The first year we homeschooled, I didn't do a great job keeping up with all the paper produced. In fact, I don't have a good record of what my son accomplished, when he did it or how he did it. In Mississippi being unorganized is no big deal. In fact there are no recordkeeping requirements. Even so, I do worry that I will need records or want records, so have found a way (even though I am organizationally challenged) to tame the paper animal. This is what has worked for my family.
- Plastic Ticklers divided into 12 sections (one for each month) have been a wonderful addition to our home school. Spend extra to get the plastic because the reinforced paper ones don't hold up for the full year. I get a different color for each child and have been consistent with the color from year to year. This makes filing automatic even the first day of the new school year. Since I only have monthly labels, even if I only get around to filing once a month I am still organized, but I find that I file daily or at least weekly because it is painless. I know this system is not up to the standards of many, but this is a real life plan. As an added bonus, since there is no interior organization any works or art, stories, papers from museums, scout stuff and other non-official school items can be stored without messing up "the plan." All of the work is stored by month and is there if needed or wanted.
- Book Rings - the bigger the better - add control to all flash cards. Since I was planning to re-use most of our resources, I wanted to have all the cards. Flash cards seem to hit the floor and disappear. I solved this problem by hole punching the cards and placing each set of cards on a separate book ring and then hanging them on a hook where they are easy to use and store. We use this for math facts cards, sight word cards, Latin roots, Child -sized Masterpiece cards, and sentence combining cards and I have not had to duplicate work or re-purchase because of lost cards.
- In/Out Boxes Stacked under the counter have controlled, not alleviated, our paper clutter. I use these to separate the different types of paper. The stack takes only 12" of under counter space. The children and I can find which paper we want without pulling 500 sheets. As an added benefit you can see when you are running low before you need a specific paper and don't have it.
- Beside the stack of In/Out Boxes I have a few pieces of 11 x 17 cardboard standing to keep our out-sized paper and portfolios fresh.
Planning can create a pile of paper too! I have notebooks in which I write lists and ideas and just write, but as far as official planning I have a secret paperless weapon, HS Planner. This planner lets you be as meticulous as you need to be. You can even give grades and make report cards. I don't use those items, but I do use most everything else. There is a place to keep up with everything you do and you can even create your own forms. I have been using this program for a few years and it is intuitive, works on both Mac and Windows, and is written by and for homeschoolers. The best thing is that it keeps the records for all years, not just the one you are using. Click a child's record and then move from K - 12 easily. I love this in the books read section. I can look back and see what my son read and enjoyed in first grade and make sure my daughter has a chance to read the book. You don't lose anything, which is great if you have multiple children.
As I write this I am laughing at the thought that I, of all people, am sharing my organization methods. I am not a domestic goddess, nor do I pretend to be. I am sharing this from a disorganized place. I have tried many notebook methods and other wonderful sounding ways of managing homeschool record keeping and planning. These failed for me, because they entailed too many sections in too many notebooks without needed flexibility, and I found that after a month the structure was barely hanging on and that there were so many items that really didn't have a place so they were tossed or got put in the wrong place. In the face of failure I tossed all of these schemes and simplified. I have been using the color coded ticklers, In/Out Boxes, HS Planner, and book rings for 3 years and feel success!