The Mom Binder Part 2

So, you’ve snagged a binder and scavenged enough tabs to have one for each child plus at least one for general administration/support-type papers, right? And, you’ve printed out year-at-a-glance calendars as well as monthly calendars, right? If you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about, see The Mom Binder Part 1 article that I posted a few days ago. If you’ve done the above, then let’s finish our totally cool, useful Mom Binders.
Start by labeling a tab for each child. Mine are alphabetical and from youngest to oldest (yeah, I know, another nerdy organization thing), but they can be in any order you wish. Behind each tab, In put ALL the documents required by your state and/or school district. Check with your state homeschool organization or with the Home School Legal Defense Association if you’re not sure what’s required. If you live in one of the few states that doesn’t require any paperwork, you lucked out, but there are still a few things you’ll probably want to keep handy in your Mom Binder.
In the state of North Carolina, where we currently live, all homeschoolers are required to keep attendance logs for 180 days, immunization records (or the proper exemption paperwork), and test scores for each child, beginning at age 7, every year. I have all of these records from every year that we have homeschooled in NC. I start at the back of each child’s section and every year add in the new stuff on top, closer to the front. That way, if I should ever get audited, I can easily lay my hands on the right paperwork.
In addition, I keep printed schedules or teacher guides for each subject, as appropriate. This is just for information not in a separate teacher’s manual and for things that I need to reference frequently. I also keep a loose plan of what each child is doing for that year, so I can remember that each vocabulary segment takes 4 weeks, each science module takes 2 weeks, and that there are 33 lessons for grammar. This is my cheat sheet so I don’t have to remember everything.
My oldest daughter is graduating this year (in just over a week!! Open-mouthed smile), so in her section, I’ve added a plastic sheet protector with all of her final high school records: official ACT score sheets, final transcript, course descriptions, and reading list. I’ve labeled the sheet protector and put it immediately after her tab, so all of her information is ready to be copied and sent off to colleges. Hhhmmm, just had a thought that maybe I should put those originals in our fire-proof box and put copies into my Mom Binder.
Next, I have an “admin.” tab. I keep the Notice of Intent and other communications from the state in there, along with an official letter from HSLDA when we needed their help a few years ago. I’ve also printed out the basic state requirements just to keep handy.
In the “support group” section, I have my official membership cards from HSLDA and our state homeschool organization, as well as other miscellaneous information from those groups.
The last tab is labeled “Mom,” and in there I’ve kept helpful articles that I want to implement, encouragement from various sources, and notes from homeschool conferences. When I no longer need an article, I either trash it or file it with like documents in my file folder system.
That’s it! Leave me a comment and let me know how you set up your Mom Binder.


The Mom Binder, Part 1

014I’ve referenced The Mom Binder quite a few times recently, and while I was writing those posts, I looked for the original Mom Binder post to link to. I couldn’t find one—time to write about one of my favorite homeschool organization tools. I’ve seen quite a few references online to household management binders, so why not a homeschool management binder?
Start with a 1 1/2- or 2-inch binder. Any larger than that, and it wouldn’t be workable. Any smaller than that, and there wouldn’t be enough room for everything that needs to be in it. You can repurpose one you find around your house or buy a cheap one just about anywhere. You can choose your favorite color, or choose the kind with a clear plastic cover so you can slide in your own artwork. Obviously, I’m not much of an artist, but at least my binder is properly labeled!
Next, figure out how many dividers you will need. I have one for each child (so that is 2), one for administrative paperwork (such as the notifications our state requires), one for support groups (memberships to HSLDA, our state homeschool group, etc.), and one for other stuff (like interesting articles). If you add those up, it makes 5, which is the exact number in a set of tabs (they also come in sets of 8). Yes, I’m totally neurotic about using matching tabs and using all of the ones in a set! If you’re not, that’s fine. Smile Just make sure you at least have a tab for each child, plus at least one for administrative and/or support-type papers.
In front of all of the tabs, I have printouts of 2 year-at-a-glance calendars, to cover the whole school year. Behind those pages, I have printouts of each month, one per page. I use the year-at-a-glance calendars as a visual for how many weeks we do school in a particular month, when holidays fall, etc. On the monthly calendar pages, I write in co-op dates, which week number we’re on, and other general school notes. I keep attendance on the same computer program that I use for planning (the free version of Homeschool Tracker), but I’m a visual kind of girl, so I like to see the big picture.
Print these calendars from your computer, or check out some of the great, FREE offerings from Donna Young and The Homeschool Mom.
Now that you’ve got your shopping list ready (binder and tabs) and your memo to print out yearly and monthly calendars, I’ll let you get to it! Tune in on Thursday for exactly what types of papers and records you’ll be storing behind each tab.


How to Set Up a Binder System

Put Paper in Its Place, part 3 (of 5)

Welcome to part 3 of the “Put Paper in Its Place” series. Last week we talked about how to set up a filing cabinet/drawer system. Today I want to cover binder systems. Some people don’t have room for a filing cabinet, and some people want to utilize both binders and files.

I love binders. I love them so much that I have sixteen of them in my house. Seriously. Most of them have school stuff, and a few of them contain music or other things. Does that qualify me as a Binder Queen? Many Web sites espouse the use of a “life binder,” a “household binder,” or an equivalent. I’m putting a few links at the end of the article about binder organization. If you find more, please leave me a message. I’d love to check out other people’s systems and ideas! Instead of repeating what they have to say, I’m going to show you how to use binders instead of a filing cabinet or box for all of your papers.

I have found that the one-and-a-half inch to two-inch size binders work best. They hold a substantial number of papers, but not so many that you can’t find anything. They store easily as well. Remember to have a three-hole punch handy; don’t even think about just cramming the papers into a binder without putting them on the rings in the proper sections! For papers that are not the standard size or that can’t be hole-punched for whatever reason, invest in a box of plastic sheet protectors. Keep them with your three-hole punch near where you store most of your binders. Color-coded binders could be fun; use a sharpie to write the categories on the spines and fronts so you can see at a glance which binder is which. If you choose the white binders with the clear covers, you can slip a labeled piece of paper into the spine and make your own cover (or get your kids to design the covers for you).

Start by making a list of the broad categories of papers that you need to organize and store. Yes, I am most definitely the List Queen! Be sure to write down such topics as bills to be paid, paid bills to be saved (temporarily!), medical or health, important documents, personal papers, household appliances, etc. Feel free to use your own titles, and make sure your labels are relevant to you. You won’t use this system if the divisions don’t fit your needs.

Now that you have general list of categories, decide whether or not the number of papers in each category will require their own binder. Some subjects can be combined into one binder with several different tabs. For instance, you can have a tax binder in which you have tabs for deductible charitable giving (church and missions), deductible medical payments (receipts for co-pays and prescriptions not covered under your flex pay benefits), your paystubs, utility bills (if you run a business out of your home), and any other documentation that you need to save for tax purposes. You can make a household binder with sections for appliance manuals, warranties (be sure the receipts are stapled to them), and receipts for large repairs and upgrades (like new windows). Make one binder for important documents and personal papers that need to be saved. For those papers that shouldn’t be hole-punched, use sheet protectors. You can make a tab for each member of your family, or you can make a tab for each section such as birth certificates and social security cards. Set up a family binder. Make a tab for each person and file medical records, school papers, work reviews, or whatever is applicable. If you homeschool, you will no doubt have several binders just for school, but I will cover that aspect in a few weeks. Stay tuned!

Now that you’ve got your binders set up, it’s time to fill them. Set your binders out on the kitchen table. Pick up a random pile of paper (I know you’re hoarding them somewhere!). Go through the pile piece by piece and put each paper next to or on top of the appropriate binder. If you don’t REALLY NEED to keep it, TOSS IT! It won’t hurt; I promise! When you’re done with one pile, put those papers into the binders behind the right tab. Then, move onto the next stash. After you get your binders set up, find a place to store them. They can go on a bookshelf, on a shelf above your desk, on top of the refrigerator, or on a shelf in the closet.

I realize that it is not always feasible to file every single piece of paper the instant that you touch it (which would be preferable), so you need to set up a to-be-filed spot. This spot should be convenient and contained so that you’ll actually use it and so that the papers won’t accidentally be knocked to the floor or all over the desk. I suggest using either an upright hard plastic folder holder or a single letter tray. The easiest way to keep everything straight is to have three slots: to do, to be paid, and to be filed.

Since I have seen many desks, countertops, and floors overflowing with papers, I’m going to repeat the admonitions from my previous paper posts:

1. Sort the mail over your garbage can. Take what’s left and immediately put it in the appropriate in bin: to do, to be paid, or to file.

2. Go through those in bins weekly (go through the to-do bin daily).

3. As you put each paper into the appropriate binder behind the applicable tab, ask yourself if you really NEED to keep it. If not, toss it! Also, as you file each paper, ask yourself if you STILL NEED the other papers in that section. Toss the fliers for events that have already happened. Toss last year’s field trip permission form. Toss last year’s utility bills. Please!

4. The process of setting up your binders and going through all your papers will take some time. Be patient and be persistent.

5. Keep at it! Train yourself to pick up those stray papers DAILY and to put them where they belong. Before you know it, filing papers in your binders will become a habit.

Ta-da! You are now a Binder Princess! The more time you put into maintaining your binders and the more binders that you accumulate, the closer you become to attaining Binder Queen status. Next week, I’ll be talking about what to do with the stacks of magazines lying on your coffee table and all those neat recipes you printed from the Internet.

Here are a few links to certified Binder Queens:

Cindy Rushton shares tips on how you, too, can become a homeschool binder queen.

eHow has tips on school binder organization tips.

Great, free, printable forms to help you and your kids organize your binders can be found on the ESL Printables Web site.

** This article was originally posted on the Lesson Pathways blog site recently. **



I admit it. I love throwing things away. I love cleaning out a binder or a file or even a drawer. Okay, sometimes the actual process can be a bit tedious, but I get such satisfaction from seeing the finished result. And maybe I feel just a teensy bit empowered by deciding what stays and what goes.

So, what did I throw away? Papers, papers and more papers—over a foot high stack of papers. Check out the pic! I couldn’t believe how many papers had accumulated in the several schoolwork archive binders for each child. For starters, I pared down to one binder for each child to archive her schoolwork over the years. When they graduate, it will be fun to look back at a few (emphasis on few) academic samples for each year to see how they’ve matured. That’s enough even for those who are sentimental about little Johnny’s first math paper and little Susie’s first artwork. Each child has a binder and within each binder there are labels for each subject. Within each subject, the papers are ordered from earliest to latest.
Go ahead. Try it. I dare you! Try to throw out some old papers! Start by throwing out just a few, then see if you can work your way up to a big stack like the one above. Granted, I don’t throw away that many papers all the time, but sometimes they accumulate in spite of my best organizational efforts. As a bonus, throwing away unnecessary papers can be downright therapeutic. Leave me a message and let me know how it goes! If you need a little prodding, I’ll be happy to provide that as well.