documenting the school years
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Documenting the School Years: Use these practical strategies now to stay organized

Documenting the school years can be a daunting task.

Before you’re tempted to throw it all in a box and deal with it later, NOW is the time to decide how to save school year memories. Think of all the darling artwork, the school pictures, the ribbons and certificates.

Jill Broadbent shares the system for saving without overwhelm and without regrets.

To follow along with all Jill’s creative endeavors, follow @craftyafternoon on Instagram.


How to Start Documenting the School Years

The school years are filled with so many things. Figuring out how to document it all can feel overwhelming. Don’t let it. Figure out an approach that works for you, either before your kids even step though that first day, or if they are already graduated and you’re wanting to tackle those boxes of papers, photos, and works of art.


For the Mom Who is Starting the School Years

  1. Decide on a system and get it in place before they even go to school.
    1. Album – determine what you want to document. Because I scrapbook in addition to these books, I knew that a photo from the class party or the last day of school would make its way into my other scrapbooks. I wanted their school books to be a simple place to gather just the professional school photos to review year after year. (If you want to add in first/last day photos, or any other pivotal moment, make that work for you, but decide in advance what you’re wanting to document and plan ahead.)
    2. I created books for each child before school ever started (I took a class and in an afternoon, I created a blank book, ready to document each year from K-12).
    3. The key to this is simple and repetitive. The template is the same for each page. This makes creating and recreating them very easy and the book looks cohesive. This isn’t a place I go crazy with embellishments. It’s just a fun way to house these photos for them to have forever.


  1. Handwriting
    1. My favorite detail that I did for each child and that I’m so grateful to have is their handwriting sample. Again, this page was created in advance, so every year, all I had to do was pull out this page and have them write their name. I love seeing how their handwriting and expression has changed over the years. If you didn’t do this before they started school, look through their homework papers and snip off their name from the top of their paper as a sampling and add all those to a page.


  1. What to keep
    1. Speaking of homework papers, they come home with page after page of “stuff.” How do you know what is important and what you want to keep? Our oldest was super into art and wanted to keep all her preschool creations because she was so proud of all she made. I realized quickly that it would fill boxes if I kept everything. So, we created a binder, filled with sheet protectors, so it was ready to add to – then we called it her Masterpiece book. We would simply ask, is this a MASTERPIECE? Then she would decide if she was proud of it enough to keep forever or if a few days on the fridge was enough enjoyment. We did this with art, homework, tests, etc. So, at the end of it all, we are left with just the things she is excited to revisit.
    2. Let them help – again, a system makes sense, but my suggestion is to never throw it all in a box for later. Decide how you’re going to store them – file folders by year, an album, etc., and keep to only saving what it worth saving and what fits in the amount of space you’ve predetermined.



  1. I loved the workshop I did over 14 years ago that led me to this album and this system. It was a fun and productive afternoon and now I’ve been set up for success because of it. I created a simple pattern for making an album like these.


For the Mom Who is Revisiting School Years After They Have Passed

  1. Much of my advice would be similar, just in review instead of real time.
  2. Determine your system – what are you trying to have at the end of this project? A sampling of their school, a place to show all their art, a collection of A’s and essays? Decide what it is you’re wanting to curate and sort accordingly.
  3. Let them help – even as an adult, it might be a fun thing to do together to sort through what you’ve saved and have them help say what they remember and what mattered.


ANOTHER TIP – For big art or posters, take a photo and print that instead of keeping the big bulky original.

Take the time to document these times – they fly by and by utilizing some of these approaches, you’ll be ready for the start of each new year.

Jill Broadbent has been in the memory keeping industry for over 20 years. As an avid scrapbooker, Jill has a passion teaching people how to tell their stories in unique and meaningful ways. From paper crafts to hand lettering to painting, sharing creativity is her key to joy. She feels fortunate for the opportunity to make her talent and passion her work. Jill has three children and a very supportive husband, Dave.

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