Yearbooks Are Here!

For the second consecutive year, I have coordinated a yearbook for the Central Oregon Christian Home Educators Association.  This was a huge undertaking my first year – 1) because it was only myself and 2 teen volunteers, and 2) I followed the footsteps of the yearbook team that proceeded me and essentially did everything their way (with the exception of the page design or graphic layout).  I was overwhelmed with all that was required – from obtaining advertisers (to bring the cost down), to negotiating a price with local printers (Staples, FedEx-Kinkos, etc.), and scanning and uploading all the pictures.  At the end of the first year, I was not surprised that the previous team had burned out and wanted to pass on the reigns.  I began to question my sanity and I vowed I wouldn’t do it again.  
Then – just as I was ready to write my own resignation letter and pass the hat myself – I discovered Tree Ring.  Tree Ring is yearbook for the internet generation.  As I browsed their website and watched the tutorials, I became convinced that this was what I needed.  I thereby gave it another year – much to my husband’s dismay as he was concerned it would once again overwhelm me – vowing that if Tree Ring didn’t improve the process, I would in fact walk away.

My  2010 – 11 Yearbook Team

According to their website, “Tree Ring takes advantage of the latest technology in just-in-time digital printing that allows for efficient, extremely high quality printing of one to one items, and the collaborative power of online social networks to create personalized printed yearbooks that commemorate each child’s unique school experience. The process reduces the yearbook creation and financial burden for schools and invests in our planet’s future by planting a tree for every yearbook printed.”

In the Classroom

Essentially, members of our homeschool community uploaded pictures direct to our school account on Tree Ring.  The yearbook team of editors then utilized the pictures to put the yearbook pages together.  If families neglected to upload their pictures … then they weren’t included in the book.  It was as simple as that – though I did post many reminders and tutorials to our Yahoo board.  As pictures were uploaded, the students in the picture were identified and the parent (or student) uploading the picture could also suggest a specific page.  

Our yearbook consists of the following pages:

  • Seniors are given a 1/2 page spread each
  • Each grade level has a 1-2 page spread (depending upon the number of students) with a profile picture for each student
  • Clubs & Co-ops
  • In the Classroom (random pictures of students on task)
  • Sports & Athletics
  • Honor Society
  • Homeschool Ski Days
  • Winter Ball
  • Performing Arts
  • Music
  • Scouts
  • 4H
  • Field Trips
  • The Great Outdoors
  • Wild Things (pictures of students with animals)
  • Families
What I love most about Tree Ring is the ability for each family to create custom pages. A 2 page spread is included in the price whether families choose to customize the pages or not – alternatively, families choosing to create more than the 2 pages simply pay a little extra. I elected to create 4 custom pages for each of my munchkins.  I ordered two books and because of the custom pages, each one is unique.  Some families, on the other hand, chose to create a family yearbook and thereby their custom pages reflect the endeavors and interests of the entire family rather than an individual child.  Another way to do it is to create one family yearbook, but with a 1-2 page spread for each child.  The flexibility is incredible!
Buddy’s second 2-page custom spread

As pictures were uploaded, parents also had the option of allowing the yearbook team access to the photo OR marking it private and thereby visible/accessible only to them.  In this way, parents could assure a picture could be used on their custom pages but would not become part of the community or core yearbook.
In the end, our 50 page all color yearbook was only $13.99.  Everyone has been delighted with the quality of the product, the flexibility of the site, and the excellent customer service.  As we begin to distribute the yearbooks, my son asked, “Mom. Are we going to have yearbooks in California?  I hope so.”

One Small Square :: Nature Study

I know we are a little behind on the Green Hour Challenges. We just got off track a little but we are back! We plan to catch up when we can and post as we go along.

Today we ventured out to the meadow in our planned neighborhood to do #9 – One Small Square. We probably should have selected an area randomly, perhaps by throwing a hoola-hoop out and studying the area in which it landed. However, the kids wanted a shrub in their study plot assuming it would provide more interesting discoveries. I figured I could introduce scientific sampling methods when they are older. 😀
This first picture shows the kids working together to investigate a small hole they discovered. They found a stick and used it to poke down in the hole to find out how deep it was. The hole was as long as the stick (about 1 foot) but it also turned as it went deeper so I imagine it went even farther. There were holes all over the meadow and we hypothesized that small field mice probably lived in them and that the holes were connected by underground tunnels. We plan to do a little research to learn more.
We also got out the loupes and looked at the small plants that were sprouting. We were surprised to find mostly dead grass. There were only 3 different types of small plants growing – 4 if you count the shrub which I think was Bitterbrush (hard to tell yet without the foliage). We were surprised to see only 2 insects (one small black ground beetle and a few ants) – we even dug small holes beneath the grass.
We spent about 20-30 in the meadow and then meandered over to the pond. We were hoping to find tadpoles as the kids have been wanting to catch some to observe the metamorphosis. Again, it seems spring is late in arriving to Central Oregon. We saw only a few water striders and whirligig beetles. Three Canada Geese observed us from afar.

Backyard Safari Frog Habitat by Summit ToysThe kids were delighted to get out again. We had intended on starting a year-long tree study, but our goals morphed as we were underway. We captured a few aquatic insects and the kids wanted to bring them home to observe more closely. We have two small habitats that the kids received as gifts some time ago but discovered when we added our specimens that they are much too small and are more of a cool-looking toy than a true aquarium for scientific study.

Backyard Safari Bug Habitat by Summit ToysBoth habitats are products of Summit Toys and are a great idea in theory. Put to use, however, I am not impressed. The water in the frog habitat splashes out and leaks out the bottom when the kids try to move the habitat to see different angles and there is so much plastic inside that there is very little ‘liveable’ space for the critters. The bug habitat is too shallow to add any substrate. My thought is that these toys are designed for one-day use and not long-term observation. I would not recommend these to families interested in studying insects or rearing tadpoles.