Sunday, September 30, 2012

Our Homeschool Photo Album from Snapfish

How to keep track of all the work done during just one homeschool year?

Hmmm, hmmm, hmmm...

First there's all the written work, you know--workbook pages, reports, copywork, sentence diagrams, Latin translations.

But then there are the big, messy, elaborate projects that make up the bulk of our homeschool days--the big basement timeline, the cave painting, the salt dough maps, the volcanoes in a test tube, the sewing, the baking, the pounds and pounds of clay and gallons of paint and glue that we go through, just the three of us. Can't punch three holes in that and stick it in a binder!

There's also the travel that we're able to do because of our freedom (and my willingness for the younger kid to skip a couple of ballet classes each semester). I consider our trips to beaches and amusement parks and the sites of old forts and Laura Ingalls Wilder's house and museums from Florida to Michigan to be crucial to the kids' education, even if those experiences don't fit well into a binder, either.

And then there's the other, most important category of work that the girls are able to get done with hours to themselves each day: play. How to track the marbles chased down, the structures built, the toy ponies endangered and rescued and married off and endangered again, the sidewalks drawn on with chalk (or painted on with paint--I don't care)?

Oh, and all the books that get read around here! I don't know how you would EVER keep track of that and also do anything else with your life!

Before I deal with that big stack where I date-stamp and then toss the kids' written work, I'll just start with what, for me, is the easiest way to record the travel, the projects, and the play.

Photo album!

Snapfish asked me to test their new 11x14 Lay-Flat Photo Book by making one for myself, so I chose as my topic the previous homeschool year, which in our homeschool runs August-July (we're year-rounders, ya know).

I LOVE the format for putting the book together, especially with the tons of photos that I put per page. Basically (unless you're picky, and then you can alter it), Snapfish determines the best sizing and layout for the photos, and as you drag each new photo onto a page, it immediately rearranges the sizing and layout of the entire page for you--if you don't like it, you can ask it to rearrange it, or rearrange it manually:

I loved the layouts that Snapfish chose for me, and had no problem swapping various photos around the layout to better show off my favorite ones.

You get one text block on each page (as far as I could figure), which I used to caption all of the activities that the photos on that page encompassed. Each two-page spread counted as one month of our homeschool year, and I really wanted another text box to record the month, but I couldn't make it happen for me. One of the paper choices for the photo book did include exactly the kind of calendar set-up that I wanted, but it started with January and couldn't be altered.

No fear--I simply waited until my book came, and then made my months all crafty-like!

With that addition (which makes me happy in particular, since I really like mixed-media projects, anyway), I could not love this photo book more. I think that the reader really gets a sense of the huge variety of projects that the kiddos are invested in every month, and the frequency of our field trips and other travel--it's very light on photos of actual "schoolwork" (oops!), but I don't plan for this to be our only record of the homeschool year, so that's okay.

I also love how easy it is to watch the seasons pass in this book, as the children grow from the beginning of our school year--
image on the free endpaper at the front of the book

--to fall and winter activities, sledding and ice skating on four different pages, and then stomping in mud in their sweaters, and then posing for the big ballet recital in a sleeveless leotard out by the fountain--

--and then finally posing in their pirate garb for Willow's eighth birthday party, right at the end of their school year:

How they've grown!

I chose for the cover image a candid shot that I took of the girls during their T-shirt dress photo shoot--

--and you also get to title the spine, so that I'll be able to pull exactly the year that I'm looking for out of a shelf of fifteen identical photo books when the babes are all done with school:

My favorite part, however, is the back cover, where you can put yet another small image and a caption:

Because even more than the chance to travel, and the time to play, and the fast-track to higher-level math, and Latin on the third-grade curriculum, if my girls someday understand that we schooled together all these years simply because of my deep love for them, then we will have had a successful homeschool.

[Snapfish gave me this photo book for free (I paid for the shipping and a couple of extra pages that I added) in exchange for my feedback on it.]

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