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Practical Homeschooling® :

Family Treasures - A Homeschool Yearbook

By Lisa Yoder
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #14, 1996.

Lisa Yoder suggests how to create a permanent treasure that memorializes your homeschooling years.
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Lisa Yoder

One of the best parts of going to school was the year-end excitement of the yearbook. Not only entertaining, yearbooks give a memorable account of an entire educational year that is enjoyed more the older it becomes. It also gives children a concrete sense of who they are. It connects you to the past and gives a solid sense of how you have grown and matured over the year.

You do not have to organize a yearbook committee and make agreements with publishers to enjoy the benefits of a yearbook. There are three basic types of yearbooks you can produce as a homeschooler. The first is a simple, beginning-of-every-year book. The second is a composite of an entire school year for your family. The last is a homeschool group yearbook.

The Simplified Yearbook

First, the simple book. We began our first day of homeschooling over seven years ago by taking photographs of our son. We took pictures of things that made up a large part of his identity as a four-year-old. There are photos of him in his bedroom, doing his chores, with his dog, of each family member, a whole family photograph, the house we lived in, his favorite play activity (riding his bike), and one just being silly. The categories are endless! We folded four pieces of construction paper together and placed a photo on each page with a caption. We made a cover out of a piece of wallpaper. (Sometimes stores will give out old wallpaper books to teachers. They are great for everything from making textured alphabets to book covers.) It took little effort and time for a project that we delight in more each year. These are prized memorials. For a preschooler, it is helpful to write simple sentences that he will be able to read for himself soon. You will also be reading this book to him - a lot! Be sure to include sentences with your complete address and phone number to help learn those. You may also want to record height and weight.

The More Extensive Model

In the next category, you will want to start out with the same basic photographs. To these you will add photographs of major projects done during the year, field trips, homeschool group get-togethers, the day they completed their phonics program, etc.

Do not wait for additional photographs to begin your yearbook! You may only end up with yet another shoe box of old photographs. Make it a goal to have the photographs you take on the first day of school placed in the yearbook by the end of the second week of school.

There are a variety of options for mounting the photographs. If you know yourself well enough to admit that it will be difficult just to get the photographs developed, use the simplest method. Fold some construction paper, get out the glue stick and start pasting! However, let me warn you the yearbook is something you will want to last forever: consider going to more effort. Glue sticks and construction paper will take their toll on photographs after many years, fading and marking them. If your goal is relatively short-term - five to ten years - go the easy route.

Another Mounting Option

For longer-lasting yearbooks, begin with a three-ring binder, colorful loose-leaf paper (try to obtain acid-free paper from a photography store or the resource listed at the end of this article), and photo-mounting corners. The adage that comes directly after "Never write on the back of a photograph" in the rule book of photo preservation is "Never glue down a photograph." Place only a few photos on a page, leaving room for descriptions, funny captions, and possibly decorative stickers. Place the photos on the pages as you get them. Not only will they be done in chronological order, you will not have photos piling up for a big job that may never get done. You can purchase three-ring binders with a clear-sleeve cover to slide your own cover paper in. Have the children design the yearbook cover. See the box on page 32 for a list of photographs you may want to include. Older children can be put in charge of putting the book together, possibly even the photography. (Do not forget to include this in the records as part of school.)

Not only useful for creating memories, these are great to show relatives, especially those who do not understand what homeschooling is like. It will not only give them visual representations of homeschooling, but they may be surprised at the amount of academic and social activities your children are involved in. It may even surprise you!

Mounting Option for the 90's Homeschooler

If you are a high-tech, computer family with a desktop publishing program, photo scanner, and high-quality printer, it may be time to study desktop publishing! You can scan your photographs into the computer where you can enlarge, shrink, copy, and crop them into interesting shapes. You can set up columns and write yearbook articles to chronicle the year. A variety of type faces and sizes can be used to add interest. It is easy to overdo it, though; you may want to seriously study layout and design and graphic arts as a school subject before beginning.

A word of warning: Without a really great printer, you will be disappointed. Print several scanned photographs and set them aside for a week. After you have looked at them then, decide if this is the option you choose. You could instead do all the page layouts on the computer and mount the actual photographs onto these after they are printed.

The Ultimate Mounting Option

If you physically cringed when you read the paragraph suggesting taking a glue stick to photographs, if you have neat rows of family albums currently on your book shelf, and if your life motto is "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right," this is the option for you. There is a company called Creative Memories with catalogs that will make you drool. (See resource following article.) They offer photo-safe albums, responsible mounting products, and easy-to-use, creative album-making supplies. They have cropping trimmers, templates of every shape, stickers to decorate with, acid-free colored paper, beautifully bound albums, and even photo-safe calligraphy pens. These are the materials for creating family treasures.

If you do not feel you fulfill the qualifications above, but still desire to produce a beautiful yearbook using these materials, contact Creative Memories for step-by-step classes that will teach you how to turn boxes of photos and memorabilia into keepsake albums.

Getting the Whole Group Involved

For the truly ambitious, a homeschool group yearbook is not out of the realm of reality. You can either use the computer method described above or use a professional printer.

First, you will need to decide how to set up the book layout ahead of time. You may choose to reserve one page for each family or each child which includes a child's photo, family photo, and several others with a minimum amount of copy. Then you can have group sections for field trips, meetings, activities, special clubs, sports, and ministries represented by the group. Look over some old high school yearbooks for ideas.

If you use the computer method, it will simply be a matter of making many copies of each page and then binding the books together yourselves. Figure paper, ribbon and materials cost to determine the price of each book.

Commercial Printing

If you choose to go with a commercial printer, you will need to know a little about layout. Your printer should be able to provide you with layout paper, or you can purchase it from an office supply store. This is similar to graph paper and uses blue guidelines that will not show up when printed. Paste down the copy and photographs on each page. You can photocopy them on a regular copier to get a rough idea of what it will look like when printed.

By finding a printer with a special high-speed copier, you can have the pages copied just as you have laid them out without having to know about layout directions and type specifications. You will want to get printing estimates before you begin.

I priced a 36-page yearbook, printed in black and white with 3 to 4 photos per page. Including saddle stitch binding and a good grade cover, the cost would be $4 per yearbook for 20 copies and $1.40 per yearbook for 100 copies.

Remembering that many factors contribute to printing costs, contact a printer and make certain it is clear what exactly his price includes and how he expects the copy to be presented to him. If he has to lay out the pages for you, the cost will most likely be too prohibitive to consider. (This may be the year to study printing as well as layout and design in your homeschool!) Find those moms and dads with high school or college yearbook club experience to help head up the yearbook committee.

An Annual Record, a Family Keepsake

Whether you choose the basic "shoot & paste" or an extensive homeschool group project, the homeschool yearbook is an important overview of progress made, an enjoyable encouragement, a promotion tool, and a family treasure. Load the film, check the flash batteries, and start snapping those memories!

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