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    Homestead Binder: Step by Step

    June 12, 2008 by Brandy Vencel

    Whenever we start a binder {we did a couple last year, one was our English Language Binder and the other was our Birding Binder}, I try to make it into a craft project. I find that this is a great way to get my son invested in the project. It also keeps him busy. I am always looking for productive ways to channel his energy.

    The binders I buy are basic. Actually, this time, I didn’t even buy them. When we visited my father-in-law, he let me pillage his office supplies {he’s preparing for a move and is trying to pare down}. So I grabbed up seven of those white binders with plastic covers {in which you can slip a title page}, along with lots of other cool stuff, and other not-so-cool stuff that he slipped in when I wasn’t looking!


    So we are currently in binder heaven. My thought is that, really, most people have extra binders they’d like to get rid of. We shouldn’t need to pay full price unless it’s an absolute emergency. If you need a binder, ask your friends and family before you buy!

    Other supplies I use for building the basic school binder are:

    • White, 8.5×11″ cardstock
    • 3-hole puncher
    • Hole reinforcements
    • Art supplies like markers and colored pencils
    • Computer-generated titles
    • Post-it brand index tabs
    • My favorite pen (by the way, gel pens smear on the index tabs)
    • Scissors
    • Glue or tape

    My son is a very independent worker. My oldest daughter? Well, let’s just say that I can imagine her at age six, and it involves a lot more supervision for this sort of project than it does for him. But perhaps she will surprise me in time. Either way, I am sure the level of supervision will vary according to the child’s maturity level.

    Here is what we do. First, I go type up every possible section I can think of for the binder. If I think we might study it, I create a section. I like to try to get this all done at once. So, for the homestead binder, each section I mentioned here got a title. I typed them up in a large-size font that was in outline mode. This is because my son likes to color in the letters using colors that remind him of the section. For instance, the word “berries” was colored in shades of red and blue, the color of berries.

    I gather up one sheet of cardstock per title. These sheets will be the dividers for the binder. I do not buy dividers. I find them to be flimsy, and I like the flexibility using the Post-It tabs provides. I have also learned that this method tends to cost less than half of what it costs to buy dividers, plus there is enough left to build future binders, and leftover cardstock can be used for every project under the sun.

    By the way, buying these supplies during back-to-school sales is a sure way to make these projects as inexpensive as possible.

    At this point in the project, I hand my son the cardstock and the titles. He takes them to the desk in his room, which is stocked with art supplies. He colors the titles, cuts them out, adheres them to the cardstock, and then decorates the cardstock with his own drawings. This is good practice, since he is very weak in drawing. We actually got a great picture of a duck sitting on a pond out of this, and I was thrilled!

    Once the decorating is finished, he returns his work to me. I hole-punch it and reinforce the holes. I write the title on the index tabs. I affix the tabs in their proper place. And then I show my son how to install his handmade dividers into the binder.

    To finish, we decorate one more sheet of cardstock to go on the front of the binder, and also a thin strip for the side so that we can identify the binder when it is on a shelf.

    And that’s all.

    At this point, everything is organized and ready to go. Now, all I will be doing is printing off or cutting out articles as I see them. I’ll be able to hole-punch them and hand them to my son. After we’ve read the information, I’ll teach him to file away the articles in their proper places.

    This is, I think, a great way to build beginning research and organizational skills while encouraging a child’s interests.

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