With the end of the school year fast approaching, I thought it would be helpful to share my process for how to organize school papers. I tend to save a lot and be very sentimental. It is hard for me to let go of things. However, I know that I can’t keep everything. Plus, my children won’t want boxes and boxes of “stuff” to take with them when they leave home.
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Where to Store School Papers
Ultimately, where you store your papers is up to you. I like having a large file box with hanging files so that I can limit myself of what I save. It is large enough to hold a lot of papers, but not too large that I can go crazy and keep everything. I am a huge fan of binders, but in this instance I would end up with too many binders and then I have to find a shelf to keep them on while my children are still home, so a system like that would not work for me.
My system is pretty simple. I purchased these large file boxes. I have one for each of my kids.
I added labels using my label maker. I labeled one folder for each grade, plus added a folder to the beginning of the box labeled 1 – 3 years where I can keep artwork they made before they started preschool.
Bebas is the font I used.
How to Organize School Papers
Personally, I think the more challenging part of dealing with the kids’ school papers is not where to store them, but how to actually organize and sort through them. If you are anything like me, it can be tempting to save every last drawing your child makes because they are all special. However, you will end up with a mountain of papers that cannot be contained if you don’t purge at least some of them.
Gather all the papers in one location. The first step in sorting out the kids’ school papers and their artwork is to first gather it all into one place. This step will be the same if you are just starting out with a child in preschool, or if you have boxes and boxes of papers shoved away to sort through for your soon to be high school grad.
Sort by child and by age or grade. Once you have all the papers in one spot, if you have more than one child you need to sort out the papers by each child. Then, you will want to sort out the papers by your child’s age or grade level. If you don’t know exactly when your child created the paper you are dealing with, put it in the grade or age you think is the closest.
Helpful tip: Label the back of your child’s art or school papers with a year, a grade level, or even the specific date as they come in. This will help you to sort later on if you are not filing the papers right away.
Sort by category. Next, you will take one grade or age level at a time and sort by category. For my son’s third grade year, I sorted out using four main categories:
- Report cards and awards
- Reports and assignments
If your child is younger or older, you will probably have different categories than what I used. This step helps with the purging process.
Throw out or recycle. Once you have everything sorted into piles, I find it is so much easier to figure out what to keep and what to toss. When you have 100 math assignments, for example, it is a lot easier to let some (or all) of them go. Sort through each pile and decide what you are going to save.
Helpful tip: Purge as the papers come in! This is much easier as your children get older because you will know what types of papers they will bring home and what you might want to save.
You will see my sorted piles are fairly small. Most of my son’s daily homework gets looked at and then goes straight into the recycling. I try to keep a small sampling of his homework and tests from the beginning of the year, middle of the year and end of the year to see how he has changed and improved. Other than that, it gets thrown out.
File. Once you have your piles sorted and purged, place all those papers for that particular grade in the file folder.
Note: Anything that is handmade specifically for me or my husband – Christmas gifts, cards, etc. – go into our own file boxes we have for memorabilia. These types of items do not go in our children’s file boxes.
Continue on with this process for each age and grade level for all of your children.
- Sort again
- Throw out or recycle
Create a System for Incoming Papers
Now that you are all caught up on filing your kid’s papers, you need to create a system for the new papers coming in. You can choose to deal with the papers daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. I do a combination of all of these.
- Daily: Once you have your file system set up, you can recycle the papers you don’t want to keep. File the ones you want to save right away in the appropriate file folder.
- Weekly: Have a place to keep papers as they come in for the week. A file folder, hanging paper sorter, or letter tray all work well. Once a week, go through the papers, recycle what you don’t want, label the back with a date, and file in the appropriate file folder.
- Monthly: Have a small file basket near where your kids empty out their backpacks and have them place all papers to save in the basket. Go through the school basket once a month and file any papers you want to save and scan any others you want a record of but plan on recycling.
- Yearly: Would you rather go through them once at the end of the school year, instead? Designate a large tote to hold the papers until the end of the year. Once school is out, use the method above for choosing which papers to keep and to get rid of.
Helpful tip: If you are having a hard time letting go, use the monthly or yearly method of sorting and purging. It is a lot easier to let go when you have a huge stack of similar papers in front of you, rather than looking at each item individually.
Ultimately, you have to decide what system works the best for you and then stick with it. If you and your children know what to do with the papers coming in, it makes the whole process run much more smoothly. At first, my kids were a little upset that I was tossing out so much of their school work. But now that they have seen my system in place and that I keep the most important papers, they are okay with letting a lot of the daily homework go.
Notes for parents. Papers my kids bring home that are for the parents – permission slips, field trip information, weekly or monthly newsletters, order forms, etc. must be gone through as well.
I used to place all the papers in my home management binder. They would either get filed in the correct month in my planning section or in the child section if it was not time sensitive. This worked well when my son was the only child in school, but with two kids at different schools, it was not convenient to get the binder out every day to punch holes in the papers and then file.
Now, since I refer to these papers on a daily or weekly basis, I simply use a large magnetic clip and hang them on the refrigerator. I recycle them when the information is no longer relevant.
Helpful tip: Sign permission slips and fill out forms right away as you receive them. Add the dates and times to your calendar. Place them in your child’s backpack to go back the next day. You won’t have to worry about missing a deadline.
Alternatives to Saving School Papers
You may have items that you want a record of, but don’t want to save the actual paper. Or your child may create a large project that is not feasible to save. There are several options for what to do with these papers and projects.
- Mail or give artwork to relatives (example: grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) or a special friend that would appreciate your child’s work.
- Use larger artwork to wrap presents.
- Scan the artwork and save on your computer, then recycle it.
- Take a picture of the artwork or project, then recycle it. You can do this on a flat surface like a table or white foam core board. You can also take a picture of your child holding his or her artwork.
- Turn those photos or scanned works into a photo book each year.
- Add the photos to a scrapbook. They are smaller than the original art and you can add much more per page.
- Use an app like Artkive to save your child’s work. Sort them by age, grade or year. You can have a photo book printed right from the app.
Stay tuned . . . next week I will be sharing how I save my children’s larger artwork that does not fit into the smaller file boxes.
How do you organize your child’s school papers?
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