  3. Using popsicle sticks, we labeled chores to each one.  (My crafty friends are cringing right now.  I’m more about efficiency and getting the job done than how things look.  That’s why there is chocolate and vanilla, right?  If you prefer a more crafty look, these chore craft sticks are all over Pinterest.  Some very elaborate ones that I just didn’t have time to create.  Ours seem to get the job done just fine.)  We have actually added more chores to these sticks, which do not include their personal hygiene chores.
  4. Taking turns the boys chose their chore stick until all chores were assigned.
  5. Once they had all their sticks, they placed them in their assigned envelopes (just in case they forgot throughout the week whose chore belonged to who)

For now, it works.  Let’s see if we can make this one last!