Thursday, May 25, 2006

Keeping it together

"It", in this case, being paper ... the weird and wonderful assortment of writing, pictures, printouts, worksheets, maps and assorted stuff we produce in the course of our homeschooling. Over the last couple of years we have evolved a ring binder system that gives us the satisfaction of seeing what we have covered, that keeps everything in one place, and that doesn't tyrannise us with the need to finish everything we start. And I admit it is nice to feel we have a "product" to show for our efforts, without the production process becoming a stressful one.

Both Angel and Star currently have three binders each - one for history, one for geography and one for science. Next year we will combine various works in progress into a fourth binder for religion. All our pieces of paper go into the relevant binder or binders - if subjects overlap we make a copy and put it in both places (I love my printer / scanner / copier!). For example, a page on giant pandas would go into both the geography folder (China) and the science folder (zoology). Each binder is divided into sections which make it easy to file and find particular topics.

Over time we have experimented with various different "products" - lap books, project folders, home made books - but I'm afraid we are never good on following through to the end. Sometimes we barely get past the starting post; other times we manage to get most of the way through, but lack of completion always bugs me. If we dismantle the project or folder and simply file what was done in a binder it miraculously changes - in my mind, at least! - from an irritatingly unfinished item into an encouraging addition to a work in progress. For example, earlier this year Angel started a flag project while we were studying South America for geography. As we studied each country she produced a page about the country's flag. After four countries we both realised that it doesn't take long for flag information to become boringly similar and enthusiasm waned. A display folder with only four pages looked distinctly pathetic and abandoned, so we took it apart and added the pages to her geography binder, where they made a nice addition to various other contributions on South America.

Our binders are simple, easy to maintain - we tend to have a filing blitz every two or three weeks - and keep everything satisfyingly together. In keeping with Charlotte Mason's dictum that children should be encouraged to tell what they know, they provide a positive record of what we have achieved.

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