Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Homeschooling (and tutoring) resource binder...

What is one thing your homeschool could not do without?  For us, that one thing is our resource binder.  It is the most value item I have put together!  My son uses it for his schoolwork, and I use it for my tutoring students.  We also both reference it at other times as well (converting units in a recipe...  looking up war dates...).   This is also a great idea for non-homeschoolers too!  Moms, dads, grandparents, caretakers, babysitters, etc. can all use this idea to help make homework and studying easier for kids in public (or private) school.  I can see even sending a modified version of this off to college with JP in a few years!

Read on to learn more about our resource binder, and a little about how we organize our homeschool materials and days. Please note, if your browser tends to be slow to load pages, this post is heavy with pictures!

A long while ago, I posted about how we use a file folder, multi-pocket "thingy" (is there an official name for these?).  We are still using it, and probably will continue to do so for a few years to come. 

That is the second best thing I've done for our homeschool.  The BEST thing I've done?  I put together a resource binder.  This is so simple!  I can't believe it took me so long to think of it!  If you haven't done this, I urge you to consider it.  It will save you so much time when you are trying to find information ("Hey, mom?  How many quarts are in a gallon?  When was the Battle of the Bulge?  How do you say "I'm hungry" in German?").  Instead of going to the internet, or searching through your bookshelves, this binder will contain tons of information, all in one tidy spot.

Every "school" day, I set out a pile of book and materials that my son will need for the day.  The resource binder is always on the table, or nearby.  At the top of my son's pile will be either the week's master list of tasks (school, recreation, and chores), or it will be a small handwritten note like in the picture below. 

But, I digress...back to the resource binder!

Have you found yourself looking up, or printing out a page of math formulas for area and perimeter, a list of writing prompts, maybe a sheet of Spanish verbs?  Or, any number of other materials?  Do you have workbooks with glossaries in the back that just get tossed when the workbook is done?  START SAVING THAT STUFF TODAY!

Here's what you need for your resource binder:
  • a big 3-ring binder.  Mine is 2 inches, but we will upgrade this year to a 3-inch so we have room to grow. 
  • a bunch of page protectors
  • a 3-hole punch
  • dividers to section out the binder
That's it!  Pretty easy materials to come by.  All of those pages you've printed out with math formulas, timelines, foreign language rules, and so on get popped into sheet protectors, organized by subject, and put into the binder.  Glossaries from workbooks go in the binder too, as does anything else you think you might reference on occasion.  Several items made their way into the binder because my son asked for them (the Russian alphabet and Roman numerals lists below are two examples).  Easy peasy!

Here's a glimpse into our binder, with just a few pages from each section.  By far, the math section is biggest.

The first section of our binder happens to be science.  I bought several study guides for various topics and included them in the binder.  Here you can see the Physics and Rock Cycle study guides.
One of my tutoring students had Earth Science last year, so I photocopied all of the charts and graphs at the beginning of the book to include in our study guide.  My student was glad I'd done that since he misplaced his book at one point, and needed the charts to study for his year end exam.
For our math section, before my son even starts a math workbook, I pull out the glossary and put it into the binder.  I also made him a big chart of unit conversions for both metric and non-metric measures (I use this one A LOT when I cook!).
At some point, the lad asked about Roman numerals, so I printed this from somewhere online...I forget where, but HERE is a good one.
When one of my younger tutoring students was struggling with area and perimeter, I found several printables and they made their way into the binder.  The ones pictured came from ABCteach.com, but that is a pay-for-membership website (although for elementary age students, it is worth the fee!). 
I hand wrote the formulas for surface area and volume because I happened to have them in front of me in a book that I didn't want to tear apart. 

More printables from ABCteach.com - math symbols and various math properties.
In our writing/ELA section, we have lots of writing prompts.
Proofreading/editing marks.  I use these with tutoring students, and in the two college English courses that I teach.
Instructions to write formal and friendly letters.  We also have printouts on how to organize various types of essays, ways to brainstorm, and more.
In our social studies section, we have a timeline of wars involving the U.S.A.  This one is from the Department of Veteran's Affairs. 
Two side-by-side charts showing the states in the U.S.A.  One side has them in alphabetical order.  The other has them in the order in which they joined the U.S.A.
JP asked for a chart showing the Russian alphabet.  So, we put that in our foreign language section.
A German grammar study guide...
Many pages of Spanish verbs.
And, at the very back, empty sheet protectors!
As I write this, my son is at the table doing a math worksheet on surface area and volume.  He is referencing the formulas I wrote out earlier today...which I promptly popped into the binder!  Later this week, I plan to add to the social studies section.  I'll be including a printout of the Declaration of Independence, a copy of the Constitution which I got for free in the mail thanks to the ACLU, a list of the presidents of the United States, and several other tidbits.  I'm putting together those materials for a tutoring student who will have U.S. history this year, so I figured I might as well add them to our homeschool resource binder too!


  1. Love the organization!! I'm using hanging file folders in a file crate right now, but if I ever pare that down enough, I love the binder idea!! :)

  2. Looks fun! Great idea - I'm not sure I do enough of the resource thing to use it, but I'm always looking at how others use their binder notebooks! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Great ideas! I need to get a lamination machine to help keep our pages from ripping. That's the only downside of using a binder.

  4. Being organized is going to help a student in different ways. It is hard to study if your mind is stressed out because of all the mess plus you can easily find your papers or study materials without the hassle. I am going to follow your advice since my son also go to SAT prep long island after school so everything is getting really messy.


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