Since my first child started attending school, I began documenting their school memories throughout the years.
When I look back at their school pictures, I realize how much my children have grown. I have created a system that helps me to preserve their special school moments and make it easier for them to reminisce on these times.
What I’m sharing in this article comes from my own experience of figuring out what works best in my own family. This project documents each of my child’s school year in a personal yearbook which is filled with monthly pages capturing their handwriting, thoughts about school and the world they live in, photos of them highlighting field trips, sport activities and other school events, and artwork collected throughout the school year.
Make sure you take a picture of the first and last day of school, it is just amazing to see the comparison!
There is something just so exciting to get to document the fun children had and the friends they made during the year. Of course you could take these anytime in the last month of school, but the last day of school photos are where you actually get to capture all those authentic moments and happy emotions you can see on the faces of your children, their friends and teachers.
Because the first and the last days tend to be so busy, I make sure in advance that my camera equipment is charged and my memory cards are empty. When shooting on these days I have a list of must-have photos in my mind, which is as follows:
I try to get to school a little bit earlier so I have enough time to take a quick headshot of each of my children. When shooting those I make sure I choose a neutral background (bushes, school wall, etc.) and I make my child stand a few feet in front in order to create some depth and background blur.
This is the most important memory to photograph, as they will never be in that grade with that teacher again. Some of the sweetest moments come when your child is interacting with their teacher, not just smiling at the camera.
And don’t be upset if you don’t manage to take the picture in the classroom, you can take it wherever you get a chance – on the playground, outside the school, or waiting in a line. Make sure you get a good portrait of the two of them together!
Try to document the friendships that your child created during the school year. Who are the kids that you hear about all the time? Those are their memories and who knows what will be different next year.
I try to get at least a couple of images, the first one is a portrait of the two or three of them together, and the second one is a details shot of the activity they like to do together. If they are reading buddies, I take a picture of them in their reading spot.
I like to take photos of the classroom by taking a few steps back from the action. I love the look and feel of these shots as they give a sense like you’re sneaking a little peek into their day.
But don’t forget to snap a few photos of the little details, such as a closeup of child’s backpack or a name tag on their desk. These little things really help to tell the whole story of your child’s school experience and very precious to look back on!
As easy as it is to remember to take photos of the first day of school or the big projects and events like school field trips and sport days, you would be interested to capture other little things that really tell more of the story of your child’s school year.
These little things can include working on their homework, shopping for school supplies, playing at the school playground after school, and your child’s friends and teachers. I regularly share their images hashtagged #theirschooldaysdocumented on Instagram if you’d like some inspiration with what kind of pictures can help tell their story.
Interview time capsule
The beginning and the end of the school year are also the perfect times to interview your kids! Yearly school interviews can be a marvelous tradition.
If you ask the same questions each time, you can look back and watch them change and grow throughout the years as well as see how their handwriting and spelling has improved. I am trying to follow the same list of questions I worked out the very first year, but am pretty flexible in case I need to change them at some point or add something new.
I am using this free downloadable questionnaire for my children to fill out. If they’re too young to write, ask them the questions and write down their responses as word-for-word as possible.
We love making interview films in our house, too. I am recording the answers on video to make this an extra special keepsake! It’s a great way to record how children sound and communicate.
When shooting, try to use a natural source of light like placing your kids next to a window. You’ll want to consider using a tripod for steadiness. Make sure you check that the sound is picking up their voice clearly and try to eliminate all the background noises.
A few years ago I discovered the One Day app that helps me to record mini videos and document memories on my phone in a few simple steps when I don’t have my DSLR camera with me (which happens very rarely but still happens).
This is not just an app that helps you to record the video but it is a theme related questionnaire. The movie is accompanied with a theme music. I find it really perfect for sharing with my family and friends. Very easy and no extra applications or programs are involved.
Weekly or monthly journal
When your child comes home on the first few days of school or throughout the school year you may have lots of questions for him/her. A fun idea is keep a weekly journal of questions you may want to ask your child during the year. Or, you can help your child to write a short journal entry about what they did at school. Don’t forget to take a weekly or monthly photo to accompany their journal entries.
To help you start, I have 15 sample questions for you to use as conversation starters with your children. You can expand your list of questions depending on a number of school weeks per year. Please, keep in mind that:
- Asking open-ended questions will keep a conversation going.
- Often kids are not specific, so you have to ask for specific information when you want it.
- Try not to help them out with their answers as sometimes they can follow your direction and you won’t be able to receive their true, honest and one-of-a-kind answers.
- Positive questions, such as “describe your perfect school day”, help encourage more conversation.
Enjoy your conversations and trust me, your children will thank you for this in the future!
We all have limited storage space at our home. I have to admit that we can not keep every single masterpiece the kids produce or each paper they bring home from school (at least I thought so before finding this solution). Let’s face it, managing all of the school papers and work can be an overwhelming task. Here are some examples on how I keep it all organized:
- Because so much is digital these days, create a folder in your email inbox for each child’s class, file newsletters and important rosters.
- Get everything in one place. Have a drawer or box for each child in the family office labeled with their name and pull the papers, projects, art masterpieces, and awards labeled with dates into one place. I bought these storage boxes from Ikea.
- By the end of the school year, go through all the stuff together and keep just a handful and the most memorable things such as best art pieces, a few handwriting samples, their awards, and some other stuff that helps tell their story.
- The items that you and your kids find so special but don’t necessarily need to keep, scan those onto your computer and include them in a child’s personal yearbook.
Put it all together and make a book
Creating a photo book is your next and final step. This is my favorite part! I understand that this is the most scary part for so many people because the idea of “compiling a book” is just overwhelming. Check out these articles on how to put an album together:
Keep it simple and enjoy the fun while trying to document it!