If you have elementary age kids, the scene I am about to describe will probably sound familiar. Your kiddo comes home from school with his backpack full of papers, art projects, and forms to sign. You secretly wonder how one child could accumulate so much paper in one week. The need quickly arises for some kind of schoolwork organization system.
As you begin to sort through this stack, you can’t decide what to keep and what to get rid of. You might be tempted to do one of two things…either get rid of it all, or save it all. Getting rid of all of it doesn’t seem like the right choice, but neither does saving it all.
The past few years, I have been using a system for saving some of my kids’ schoolwork that has worked great.
Here is how you can use this easy schoolwork organization system.
Find a container to place things in throughout the year.
First on the agenda? Find a large plastic storage bin that you can throw stuff in throughout the school year. If you have one sitting around the house, great. If not you can buy a cheap one at the dollar store.
It doesn’t have to be huge, but it will need to hold a large amount of paperwork. If you multiple kids, you can choose whether you want to just throw everything into one, or have one for each kid. I only have two kids, so I just chose to use a bigger one. Have this ready to go before school starts.
Do a quick initial sort.
As paperwork starts to roll in, do a quick initial sort as soon as you can. Some schools send home stuff daily and others wait until the end of the week. Try to make it a point to look in their backpacks/folders at the end of each day or week and do the initial sort then, so it doesn’t become overwhelming later on.
I know…the last thing you want to do after a long, tiring day is sort through a bunch of paperwork from school. But if you just throw it on the counter and ignore it (been there), it will quickly just become clutter and pretty soon the permission slip Johnny needs turned in tomorrow is soaked in orange juice. T
Here is the key to this step. Don’t spend a lot of time in this process looking over each piece of paper and deciding in that moment if you absolutely have to save this particular coloring page. If you think it is a maybe, set it aside. This is one of the key steps in using this schoolwork organization system.
Get rid of things that aren’t that particularly unique. For example, the tenth math sheet on adding numbers 1-10. Some schoolwork you will be able to eliminate right away just because of the repetition factor, especially in the younger grades.
Let’s say you keep 75 percent of the stuff. That may seem like way too much, but that is o.k. for this part of the process. Put everything you have decided to keep into the plastic tub.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Repeat this process for the entire school year. Don’t spend any more time than you have to doing that quick daily/weekly sort. It is supposed to be quick! You can also add projects they do at home to this schoolwork organization system.
Do a final sort.
Now, you have reached the end of the school year and you have a whole collection of homework, art projects, etc. from the entire year. Here is where you will need to spend some time. You might look at that pile of papers and wonder “Why did I keep all of this stuff?”
The good news? You now have a collection of work from an entire school year and you can choose 5 to 10 things (or less if that still feels like too many) that are a good representation of that year. Or maybe you just want to keep your favorite assignments. You get to decide!
Start by going through each piece of paper and assign it to a category. For example, I will have a pile with art projects, maybe one with writing assignments, or math assignments, maybe a pile of coloring pages. These categories are totally up to you.
Then go through and get rid of at least half of every pile. Keep doing this same elimination process until you are down to 5 to 10 pieces (again you get to decide!) that represent a variety of schoolwork from that year. Mark on the back of each one the child’s name and grade/age.
I think this system works well because it is much easier to make choices at the end of the year when you have everything in front of you than trying to choose your “favorites” on a daily basis throughout the year.
Choose how you want to store your collection.
Now you have your 10 to 15 (or more or less, you do you!) favorite pieces from the year. What do you do with them? Well, there are a variety of options.
One option is to just use a folder or large manila envelope and place them inside. Label the front with your child’s age/name. Get a small filing box to store these in, or store them on the shelf in each child’s closet. Get a new folder for each year.
You can also buy a nicer memory book that has plastic pockets you can place things in. That way, the pieces are a little more protected and you can also save mementos that aren’t perfectly flat.
If you want to combine their schoolwork with other large items from that year (special clothing, big art projects, etc.) you can purchase a large photo or memory box. It can also be fun to have your kids help you decorate it.
Another option is to digitize everything. This option is great for those parents who just want to get rid of all the paperwork, already. Scan in assignments, and take pictures of anything that is too thick to scan. This works well for bulky art projects! You can print these pictures off or you can always make them into a photo book at some point. That way you still have the memories, but storage is way easier.
Give this new system a try, and see what you think. Even if you just save a few pieces from each year, it will be fun to look back on them in the years to come.