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
- 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
- Mod Podge
- Foam brush
- 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.